We as a family read articles like the recent one on plastic use in Canada (“Canada joins movement to ban single-use plastics,” June 11), and we feel a disconnect. We read — and we learn in school — about climate change and the 8 million tons of plastic dumped in the oceans each year, and we feel a call to action. Yet, we go to the local store to buy a few items, and the friendly cashier puts those items into a single-use plastic bag with no thought to the contrary. Or, we go to a restaurant, and our drinks automatically come with a straw. We regularly repeat the phrases, “We don’t need a bag,” and, “I don’t need a straw,” and that’s something every individual and family can do. But while we wait for our laws to change and people to become more engaged in these issues, there might be something else that can be done.
Rather than opting out of plastic, what if we had to opt in? That is, what if businesses trained their cashiers to kindly ask their customers buying a manageable number of items, “Do you need a bag?” or ask those buying a beverage, “Do you need a straw?” Or what if cashiers took the initiative to do this on their own? Research shows this simple change can make a major difference in behavior. More than likely, requiring customers to opt in to plastic would significantly decrease consumption, and we will have moved just a little closer to environmental sustainability.
ANDY, ELLIE and ANNIKA TIX, Hastings
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As a St. Paul resident, I felt great pride recently at the unveiling of the city’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan and great pride that I live in a city that is meeting this challenge head on and pushing for a better future.
But I must admit that after I read the plan in full, that pride has turned to disappointment. The city’s plan, which mirrors that of Xcel Energy (which vowed to produce 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050), is more of the same in the sense of slow incremental change, continuation of fossil fuel use, etc. In other words, more fracked gas, more nuclear power and more focus on “change” that will continue to benefit Xcel shareholders as opposed to moving us toward a decentralized/clean energy system that would benefit all city residents.
Therefore, what to do: Resign myself to pessimism again or act? I and all of us must act. We must demand that St. Paul act boldly in fighting the climate crisis. We must demand that our energy policies immediately switch to renewable energies, that our energy plans benefit the most vulnerable in our city (rather than exploiting them) and that we creatively look at decarbonizing all areas (transportation, food supply, etc.) of our lives. St. Paul can be a climate leader for the state and the country if we want it to be. We must make it clear, to Xcel and the world, that we are leading the fight for our children’s future and that we will never stop.
Thomas Eugene Lucy, St. Paul
We need sustainable farming now
One issue will define our times: how we respond to climate disruption. Removing U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidies for growing corn for ethanol would radically cut carbon emissions. If the USDA promoted reduced tillage and cover-crop methods, we would help solve the carbon emissions problem. Current dominant methods for growing food, producing renewable fuel and how we manage soil are all interrelated and wrong.
Those who have switched to no-till, cover-crop methods save time and money, produce stronger yields, save the use of deadly chemicals (both fertilizer and herbicides), all while improving downstream water quality. If this is not a miracle, I believe the miracle is that we have not pulled the plug on all this madness and moved to sustainable farming practices.
Sadly, Minnesota’s own U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, who expresses an interest in helping farmers, has thrown support to continue this subsidized madness that is destroying our life-support system.
It is not too late. But the turning point will be here remarkably soon. This is not a problem for future generations to resolve. It is up to us — now.
Douglas Owens-Pike, Wheeler, Wis.
Before the drastic driving ban, try enforcing the 25 mph speed limit
Regarding the traffic “calming” plan for Minnehaha Parkway (“Mpls. set to force cars off parkway,” front page, June 7), here’s a thought: Enforce the 25 mph speed limit. With all of the highway construction affecting drivers within the city, many are using the parkway as a “get out of construction free” zone. Cars are passing each other, consistently exceeding the speed limit and rolling through stop signs. Those of us who use the parkway as a soothing respite from otherwise hectic and stressful city driving (and biking) find that it is becoming just another city street. If drivers had to really slow down and drive 25 mph, they might find other routes to more efficiently reach their destinations.
Cynthia Wetzell, Columbia Heights
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In his June 12 counterpoint (“Drivers’ access matters on Minnehaha Parkway”), Robert Sykes cites an 1883 document that, he says, proves Minnehaha Parkway’s initial intent as a continuous “driving park.” As the first sale of an American-made, gasoline-powered automobile did not occur until 1896, surely Sykes cannot expect us to believe that Minnehaha Parkway was intended for uninterrupted flow of car traffic. Rather, it was intended as a place for people to enjoy a restorative experience of nature from the comfort of their horse-drawn carriages.
Times change. Priorities change. So should our infrastructure.
Hillis Byrnes, Minneapolis
Bring back sane traffic enforcement
Minneapolis’ recent move to limit high-speed police chases (“Police weighing pursuit policy,” front page, June 10) is an important compromise in the interest of public safety.
Not mentioned, however, is the shocking proliferation of car crashes in our neighborhoods since the Minneapolis Police Department traffic enforcement unit was eliminated in 2014. Too often forgotten, these incidents result in deaths and countless injuries to pedestrians and bikers and cause extensive damage to public and private property. Many collisions are caused by uninsured drivers, adding to the complexity victims experience. One needs only to observe a few minutes on some northside and southside streets before coming to the conclusion that reckless driving has reached epidemic status. In just the past six weeks alone, at least three children have been hit while walking in North Minneapolis.
There is a path forward. Mayor Jacob Frey and the City Council can join a growing number of city residents who are asking for safer streets for walkers, bikers and drivers in Minneapolis. They are asking for a return to common-sense and fair traffic enforcement. Our Minneapolis communities are paying too high a price for reckless driving and lack of enforcement. Let the mayor and your council member know that you want to see improved safety on our streets and behavior-based traffic enforcement prioritized in the upcoming 2020 MPD budget.
BRANDON BURBACH, LAURIE SCHLOSSER, LISA CLEMONS, JEAN HAWKINS-KOCH and ERIC WON, Minneapolis
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