The Problem with Eves Dropping

Yesterday morning Aral got up at the crack of dawn. It wasn’t a big problem for me, I beat him to it, but stayed in bed hoping to go back to sleep. Oh well, he was happy and regardless of the day of the week (he has yet to recognize this iteration of time) he knows what is next. We all got dressed and headed out for the coffee shop.

Tess and I don’t often get an opportunity to visit the shop together these days. When Aral and I head out she likes to use that time for things like bathing and eating and who can blame her. But Saturdays are a little more relaxed. We got about five minutes to share the table before Aral turned into our little investigator and wanted to get up and travel. I took the first shift, letting Tess sip her coffee and read whatever she was into at the time.

Aral and I wondered for a time driven by his constant state of distraction. When it was my turn, Tess set to following the little tyrant. I sat at the table, sipped my coffee, did my obligatory FourSquare check-in and realized quickly that not much had been updated on Facebook. Oh well, my coffee was actually kind of warm still. Bonus points!

While sipping I happened to hear two college aged mujeres discussing potential mining operations in Gunnison county. Seriously, I tried to not pay attention, but one of these girls had a voice that could cut cheese. Perhaps it would be better to say that it was very difficult to ignore what she was saying.

Basically, the primary speaker’s point was that there were a lot of good things about mining. Jobs was a leading plank in her platform. She could see how someone with a cushy, consistent government job or someone working at the University might not want to let mining in, but she countered herself, there are so many people living well under the poverty line here in the county.

I’ve heard this line of reasoning before. It gets used for all kinds of enterprises, the problem with it is that in application the new enterprise tends to serve jobs up to those with specific skills and educations focused on achieving the ends of the operation. In other words, if the community lets the enterprise in the lion’s share of the “new” jobs tend to go to people from outside the community.

This overheard conversation got me to thinking, a community’s labor pool, much like the land it occupies or the minerals that may be found therein, is one of its natural resources. There are things that can change the make-up of that community as well as its labor pool in much the same way that a land scape might be altered for good or bad.

I don’t think that Gunnison has a very good understanding of what this resource looks like for itself. I’ve heard a lot of differing opinions on the topic and this concerns me. Why? Because I don’t see collaborative action being taken to conserve any particular portion of this society’s fine make-up.

Most of the people I’ve met and gotten to know here are:

  • Outwardly happy and easy to get along with: This place seems full of people who trust and can be trusted quickly.
  • Generally well educated: The University is partly responsible for this, however, we’ve met a number of “cultural refugees” who settled here because they liked the community, amongst so many other things. Often these are highly educated people who sacrifice at least to some degree their standard of living (on a monetary basis) in order to live in a place that more adequately meets their vision of the way life should be.
  • Accepting: We all have quirks or oddities that we live with. I know I have a few and I’m also keenly aware of when they don’t fit in, but in the Gunnison valley I more often than not don’t get the cold shoulder or the icy stare.

When a portion of a social organization decides to allow a massive change to alter the landscape where it sits or drastically and rapidly change the make-up of its communities there is high potential for both kinds of resource degradation. Considering that this town is about as large and about the same as it was 23 years ago someone has been doing a good job of making it work.

With some of the new “opportunities” being offered to the city and county its my hope that we stop and think about what life might be like should we allow rapid and unmitigated change to impact our community.

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