Recently, I stumbled upon a report about climate change in Duluth. Funded by an Environmental Assistance grant by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the "Vulnerable Populations and Climate Adaptation Framework" report was submitted to our city government in spring 2018. The first line stated, "Climate change is a global phenomenon that creates local impacts."

The report said Duluth has already experienced an increase of 1.8 degrees in annual temperature and an increase of 58% in the number of extreme-weather events between 1950 and 2015. And it stated that by 2100 Duluth could expect an increase of 4 to 11 degrees in the annual temperature and an increase to 23 days above 95 degrees and 50 fewer days below freezing.

It further reported that within our city are certain populations of "particular vulnerability," including children under 5, older adults, individuals with disabilities, and individuals in economic stress. It stated that special attention should be paid to identifying "effective strategies" for those in economic stress, those with limited transportation, older adults, and individuals with disabilities.

How has the city responded to this report? Have we identified any strategies to address the impacts of climate change on our most vulnerable populations in Duluth? And, while these particular populations need special attention, do we realize that all of us are vulnerable to climate change? Is it beginning to sink in?

In fact, we are very vulnerable. Our natural resources are vulnerable. Our houses along the lake and rivers are vulnerable. Our small businesses are vulnerable. Our winter fishing community is vulnerable. Our public health is vulnerable. Our atmosphere is vulnerable.

We have to acknowledge the reality of being vulnerable. Ultimately, it's going to depend upon our response to this reality that will determine whether we become a more resilient and sustainable city or possibly end up as an unhealthy and environmentally distressed town.

In his book, "The Fragility Of Things," William Connelly writes that it's more apparent every day that we live in a fragile world. He states that this fragility comes from the acceleration of climate change, the increase in the global temperature, and the increase in extreme weather events. Connelly reminds us that we are vulnerable because of this fragile world that has been created by the global climate crisis.

And yet he encourages us to explore our creative spirit and potential vitality. Connelly writes, "Vitality deserves to be cultivated and respected as we act into a future replete with fragility and shifting degrees of real uncertainty." He talks about how a creative act is an "uncanny power" that helps to connect us to the "vitality of existence."

So, how can we embrace our collective creative spirit and bring a sense of vitality to our city's efforts to build a stronger and more sustainable community? One approach is visioning, creating a vision of what you want to see and work toward for the future.

In his book, "The Great Derangement: Climate Change And The Unthinkable," Amitav Ghosh wrote, "If there is any one thing that global warming has made perfectly clear it is that to think about the world only as it is amounts to a formula for collective suicide. We need, rather, to envision what it might be."

Duluth needs to create a vision of what it wants to look like as a resilient, sustainable, and environmentally just city. We must come together to create a vision that reflects the best ideas and imaginations of our artists, gardeners, entrepreneurs, architects, environmentalists, high school students, and psychologists.

We should have a vision that doesn't collect dust on a shelf but prompts us to take immediate steps to see it come alive.

Tone Lanzillo is a member of the Loaves and Fishes Community in Duluth and is a live-in volunteer at the Dorothy Day House.


At least two people in Duluth want to help our city find a climate vision for the future. Libby Bent and Rachel Wagner are developing a visionary art project entitled “RENEW DULUTH.” By incorporating the work of local artists, their plan is to produce a three- to five-minute video highlighting the transition to a just and climate-resilient community through nature-based solutions, human-scale infrastructure, renewable energy, and locally produced food. Their hope is to present this video throughout the city.

To learn more about this project and/or support the work, contact Wagner and Bent at or

— Tone Lanzillo