In 2018, Katya Gordon published a collection of her climate columns she had written for the Lake County News Chronicle, titled "Climate Change: Musings And Studies From Lake Superior's North Shore." When I recently spoke to Katya and asked about her desire to write the climate columns and eventually publish the book, she stated, "I could see that there was little hardcore denial of climate change in my local community, simply a lack of attention. I saw nothing for the Northland citizen who works a blue-collar job and has daily pressures. I wanted to be fair and honest about climate change but also acknowledge that solutions are out there and that we can do them."
The one column in her book that caught my eye was titled, "Minnesotans — Climate Champions." Originally published in October 2017, Katya wrote, "I do find Minnesotans down-to-earth." She talked about how Minnesota is one of the fastest-changing states in the country when it comes to climate change. And because we are closer to the Earth than most people from other states, Katya wrote, "Minnesotans are 'ground zero' for climate change. We see it happening more than others, and we care about it more than others. I can reach only one conclusion: We are perfectly positioned to be the champions of big climate solutions."
Forty years to the month before Katya published this column, a song came out by the rock band Queen: "We Are The Champions." Some of the lyrics that have stayed with me over the years include, “But it's been no bed of roses, no pleasure cruise. I consider it a challenge before the human race. … We are the champions, my friends. And we'll keep fighting till the end. We are the champions. We are the champions. No time for losers. 'Cause we are the champions of the world.”
Reflecting on Katya's column and the song, I wonder what it will take for many of us to become climate champions as we prepare for the next 40 years. According to the dictionary, a champion is someone who "does battle for another's rights and honor; to protect or fight for." For anyone who wants to become a climate champion, it's time to realize we must battle and fight every day to address the growing climate crisis and especially to protect those who are most vulnerable. It's “no bed of roses” and “no pleasure cruise.”
Reading "A Field Guide To Climate Anxiety: How To Keep Your Cool On A Warming Planet," by Sarah Jaquette Ray, made it clear to me that a climate champion has to be emotionally strong. "Climate wisdom is the understanding that our ability to respond to climate change and to work on climate issues is shaped more by our emotional selves than by our rational selves. The sooner we can make the connection, the more effective we will be," Ray wrote. She talked about the importance of developing the "science of emotions" to help us balance apathy, fear, and despair with efficacy, compassion, and desire.
Climate Central reported that not only have the top 10 warmest years on record occurred since 2002 but states like Wisconsin and Minnesota experienced an increase of over 5 degrees Fahrenheit in their average winter temperatures in the past 50 years. Along with microplastics in Lake Superior, a significant loss in our total bird population, and increased public health risks to many members of our greater community, now is the time to encourage and support the citizens in Duluth who want to become climate champions — citizens who want to find big climate solutions. We need to find them in our neighborhoods, schools and colleges, the business community, social service agencies, the media, local government, and churches.
Tone Lanzillo is a member of the Loaves and Fishes Community in Duluth, is a live-in volunteer at the Dorothy Day House, and is an active part of the Duluth/365 initiative. To learn more about the Duluth Citizens Climate Action Plan, he suggests going to ecolibrium3.org/ duluthclimateaction or https://youtu.be/ TybRmpFgPZU.