Ann’s Climate Story (Duluth)

In the late 1970’s I was a young Mother with two daughters. My parents had moved to 13 acres in the country after I left home, and they spent their retirement years raising organic vegetables and apples in a small orchard.  Reading copies of Organic Gardening magazine and helping out in the gardens heightened my awareness of the intricate connection between my actions and the health of the earth.

During that time also, the nearby Fox River was named a Superfund site. The paper mills that had created the pollution were loathe to pay to solve it, and my parents attended public hearings in favor of the cleanup. My dad would always begin his testimony at the hearings by stating, “I am here on behalf of my granddaughters.” I distinctly remember thinking that thanks to people like my mom and dad, our legislators and other decision makers would do the right thing, and my daughters would grow up in a world where the air and water would be clean and corporations would act in the best interests of the environment. I would look back at my naivety and laugh, except what has happened is not at all funny.

Those hearings were the genesis of my environmental activism. I told my mother once, when she was feeling hopeless about the state of our environment, that I could not afford to be negative because I needed to think my children would have a future. I now have four grandchildren, and I carry on the fight because they, too, deserve a future.

I look at surveys taken by PBS, political groups, and public interest groups, and many citizens seem to be very interested in jobs, the state of the economy, immigration, and of course in Duluth, potholes.

It is rare to see global climate change at the top of anyone’s list, but it’s at the top of mine, because it affects all other concerns.

In 2012, Duluth had a devastating flood, several weeks ago Bayfield and Ashland Counties had a devastating flood, on July 21st, as you may recall, in Duluth we experienced 70 – 100 mile per hour winds in a storm that downed thousands of trees and knocked out power for days to many residents. It has been shocking to see huge trees uprooted, downed wires sagging over rooftops. And it’s not just in Duluth but our surrounding area as well, The Boundary Waters Canoe Area has had three huge storms this summer that caused several deaths. Wisconsin Senator Janet Bewley stated on Wisconsin Public Radio that the kinds of storms we are experiencing in rapid succession are 100 year storms. We need to pay attention to what this pattern of storms portends.

These destructive storms will be an increasing part of our future if more isn’t done to reduce our dependence on coal, and to create more opportunities for clean energy to thrive.

I was asked to tell my story – provide my perspective – on climate change, but this isn’t just my story, it’s ours.

Our world is running out of time to address climate change.

When I write to my legislators about the environment, I always ask them to look at the issue through the lens of their children’s futures. That’s what I ask you to do: look into your children’s eyes before you make decisions, think about your children when you are pressured to vote against their best interests, resolve to be the one who stands up for our children’s future.

The Duluth that I want to live in is one that understands the urgency of this issue, and that are working together as a community is essential for creating a better world, as my parents had envisioned for their grandchildren. What I love most about Duluth is the resiliency of its people and I believe this goes further than rebuilding our lives after the 100 year storms finally pass.   I have complete faith in our community to create a future that is worthy of our children’s dreams  – and I believe that starts with the responsibility of our decision makers.

Ann Miller – Sierra Club (Northstar Chapter) Volunteer

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