Forum: Getting Real About Climate Change

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By Olivia Cashman

The Sierra Club North Star Chapter participated in the “Getting Real About Climate Change” forum by the League of Women Voters and Healthy Legacy on Thursday, March 14th at Mayflower Church in Minneapolis. The evening began at 5:30 with guests visiting exhibit tables of supporting environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, Mn350, Minnesota Renewable Energy Society, Clean Water Action, and Kids for Saving Earth. Guests could learn about each organization and found out how they are doing their part to mitigate climate change.


Local restaurants including Birchwood Café, Wise Acre, and Bryant Lake Bowl provided a delicious and sustainable dinner for the event.


The speakers began at 7:00 with an introduction from Joan Higinbotham, Reverend Gretchen Deeg, and Minneapolis council member Elizabeth Glidden, who emphasized the importance of working as a community to reduce our ecological impact on Minnesota and the world.


Mark Seeley, University of Minnesota professor in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, spoke about the evidence and consequences of climate change, focusing on the need to adapt society’s infrastructure.  Seeley stated, “we have not effectively mitigated climate change in the United States,” which leaves a lot of room for improvement in Minnesota’s infrastructure in regards to battling climate change. Seeley explained that if we do not act to fight climate disruption, Minnesota’s environment will change with longer growing seasons, shorter duration of soil and lake freezing, change in fisheries management, increased risk of soil erosion, and greater opportunities for invasive species. Seeley remarked, “we not only need to share our common knowledge, but we need to share our common values because that will inspire action.”


J. Drake Hamilton, the Science Policy Director from Fresh Energy, spoke about shifting Minnesota to clean energy to simultaneously boost the local economy and alleviate climate change. Hamilton described the Minnesota clean energy path, which includes the Clean Energy and Jobs Campaign goal of 40% wind energy and 10% solar energy by 2030. After stating that the goal of 50% renewable energy in Minnesota by 2030 will require the work of many sectors, Hamilton said, “we need to get very busy.”


Gayle Prest, the Sustainability Director for the City of Minneapolis, discussed the local plans for Minneapolis to combat climate change and create a more sustainable community. The city is currently in the draft stage of the Minneapolis Climate Action Plan, explaining specific goals and strategies to develop energy efficiency and a greener transit system. The Minneapolis Climate Action Plan began in 2012, and Hamilton hopes it will be brought to council for review in April or May of 2013. The plan includes a goal of reaching 15% of renewable energy efficiency in residential buildings, which contribute 64% of greenhouse gas emissions in Minneapolis. Hamilton noted, “this isn’t just good for lowering pollution, it’s also saving the city money.”


Finally, Reverend Gretchen Deeg of Mayflower Church described her commitment to creating an earth-wise congregation who will not remain silent in the face of environmental issues.  Mayflower Church became an earth-wise congregation in 2008, meaning the congregation has implemented sustainability within their establishment including: bike racks, energy efficient light bulbs, and more recycling bins. After pledging to be a seed of hope for other communities of faith, Deeg stated, “we are acting not just out of our faith, but out of our hearts because climate change cannot be denied.”


Olivia Cashman is Development and Communications Intern for the Sierra Club North Star Chapter.


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