By Mindy Keskinen
February 17, 2019
When you see the latest headline on climate change, do you slump into the “Scream” position made famous by Edvard Munch?
You’re not alone. Yes, the news is bad, and the effects of climate change are hitting closer to home here in Minnesota. But wait: There’s good news, too. So take a deep breath and take heart.
First, let’s give ourselves credit: Americans are finally reckoning with the scale of the challenge. Quick review: The earth has already warmed 1° degree C above pre-industrial levels, and we’re on track to reach a catastrophe-triggering rise of 1.5° degrees by 2030, said the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fall. That’s just 12 years away.
The main culprit is heat-trapping greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide, also called CO2 or simply carbon) emitted by the fossil fuels that power much of the world’s economy. To prevent an ecosystem collapse, we must take “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” according to the IPCC report. So we’ve heard the wake-up call. It’s time to transition away from fossil fuels.
Individual and household action
When it comes to cutting carbon emissions, our own personal choices really add up, often with ripple effects. Here in the Twin Cities, if we take the bus or train instead of driving, we cut carbon, sure. But we’re also supporting the Metro Transit system, which needs riders to function. Walking to the stop is good exercise, and on board we might mingle with new people, broadening our view of our city.
Similarly, a plant-rich diet lightens our load on the planet (the meat industry is carbon-heavy), but we’ll also likely save money and improve our health. Whether it’s avoiding plastics, shopping local, skipping air travel, or sharing with neighbors, the benefits of personal action tend to multiply, and others learn from the example. Changing our habits, on many fronts, will help turn the ship.
Local group action
Behavior change is key, but we need systems change, too. And that means partnerships. Luckily, St. Paul is rich in grassroots groups for environmental, economic and social justice. A few options (Google them for details):
- Attend a monthly Zero Waste St. Paul meeting or join the Minnesota Tool Library, whose St. Paul branch is on Prior Avenue.
- Go to a community council meeting: District 10 for Como, District 11 for Hamline-Midway and District 12 for St. Anthony Park. Listen, speak up, and strengthen our democracy!
- Check out the free community health events at the HealthPartners Como Clinic (info in the lobby) and learn about its climate-working group.
- At your workplace, school, or faith group, join a green team—or start one.
- Drop in on a monthly Transition Your Money meeting to explore money and values.
- Or lend a hand to other Transition Town—ASAP activities, open to all in Bugleland and beyond.
What does local climate action look like?
Transition Town ASAP’s projects vary widely, from canning and composting workshops to helping host arts events, a resource fair, an emergency-readiness session, and even a national gathering: See our website for details.
In 2016, book artist Regula Russelle and her scientist husband, Michael, created two tiny booklets that share earth-friendly practices in a playful style. People loved them, and since then more than 4,000 of the zines have been picked up (for free) in several local outlets, including Hampden Park Co-op.
When the American Swedish Institute requested 1,000 copies for an event in January, the Russelles hosted a party to help fold and finish them. “Groups are starting to connect the dots on climate,” Regula said. “And there happens to be a Swedish proverb on the back cover: ‘Don’t let your sorrow come higher than your knees.’ ”
Broader political and economic action
Many of us also stand with groups like MN-350, Citizens Climate Lobby, Honor the Earth, Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, and Climate Generation.
Campaigns include promoting clean energy and resisting oil pipelines, lobbying Congress for a carbon tax bill, divesting from fossil fuels, and developing youth leadership for a crisis that will, for them, be dire. For their sake, let’s act now.
Mindy Keskinen is a book editor who also writes for Transition Town—ASAP. This is a monthly column from a neighborhood-based group working for a local response to climate change: a smaller carbon footprint and a stronger community. Find out more about Transition Town at All St. Anthony Park at www.TransitionASAP.org.