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Minnesota- Lake Superior

Local Environmental News Tidbits

By Craig Minowa
Northland Reader


For more information about local environmental organizations, issues and events, go to www.

Worst News of the Week

            Working in the environmental field, there’s a ton of sucky news, but this one hit me the hardest this week: I’m sure you’ve seen those horrifying images of starving Ethiopians. Stomachs bloated. No energy to swat away the flies. Well, from 1970- 1985, there was a HORRIBLE drought in Ethiopia. 1.2 million people died. Horrifying. This week’s news (covered in New York Times, Washington Post and every other major periodical) tells us that an international team of scientists are saying that devastating African drought was due to air pollution from industrialized nations in North America, Europe, and Asia. The pollutant guilty of this atrocity is sulfur dioxide, mainly from coal burning power plants (80% of Duluth’s power is from coal). According to this life-altering report, these pollutants “were able to alter the physics of cloud formation miles away and reduce rainfall in Africa as much as 50 percent”.  Truth= The environmental movement is also a human rights movement.


Eco-Quote of the Week

“You know what has to be done. Why don’t you do it?”
Das Energi


Spirit Mountain/ Chapter 238- It Aint Over

            Two weeks ago the Duluth City Council voted 5-4 NOT to approve work permits for the proposed development of a golf course and hotel on Spirit Mountain--hoorah. 65 people spoke at the meeting and over 100 citizens rallied outside City Hall before the meeting to protest the golf course—downright inspiring. Shortly after that, Mayor Doty pulled out his usual dictatorial tactics and vetoed the Council’s decision. In response, the Council met last Monday night and tried to decide whether or not to override the Mayor’s veto. 

Thanks to Duluth citizens, potential swing voter Councilor Ken Hogg received 78 emails and 80 faxes last Monday, saying it would be a mistake to let this project go through. At the meeting, 26 people spoke to the Council about the issue. Only one of those speakers wanted the project. So democracy rules, right? Wrong. Conservative Duluth City Council members (Hogg, Stenberg, and Stauber) responded to the sound of old-school politics, rather than the voice of those who put them in office. Needless to say, they let the veto stand. As a result, work permits to build a golf course and hotel on Spirit Mountain will be approved by default Aug. 1 (and another old growth forest/sacred Native American site/potentially powerful tourist magnet will be lost forever).  The developers still need approval from the state, and some other permits, but this thing aint lookin’ so good.

But the real shining light here is the fact that even though it’s the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs, and Spirit Mountain is losing horribly (sorry, I hate sports analogies too), it seems the folks of Duluth are not giving up. In fact, they’re downright SUPERCHARGED. There’s talk in the environmental community about lawsuits and peaceful citizen “camp watches” up on Spirit Mountain (to make sure the developers don’t start digging until they’ve acquired all necessary permits). There’s plans to make “Save Spirit Mountain” bumper stickers and buttons (according to Skyline Planning and Preservation Alliance’s Nancy Nelson, one potential slogan is from the last Forest Fest “You can’t see the forest from the tees”). I’ve heard of people saying they’d even chain themselves to trees. Point being, this community has a lot of vitality—we have too much energy to be pushed around by Dictator Doty and his henchmen. If you’d like to get involved in some way, shape or form, contact the ultimate Spirit Mountain guardian angel, Nancy Nelson at 728-1002.


Eco-Fact of the Week

In an average Northland Reader, the page my column is printed on can be reused, chewed up and formed into roughly 178 spitballs (based on experience and designing the ammunition to be optimum size for launching through drinking straws). Normally around 5,000 Northland Readers are printed each week. If we get enough people (and saliva) together, we could make nearly a million spitballs from my article alone! That kind of artillery won’t actually hurt anybody, but it’ll gross them out long enough for us to reclaim some vital habitat for at least a few rare species. My brilliance is stronger than an unspecified number of 100 watt incandescent bulbs!


The Future of Park Point

On Wednesday, July 23, citizens of Duluth met to discuss the future of Park Point. The focus of the meeting was on issues that have a negative land use impact on the area. To assist the residents in creating a land-use plan for the future, the consulting firm of URS was in attendance. How’d it go? I have no frickin’ idea, the meeting was Wednesday night, and my article is due on Tuesday. What do you people want from me? If you’d like to get involved in future discussions, call Charles Froseth, at 723-332


City of Duluth Going Solar?

            True or false: Duluth’s local government is anti-environment. The answer is “E”, none of the above. Actually, our local government makes some pretty Green decisions every now and then. You may remember, not too long ago, Duluth became the first city in North America to ban the sale of mercury thermometers. Well, there’s great news this week, too. Thanks in part to local eco-superheroes like Carin Skoog, Coordinator of Cities for Climate Protection, a while back, the Duluth City Council signed a resolution to become one of a handful of cities in the world to be a part of a campaign to reduce greenhouse gases on a local level.

As part of its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the City of Duluth has purchased and installed 8 – 300 watt photovoltaic (PV) modules on the roof of the Duluth Public Library.  The 2.4 kW solar paneling system will save the library over $1,000 year in energy costs as it quietly produces clean, renewable energy.  St. Louis County has also recently installed an 855 watt PV system on the County garage.  Both systems were designed and installed by locally owned and operated Conservation Technologies.

According to Skoog, the ringmaster of this earth-friendly energy bonanza, “Putting this system on one of the area’s most heavily-utilized educational facilities with over 250,000 annual visitors is a great way for the City to educate and motivate the community to conserve energy resources.” Following the PV installation, an ‘energy and environmental resource display’ will be built in the Library.  The kiosk’s computer will show real-time data about how much energy the panels are producing, how much greenhouse gas emissions are being saved, and compare those statistics with other energy sources, such as coal, oil, natural gas, wood, wind, and hydro.

To celebrate the completion of the paneling install, a yahoo-one-heck-of-a-good-time gathering is scheduled for Thursday, July 25th at 10:00 a.m. outside the Duluth Public Library on Michigan St.  In addition to the intelligent, environmentally ethical people that will be in attendance, Mayor Doty will also be there (but you can ignore him and his thugs, cuz  they’re just using this event to greenwash us all into thinking they’re environmental. In actuality, they had very little to do with this. But after this whole Spirit Mountain debacle, their political careers are going to be over soon anyway…but I digress). Back to the good news-

As well as announcing the installation of the new solar energy systems on Thursday, the City of Duluth will also have its two most recent additions to the City fleet on hand for Mayor Doty and local officials to inspect.  The City recently purchased two GEM (Global Electric Motorcars) utility vehicles to be used for Lakewalk maintenance and at the Lake Superior Zoo.  The electric vehicles can drive up to 40 miles on one charge, and use less than 0.18 kWh per mile.  They are replacing gasoline-powered Gators, are almost completely quiet, and the car at the Zoo will soon be powered by a solar electric fueling station.  Skoog for Mayor.


Cool Eco-Stuff Going On

July 25th 10am: Official public release of the new solar panels on the Duluth Public Library…déjà frickin’ vu. For more info, read this column.

July 28-30:  The Demise of Democracy- Come see mega-stars like Paul Wellstone and John Stauber talk about the rise of corporate power, simple living, environmentalism and the future of capitalist-based democracy. More info? Contact the Institute for a Sustainable Future at 525-7806












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