Local View: Make Duluth a 'city of hospitality' in a climate-change world
From the column: "Because of rising sea levels, wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, and other extreme climate events, people are being displaced and desperately wondering where their new homes will be."
Been traveling around the Midwest the past three weeks and finally making plans for returning to Duluth. While listening to Steve Winwood sing “Can't Find My Way Home,” I found myself reflecting on my home of Duluth for the past five years and what makes the city by the lake so special. Also, thinking about how our city can successfully move forward and face climate change over the next 50 years.
During this trip, I've been reading the book “Rehearsals For Living” by Robyn Maynard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. Through a collection of letters to each other, they discuss the various social, economic, racial, and environmental challenges that their Indigenous and Black communities are facing. Maynard and Simpson also explore the significance and importance of having a place called home.
In one letter, Simpson writes about the Indigenous culture's ethic of sharing. She explains the "politic of sharing," which promotes distancing ourselves from one's individuality and pursuing deeper communal lives. It's creating a "homespace" with a wide network and ecology of relationships.
"Homelessness is not a condition where you don't have a house. Homelessness is the condition in which you share your house, you give your house away constantly as a practice of hospitality. Home is where you give home away," stated Simpson.
The Loaves and Fishes community, where I've lived since arriving in Duluth, provides two houses of hospitality for men, women, and families who find themselves homeless, as well as a third house that provides short-term foster care for children. Every day, we look for opportunities to share our spaces, time, and resources with those who visit and stay at our houses. Every day, we give our homes away to help those who have experienced economic, racial, social, and environmental injustices.
With climate change, there are already millions of people from around the world whose homes are being damaged and destroyed. Many of them are actually losing their homes. Because of rising sea levels, wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, and other extreme climate events, people are being displaced and desperately wondering where their new homes will be. And in every city and country, the most vulnerable are children, seniors, disabled, minorities, poor, unemployed, and homeless.
It's a constant reminder of how important it is for each of us to feel a deep sense of belonging and being home, especially in a world that is experiencing dramatic changes and in many ways is becoming more fragile. It's also a reminder that we will become a stronger and healthier city when everyone opens up and shares their lives and spaces with others.
Here in Duluth, how can we address climate change and, at the same time, make a commitment to providing safe and caring spaces for every citizen in our city? How can we create a sense of homespace for everyone, especially those populations most vulnerable to a variety of climate events? How can we build a city of hospitality where we are able to share our homes, resources, and skills to support our families, friends, and neighbors?
With the upcoming elections for mayor and City Council, we're going to hear a lot about bringing in new business and creating jobs and tourism. But will we hear about creating a city of hospitality? Will we hear about how we can build a more nurturing and compassionate homespace in Duluth?
Whatever challenges that we're going to face in our city's climate future, can we explore how to practice hospitality throughout city government, the business community, and all of our neighborhoods? Can we begin to visualize and actualize more compassionate, creative, and courageous approaches to engaging and empowering our fellow citizens in building more resilient and sustainable homespaces for everyone in Duluth?
As a member of the Loaves and Fishes community, I've seen and experienced the power of feeling like you have a place called home, a place where you feel appreciated and valued, and a place where you feel safe and secure.
As Duluthians step into our climate future, every time any of us makes a decision, especially one that impacts others, could we consider the most hospitable and compassionate option? Could we contemplate how we will build a more resilient and sustainable city while providing a greater sense of safety and security to everyone who lives here? Could we collaborate with others in finding common ground to foster a more environmentally literate and livable city along Lake Superior?
Tone Lanzillo is a member of the Loaves and Fishes Community in Duluth, is a live-in volunteer at the Dorothy Day House, is an active part of the Duluth/365 initiative on climate, and is a regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page.