This just in…
Michigan Professors Send Letter Opposing Kennecott Mine
Professors representing 12 universities in Michigan sent a letter opposing the proposed Kennecott nickel mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Governor Jennifer Granholm and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Monday.
The letter, now posted on the website www.isleroyalewolf.org/mine, was signed by more than 40 professors and is presented just three days after Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved Kennecott’s permit to develop the sulfide mine.
The DNR has been asked to allow Kennecott to develop the mine on public land just north of the headwaters of the Yellow Dog River and underneath the Salmon Trout River. While the DEQ primarily considered technical issues, the DNR’s decision will be largely discretionary. Ultimately, the DNR will decide whether the proposed mine is in the general interest of the citizens of Michigan.
Instead of assuming that a decision about the mine is merely a matter of comparing expected environmental impacts to possible economic impacts, organizers say the letter offers different reasons for deciding what Michigan should do. Vucetich of Michigan Technological University and co-signer of the letter points out that “the logic of cost-benefit analysis often fails when folks on different sides of an issue agree about the facts, but dispute which facts should count as genuine costs and which are genuine benefits. In such cases, cost-benefit analyses are not useful for informing us about what we ought to do.” The professor goes on to say “We often miscalculate by overestimating the benefits and underestimating the costs; the tragedy in this case being the irreversibility of the harms.”
Michael Nelson from Michigan State University is also a co-signatory of the letter and says this issue is ultimately a decision about sustainability. “What is missing from this discussion is a serious dialog about sustainability,” Nelson said. “Sustainability is much more than a simple debate about costs and benefits cast in purely economic terms.” Nelson suggests that the letter strives to incorporate and demonstrate a way of thinking not always present in such discussions. “Ultimately this is a question about how it is that we ought to relate to nature,” he explained.
The educators say the letter offers a reasoned argument to oppose the mine. Vucetich says “scholars are expected to serve the taxpayers of Michigan by developing ideas for the betterment of our society.” For this reason, Michigan’s leaders and citizens should understand the logic of the letter. It is the logic of sustainable relationship to the environment.
Michael Nelson, 517-353-4879
John Vucetich, 906-370-3282