Local View: Wake-up calls aplenty; answer during 'Climate Week: Duluth'

To learn more about “Climate Week: Duluth,” Sept. 19-26, email Tone Lanzillo at or check out the public group “Climate>Duluth” on Facebook.

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Over the past handful of weeks, we’ve been hearing about a number of destructive and life-threatening climate events from around the world. With the major floods in Pakistan, record-breaking heatwaves in China, or the droughts in France and the Southwest region of our own country, it’s clear that our assumptions about what is driving climate change — as well as our expectations about how it will impact everything from our personal lives to our local communities, cities, and countries — are dramatically off the mark.

These climate events are coming on faster, stronger, and earlier than expected. We can already see that those cities and regions which have been hit by this climate crisis were not prepared and ultimately overwhelmed. These events should serve as a wake-up call for those of us who live in Duluth.

It's time we reflect upon the climate events that have taken place in just the past five years and try to put into context what is happening and how these climate events may impact our individual and collective lives. By considering how climate change will change everything in Duluth, we can hopefully begin to see what the future holds for each of us as well as for our greater community.

Nothing is immune from this new climate reality — not our local economy, public health, transportation, housing, or food system.

There's a song, “You Get What You Give,” by the New Radicals. In listening to the lyrics, I have to wonder if we're giving enough attention to this climate-change world. I wonder if our city is giving enough thought and resources to exploring how we want to possibly adapt to and mitigate the climate changes that will be coming. I wonder if we're giving ourselves the opportunity to create the collective capacity to respond to the growing sense of urgency felt by so many people, especially those who are the most vulnerable populations in Duluth.


If we don't give ourselves these things, then what will we get? The answer is quite simple: We will get a city that is not prepared for the climate events that will be coming over the next 10 to 15 years, much less 28 years from now.

There’s so much to consider when we think about Duluth’s climate future. There are people from other parts of the country who are leaving their homes due to climate change and moving here. There’s the growing concern about a lack of water in the Southwest region of the U.S., and now people are considering the need to possibly pipe water from the Great Lakes to those parts of the country that are dealing with drastic heatwaves and severe drought. There have been significant decreases in bird and butterfly populations.

It’s because of these issues and challenges that a group of us will be hosting “Climate Week: Duluth” this coming week, Sept. 19-26. The theme is to be informed, inspired, and involved. Our mission is to engage the greater community of Duluth in a conversation about climate change, our city's future, and the apparent need to embrace a greater sense of urgency during this climate emergency.

In the forward to his book, “This Land Is Our Land: The Struggle For A New Commonwealth,” Jedediah Purdy wrote, “In a commonwealth — which we might also call a democratic Anthropocene — value will lie in work that does what is necessary and sustains its own conditions of possibility, in rest that contemplates a broken but still wondrous world. … No one can choose these values alone because they depend on the shared commitments of others and on the shape and terms of a built and shared world. The heroic work of building that world must clear the space for living humbly. We need extraordinary acts to serve the most common things. It will seem less heroic, more ordinary, if it is the work of many hands, and that is the only way it will come true.”

I hope that many of you will join us for “Climate Week: Duluth.” We need to get to work in building a city that provides a safe and secure space for all of us. We need extraordinary acts of service from every one of us to help this city find its way through some very confusing and challenging times. We need to commit our heads, hearts, and hands to creating a more resilient and sustainable Duluth in this climate-change world.

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.

Tone Lanzillo.jpeg
Tone Lanzillo

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