You say “fundamental,” I say “essential”

A little reading round-up this Tuesday morning. The last of three posts. 

Minneapolis Star Tribune outdoors columnist Dennis Anderson’s column from yesterday once again dealt with the touchy subject of dedicated conservation funding and whether or not it should be tied to dedicated funding for the arts in the state. Anderson raised my ire a couple months ago with some vitriolic comments about those who would combine the two in one proposed constitutional amendment. Since then, I’ve read him warily, but he won me back to some extent by going fly fishing on the Kinnickinnic with his friend Skip James, who is apparently not only a heck of an angler but also the keyboardist for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Anderson wisely chose to ask James, who is involved in both the arts and conservation, what he thought about the matter. James had an eloquent response:

“I think there are a lot of people who like to say musicians and artists are one kind of people, and outdoors people are another type, and that the two don’t have similar goals.

“I don’t think so. I think everyone who lives here is aware of the quality of life we have in Minnesota and Wisconsin. And the only thing that is going to keep life desirable here, and fun, is reliable, stable funding.”

Art in its many forms, Skip said he believes, is fundamental to human existence, whether at the Guthrie or Ordway, or in a grade-school play. Fundamental as well, he said, is the right to a clean environment.

“I read where, beginning in August, it might be illegal to smoke in public places,” he said. “Why isn’t it also the case that, beginning in August, it’s illegal to pollute rivers, and that thereafter everyone has a reasonable chance of enjoying a well-kept state park 20 years from now — or to have the experience of being exposed to, and participate in, the arts?

“These are community assets, and the community has to have ownership in them if they are to survive. And ownership can’t occur unless people are exposed to these things. Where I grew up on the East Coast, there’s no place to fish trout anymore. Streams that aren’t polluted are owned by a few rich people. Who’s the government going to ask to help sustain these resources? There’s no one. No one feels they have ownership, because they haven’t been involved.”

Amen. And a big “thank you” to Anderson for printing those words and being willing to look past the labels and stereotypes to study this difficult issue in the depth that is needed.

4 thoughts on “You say “fundamental,” I say “essential”

  1. MN Justin

    It’s so frustrating that we spend so much time and energy on means and neglect ends. In addition to funding though, we need our kids to get out and stick there heads in the streams and mash dirt under their fingernails. Every kid who spends all day at MySpace and texting his friends is one less supporter of the beauty of the outdoors… and if the next generation doesn’t value our resources they won’t fund their protection or betterment. Look to your Abbey quote in the sidebar: it is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it.

  2. Greg Post author

    Hey Justin – Thanks for the comment! You’re absolutely right. Have you read Richard Louv’s “Last Child in the Woods”? It deals with exactly this problem, as well as the problems it poses for the kids themselves.

    The problem of course is that we can’t mandate every child spend time outdoors. We — the dwindling number of citizens who care about our woods and water — do have the opportunity now to mandate that our “natural resources” are protected for generations to come. By putting it in the state constitution, hopefully it will be safe from future, less-appreciative generations. And perhaps someday the trend will be reversed, and kids will return to the woods, and maybe the most we can do is make sure there’s still something left for them at that time.

    As for both fighting for and enjoying the land… I do what I can. :D

  3. Deb

    I am glad Anderson’s finally seeing the light, or at least writing about it. I’m kind of in a unique situation; my kids probably suffer from Nature Overload at times “Mom, are you slowing down to look at a bird AGAIN?” yet they spend a lot of time on the video games, ironically, my 9 year old’s favorites are a couple of hunting games put out by Cabela’s. I’m just starting to read Louv, though I think I probably know what he’s saying already.

    Anyway, my goal is to get my kids out enjoying the land this summer. Number one priority.

  4. Pingback: Legacy Amendment money at work in St. Croix watershed | Greg Seitz

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