Winona Post - Citizens debate rural climate change

Chris Rogers
Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Read more at the Winona Post

The flooding in Southeast Minnesota is not going to get any better. That was perhaps the biggest takeaway from a three-day discussion of how climate change is affecting and will affect Winona County and what local communities should do about it.

Two Minneapolis-based organizations, the non-partisan Jefferson Center and the environmentalist Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), recruited a demographically representative group of ordinary people to form a "citizen jury" to discuss climate change last week. Eighteen people from across the county listened to presentations from experts on various topics before crafting a five-page message to neighbors and policy makers on what the community needed to know about climate change and what, if anything, needed to be done.

The event organizers were not exactly preaching to the choir.

The earth's climate goes through phases, said Minnesota City resident and citizen juror Sharon Miller. "I think our emissions do have an affect on it … Maybe we should get rid of the emissions, but then what will take place of emissions?" she asked. Environmental destruction is just part of human civilization, she stated.

"I know it's changing but I don't think they've necessarily figured out why," rural Winona resident Scott Montgomery said of climate change on the first day of the event. "The impact it has on the community? Deal with it. Don't like it? Move."

While some event goers were skeptical, information on flooding seemed to get their attention.

"I came here totally open-minded. I've had my own views for years … but, as my kids told me, 'Maybe you should just shut up and listen,'" Pleasant Hill Township resident Harvey Krage said of his approach to the citizen jury. Krage explained that he tends to be dismissive of dire warnings about climate change. Information he received at the event that the statewide average temperature has increased an average of two degrees Fahrenheit per century did not seem that bad to him. "The thing that worries me the most is the increase in precipitation," he stated on the second day of the event. "That's alarming. Because I lived through the 2007 flood." 

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