Those of us who grew up in the late fifties and early sixties remember many things that are no longer a part of our everyday lives: party telephone lines, addresses without ZIP codes, lessons in twirling batons, the static of transistor radios, and spending much of the summer barefoot. I remember all of these things with a sense of nostalgia, but the memories I cherish most were created at a cabin “up north” at Gull Lake. For several consecutive summers, my maternal grandmother took the children in my family to the Snow White Resort. My most vivid memories from that time are hearing the call of the loons and inhaling the distinct, piney smell of the woods surrounding the lake.
Fifty years later, my husband and I started taking our grandchildren “up north” for a week. Along with their parents and aunts and uncles, they have experienced the magical call of the loons and have seen them up close as we canoe and kayak. And while I have never asked them if they are able to appreciate the aroma of the pines, I get out of the car each year and am immediately transported to 1960 by the smell of the trees.
In 2014, the National Audubon Society published a study which said that, if overall temperatures in Minnesota continue to climb at the current rate, by 2080 Minnesotans may have to go north to Canada to see a loon.
In addition, according to the National Climatic Data Center, in parts of northern Minnesota, the temperatures have warmed nearly three degrees in the past century. Because of this warming, scientists predict that Minnesota’s north woods (red and jack pine, spruce, birch and aspen) will shift north and be replaced by maples and oaks.
Closer to home is the lake that I can see from my backyard. During the 1980s, when my children were growing up, they could swim at the city beach under the watchful eye of a lifeguard. Crystal Lake is where they all learned to water ski. Things have changed dramatically since then—my grandchildren are not allowed to go into the lake and we are cautioned about even letting our dogs swim in it due to the dangerous algae that sometimes grow there.
Being a bystander on this issue is not an option for me. I have become a participant in environmentally focused activities. One of them is the Crystal Waters Project. It’s a grassroots effort to bring all types of stakeholders (farmers, homeowners, governmental entities) together to work on cleaning up the cities’ lakes.
I am also pleased that the Zero Waste Mankato group was able to include Lake Crystal in their recently awarded grant that will bring organics recycling to our city. Beginning next month Lake Crystal residents will be able to take their organics to a local drop site.
I never want my children and grandchildren to wonder why I didn’t do everything I could to protect the environment they will inherit. I recently read this phrase: “I wouldn’t change my grandchildren for the world, but I wish I could change the world for my grandchildren.” Wishing for a changed world is not enough. I am choosing to be an active participant in making sure they get to hear the call of the loons and experience the scent of a boreal pine forest.
A retired schoolteacher from a small town in southern Minnesota can have only a modest impact in solving this enormous problem. As decision makers, your sphere of influence is huge. I ask you to consider the weight of this issue and become champions for our communities and for a world in which my grandchildren can thrive.