The climate is changing, and so are we

By Mike Lukes

Commentary

The Climate Strike in September showed that more people are waking up, ready to do what it takes to cut greenhouse gas emissions. We will need systemic change in energy, transit, agriculture, and more.

But personal action is just as important. Our daily choices matter, and collectively, they shape the market, and the culture. How are people in St. Anthony Park transitioning to more sustainable ways of life? We asked around.

Shifting habits

Directly and indirectly, many neighbors are using less oil: shrinking their demands on our fossil-fueled industrial system, changing their diets, saving energy, and improving their carbon-footprint-per-capita at home.

“An ebike has proven such a fun way to replace many car trips. With a small amount of battery charge, the pedal-assisted electric motor makes my 15-mile trip to work a joy and hills a breeze. It got me moving again and reduced my car mileage by 3,000 miles a year.” —Karen Nelson

“I’m adding an accessory dwelling unit in my basement. In the process, parts of the house that have never had insulation are being insulated. More warmth, more density, and someone to help shovel—it’s a triple win!” —Toria Erhart

“I got rid of my car four years ago. I would never go back. I’ve lost weight, feel more fit, more connected to my community, and have a lot more money to spend on things I want to do. And I sleep guilt-free, knowing that I am not contributing as much carbon as I used to.” —Betty Lotterman

“When I sold my car, I invested the money in Cooperative Energy Futures, a community solar co-op based in the Twin Cities. CEF broadens the solar options for renters and lower-income ­people.” —Mindy Keskinen

“For long-distance travel, the fare isn’t the only cost. Flying is a huge carbon cost for the planet; bus and train less so. But when you do choose to fly, you can offset that carbon debt by making other lifestyle choices. And if you ask friends and family to help you work it off, you’re giving them insight into what our habits mean for the climate.” —Michael Russelle (Learn more and do the math: visit TransitionASAP.org)

“We’re already vegetarians, but now we’ve cut way back on cheese, too. Which is tough for someone from Switzerland!” —Regula Russelle

“At St. Anthony Park Lutheran, Britt Gangeness spearheaded the church’s new composting program and taught the congregation about it. In other public places, I’ve seen composting bins get ignored. So, educating people in an organized setting (like church) where the option is very accessible is valuable, on top of the value of the composting itself.” —Allie Rykken

In my case, I got the zipper on my 30-year-old jacket repaired. Now it’s good for another 30 years—whether I am or not.

Spreading the message

Meanwhile, more of us are talking about the climate crisis at the grassroots, showing how it can prompt healthy change in many areas of our society.

“About 35 Murray Middle School students joined the Climate Strike on Sept. 20, led by Alice Wagner Hemstad, Elise Dunne, and me. We took the 3 bus downtown. The most memorable thing was marching through the streets to the Capitol . . . I was also struck by the sheer number of people striking in St. Paul, and all over the world. It felt empowering to be a part of something so big. It left me feeling hopeful.” —Siri Pattison, Murray student

“Last year, our city-wide Read Brave program focused on issues of sustainable housing. This year’s theme is ‘Our Climate Crisis.’ Read Brave invites people to read, discuss, and even take action on critical issues . . . all while building relationships. We will be rolling out the books for all ages at the end of November and programming will happen in the spring.” —Mary Knox, St. Anthony Park Branch Library

“My wife and I support Green America’s campaigns to influence corporations to make good choices for people and the planet. Recently we invited our neighbors in the Zvago co-op to meet with a visiting staff member. It was exciting to hear about Green America’s effectiveness: Amazon announced it will get to 80 percent renewables by 2024, AT&T’s new purchases of wind and solar will get them over 50 percent, and Sprint has committed to 30 percent.” —Gregg Dana (Learn more at GreenAmerica.org)

What are you doing to preserve a habitable future? Let us know at communications@transition ASAP.org. Or join us at a monthly Transition Town–ASAP planning group meeting. The next two are Oct. 24 and Nov. 21, 6:30 p.m. at CoCreatz, 2388 University Ave.

Mike Lukes is a meteorologist now retired from federal service, most recently the National Weather Service. His roles ranged from upper-air test manager at the Sterling, Virginia facility to service hydrologist at the Weather Forecast Office in Grand Forks, N.D. He now lives in St. Anthony Park.

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