Why organize a community summit for a livable planet?

We must do everything we can, everywhere, every day to transition to a clean energy economy. We can do this locally by building solar arrays, wind farms, and geothermal installations. That takes a community coming together and making it happen, making the future they want for their communities. There is so much to talk about to ensure a livable future. There is so much we can do locally. So much is already being done locally all over the world. In fact, communities are leading in the transition.

A Community Summit will:

 Encourage more people to action and generate feelings and a power that we must and can do something now
 form new consortiums and ongoing partnerships and sustained dialogue and communication
 empower and encourage regions to assess their vulnerabilities, overt climate threats, and make preparations for future disasters
 expand and engage the public in the crisis and develop ambitious creative local solutions
 build support for the goals of a Green New Deal in Minnesota and nationally (link to web site of HR 109, 10 year mobilization plan)
 keep this the #1 defining issue
 inspire a larger and more engaged voter turnout in 2020

How do we plan a community summit?

Get local organizations together to meet and start discussing their local community summit for a livable planet.

  1. Decide on a location.
  2. Inform us of the date, time, location to post on the Events Calendar
  3. Get together and keep planning
  4. Review “Lively Robust Discussions” and decide on your Community Summit Program.

What has been the outcome of other community summits in Minnesota?
 Ongoing working groups for local food systems, municipal actions, people working together to persuade their city to become a Green Step City, outreach programs for organizations, Creation Care Conversation and Conversations for a Livable Planet, reaching out to local youth to support their initiatives, planning United for our Future rallies, starting new environmental groups, uniting local groups to work for a livable planet, empowering people to work together, new networking.
 “A fabulous event! Many people seemed to be meeting for the first time and seeing benefit from the networking. I sensed they really wanted to make something of the event and that they saw a great opportunity to synergy and a larger local environmental community.
Everyone was very involved in the program and the activities. The venue was great with everything needed and comfortable space for breakouts that let people hear each other without interference from other groups. You could hear all the speakers. There were a lot of impressive folks there, especially young people. Getting them to be central to the coalition will inspire both students and the older folks who love to see and help active youngsters. All in all it was one of the most successful networking and actions events I’ve seen. I’m energized after attending. Nicely done!” (evaluation form the North Branch Community Summit)

People want to connect with their neighbors and talk to each other!!

Lively Robust Discussions Format

The proposed Summit program format is small group discussions of one hour on several questions, with a Moderator and most importantly, a SCRIBE to capture and record the discussion and ideas. (Research shows that the small group discussion format is the best way to generate innovation and original solutions.  The format is meant to engage people, to work with others in their communities, and to empower people to believe how together we can figure out what to do, that we already have solutions.  Speeches and panels take away from talking with people in your community.) At the Summit, Minnesotans will be inspired by the possibilities that will reveal themselves when we work together.  Participants will continue the discussion and organizing in their community for the ongoing work for a livable planet after the summit.

What are possible programs?

Four Hour summit with local organizations

Begin with a Welcome and overview of the Summit.

Then introduce youth in the area who will talk about how they feel about their futures, what work they are doing, etc.

Make connections:  30 minute mingles with questions

  • What motivated you to come here today?
  • Do you talk about the environmental crisis with others?
  • How are you feeling about the emergency?
  • What are some steps we can take in our communities for a livable community?
  • Are you interested in creating a new Livable Planet Working Group in your community?

 1 hour of Robust Discussions

1 ½ hours for Work Groups

 

Two to three hour summit with the Public

Welcome

Mingle to connect

Caring for the Earth Conversation

Discussion groups with questions:

Discussion Questions

  1. How do we form new ongoing partnerships in the Community for the good fight for a livable planet?
  2. Can we imagine? Let’s imagine a future where ……….
    1. We make fast, deep cuts in global emissions from energy, transport & food in order to keep temperatures down, & we must restore & preserve all food producing land.
    2. The future where elected representatives who are tackling the crisis, working For A Livable Planet have a 95% majority, and can enact all the necessary laws needed for implementing the ambitious solutions to be determined by the groups in this room.
    3. The $22.1 trillion worth of financial assets and cash derived from our labor is being held by corporations, and will be spent on investments for a Livable Planet.
    4. Your group by law has been given complete authority to decide the ambitious solutions, including the timeline for each, and who and how the solution will be implemented.
    5. With this future, what ambitious actions can we imagine for our community?
  3. How are we preparing? Are local units of government in our community preparing for the coming disasters (extreme heat, droughts, fires, extreme weather, pollution)? What do we need to do to prepare?
  4. How do we discuss the crisis, and continue to work together on the solutions? Do we keep the discussion going by local units of government declaring an environmental emergency, passing resolutions in support of the goals of the Green New Deal, passing sustainable land use regulations?
  5. What communication strategy do we use to keep the environmental crisis in the forefront of discussions and news in Minnesota, and in our community?
  6. To slow and prevent the predicted environmental catastrophe, we must decrease global carbon emissions by 45% by 2030? How does this short time affect the strategies and solutions?
  7. What is the next critical step in our community in The Fight For A Livable Planet? What is the next critical step in Minnesota in The Fight For A Livable Planet?

REPORTS FROM LIVABLE PLANET SUMMITS

North Branch | Maplewood | Winona | Red Wing | Willmar

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North Branch, Minnesota, September 22, 2019 

A consortium of organizations and individuals united and planned the Summit:  Isanti Environmental Coalition, Health Professionals for a Healthy Planet, Women’s Environmental Institute, Wild River Audubon Society, Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans, North Words Project, Women Thinking Out Loud, Connections Lab, former Representative Karen Clark, and individuals from MN350 and Take Action.  The Summit was for four hours, and was held at Trinity Lutheran Church.  Forty-five attended, from twenty two different organizations and attendees were from three east central counties.

We heard from Annica, a high school student, about her feelings and other youth concerning the crisis – climate grief, despair and anxiety of whether they will have a livable planet, and how they can make a difference.  A Climate Reality leader gave a presentation.  Then we mingled and mingled to meet and connect with other attendees, after which we connected with others in Robust Discussion Groups.  We discussed many topics: What motivated you to come today?  Do you talk about the environmental crisis with others?  How are you feeling about the emergency?  What are some steps we can take in our communities for a livable community?  Are you interested in creating a new Livable Planet Working Group in your community?  What did you learn from the mingles?  What local organizations should be here, but are not?  How do we form Livable Planet Work Groups to stimulate local actions?  How do we enlist more people to join the Livable Planet Working Groups.  After the Delicious Desserts, we connected again in four Working Groups:  Restoration, Local Food Systems, Resident Actions, and Municipality Actions.  The Group Reports are below.

Restoration working group actions

Restoration is the act of repairing or renewing something; bringing something back to what it was.

Climate restoration consists of approaches that seek to return atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to preindustrial levels within one to two generations. Climate restoration is the global movement to return the earth’s climate systems to the safe and healthy state in which humanity and our natural world evolved. Other terms include environmental conservation, environmental protection, climate activism and advocacy, and advancing the green economy.

Engaging public participation at the local level is very important given the many difficulties in implementing restoration at the national and international level. We can bridge the gap between denial and action is by making it positive – do something we can invest in – and make it local. What are our neighbors doing? What are our children learning at school? This helps get beyond a level of abstraction and denial. We must support integrated planning that is done with the community in a participatory way.

Restoration could be our best solution to climate change. The actions below will create partnerships and generate community-based solutions.

Restoration working group actions (from Livable Planet Summit Sept. 22, 2019)

  1. Inventory current organizations and individuals
    • Include environmental groups in area and local organizations that embrace environmental activities
    • Beekeeping and butterfly groups
    • Prairie restoration and wildflower groups
    • Tree farms/arborists
    • Soil & water conservation districts, individuals, etc.
    • Someone would need to do this work
  2. Who? WTOL? May need to be WTOL that does this more than likely on our Livable Planet Facebook site
  3. U of MN extension is a good resource
  4. Form a Chisago County environmental organization. There is one in Isanti County. This will bring about action on a local level.
  5. Work with local election caucus to bring climate issues to the platform.

Municipality Actions Working Group

Local units of government possess the legal authority to take bold action for the community’s common good.  They have a duty to use their legal authority to protect the environment for the benefit of residents.  Many municipalities around the country are using this authority to fulfill their duty.  The Summit attendees received many handouts, including a copy of the Ten Year Mobilization Plan of the Green New Deal Resolution and a list of actions municipalities can and are taking for a livable planet.

The Working Group agreed that grassroots pressure is what it takes to move elected officials.  We learned that North Branch is a Green Step City, and Rush City is considering becoming one.  Some ideas included counties and cities implement their own Green New Deal, amending and writing new comprehensive plans that focus on the environmental crisis, local units of government installing solar arrays on all public buildings, planning a gathering of all the cities to discuss and work together on the crisis, prohibiting sand fracking, state incentives for bold local action, and all units of government, county, city, and township, develop their own ten year plan to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030.  The Working Group will meet again after more information is gathered about solar panels, local job creation, and existing comprehensive plans.

Local Food Systems Working Group

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Resident Actions Working Group

The energy throughout the four hours was very positive and everyone is planning to take some type of collective action, including Summits next year.  Evaluations said:  “Everyone was very involved in the program and the activities.  The venue was great with everything needed and comfortable space for breakouts that let people hear each other without interference from other groups.  All in all it was one of the most successful networking and action events I’ve seen.  I’m energized after attending.  Nicely done!”

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Livable Planet Summit – Maplewood

The DFL Environmental Caucus organized a Livable Planet Summit at the Maplewood Library on September 22. There were facilitated discussions around solutions at the local, state, and national level.  Around thirty people attended.

The Summit began with two presenters, Ann Mozey, a Climate Reality Leader, who talked about “Truth in Ten.”  Then Larry Baker, Research Professor at the Department of Biosystems and Biosystems Engineering talked about “Solutions by Individuals.”  The presentations were followed by a discussion on What actions can individuals take to lower their carbon footprints?  What obstacles prevent us from doing more and how can we overcome them?

Responses included: Less flying, using alternative communication for meetings; Dropping gas and going electric; Know energy consumption of retailers: Amazon vs. Best Buy; Eat a plant-based diet, reduce red meat, or eat insects; Buy in season/local and compost, use CSAs; Use imperfect food/reduce waste; Don’t fertilize your lawn; Reduce mowing lawn; Use e-fuel; Use wind energy, community solar; Bike more; Use public transportation; Use electric cars; Don’t use ethanol/gas vehicles; Carbon offsets; Don’t buy bottled water; Elect good candidates; Become more fuel efficient, and energy efficient in homes (insulate); Limit family sizes; Be a strong lobbying force for systematic change; Shop second hand stores, reuse; Put in high speed rail; Buy compostable products and compost them; Conserve water.

Roadblocks to this: Flying may be required by employer; Upfront cost of converting from natural gas to solar; Zoning, not allowing things on roof; Zoning, mowing required; Distance needed to travel to grocery store and other shopping venues; Public funding/subsidies needed for transitioning to cleaner energy; Older building and infrastructure inefficient, cost to upgrade; Lack of clarity in understanding C offsets; Family is distant; Poor planning; Too easy to keep burning carbon; Better communication needed; Poor public rules; People don’t appreciate science; Money in politics; Expense of renewable options; Plastic packaging required; Despair – I am just one person  …fight with education, start trends, change the culture; Lack of education and awareness.

After these lively discussions, Matt Doll, the Coordinator of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership Operations, talked about “Green Land and Clean Energy.”  Greg Laden, anthropologist, author, blogger, and Phillip Adam, Project Engineer, talked about “Transportation solutions.”  This was followed by the discussion on How can the state of Minnesota best move towards zero carbon emissions with solutions that are equitable for underrepresented communities?

Responses: POC  – higher rates of asthma; AG to sue companies who are polluting; Encourage benefits that solar gets – subsidies for reservations; Incentive trucks to switch to electric through tax subsidies and write offs; Make school busses 100% electric; Pubic charging stations – free or low cost, fast speed; Incentive more private charging stations; Upgrade infrastructure for charging EVs; Tax refineries; No subsidies for fossil fuels; Less meat in school lunches, more raw foods; Share Forever Green story in farm country – using perennials and cover crops; Electrify homes/businesses; Expand Community solar; Enforce sulfate standards; Education beefed up with practical component; Commit to renewable energy standards; Push Green jobs and livable waters; Plant more trees, strong tree ordinances; Green New Deal for MN – economic justice as a core value; Fiber optic investments; Rural green transportation investments.

Veda Kanitz, Climate Reality Leader, Citizen Climate Lobby Presenter, and the Chair of the DFL Environmental Caucus, talked about “Silver Buckshot.”  Discussions followed about What are the benefits and drawbacks of reducing emissions through regulation, carbon pricing, and the Green New Deal? and How do we create the political will to act on climate?

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WINONA COMMUNITY SUMMIT FOR A LIVABLE PLANET

Winona CAN (Climate Action Network) hosted a very original Summit on Sunday, September 22.  It was a group kayak paddle and conversations.  There were climate conversations on the river as people paddled to Blackbird slough.

We gave voice to our worries about the uncertainties of our collective future, the costs we will all carry for not doing enough to reduce the negative impacts of global warming as more coastal communities suffer flooding and hurricanes, and concerns about how we’ve noticed changes in the more frequent torrential rains, the river being unusually high this time of year, increases in our garden pests, and more high pollen/bad allergy days.  We talked about next steps to reduce energy consumption and increase options in their community for lower-carbon travel options like improving Winona Transit by increasing availability of buses to the evenings, increasing bus ridership, seeking sponsors for making buses fee-free, and increasing electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Winona for the coming wave of electric vehicles.  We also talked about how we can continue to educate about solar energy and wind energy.

What if we also started talking about emission regulations for motor boats and jet skis?  How can we encourage people to buy only what they need and to seek out second-hand items?  When we keep doing our parts and having respectful conversations and voting, we can keep choosing to have cleaner air and cleaner water as we reduce our carbon footprints and protect everyone who lives downstream.  Take time to tell your friends and family members your personal connection to climate change.  Keep talking about solutions, too.

Thank you to Prairie Island Boat Rentals for guiding us out on the river and for a great 2019 season of getting folks on the river.

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Livable Planet Community Summit in Red Wing

A local coalition in Red Wing organized a community summit for September 21, 2019:  City of Red Wing’s Sustainability Commission, Red Wing League of Women Voters, and Red Wing Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL).  The objective was to encourage people to work as a community to foster conversation and develop creative solutions that will inspire the community by the possibilities that reveal themselves when we work together.

It was a three hour Summit at the Community Development Building on Bush Street in Red Wing.  It was the beginning of an area-wide, on-going conversation about effects of changes in our climate.  Forty five people attended.  There were lively discussions on six questions, and an electric car presentation.

The first discussion was about: “Is your family or others you know worried and/or talking about climate change?”  The younger generation’s future was a focus:   “My kids are forwarding climate education events to me.”  “It’s affecting our kids – when there wasn’t any snow – they lament that we can’t go SC skiing over Christmas vacation.”  “I think it’s hitting the younger generation hard – having to grapple with having less in the future – really not knowing what the world will be like.”  “When talking to my older grandchildren, my Marquette engineering student blames our generation.”    Another focus was the division of opinions:  “There are so many diverse opinions – at oppositen ends of the spectrum.”  “It’s something that’s tough within our family – we differ widely in our opinions and practices.  It just creates so much rift when we talk about it.  If we can’t talk about it, how are we going to deal with it?”  “It’s definitely something that older and younger people view differently.” “I get so frustrated…it’s so overwhelming…some of my family members have the attitude that ‘God will take care of us.’ God didn’t do this, we did, and it will be up to us to deal with it.”  “My family is concerned about the impact of climate change on indigenous and vulnerable populations – flooding, heat – the unpredictability of it all.”  Others said: “I don’t know, we’re so busy…no time for such an overwhelming problem.”  “Money and power are key concerns…that’s just got to go to the wayside if we really think we’re going to get our arms around it.”  “We need less politics and more cooperation and interaction, or we’ll never get over this.”

The second discussion was about: “Do you see evidence of climate change in your daily living?”   People named many, many impacts:  “It was scary – the recent downtown flooding due to so much rain so quickly.  It just kept raining – hard, very hard.  Main Street businesses had water a couple feet deep.  And, it really got me to question how prepared we really are.”  “Where are all the birds, the insects?”  “Basement flooding regularly.”  “Thank God my farmer parents aren’t alive to see this disaster.” “Western Minnesota fields kept getting flooded.  There was so much water in the fields.”  “More cloudy days, resulting in feelings of depression.”  “More mold, allergies.”  “The wild rice crop has been damaged due to the high water.”

The third discussion was about: The City of Red Wing is preparing a Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon and other toxic gases on or before the year 2040.  What action do you think is most important to do from the following list of items: a) convert gas motorized/diesel vehicles to electric or low-carbon fuels; b) reduce electric energy consumption in residential and commercial buildings by transitioning to clean energy sources such as solar and wind; or c) do both a and b?  The discussion included:  “Do both.” “Let’s give some voting power and funds to the Sustainability Commission to study this.  They should have a vote on the City Council.” “Organize a coalition of smaller towns that are trying to get their arms around this and share information.”  “We need a better green code in the City of Red Wing.” “Are we evaluating a solar garden for Red Wing – with full acreage and space – we need to do this!” “We need to convert city vehicles to electric.”

The fourth discussion was about: Our environment can be improved by adopting laws and policies that increase energy efficiency to new and remodeled building by using ‘green’ materials and techniques.  How important do you think it is to support regulations fostering ‘green-based- buildings (constructed from toxic-free and biodegradable materials as well as structurally safe, efficient construction)?  The discussion included:  “Oregon provides a cash rebate for energy efficient upgrades.” “Regulate and mandate the use of ‘green’ building materials.” “We need to mandate the use of energy efficient designs in all built and resold properties – not just public buildings.”  “Cities control unwisely – reduce regulations.” “Modify city building codes to prohibit natural gas to new homes/commercial building – use geo-thermal and heat pumps, electricity for heating, cooling.” “Give homeowners more ideas about what can be done in their home to be more green-based.”

The fifth discussion was about: Our daily living may be hindered, for example, by damage to our national grid because of cyber security events or volatile weather and can also impact local agriculture too.  So, how should we plan for such events?  The discussion contained responses such as, “Local food sources are less susceptible to disruption.”  “A self-contained power system would be less vulnerable to a cyber-attack.” “Prepare a kit for city-wide distribution (i.e., Single Source Recycling communications), including ‘tips for setting up a working disaster plan in their own home.”

The sixth discussion was about: How do you wish to discuss and stay informed as an individual or group on how you can help sustain our community as we work to mitigate and adapt to climate change?   Ideas included “An annual Report of the Sustainability Commission.”  “Need to move forward.” “Take one of the many empty buildings in town and make it our Green Building.  Everything you ever wanted to know about an Earth Doctor – what you can do in your home, in your business, in your garden.  What is being done by the City, etc.  Make it a tourist attraction.  Sell how-to books, other green items, t-shirts, planting seeds, recyclable bags, composting kits.  Take it on the road locally, to churches, schools, parks.  Regular ‘Earth Doctor’ column in newspapers, on radio, Channel 6.  To open Earth Day 2020.”

The Electric Car Presentation was a TED Talk about the need to transition away from fossil fuels.  It included comments such as the fact that transportation is the largest contributor of carbon emissions, that taking action with something we can do individually right now is to consider driving an electric car. People discussed electric car prices, charging stations and performance.

This “Livable Planet MN Summit” was a successful Red Wing Community Climate Conversation which increased public awareness and interest in pursuing more conversations, education, and actions to mitigate our carbon footprint and prepare for our future.

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Community Summit in Willmar

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