Jeff Appelquist, business lawyer turned consultant and Midwest Book Award-winning author, has traveled the globe since he graduated from Carleton College in 1980.
Uncle Sam underwrote his first foreign trip as a young Marine rifle-platoon lieutenant to South Korea and an island in the Indian Ocean.
Appelquist took copious notes as a traveler on subsequent trips fishing and diving off Mexico’s Pacific coast; climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa; pheasant hunting in South Dakota; touring Australia, Venice and elsewhere in Europe, as well as the wine country of California that has been devastated by droughts, fires and floods.
Appelquist’s latest book, “Changing Places,” is an irreverent, anecdotal and detailed travel memoir from Lake Superior to other continents, as well as a warning about damage wrought by climate change and what we can do about it. It ranges from picnic fare at the Santa Fe Opera, to diving with Appelquist and his daughter, Luci, on the Great Barrier Reef, to sampling vintages in Napa Valley.
And it explains why it’s important to wear two pairs of socks and tighten your boots when you descend Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro if you don’t want badly damaged feet.
The fit, 61-year-old former Marine who preached preparedness is still chagrined over that 2017 expedition. Appelquist describes in “Changing Places” the alarming rate Kilimanjaro’s ice caps are melting at, the loss of glacial water for those who depend on it and the rock slides freed by retreating ice. Once, during the several-day hike, the turf-hugging Appelquist and his climbing companions barely escaped injury as rocks zipped overhead like cannon fire.
Appelquist researched environmental damage at each destination. He cites the work of scientific experts such as the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the World Health Organization. They have found that accumulated carbon pollution from factories, farms, power plants and vehicles over the last century means that unless we expedite the change to a cleaner economy, “the world will experience catastrophic environmental and social consequences ... increased drought, larger and more intense wildfires, famine and human conflict over scarce land, food and water resources,” according to the U.N. panel study.
Appelquist notes that even the Pentagon has found that climate change is a national security threat, including damage to coastal bases from unprecedented hurricanes and flooding.
Appelquist, a political independent, also is an optimistic patriot this July 4th. He joins a growing consortium of businesses, communities and states that see climate change as a challenge to be confronted with conservation, technology, renewable energy, carbon mitigation and innovation.
“My purpose was to create hope,” said Appelquist, who turned his June book-signing reception into a fundraiser for the Nature Conservancy and pledged to donate much of the book’s proceeds to environmental causes. “Citizens and businesses, small and large are leading the way. We need to use all the tools in the toolbox.”
Here are a few reasons why he, and I, are hopeful:
A majority believe climate science and embrace corrective action. Organizations such as the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, whose membership ranges from the titanic likes of 3M, Ecolab, Medtronic and Cargill to small businesses such as Aveda, Ackerberg, Ever-Green Energy and HGA, are meeting aggressive carbon-cutting targets and generating environmental and financial dividends.
“Our members know the value of Minnesota’s clean-energy future, and have a vision that we surpass that state’s goals of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,” said Amy Fredregill, managing director of Sustainable Growth. “Our members … tell us, that they would not make commitments to clean energy if there wasn’t a business reason, driven by customer, employee and investor demand.”
• Xcel Energy plans to provide 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050 and reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2030.
• 3M’s Maplewood corporate campus is running on 100% renewable energy, and the company expects 50% of facilities globally will run on clean energy by 2025.
• Ecolab plans to offset 100% of its energy demand in North America by 2020.
• Minnesota wind and solar companies are among the fastest-growing job producers, and the pairing of cleaner natural gas plants with fast-growing wind is dramatically reducing coal-based pollution.
• Recent studies show farmers are modifying energy-and-chemical intensive farming to more environmental approaches that also capture and store huge amounts of carbon in soil that is enriched.
Minnesota Sustainable Growth is a program of the Minnesota Environmental Initiative, also the parent of Project Green Fleet, the private-public partnership that refurbished or exchanged hundreds of dirty diesel engines on school buses and heavy equipment in Minnesota, markedly reducing carbon-based pollution as well as related illness.
Appelquist uses efficient light bulbs, drives less and plans to buy an electric lawn mower. It will be a Minnesota-made Toro. Reuse, reduce, recycle and compost. Individual actions matter.
“Learn what you can,” he advised. “Communicate your views … in a civil respectful way.”
Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.