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Local View: On Earth Day, consider climate emergency's impacts on your life

From the column: "Climate change showed up in my life about five or six years ago when I began noticing fewer birds in the skies and trees."

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On Monday, April 12, the Duluth City Council passed a climate emergency resolution. It states that city government and the city’s sustainability officer will prepare a climate action plan and present that plan to the council in December.

On the same day, Covering Climate Now, a global journalism initiative, launched an 11-day campaign called "Living Through the Climate Emergency." Representing more than 450 media partners from around the world — including the Guardian, CBS News, New Republic, and the Philadelphia Inquirer — the campaign featured "human-centered stories" on how the climate emergency is seen and felt by ordinary people and how the emergency is playing out in people's lives.

Having been one voice among many from the greater community who lobbied and spoke before the Duluth City Council in support of its resolution, and having recently become a new member of Covering Climate Now, I began to realize and appreciate how important our individual and collective stories would be to the future of our city.

When I think about the next eight months, as we patiently wait for city government to present its climate action plan to the City Council, I wonder if this should be the time for all of us to begin exploring and sharing our own stories about this growing climate emergency and examining how it will impact and influence our daily lives and the decisions we will be making each day. How do each of us see climate change? How does it feel? Where is it showing up in our lives?

There's a number of people in Duluth whose personal stories have compelled them to enter the public arena to talk about the climate emergency. Lisa Fitzpatrick organized Duluth Climate Mobilization. Rachel Wager established the Green New Deal Corporation. Jordan van de Hagen created the Duluth Waterfront Collective. John Herold and Phil Fitzpatrick facilitated the Climate Emergency Poetry series. And Jennifer McEwen ran for and won a seat on the Minnesota Senate.

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Climate change showed up in my life about five or six years ago when I began noticing fewer birds in the skies and trees. Then I started seeing fewer butterflies, frogs, and turtles. There was this growing sense of loss that was difficult to define or describe.

In spring 2017, while living in Florida, I had been reading articles about carbon-dioxide emissions and their impact on climate change. It was then that I decided to no longer own or drive a car and that I would stop flying and take buses or trains for long-distance trips. Walking became my primary mode of transportation.

Upon arriving in Duluth in early November 2017 to join the Loaves and Fishes Community, I started thinking about how to lower my personal carbon footprint and lead a more sustainable life. I looked around and decided to make changes in how I lived each day. I looked for opportunities to Iive smaller, slower, and simpler. Everything from owning and buying less clothes to taking my backpack to the grocery store and choosing to walk and eat slower. And then in November 2018, I decided to begin writing and talking about climate change with the greater community.

With more news and information about climate change coming out every day — along with the increased realization about the growing impact of numerous climate events in Duluth on everything from the carbon emissions in the air to the acidification of the water — the climate emergency is steadily becoming a significant element in all of our lives.

I encourage everyone reading this to take a moment right now to think about how this climate emergency has, could, or will impact your life, mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Then, after a deep breath, ask yourself: How do I choose to respond? Where can I put my time and energy into creating a more sustainable and resilient life for myself and others?

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.

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Tone Lanzillo

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