Becoming a more responsible city

Tone Lanzillo

 In his book Yes To Life In Spite Of Everything, Victor Frankl wrote, "Living itself means nothing other than being questioned; our whole act of being is nothing more than responding to - of being responsible toward - life."  

When it comes to the future of Duluth, are we asking the right questions about how we plan to address climate change in our city? Are we really responding to the climate emergency that the city council declared in the spring of 2021? Is Duluth being responsible for the health and welfare of all citizens when it comes to the approaching climate crisis?   

Frankl also wrote, "One way or another, there can only be one alternative at a time to give meaning to life, meaning to the moment - so at any time we only need to make one decision about how we must answer, but, each time, a very specific question is being asked of us by life."   A

t this moment in time, what is our decision? How do we want to respond to the latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change? It's being reported that without significant changes in how we all live we will reach a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in the global temperatures between 2030 and 2035, and probably will reach 3.2 degrees by 2100.   

Whether it's the growing number of droughts, warmer temperatures, losses to our bird and insect populations, microplastics and algae in Lake Superior, or the increased vulnerability of our fellow citizens who are poor, unemployed, senior citizens, black or indigenous, and homeless, what decisions will we make to address this climate emergency that becomes more complex and challenging with each passing year?   

Just a few weeks ago, we heard about the World Wide Teach-In on Climate and Justice that is sponsored by Bard College's Graduate Program on Sustainability. After speaking to their faculty and staff, we decided that Duluth needed to join this global initiative.

On April 4-13, Duluth will host the Climate+Justice Forum which will present a speaker series - zoom talks - as well as in-person gatherings to discuss such topics as climate education, building a climate movement and organizing a citizen's climate assembly. The theme for this forum is to engage, educate and empower.   If we've got any shot at addressing the emerging climate emergency that our city faces, we need to cultivate a greater sense of urgency with city government, our neighborhoods, the health care providers, business community and with all of our community and social service agencies.  

In their book Earthshot: How to Save Our Planet, Colin Butfield and Jonnie Hughes argue that we have 10 years. The authors talk about how we can meet the challenge by planting the "seeds of survival and resurgence." They also remind us that nature is resilient and humans are innovative.   

"Our planet is in crisis. An ecological crisis. Lost forests, porched soils, damned and poisoned rivers, empty oceans, filthy air and compromised climate leave it in peril. Since this is our only home, the predicament leaves us humans in peril, too," wrote Butfield and Hughes.  

If the planet is in crisis, then our city is in crisis. So, how will Duluth respond? Will we collectively ask the important questions about this climate crisis, take responsibility for ourselves and each other, and make the wisest decisions to hopefully create a more resilient, sustainable and environmentally just city.  

We can take responsibility by establishing a climate task force or commission that represents all of the important voices in our community. We can take responsibility by bringing climate education and support groups into the high schools and colleges. We can take responsibility by engaging entrepreneurs who are interested in creating sustainable ventures. Ll  

We want to encourage all of you to join us for the Climate+Justice Forum. Hear from authors Cynthia Kaufman, John Foster, Robert Jensen and Brian Tokar as they talk about the climate crisis and finding hope. Attend one of our in-person gatherings at the Karpeles Museum, Damiano Center and Bread & Roses House. Find out about local and global climate organizations that you could support. For more information, go to or visit Climate>Duluth on Facebook.