It’s difficult to know where to begin to think about what 100% clean energy means for Minnesota. It’s difficult because it’s like asking the question what does water mean to a fish? It is life. It is a future. It’s the only way.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued their most dire report ever in 2018 warning that the community of nations has 12 years to make substantial changes to reign in carbon to avoid the very worst calamities of climate change. Some governments, including the Trump administration, are not taking this warning seriously and have turned a blind eye to settled science and disavowed the report.
Local, municipal and state governments have to do the work that the federal government is refusing to do. In Minnesota, both Gov. Tim Walz’s administration and the House of Representatives have taken steps to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050. The Senate has yet to take action.
“But wait” you might be saying, “2050 is 30 years from now not 12?” It is true we need to do better but here are two things that should give us hope.
- The UN report warns that significant change must happen. Minnesota’s timeline does not put off all change until 2050, as half of the change happens by 2030.
- Once we commit to a deadline, Minnesota has tended to beat our own deadlines on clean energy. So committing to this deadline is a powerful and necessary first step.
Also hopeful are the things that begin to happen once we are committed to 100% clean energy. It turns out there are benefits to cutting our CO2 emissions beyond saving the planet (like we needed more incentive than that).
One of the first most noticeable changes as we stretch towards clean energy is cheaper and cleaner transportation and more options in transportation as well. Those who continue to own personal vehicles but switch to electric will notice an immediate reduction in operating costs. This isn’t just from the savings on fuel but from a much lower maintenance cost of a vehicle.
For those who choose to not own their own vehicle, the options for getting around are blooming like a recently watered dessert. Both publicly funded transit and new options for short-term bike and scooter rental to bridge short distances are just the beginning of a new era in transit and transportation options. The Twin Cities are leading the way now with a commitment to buying a new fleet of electric buses, Perhaps we will notice soon that some of the dirtiest vehicles on the road are the ones we use to carry our children to and from school.
Public safety is another welcome benefit of 100% clean energy. We habitually put explosive liquids into our vehicles and pump not just oil but explosive gasses into the homes where we live and raise children. All over rural Minnesota, homes are heated with propane stored in 500 gallon tanks right outside the home. Unfortunately, propane explosions have had devastating impacts on families and property. This is normal for us but it will not be so in the future.
Living with 100% clean energy means playing with your children or walking your dog in clean air. It means a reduction in health care costs as we experience a decline in heart and lung ailments.
Finally, there is a culture around the extraction of oil, coal and gas that is too often inhuman. The objectification of the earth’s resources treats us as if we are separate from the earth and not intimately tied with its future twists. It twists human relationships as well. If the earth is just there for us to use, we begin treating each other that way too.
Our transition to 100% clean energy will not, of course, rid the human race of its worst instincts and actions. Those are even older than our use of dirty fuels. But our transition to wind and solar will in fact help us reconnect to the land and our environment and each other. The culture of objectifying the earth and its people fades as we generate less and less power through extraction and harvest the wind and the sun that come to us as a gift. A new way of living with the earth can open a door for new ways of living with each other.
This is what living with 100% clean energy could be like. It’s important to admit that this transition is not inevitable. Not even close. There are enormous economic and social forces that do not like this dream either because they profit in the short term from our current system or they simply cannot stand the idea of change.
Yet I believe we can choose this. MN350 stands for this new reality. We have many allies who stand with us for this new reality and while we do not have the financial resources of Enbridge Oil or ExxonMobil we have all of us and our passion to create the world we need and that we deserve.
Like every human achievement it is important that we not take our focus off the basic goal of 100%. The key to this concept is the number 100. As a nation we didn’t plan on getting 50% of the way to the moon but 100% of the way there. We didn’t plan on “holding fascism at bay” we planned on eradicating it. There are places where our goals simply cannot be compromised because something less is nothing at all.
Grant Stevensen is Climate Justice Organizer for MN350. He has been a Lutheran Pastor for 26 years and has lived and worked in Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, Wisconsin, and his native Minnesota. He has organized for almost two decades with the ISAIAH organization and serves as finance chair on the board of Take Action Minnesota.