By: Abbie Plouff
Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Minnesotans have come together to participate in public listening sessions organized by the Environmental Quality Board (EQB). I attended the Bloomington citizen forum on November 27, which is one of six that have happened around the state (the final one is today in Moorhead). It was abundantly clear that the EQB hadn’t anticipated such high turnout – there were 150 RSVPs, but over 300 people in attendance.
The first part of the evening was largely taken up with the EQB presenting their Energy and Environment Report Card for MN. This document is definitely worth a read, and it’s posted online here. We were given the chance to vote on each of the report card topics. This data was somewhat skewed, considering there were only 190 clickers, so the full crowd couldn’t vote, but that is one of the ways the EQB was able to gather information. Overwhelmingly, Minnesotans at the Bloomington event were concerned that our land, water, and air are not improving.
The second half of the night was taken up by a small group discussion. Considering how many people had come that weren’t expected, the event organizers actually had to recruit more facilitators to keep the groups at a reasonable number. The three main questions we were asked were:
1. What concerns, if any, do you have related to quality of life now and in the years to come?
2. If you have concerns about the next generation’s quality of life, can you envision a better scenario? What does your vision for an ideal future quality of life look like?
3. What actions do you propose we take (as individual citizens or as a state) to address these issues in the years to come?
My group ended up being fairly diverse – a staff member from Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office ended up facilitating and participants included conservative Rep. Peggy Scott (R – Andover), a police officer, a former urban designer, a retired couple and others.
Things were incredibly civilized – we each took turns going around in a large circle answering each of the questions. Politics at Minnesota’s best. People raised concerns that their children/grandchildren would not be able to enjoy Minnesota’s wild spaces as we have. That if we move ahead with proposed sulfide mining, our air and water quality will be permanently damaged and the health risks posed don’t make up for the temporary economic stimulus. There was consent that we need to seek out renewable forms of energy, and that investing in solar and other renewables will create stable jobs and fight climate change.
At the same time that these concerns were raised, Rep. Scott vocally challenged our vision for a cleaner MN. She stated that she is “a huge man-made climate change denier.” Rep. Scott seemed to be under the impression that protecting the environment would stifle economic growth, something that other members of the group vocally challenged. Consider that for every $1 million spent on solar, 14 jobs are created as opposed to only 5 jobs created in coal for the same investment.
Throughout the night it was clear that the economy is a major concern. Many people mentioned campaign finance reform, carbon taxing, and agreement that politics need to be more transparent and that this kind of process is very worthwhile. People throughout the room echoed the idea that we need both jobs and our environment to be sustainable to build a better Minnesota.
These sentiments were echoed at the Duluth forum the next day. I was unfortunately unable to attend the Duluth forum, but it sounds like the 200 strong crowd was very enthusiastic. In the clicker voting, 51% of attendants favored 75% or more renewable energy in Minnesota. At the same time, there was widespread applause for a comment that “sulfide mining is not environmentally viable and profits multi-national corporations over local economies.”
Through these forums, Minnesotans have already sent Governor Mark Dayton a message that we care about the environment and want to see more action. We need to continue this momentum!
I was not the only blogger at the forum in Bloomington – or even in my small group discussion! Check out Aaron Klemz’s post.
The EQB is now accepting public comments from all interested Minnesotans. Share your thoughts about the future of Minnesota’s environment.