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Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials

August 12, 2019

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Aug. 9

Dire climate warnings are adding up

Water, temperature and land use reconfirm the need for urgent action.

News of America’s most recent mass shootings obscured this week’s headlines on global climate change.

July was the hottest month ever recorded, European climate researchers said on Monday. This was especially true on their continent, which saw searing heat blanket France, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries.

But the extraordinary conditions didn’t just scorch Europe: Portions of Africa, Australia and even Greenland, Siberia and Alaska saw record heat.

Meanwhile, a new study by the United Nations concluded that human-based climate change is degrading the Earth’s land and worsening global warming. And another study released this week focused on water scarcity. “17 Countries, Home to One-Quarter of the World’s Population, Face Extremely High Water Stress” read the headline on a World Resources Institute analysis.

“Once unthinkable water crises are becoming commonplace,” read the report, which used Chennai, India and Cape Town, South Africa, as examples of what may be in store for more cities, in more countries, on more continents, as climate change and urbanization accelerate.

Overall, WRI reported, these 17 countries face “extremely high levels of baseline water stress, where irrigated agriculture, industries and municipalities withdraw more than 80% of their available supply on average every year.” But the peril doesn’t stop there: 44 countries, home to one-third of the world, face “high” water stress, in which an average of more than 40% of available supply is withdrawn annually.

This water stress “poses serious threats to human lives, livelihoods, and business stability,” the report stated. It could have added geopolitical stress, since water crises, just like climate change, threaten to exacerbate the global migration crisis that’s destabilized politics across continents, including here in the U.S., which makes it even harder for countries to coalesce around the necessary efforts to mitigate climate change. But rally they must.

Climate change can exacerbate the water crises “a lot,” Kate Brauman, lead scientist for Global Water Initiative at the University of Minnesota’s Institute for the Environment, told an editorial writer. But because water resources are managed within countries, the response, she said, would be different from transnational efforts on climate change.

The WRI study, she added, “is scary, and should be scary.” But “it’s not a death knell: We can respond to it.” That’s what the world must do — starting here at home, where we should steward our blessing of water abundance.

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The Free Press of Mankato, Aug. 12

Northern forests need urgent attention

Why it matters:

Without reforestation efforts, northern Minnesota will lose rich habitat that its residents greatly value.

In southern Minnesota we often think of “up north” as a place to vacation where we enjoy cooler temperatures, different animals, and trees not commonly found in this farming region.

It’s not, however, just a nice place to visit. The interconnectedness of nature and humankind can’t be ignored when we examine dying forests in northern Minnesota.

The loss of these forests is not just a problem for those who live there or for vacationers who like the scenery. Without healthy northern forests, there is no timber harvest and no habitat for wildlife that we watch, photograph, fish and hunt.

In the 3 million acres of the Superior National Forest, the forest is home to moose, black bears and wolves — the last stronghold of the gray wolf in the lower 48 states, according to the National Forest Foundation. Cool waters, shaded by the tall trees, produce an abundance of fishing opportunities. Within the forest boundaries are 445,000 acres of surface water.

But bugs, invasive species and hotter temperatures could turn the north woods into a savanna, some scientists predict. Changes are already occurring; we don’t have time to waste.

Crews from the Minnesota Conservation Corps are busy planting pine seedlings to try to regenerate coniferous forests that were long ago cleared, MPR reports. Without human intervention that comes from groups such as the Conservation Corps and the Nature Conservancy, the forests could be lost. And what a loss that would be — just think of the Boundary Waters without its majestic pine and spruce trees.

Forest restoration is a proactive way to try to hold back that drastic change. We have to acknowledge the science that warns of the ill effects of ignoring climate change and we have to support efforts to re-establish healthy forests in the northland.

The diverse areas of Minnesota and the unique commerce and tourism tied to each of the regions are worth preserving for as long as we can.

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St. Cloud Times, Aug. 10

Mass shootings — followed by no changes — paint grim picture

Central Minnesota, like most of the nation, spent much of the past week trying to comprehend back-to-back mass shootings that left more than 30 people dead and dozens more injured.

Sadly, such reflection is all too familiar. Perhaps worse, such reflection also portends an all-too-familiar result: no changes.

Yet the tragedies in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, do offer some insights that could help build enough momentum nationwide so that America finally begins to enact changes.

Those insights fall into three broad categories: Undeniable outcomes, civility (and lack thereof,) and laws and lawmakers.

Undeniable outcomes

Two aspects of these tragedies speak volumes about the horrific effects of mass shootings — how fast people die and how the world is, indeed, watching.

First, Dayton shooter Connor Betts was shot by police within about 30 seconds of opening fire. Yet even with that incredibly rapid response, police say Betts fired about 40 bullets, killing nine people and injuring dozens more, including at least 16 with his gunfire. He was carrying about 250 rounds of ammunition, police said.

That carnage came despite trained police stopping him in 30 seconds! Yet too many people want to embrace “more good guys with guns” as the way to stem mass shootings.

That officer was about as good a guy as you could find responding in 30 seconds — and nine people still died, with dozens more hurt.

Second, look at how all these mass shootings are shaping the perception of this nation.

“Active shooter insurance” is now an actual product organizations can purchase. And, don’t forget, it was just the previous week that another mass shooter killed six people and wounded dozens at a garlic festival in California.

No wonder Japan, Uruguay and Venezuela became the newest nations to issue travel warnings or alerts about mass shootings posing risks in the United States.

As the Los Angeles Times noted, the Japanese Consul in Detroit published an alert that said Japanese nationals “should be aware of the potential for gunfire incidents everywhere in the United States,” which it described as “a gun society.”

France, New Zealand and Germany previously have issued similar announcements after other mass shootings.

Perception is reality — and clearly more countries see America’s mass shootings no differently than travel warnings about terrorism. Really, are they?

Civility

Investigations show these two mass shooters were steeped in the divisive and polarizing rhetoric all too common to today’s national political dialog.

El Paso shooting suspect Patrick Crusius posted a manifesto that, while extreme and insane, also has clear parallels to the despicable and disparaging themes President Trump routinely uses regarding immigrants and others amid his championing nativism — and his own re-election.

News reports about Betts in Dayton show his recent support for extreme leftist positions and a combination of support and impatience with various front-running Democratic presidential candidates.

The point is not whether these shooters were politically red or blue. Rather, it’s that the polarizing rhetoric of today’s politics — shouted the loudest and most often by Trump — clearly influenced two already-extremist young men.

Laws and lawmakers

By now, common-sense Americans know reducing mass shootings is a daunting, nation-defining problem. It’s not just about guns, just about mental health, just about background checks, or just about ...________ (fill in the blank.)

Like any complex challenge, the solution must involve changing many factors. Yet too many of the special interests on all sides are again declaring — through the elected officials they, ahem, support— that they will not compromise.

Until those elected officials either lose their financial support or are replaced with more open-minded candidates, these important first steps on multiple fronts will not happen:

— Require background checks for all gun purchases online and at gun shows.

— Do more to regulate high-capacity weapons. Think intense background checks, mandatory training and even liability insurance.

— Ramp up resources for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms so that gun sellers are reviewed more often and with more scrutiny.

— Allow local and state governments more latitude in regulating firearms.

— Fully fund comprehensive mental health care. There is no denying that more resources for mental health care could help prevent mass shootings.

The solutions are multi-faceted — and far from extreme. Now, if we could just the say the same about the politicians elected to adopt them.

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