May 14, 2016

Down the Drain, the Oily Drain

Back in 2009, I put in about 3,000 miles between the Twin Cities and my North Dakota ghost town tour. Having spent a couple of days in the state on the way to Alaska in 2007 and a few more on the way back and falling in love with the place, it is really painful to see how badly the state has fared with its oil wealth. Lee Klapprodt worked hard, back in 2009, to convince me that the state would do the kind of job protecting its natural resources from oil and coal that no other state or country had ever managed. I was dubious then and am really sad to see that I was right. Nobody in the history of humanity has ever forced miners to behave ethically and now that miners are wrapped in corporate protections they are even more corrupt, ruthless, and vicious.

When my wife and I took our 2013 “goodbye to our Rialta” trip to ND, Bismarck was the western limit of our visit. I’d read horror stories about the fracking and associated pollution surrounding Teddy Roosevelt National Park and didn’t have the heart to witness that desecration. I’m not sure I’d be willing to go that far today. Anyone visiting North Dakota could see that it is a fragile place with limited water resources, a large number of subsistence rural communities, and an environment that was terribly damaged by farming and would be even more easily destroyed by Big Oil.

One of the worst things about getting old is the number of places to which I can never return. I can’t go home again. I can’t swim in Southern California’s Pacific Ocean. I can never expect to see uncorrupted plains, Badlands, and wild rivers without oil scum in North Dakota.

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