Rethinking laws of attraction on the Iron Range

Friend of the blog Aaron Klemz has a commentary recently on the site “Be Pollen” combining the theories of Richard Florida’s Creative Class and the nonferrous mining debate in northern Minnesota.

Klemz, who is spokesperson for the Friends of the Boundary Waters organization, pens the following as the thrust of his piece, “A Creative Class, Not Smokestacks“:

Too often, media coverage of environmental issues like mining is boiled down to a far too simple “jobs versus the environment” frame. The choices Minnesota faces over the next few years about sulfide mines are fundamentally about different economic visions for the next generation. If we continue to ignore the economic importance of our landscape, our wilderness, our great outdoors, we will pay the price in the form of less prosperous communities. But if we leverage our greatest natural resource, we can build sustainable communities for generations to come.

The part of the piece that I like most, and increasingly my obsession about the state of Iron Range communities, is the idea that laws of attraction apply to communities as well as they do to individual humans. People have to look at an area and like it to want to move there. Only economic desperation will force people to move to unattractive areas, and desperation begets more desperation.

Across the Iron Range, we can do better. Every town. Every highway through an industrial zone. Every empty building. These are not problems, they are opportunities to do better. To be creative. To say who we are. Right now the story is that we are people content to let decay set in. That is what people see. I don’t think that’s who we are, though, not really. We can do better.

Klemz is skeptical of mining company claims that this new mining can be done cleaner than it has elsewhere in the past, certain more so than most Iron Range voters. But can we agree that while the kerfuffle over PolyMet, Twin Metals and the rest enters a long period of litigation, we could work to beautify our communities? Let us see what attraction does. It’s cheaper than miles of concrete, and only serves to benefit people who live here now, along with those who might one day relocate here for any number of reasons.


  1. I am currently reading Thomas Michael Power’s book “Lost Landscpes and Failed Economies” which deals with this exact issue. This book should be read by all individuals concerned with the economic survival of the Range.

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