The answers to as well as the problem of climate change are stories that must be told, a speaker at a media-focused forum said Monday.
“The solutions are out there, and we need to start highlighting those stories,” said Nicolette Slagle, research director for the indigenous environmental activist group Honor The Earth. “I think that’s an important role that the news can play.”
Slagle was among 11 speakers from students to scholars to activists to a pastor and a doctor who participated in Climate>Duluth, a two-hour panel discussion at the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center, 212 W. Second St.
The hastily organized Duluth forum, which attracted more than 60 audience members, was inspired by “Covering Climate Now,” a seven-day “global news campaign” on climate change that began on Monday.
National media participants include National Public Radio, The Nation, CBS News and Rolling Stone.
Tone Lanzillo, a member of the Loaves and Fishes community, said he became aware of the international event just 13 days earlier and began organizing the local version.
So many people were willing to participate, he said, that he chose to take a background role on Monday evening.
Lanzillo said he sees the media not in an advocacy role, but as an information provider.
“Not so much the ‘rah, rah, rah,’ but just what specifically is happening?” he said in an interview earlier on Monday. “Just give us the facts.”
Lisa Fitzpatrick, who directs two futuristic technology labs at the University of Minnesota Duluth, said “covering both sides” isn’t a valid principle for the media when it comes to climate change.
Ninety-seven percent of scientists believe that global warming is human-caused, she said. Therefore, she said, it’s a “public disservice” for media outlets to give equal weight to those who disagree.
Fitzpatrick had her epiphany, she said, when her hometown of Houghton, Mich., was hit by a devastating flood in June 2018 that was worse than the Northland’s 2012 flooding. The Houghton flood, which took a child’s life, got no attention in Duluth because so many floods were occurring, she said.
There was no question in her mind, Fitzpatrick said in an earlier interview, that climate change was the culprit behind the Houghton flood.
“It was a thousand-year flood,” she said. “It was not a place that ever had floods. Same as in Duluth when we had that thousand-year flood. … Two thousand-year floods in a space of (seven years)?”
The experience led Fitzpatrick to form a local group called Duluth Climate Mobilization.
About the same time, Lanzillo was doing some reading on climate change. It crystallized last fall, when he gave a talk to University of Minnesota Duluth students and saw their enthusiasm for taking action on the issue.
Both Fitzpatrick and Lanzillo have made lifestyle changes to reduce their carbon footprints. For Fitzpatrick, it’s an electric car and solar panels at home. Lanzillo got rid of his car altogether, walking or taking the bus in town and traveling beyond town by bus or train.
“I thought, yeah, for integrity on my part, if I'm going to get involved and ask people to even think about that changes, then I need to make some changes,” Lanzillo said.
Monday's forum included thoughts on what individuals can do. But the overriding them was about catching the interest of local media — with specific ideas included.
“Our existing energy structure is really inefficient,” Slagle said. “Can we just talk about that? You don’t have to be a crazy environmentalist to realize that we have an inefficient system."