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Climate: Leading ourselves

Katya Gordon

A year ago, when we returned from our sailing trip, we were met on the dock by several glum-faced friends who informed us that President Donald Trump had just announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. At the time, we had spent the month talking to people about climate change, and I felt certain that things were changing, regardless of what was going on in Washington, D.C.

This year, we returned to civilization to hear that our country's current and projected greenhouse gas emissions continue to decline, despite a vacuum of leadership on this from the top. The Climate Action Tracker, in fact, just improved rather than downgraded its assessment on the U.S.'s transition to renewable energies. What are we to make of this?

One factor is that in the absence of national leadership, states and cities are creating their own plans and making their own changes. A few local examples: The Duluth City Council recently endorsed carbon fee-and-dividend legislation, showing foresight and understanding in both the need to address climate change and the most beneficial way to do it. In the absence of Congressional consensus, our state government is also looking at a revenue-neutral carbon pricing, as led by Sen. John Marty.

Richard Painter, candidate for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota, endorses carbon pricing and carbon fee-and-dividend in particular, as does Rebecca Otto, who is running for governor.

How do I know this? Because regular citizens are advocating for specific climate action and engaging with candidates and elected leaders about it. This month, 1,200 Citizens' Climate Lobby volunteers migrated to D.C. to have over 500 bipartisan meetings with members of Congress and their staff.

I have a bumper sticker on my car that says "Climate voter"—and I mean it. I would never vote for a candidate who is not ready to look this situation in the eye and demonstrate support of workable solutions.

Who are these engaged citizens? You can find out by attending one of our monthly meetings. This month's Citizen's Climate Lobby meeting will be Tuesday evening, June 26, from 6-7:30 in Larsmont. Call Mike Overend or Lucy Grina at 218-591-2514 for directions. We learn, celebrate, and inspire one another with our projects, plans, and accomplishments. This is one meeting that will be well worth your time.

While national leadership continues to founder around climate action, the real leadership in the country is simply changing hands. In the book "Neither Wolf Nor Dog," Native American elder Dan says: "When our leaders don't lead, we walk away from them. When they lead well, we stay with them ... A leader is a leader as long as the people believe in him and as long as he is the best person to lead us. You can only lead as long as people will follow."

We know that no cargo net swings below us, ready to catch our earth and ourselves if we destroy our planet. No one is going to make this transition for us. We must do it ourselves.

When I used to facilitate solo campsites for teenage girls, I would give each girl a book of quotes to think about during her time alone. The quote I heard most often about after the experience was this: "I kept waiting for somebody to do something. Then I realized, I am somebody."

Katya Gordon is a volunteer for the Citizens' Climate Lobby and a Two Harbors resident.