How do we keep moving forward?

Tone Lanzillo

 There's a scene in the film Rocky Balboa where Rocky's son comes to his father's restaurant to speak to Rocky. The son is asking Rocky not to come out of retirement to box again. Rocky's response is that he has to go through with the fight, and then talks to his son about life's challenges and the importance of not being a coward.  

“It's not about how hard you can hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward,” stated Rocky.  

These days we're taking a lot of hits when it comes to the number of alarming climate events taking place in the U.S. and around the world. We've heard that global temperatures have already exceeded 1.5 degrees Celsius and may pass 2 degrees before the end of this decade. The January CO2 levels reached 422.8 ppm, with a 3.32 ppm gain in the last 12 months. And new high temperatures have been recorded in Kashmir, Thailand and other regions around the planet.  

In his February 6th article for the Guardian titled World not prepared for climate disasters after warmest January ever, Jonathan Watts wrote, “Scientists say the world is not prepared for the climate disasters that are hitting with increasing frequency as human-driven global heating continues to break records.” Watts cites the growing heatwaves in the northern hemisphere as well as the long-term and intense heat at the ocean's surfaces.  

Like Rocky, psychiatrist Phil Stutz argues that we face many challenges in life which include pain and adversity. In his Netflix documentary Stutz, he talks about how true confidence is living with uncertainty and moving forward while embracing our creative spirit.  

“The highest creative expression for a human being is to be able to create something new right in the face of adversity,” stated Stutz.  

And in his book Lessons For Living: What Only Adversity Can Teach You, Stutz writes about what it takes to deal with the real world and move forward in our personal lives.  

“If you find yourself without spiritual direction, without interest in anything creative, without involvement in a community, without deep relationships, you are not moving forward.”  

So, whether it's for an individual or a city like Duluth, we all have to think about what it's going to take to keep moving forward. We need to cultivate a greater sense of community, stronger relationships with others and the natural world, and a deeper spiritual life. And given this climate crisis that we're facing and living through, we definitely need to create something new to address this growing threat to humanity.  

Remember that the 2018 Climate Vulnerability Assessment stated that Duluth is moving 145 feet to the south everyday and between 2040-2070 the city will be experiencing the same climate conditions and weather as locations over 250 miles to the south of us. Also, we have a number of groups in Duluth who are becoming more vulnerable to climate change - including children 5 and under, seniors, the homeless, unemployed and those with chronic health conditions.  

Here in our city by the lake, do we have the capacity to keep moving forward to address climate change and the numerous hits we're already taking at this moment? We've been hit with a warming Lake Superior with a growing amount of microplastics, air quality alerts from Canadian wildfires, warmer temperatures in the winter and severe droughts.  

In the past four years, we've seen the city council pass the climate emergency resolution and the former mayor hired a sustainable officer to help advise and direct the city government's efforts.

And we have organizations like the Sierra Club, Citizens Climate Lobby, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, and the Duluth Climate and Energy Network collaborating on various initiatives to address climate change in our city. But sadly, we need to do more. Climate change is happening faster and is more extensive than we had even envisioned 10 years ago.  

Taking the advice of Rocky Balboa and Phil Stutz, maybe we need to explore what we have to create in order to address climate change and move forward. For Duluth, maybe it simply begins by creating a forum or space where the citizens can come together and collectively discuss and decide how we want to respond in addressing the public welfare of our city.

How we can take the ongoing hits from climate change and keep moving forward to embrace what it means to be a more resilient, sustainable and environmentally just city.