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Californians, Hug a Miner Today

Written by Ray Haynes
Tuesday, November 16, 2004

        Your car.  Your desk.  Your computer.  Your pots and pans.  The road outside.  Your lunch.  What do these things have in common?  All of them involved disturbing the land and the ''exploitation'' of natural resources in their creation. 

        Anything around you that contains metal, plastic or rubber comes directly from mining and oil drilling operations somewhere in the world.  Anything that is wood, paper or food was either logged or harvested.  Almost everything we have comes from mining, drilling, logging and farming, and yet these industries are increasingly under attack from the NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) people, regulators, and environmentalists.

            The public opinion of these industries is now such that if you were to poll people on the least respected careers, you’d wind up with loggers, miners, and oil men right down at the bottom of the list with lawyers, telemarketers, and of course, politicians.  Farmers and ranchers continue to have a pretty high level of public support as occupations, but their industries are bearing the brunt of some of the newest rounds of regulations and NIMBY attacks.

            While nobody wants a repeat of the massive pollution caused by some of the older mining techniques, and nobody likes to look at a clear cut forest, or an oil rig, these industries have developed much less intrusive, much more environmentally sensitive methods of extraction, but are still haunted by attacks based on images from long discarded practices.  The regulatory system and local opposition groups have made it nearly impossible for any new mining or logging operations to exist in California, even when our society desperately needs new supplies of wood, gravel, and petroleum-based products.  Even when all environmental regulations can be adhered to, local opposition can scare a county or city into rejecting a necessary project.

            Even the farmers, who have maintained a high level of support among the population, have started to feel the pressure of activists and regulators.  It always astounds me when people move to a rural area (like much of my district) and then complain about the sights and smells and flies of agricultural operations.  Dairies have been all but chased out of Southern California by angry neighbors and air and water regulations.  Other livestock operations are being harassed by similar complaints.  What was once a thriving industry in Artesia, Chino, and other parts of our area is now virtually non-existent.  Even simpler farming operations are under attack for use of compost in the growing process and because of ''fugitive dust'' concerns caused by the plowing and harvesting of fields.  And farmers now fear allowing their lands to fallow out of concern that it will become habitat for some allegedly endangered critter and they’ll be forbidden from replanting there in the future.

            These are all messy industries, but they are all necessary.  We have made great strides over the years in making them less polluting and less impactful on the natural environment and even visually to neighbors nearby.  But the increasing costs of the decreasing availability of these resources in our country are costing all of us.  High concrete, steel, and lumber costs are driving up the prices of new schools, homes, and roads by billions of dollars collectively, and will continue to increase as long as we don’t start producing more of these products domestically.

            So it is time to stop attacking loggers and miners and oil drillers and farmers.  Stop accusing them of raping the earth.  Stop making their livelihoods more difficult than they need to be.  Start appreciating the benefits we enjoy as a result of their labor and their industries.  So next time you see a miner walking down the street, don’t turn your nose up at him.  In fact, I think we’d all be better off if you gave him a hug instead!


About the Writer: Ray Haynes is the assemblyman for California's 66th Assembly District.





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