In a coordinated campaign, St. Paul, Northfield, Grand Rapids and 13 other Minnesota cities stepped up last month to declare climate emergencies. They are asking for state and federal funding to slow the effects of climate change. This effort, both symbolic and concrete, marks an important step towards more action on climate change. But the question remains, who will foot the bill?
To explain why this matters to me, I have to go back to 2018.
My then-fiancé and I sit on an overstuffed couch in a small room, facing a premarital counselor. We are in our third of five sessions and we feel ready for anything. We talked about our family stories, our approaches to money, our thoughts on religion, politics and the end of life.
But then comes the question that we knew, of course, was coming. “Do you want to have children?”
We look at each other helplessly. It’s something we talked about at length, but how do you plan for a future when the world is on fire?
We had done our research. The articles I read claimed that there was nothing more harmful to the planet than more humans. I attended an online meeting with 80 other women to find out if it is ethical to have children while we are in the midst of a climate catastrophe. The general consensus seemed to be: “No, it’s not ethical”.
I felt completely lost. How come one of the most important decisions a person can make – the choice to bring new life into the world – seems to have already been decided for me? It was not decided by me, but by people and industries who saw this coming, who knew about the irreversible impact of fossil fuels on our planet, and did nothing. They chose that.
In 1982, five years before I was even born, Exxon distributed an internal document detailing that its own research showed global warming was real and caused by burning fossil fuels. Additionally, if reductions were not made, “there are potentially catastrophic events that need to be considered.” Scarily, Exxon also predicted that once the effects were measurable, they might not be reversible.
Despite all of this, Exxon and other fossil fuel companies have chosen to quietly prepare their equipment for the impacts of climate change while publicly denying the validity of this research. . . their own research.
They knew what was going on and how to fix it and they chose to lie and put us all in danger. They took away our choices.
Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, Exxon and Shell seemed to point fingers at me, telling me that I would be a bad person if I chose to bring a child into this mess. In their disorder.
We know that responding to climate emergencies will be a costly and, unfortunately, regular and ongoing event. In declaring a climate emergency, these 16 cities across the state join hundreds of communities across the country in calling on state and federal governments to commit resources to protect our communities from further harm.
Is it fair to ask taxpayers to pay for what these companies have chosen to do? Are we going to let them get away with it? Again?
In Minnesota, we expect companies to tell the truth and to be held accountable when they do wrong. I recently started working with the climate justice organization MN350. Our Big Deception Campaign raises awareness of the urgent need to hold fossil fuel companies accountable and highlights a Minnesota lawsuit that is making its way through the courts. In this case, Attorney General Keith Ellison is suing ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and the American Petroleum Institute for suppressing our choices, limiting our options and blurring our vision of the future.
We all know the importance of choice. We make choices every day to stay informed by reading the news, to address topics we may not agree with, to show up in our community to have an impact.
My husband and I also made a choice. We decided to make a bet on the future; an act of radical hope. At the end of last year, I learned that I was pregnant.
I hope those of you reading this will join me in betting on our future while holding accountable those who seek to limit our options and deprive us of our choices. Please, for the sake of the next generation, reach out to your elected officials and let them know that you support the accountability of these greedy corporations. Don’t let them rob us of our choice to live safe and healthy lives.
Let’s put the pressure on. Let’s make them pay for taking away our picks before we even knew we had them.
Jessie Roelofs grew up in central Minnesota and now lives and works in Minneapolis. She is responsible for communications at MN350.