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Climate: Setting sail again

Katya Gordon

It's that time again. Every year in early May, our family of four, along with four incoming young adult crew, move aboard our 40-foot sailboat in Knife River and sail around Lake Superior for a month, speaking to the public and at schools about climate change as it relates to us specifically on Lake Superior. Before we leave, I'd like to answer the most common questions about our voyage.

Q: "Are you sailing all the time?"

A: Not at all! We will sail around 700 miles over the month — sometimes in two- to four-hour sails, sometimes sailing all day, and once or twice all night. We will go between 3-6 knots per hour (4-7 mph) most of the time. When we visit a port and go into schools, we might stay there for two to three days and then wait for a good forecast to take off again. Almost every night, we will be in a protected bay with the anchor down, or tied to a dock, snuggling down in our sleeping bags.

Q: "Do you take showers? Do you have hot water?"

A: No hot water. We heat water in the kettle to wash dishes. We will be staying over the month at two marinas, which we hope will have hot showers. Otherwise, some of us will take dips in the lake when the weather is warm. Friendly souls will probably offer us their home showers, too.

Q: "Do you eat any fresh food or is it like camping?"

A: It's somewhere in between. We will have access to one big grocery store sometime in the third week, as long as someone is willing to drive us there. Mostly, we fill the boat before take-off — and remember, weight isn't an issue. Fruits and vegetables last longer than most people think, especially on a cold boat on Lake Superior. Carrots, potatoes, cabbage, onions and apples last a long time. So do eggs.

Q: "Why are we doing this?"

A: A recent article on National Public Radio's website points to a NPR/Ipsos poll taken in March. According to the poll, "Whether they have children or not, two-thirds of Republicans and nine in 10 Democrats agree that (climate change) needs to be taught in school." Eighty-six percent of teachers agree as well. Despite this belief, over half of teachers — and over half of parents — do not teach about climate change at home or in the classroom. This, though 85 percent of parents believe that schools should teach it.

Climate change needs to be taught more in schools, according to the views of a significant majority of teachers and parents. We are filling in an important gap. We present in a developmentally appropriate way by showing scientific data, avoiding guesswork or projections, making it fun and keeping it simple.

We focus on the Lake Superior region — the ecosystem that bonds us all together. Our tone is friendly and matter-of-fact: We have all, largely out of habit, created a big problem, over a long period of time. Now we have to solve it.

This year, we are visiting 11 schools (if Lake Superior wind and waves permit) and will work with several hundred students in two countries and three states. Sound like fun? Follow us via this column and our blog, gordonsailing.typepad.com, or listen to podcasts on KTWH 99.5. Thanks for being part of our adventure!

Katya Gordon is a volunteer for the Citizens' Climate Lobby and a Two Harbors resident.

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