Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Climate Change change?

If I had college to do all over again, I think I might major in dot connecting. It seems to be a major challenge for most humans unless the dots are really close together and provide immediate feedback: like noticing you burn your hand every time you put it on a hot stovetop. For most of the world, global warming doesn't yet fit that immediate feedback model, although we're getting there. I spent mid-day at a USGBC-Mn quarterly meeting at which  the presentation topic was The Climate Reality Project: Local Impacts of Climate Change, and Solutions. I saw slides of increased numbers and intensity of severe storms, flooding, wildfires, drought impact plus charts of phenomenal increases in wind and solar energy development. (You can see much of what I saw, plus some other material, at this link.) The Metro Council is beginning to address climate change in its Thrive 2040 framework.
"Our region is already feeling the effects of climate change as we experience more severe weather events and temperature extremes. Severe heat waves have stressed people, agriculture and energy supplies. Increased frequency of severe weather is already increasing homeowner insurance premiums and repair costs of public facilities, as the City of Duluth experienced in the aftermath of torrential rains in 2012."
St. Croix River, Spring 2014 flooding
Photo by J. Harrington
As I skimmed through the text crafted by the Council, I mostly saw a listing of what they're already doing coupled with what they propose to do. (If you already have most of a regional open space system, reducing urban heat islands was not a primary motivator, its an added benefit. Anyway, I saw many worthwhile strategies laid out, but am left with the impression that the Council's current approach is akin to treating Ebola by lying down and taking a couple of aspirin. What I mostly think I saw was an implicit commitment to business as usual. I don't believe that's sufficiently responsive or responsible to the magnitude of the issues facing us all.

public rain garden for storm water management (and beauty)
Photo by J. Harrington

Before I headed to the meetings I had this morning and mid-day, I took some time to check several of the standard websites I try to review daily. I came across the GoodNewsNetwork's syndication of the Star Tribune's recent story about Minnesota's Green Step Cities. We don't have enough Green Step Cities and I'd like to see much more progress with this initiative. Thus, I'm pleased to note Council's draft plan acknowledges the GreenStep Cities program and proposes to proceed
"Identifying risks, best practices and model ordinances for climate change mitigation and adaptation in partnership with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s statewide Minnesota GreenStep Cities program;"
It's far from clear to me why the Council would limit itself to "climate change mitigation and adaptation" and its partnership to MPCA, but at least we're seeing some progress. Now, if we can get them to adopt some biophilia goals, we'll really be on our way unless Rachel Wetzsteon is correct.

Rain at Reading

By Rachel Wetzsteon 
We had gathered under a tent in the park
for some words before lunch and after separate mornings,
and when—twice—the poet said “capital,”
the lightning bolts that followed the noun
had me bolting too; I’d always suspected
God’s communist leanings, but now I regretted
how few exchanges we know
between craft and climate:

imagine a rhyme inciting a rainbow,
blood feuds bruising the sky,
hymns of forgiveness bringing a soft
new light to the faces watching the last act,
waltzes and songs and declamations—
this would be capital entertainment!—
locked in a clinch with open air.

But the lightning was as quick as it was loud.
The clouds dispersed,
and then so did the crowd.


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