My parents’ love for each other and their children was a bubble that protected us from the rest of the world. They started their family in rural Wisconsin. My dad worked as a mechanic and did body and energy work. My mom took care of my brother and sister. I wasn’t around yet for this part of their lives, but to me it seemed to have been a happy time. They lived simply, without much money, but with what they needed.
In 1996, when my mother was seven months pregnant with me, my dad died suddenly of a stroke. The protective bubble burst. The story of the transitional time between my father dying and the childhood I had is too long to share here. My mother’s strength, the survival mode she went into in order to provide for her kids, and the love and support of community led our family to Duluth.
My mother’s priorities changed, but the life she and my dad wanted for us became even more important. Starting a garden allowed her to have control over life in a manner that had been taken away. She was able to grow food to nourish her family in a healthy way that her salary from social work could not.
It was the dirt that helped my mom heal from the loss of my father. It helped nourish our family.
Because of my mom’s job working with chronically homeless families, I started to understand inequity before I knew the word. I remember, when I was very young, being upset by the idea that some people had more money than they could spend in their lifetime while others struggled to have their basic needs covered. I started to talk to my mom about what I observed. My tired, hardworking, caring mother made me understand that if I wanted to change what I saw was wrong, I needed to do more than talk. I needed to act.
I started volunteering, and then working, in local elections for candidates I thought would change things. These were advocates who understood what my mom taught me — that caring for humans and caring for our environment were the same. When I talk to people who are not politically active about my job — political director for a campaign to move Minnesota to 100 percent clean energy — they often have the same response. “That sounds like a great idea, but I don’t know if it will ever happen.”
According to a Climate Nexus poll of nearly 600 randomly selected Minnesota voters, balanced be- tween parties, only 22 percent oppose moving to 100 percent carbon free electricity. We need to get to net zero carbon emissions, across all sectors, by 2050 if we are to prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change.
A clean energy bill proposed this year had 35 authors — the most authors of any piece of legislation this session. The bill (House File 278 and Senate File 643) commits Minnesota utilities to carbon-free energy by 2040 and also sets benchmarks for renewable energy along the way. All Minnesota utilities would be required to meet these benchmarks, although there is an “off-ramp” in the case that a utility demonstrates that they cannot affordably and reliably meet one.
The bill was supported by more than half the house (70 out of 134), and supported by nearly half of the Senate (31 out of 67). Yet, the Senate would not even give the bill a hearing.
The bill could have become law this session, but a handful of Senators stood in the way. They do not believe in climate change. They do not care that this transition makes economic sense. A few people profit if they protect the status quo. The top three lobbying efforts in Minnesota have tended to be representing non-clean energy corporations.
We have been convinced by a scarcity narrative — driving fear — that we do not have enough clean energy to go around for all of us to thrive. But there is enough, if we take care of our air, our water, and our soil.
We have two choices:
1. Convince six more senators to support clean energy, to accept that climate change is real, and to stop obstructing progress in favor of their own power.
2. Elect new senators. This campaign is about making the system of lobbying for climate legislation that regular people like us want to see.
Get to know your senator and your representatives. Our elected representatives are there to work for us. It is not about simply emailing your legislators — it is about starting a relationship with them. Make sure they start to recognize your name, and then your face. Ask for a meeting to get to know them. Ask them to support 100 percent clean energy, and if they won’t commit to lead that conversation, find a candidate who will. (gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts/)
Aurora Vautrin (she/her) is the political director for 100% Action. She is from Duluth and is currently a renter in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis with her partner, Andrew, and their dog, Olive. Participate in the campaign @100percentMN