Mining was so important to Oklahoma, it is represented on the state flag. Throughout the country there are over 500,000 abandoned hard rock mines. Mining companies historically divide communities with the lure of jobs and the economy over the impacts mining may have on the environment surrounding their very homes. Saying no to progress is shot down pretty quick when the right people benefit with it.
So to speak up again the WORK is speaking up against the WORKERS and by golly, we mustn't talk about Daddy or else. So people in mining towns shut up and endure. They endure and then the mining stops and the towns struggle to endure afterwards.
This is a plot that has been happening in the US since extraction of minerals and later oil began. Pity the people who struggle in these settings. And celebrate the few situations we know where the left-behinds win. Right here we have one of the rare winning situations where what Guy Archibald describes as Power Asymmetry worked. We had a LOUD, VOCAL, and very CREATIVE bunch of citizens who spoke up, yelled, demanded and got a buyout for the people in Picher, Cardin and Hockerville.
What Guy said,when he quoted Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the author of The Black Swan, a great book about risk. was with a small number of intolerant, virtuous people with skin in the game, they can courageously demand change and get it, but only because they asked. We never really celebrated the WIN because it was botched so badly and unfairly carried out by the agencies and those overseeing the effort. But stand back and gloat, those Picher-People made the government pay up to some extent. Where countless other communities never did.
But like that old verse, "Breaking up is hard to do" it is speaking up that is hard to do when speaking out is not part of the culture.
Corporations, or companies, and industries have no skin in the game. They even use borrowed money for these operations and fail to comply with regulations if there are any, and freely walk away and leave their mess. We are familiar with this, first mining and then our beloved BF Goodrich, where so many Daddies worked, never dreamed that it too would turn on our community, take the jobs and the security and leave the mess, knowing benzene lay beneath, and asbestos remained throughout the physical plant.
Mining companies and other industries don't face risk. They have corporate laws to protect them, they even have friends in governmental agencies that soften regulations making it ever more profitable to mine.
If you don't face risk you take lots of chances.
Think of this, the more you have to lose, like families, the fewer choices you have, along with having less power.
Canadians spoke during the Health Panel for the WMAN/LEAD Virtual Conference. Now I have to admit, the provinces they hale from make more sense if you actually locate them on the map. Ontario and Quebec, but the Yukon that is way up there, and the trivia you might not know, the Royal Mounted Police? Their job in the Yukon was to get the natives out of the way so the gold could be mined!
Whether it is uranium, gold, copper, our lead and zinc, the asbestos we ended up with, which polluted the communities where it was mined in a twice-blessed manner, all the other elements we are pulling out of the ground, none of these mine sites have been properly and safely put to bed. Is the mining industry lazy? stupid?
No. They are following a business model that works for producing ores, but also profits. Why would they stop? They can be stopped. Mining practices that could improve mine closures, how tailings are stacked, how they are dammed in safer manners were also discussed this week during this important conference. The change to that industry begins with meetings like this, we hear the sameness we share, and it does not take our hope, it instills it.
Hope. We can learn a lot from the Picher-People and the organized way they spoke out for justice. They didn't get all the justice they deserved but they taught us, they taught every other mining town that a few LOUD, VOCAL, and very CREATIVE people may not move the mountains of chat, but they got themselves moved away from danger.
The lesson is rich and must be remembered and re-mined, and actually honored. It can be replicated by the next batch of loud, intolerant, virtuous people with skin in the game whenever they find that rare thing known as courage.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim