Monday, January 21, 2013

A MEER failure

photo of wind farm in SE Minnesota
© harrington
Why is it that the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board isn't asking the questions that need to be asked to create a sustainable and resilient future for My Minnesota? Despite the fact that three of the agencies that are members of EQB (Commerce, Employment and Economic Development, and Transportation) have major roles in creating Minnesota's built environment, their Report Card's only specific question about the man-made environment has to do with infrastructure: "What adaptation practices might be necessary to maintain agriculture, forests, physical infrastructure, and fish and wildlife populations in the face of climate change?" The question reads to me very much like a "how do we have our cake and eat it too?" kind of framing. One of the Report Card's questions on Energy strikes me as being even more short-sighted, incredibly so: "How do we find the right balance between coal, natural gas and renewable energy sources?" The thought processes behind these questions, such as they are, seem embedded in an attitude of appropriate subservience to corporate masters who must not be overly offended. I once knew someone who pointed out to me that it was unwise to annoy a dragon, because I was crunchy and good with ketchup. That very point of view seems to pervade the report. As an alternative, how about a question such as: What is the maximum amount of renewable energy that Minnesota can generate reliably to minimize its fossil fuel combusted baseload? We could combine that question with one that goes something like: How can Minnesota create and pay for the type of energy grid needed to support a sustainable energy future? We could also begin to recognize the accomplishments, limited though they are to date, of the green building sectors and others who are working to create a Minnesota that worth living in in the future. Perhaps we might engage in conversations about the major obstacles to a more sustainable and resilient Minnesota and how those obstacles could be most readily overcome. I found little, if any, of that kind of perspective underlying the Report Card. For that reason, it's a significant disappointment. I had higher expectations (perhaps hopes is a more accurate term) that the Report Card would have at least recognized that the proper definition of a problem is half its solution. A problem is defined not by its symptoms, but by its causes. Causes are sadly lacking in the Report Card. I'd definitely give it an "F" for plays well with others and a "D" for pays attention in class.