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Climate: Infrastructure rears its ugly head again

We seem to be at a temporary standstill in Two Harbors. We know the problem: Our roads, alleys and sidewalks are in disrepair. I think we probably also largely agree that this problem has been exacerbated by short-term fixes and a reluctance to look at the big picture, as the Council is resolutely doing now.

On a small scale, this is exactly what is happening with climate change. We've put the problem off for long enough that it has become impossible to make small tweaks to fix it. We need an overhaul. In fact, our street problem could be considered a microcosm of the same problem for which climate change is the macrocosm.

Crumbling infrastructure is a hallmark of climate change. Why? Extreme weather events are accelerating erosion everywhere, creations created naturally or by us. We can't simply replace our culverts; we must increase their size and capacity. We are plagued by flood waters leaking into our sewage pipes and overtaxing our water treatment system. That, too, needs to be dealt with.

Solving our infrastructure problems will be good practice in solving climate change, so let's get started. First, we need to relinquish any direct or indirect blame. The past is the past. Here we are, today, with an infrastructure problem. I was gratified to read that at the recent public meeting on this issue folks were generally civil to one another. I certainly hope this was universally the case.

Second, we need to become problem-solvers. I was disheartened to hear that while citizens were universally opposed to the plan due to the financial burden it would place on homeowners, no one came forward with an alternative.

We need to do some soul-searching here. I'm guessing we generally agree that construction workers should make a living wage and that we should source our materials legally and in a way that strengthens our economy if at all possible. So what is the solution? The City Council has no magic wand.

My suggestion is that citizens who feel a strong opinion about this get involved in looking for solutions. How about a citizen advisory committee, established to work closely with the City Council in finding solutions to this sticky problem? Are we willing to look for someone else to do the work, or somewhere else to get the materials? Is there an outside-the-box solution that no one has considered? Are gravel roads a possibility instead of pavement?

Having worked with numerous working groups in this town, I am confident that our collective strength is in our ability to find creative solutions.

First, we have to take responsibility for getting the job done. Public comment alone is not adequate involvement unless you are content to give your opinion and then abide — without complaining — with the solution that the City implements.

If you care about this problem and are opposed to every solution you have seen so far, it is time for you to get to work. This is what is needed with climate change as well, and the Citizens' Climate Lobby has done exactly that — advanced carbon fee-and-dividend legislation, which solves the problem through a steadily rising price on fossil fuels and returning all fees directly back to citizens.

This solution satisfies those most concerned about the effect of carbon pricing on those with less income as well as those concerned with letting the government handling more of our money.

Being "for" something can be more difficult than being "against," but it's more rewarding in the long run.

To learn more about the Citizens’ Climate Lobby or attend a monthly meeting, contact Katya at katyag@frontiernet.net. She writes a regular column on climate change for the News-Chronicle.

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