Our Air, Land, Water: Minnesota Environmental Congress 2017
This year the Minnesota Environmental Congress was held on the St Paul campus at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. The day-long conference held many sessions that revolved around Minnesota’s air, land, water, climate and energy, which created dialogue with the Environmental Quality Board, as well as various members of our community. The event explored fresh and creative ideas of how to take meaningful action on environmental problems in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
One of the wonderful things that occurred at the event was having Governor Mark Dayton open the event, which included statement about how the state is willing to work with the people to solve MN’s environmental issues. The first keynote speaker was Paul Douglas, a well known meteorologist, who discussed the importance of stressing solutions over problems. A standout quote of his, “we listen to rodents, not PHD scientists for our weather”, made the crowd laugh, but was also tied in with the point of how it is a no brainer to implement renewables—going green gives you green!
One of the sessions I visited revolved around Pollinator Policy, listening to speakers from the Governor’s Committee on Pollinator Protection, which included groups like Pesticide Action Network and Pollinate MN. All the members in the session came from different backgrounds—architectural, transportation, health, energy etc— and were separated into smaller groups to discuss the ways pollinator can be improved in our fields. One inspiring cultural perspective that stood out to me was from somebody in the Hmong culture, who suggested that pollinator information could be spread through audio CDs, as opposed to websites and brochures, because oral traditions hold a lot of weight within their culture.
The Year of Water Action: Water Ethic, a session attended by Sustainability Education team member Lauren Schultz, offered the idea that clean water depends on people, and the proposition that it’s more about the social motivation behind change rather than the mechanical aspects; it’s not necessarily worrying about what to do, but instead how to do it. Table discussions were made after listening to citizen stories regarding their water ethic issues. Conversations ranged from values and culture to how motivation and community building can activate a water ethic within our own communities. Speakers Mae Davenport an associate professor at the Department of Forest Resources, Britt Gangeness from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Jennifer Tonka of the Minnesota Humanities Center all connected their presentations around one main message: Water is Life.
Another session that I attended was Influencing Environmental Government in Minnesota, which had the members of the MN Environmental Quality Board (EQB), a group that coordinates communication between different agencies. Their goal of increasing water quality by 25% by 2025 was announced, which then commenced with questions from the audience, specifically asking how the public can get involved. One of the ways to get involved is to write to our representatives and the EQB through letters and calls, but it is important to make the communication personal, and include solutions if you can! The EQB members stressed that representatives are more scared of you than you are of them! Call the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), as well as sign up for newsletters with GovDelivery for updates on particular organizations or issues. This session definitely inspired me to get involved with issues that are important to me, such as the health effects of pesticides in our watershed. Help by adding your voice to shape Minnesota’s future!
Banner picture courtesy of Mary Oldham