Ready or not, it's here

Tone Lanzillo

Recently, I was outside of Sara's Table waiting for the restaurant to open for an 8am gathering. Since there was about thirty minutes before it opened, I decided to sit on the bench and watch the cars passing by at the intersection. It was interesting and amazing to see how many cars rolled right through the white lines and stop signs. Many of the drivers seemed to be in a hurry.  

Then a few days later, I was walking by an elderly man who was sitting on the edge of the sidewalk next to the CVS parking lot. He was coughing his lungs out while smoking a cigarette. Could hear him from several blocks away. Just kept smoking and coughing.   

These two moments remind me that we're often not good at reading or respecting the warning signs in our daily lives; whether it's driving one's car, taking care of our personal health or any number of other things that you and I encounter each day. And whether we aren't fully awake, not paying attention or just refusing to acknowledge or accept what's happening, many of us won't stop to consider or calculate the risks or danger in various situations. Therefore, we don't always make the healthiest or wisest decisions.  

Now, we find ourselves in the middle of a climate emergency. And we have to ask ourselves if we're paying enough attention to what's taking place around the world and what's starting to show up in Duluth and northern Minnesota.   

Within the past four weeks, CNN reported all-time temperature highs in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand as well as the out of control wildfires in western Canada. The website stated that extremely hot days are warming twice as fast as average summer days in North-West Europe.

Also, reported that the North Atlantic has warmed almost 1 degree Celsius in just the past 41 years and on May 19th there was record heat in Alaska where Sittken Airport registered at 82F/27.8C with its warmest May on record.   

In The Climate Book, Greta Thunberg brought together over 100 experts in such fields as economics, geophysics, engineering, history and environmental studies to present a strong argument with irrefutable evidence that the climate and ecological crisis is the greatest threat that we're all facing. "To solve this problem, we first need to understand it - and to understand the fact that the problem itself is by definition a series of interconnected problems. We need to lay out the facts and tell it like it is," stated Thunberg.  

Here in Duluth, we need to tell it like it is. There are a number of facts or warning signs that we need to see, understand and connect. The air quality alerts triggered by the wildfires in Canada. More public health concerns. The significant losses in the butterfly and bird populations. Microplastics in the western basin of Lake Superior. Longer droughts and poor soil conditions. Influx of climate migrants from other parts of the country, with the wealthy and corporations buying up properties for future investments.   

Given a number of factors, including the continuous rise in atmospheric CO2 levels and more warming trends around the planet, this climate emergency will get worse for many years. Is our city ready and prepared for what's coming this year, next year and the year after that?    

It doesn't matter what political party you belong to, the church you attend, your age or race, what kind of job you have or how much money you have in the bank. This climate emergency will impact all of our lives for a long time.   

So, how are we preparing for the next 5 years to address the immediate concerns of climate change? And in what ways are we learning to adapt to the inevitable conditions that will present themselves over the coming 30 years?   

Is Duluth ready and prepared to visualize and create a city that shows we are truly reading and respecting the warning signs of climate change? Or, like the drivers passing through the intersection or the elderly man smoking on the sidewalk, will we deny or neglect all the warning signs about our personal safety, the health of our environment and the growing climate emergency?  

The scientists from the World Health Organization and World Meteorological Organization have stated that we could pass the 1.5 degree Celsius mark in global warming by 2027. And many experts are already talking about surpassing the 2.0 degree Celsius mark within the next 30 years.   

In the May 25 newsletter from the United Nations Foundation, in response to the reports of record temperatures in the next five years, World Health Organization (WHO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas stated, "This warming will have far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment." Also, WHO's Director for Public Health and Environment Dr. Maria Neria proclaimed, "Climate change will fuel all the possible health disasters that we're expecting."   

Ready or not, climate change will become more challenging, intense and disruptive. Are we prepared for what's coming? Are we seriously engaging and educating the citizens of our city so that everyone has a deeper understanding and appreciation that the climate emergency is not 10 or 20 years down the road. It's happening right now. Right in front of our eyes.