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Earth Day 2016 finds us still at odds with regard to Climate Change but isn’t it time we find unity?  If only for the sake of our children?  Doesn’t every child deserve the right to life on a planet with healthy water, air, and soil?

There is a Native saying: “We don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”  But are we leaving much of an inheritance?  From early days in this country, we have plundered the abundance of the environment as if it would provide an endless supply.  While the Natives harvested sustainably, leaving behind some plants for wildlife and regeneration, European immigrants called them “lazy” for not harvesting it all.  Native traditions valued the gifts of Mother Nature and respected her by not over consuming and depleting resources to a point where they were exhausted.

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But there was no comprehension of the value of conservation in the clear-cutting methods of the settlers.  Europeans saw the abundance in this country and believed they could never exhaust the bounty.  We clear cut forests.  We decimated herds of buffalo.  And often we were not careful to fully use all the trees and animals we had culled; leaving much of the dead to simply waste.  And within a very short time, we did exhaust the bounty.  And we continue to this day.

Having used much of the easily accessible fossil fuels, we are now fracking and mining the tar sands trying to squeeze every last drop from the Earth.  We are insanely spending more energy to draw fuels from the earth than we are able to harvest.  And we are not conserving electricity to reduce our need.  We are driving as much as ever, in huge vehicles that require more fuel.  We are continuing to harvest all the fruit without wondering about the future.  Without thinking of the generations to come.  Without regard for the planet that has sustained us.  Without realization that this is our only home and we might want to assure it remains healthy and whole to continue to sustain life.

While traditional economics factors in land/natural resources, it does not account for the fact that these resources are limited.  And models do not account for the effects that pollution has on human health or the environment.  But we must consider the bigger picture if we are to retain a planet that is recognizable.  For those of us paying attention, we see that the world has already changed in ways we hadn’t expected and at a much faster pace than we theorized.  For goodness sake, it was 75°F at the Harn this past weekend!  Already the changes are causing huge economic losses, not to mention the losses in life.  Today’s weather often threatens not only our homes but our ability to grow food, our ability to survive.

What does this mean for Minnesota?

The changing climate is moving the Wheat Belt north 15 miles a year.  This may be great for Minnesota’s growing season, but what does it mean for other aspects of life here in our great state?  This winter has been another mild one and much of the winter activity for which Minnesota is celebrated was not possible.  Ice fishing, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing?  Conditions were meager for enjoying these things that make Minnesota… well, Minnesota!  Businesses that thrive on these winter pastimes struggled to stay afloat or simply called it quits, seeing no relief in the near future that the climate will be ripe for such ventures.

More concerning changes include increases in tick and mosquito populations which thrive in this changing climate.  These bring increases in Lyme’s disease and encephalitis (http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/sres/regional/index.php?idp=234) and if conditions continue, we’ll see malaria and dengue fever move northward in the U.S. as well.  The Minnesota DNR has much to share on these topics and more. http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/climatechange/

We’re already seeing increased temperatures in our lakes with many lakes showing earlier and earlier ice-out dates every year.  These higher temps are changing the biosphere for our fish, depleting oxygen levels and increasing the algal blooms.  All not good for health or economics as many areas in our fair state rely on tourism.  So it’s not looking good for us and I’m not seeing such a bright future for our kids.

Here are a couple more links on climate change in MN:

In the long run, that elongated growing season we get may be hampered by losses in soil or even crops when the unexpected severe storms, pests and invasive species come with it.  So when we have nice days in February, while a small part of me is happy for the sunshine and warmth, a bigger part of me is dreading the endgame in our relationship with Mother Earth.

What does this mean for all our children?

The 2016 Earth Day theme, “Trees for the Earth”, (http://www.earthday.org/earth-day/earth-day-theme/) applies directly to our next generation as they will be the true benefactors of the trees we plant today.  Just as they will face the longer-term effects of climate change, they will also gain the most benefit from all we do now to help this planet on which we all reside.  Trees absorb CO2 and pollutant gases and generate oxygen.  But they also provide food, energy and materials that bring about long-term economic sustainability.  We would do well by our children to plant a few trees.  It is said that a society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby recently hosted Jeffrey O’Malley, Director of the Division of Data, Research and Policy for UNICEF, who reported how UNICEF is stepping up for Climate Change.  They feel it is the greatest challenge for this and future generations, who will continue to be more and more affected.  Their recent report on the effect of climate change on children can be found here: http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Unless_we_act_now_The_impact_of_climate_change_on_children.pdf

While climate change will affect every child, it will disproportionately affect the over half a billion children living in extremely high flood occurrence zones and the nearly 160 million in high or extremely high drought severity zones.   The effects of climate change often hit the most vulnerable first and hardest, leaving them few resources for recovery.  Don’t think the developing world matters to you?  We all share the same atmosphere. We do ourselves a favor when we lead the way with renewables. India & China are currently building 665 coal power plants and planning almost 1000 more.  Embarrassingly, China is also working quite hard on developing renewable energy too, making bigger strides than the U.S. and leading the world.  http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/12/02/the-truth-about-china-2400-new-coal-plants-will-thwart-any-paris-cop21-pledges/  Sagan Earth Day

If Children are our Promise of Tomorrow, then we need to put promises above profits and provide them a worthy future.   How can we do this, besides simply planting a few trees for Earth Day?  The most effective way to reduce greenhouse gasses is achieved by putting a price on carbon.  Citizens’ Climate Lobby promotes a Carbon Fee and Dividend (CF&D) which charges a fee (to account for costs of the pollution created by burning fossil fuels) at the mine, well or port of entry.  These fees are returned to U.S. households as a monthly dividend with most receiving more that they will pay for increased energy costs.  Find out more here: http://citizensclimatelobby.org/

Why should we do Carbon Fee & Dividend?

  1. A study from REMI (Regional Economic Models, Inc.) shows that CF&D will reduce CO2 emissions 52% below 1990 levels in 20 years and will create an economic stimulus adding 2.8 million jobs to the economy.
  2. CF&D will NOT hurt the economy. British Columbia began its revenue-neutral program for taxing emissions in 2008 and has found economic growth to be steady or even outpacing that of other provinces in Canada.
  3. If we don’t find remedies to mitigate climate change, it will end up costing us MORE than it will to implement fixes. See the CITI GPS report here: https://www.privatebank.citibank.com/home/fresh-insight/gps-energy-darwinism.html

If the children in your life have meaning to you, join me in the effort to address climate change… for their sake, if not for your own.

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