New Year's Day always seems to be a time for taking stock of ourselves and reflecting on the community we live in. I've been thinking that this year, more than any other, is the time when we really need to make a community-wide commitment to protecting, preserving and cleaning up our state.

Through the generations, our beloved natural resources have been manipulated and, in many cases, fouled and degraded by our activities. This record, combined with the added dimensions of climate change, presents a formidable challenge to us to adjust our attitudes and behaviors.

The Minnesota Territory was promoted as a wonderfully healthy, resource-rich and abundantly diverse landscape by the Grand Excursion of 1854, the riverboat excursion up the Mississippi River made by President Millard Fillmore and scores of journalists from the East. It was a resounding success; in the succeeding years thousands of settlers came to the territory to seek a new life. On May 11, 1858, we became the 32nd state. We celebrate the sesquicentennial this year.

If you are a citizen who values the environment and acknowledges the fact that we affect it more than any other biological organism, then do something about it. Our home, Minnesota, is at least worth keeping on the top 10 list of concerns. I think we all have a "caring gene," and more often than not that gene has drawn us together to solve problems. Whether you propose to be more outspoken about the Minnesota environment in 2008 or simply model the behavior and lifestyle that you personally feel is needed to mitigate the degradation of our home, you will provide hope for those who will live here after we're gone.