Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Daily Email Edition

Get MN Daily NEWS delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday!


Opinion: Breathing Equal

Vote for climate leaders on Tuesday, and then hold them accountable.
Image by Sarah Mai

On a warm afternoon in the South Minneapolis neighborhood of East Phillips, you will see school children playing at parks and families gathering on porches enjoying the weather. From this glimpse of life, you would never know this neighborhood has some of the highest pollution levels in the state. Residents are overburdened with pollution and experience higher rates of asthma, heart disease, cancer and other health issues. It is also a low-income neighborhood where more than 80% of its residents are people of color.

We know air pollution is not equally experienced. According to the Minnesota Pollution Agency, “32% of all communities in the state have air pollution-related risks above health guidelines. However, in low-income communities, the number is 46%. In communities of color, it’s 91%.”

Racism sinks into many areas of life – education, employment, public safety and countless others – but many overlook the institutional environmental racism that threatens public health. The East Philips neighborhood of more than 20,000 people struggling to breathe from years of rampant pollution sits just a few blocks from where George Floyd was brutally murdered by Minneapolis police officers, starting the largest civil rights movement in my lifetime. The racism jeopardizing East Philips may not be as overt, but it has a generational impact.

We must address the disproportionate impacts of pollution to heal generations of impact. This election means keeping environmental justice at the forefront of our minds as we vote for the people who will have these communities’ futures in their hands.

We know, historically, many elected officials have failed us. But if we don’t get out and vote on Nov. 8, our voices cannot be heard. We must vote for the candidates beginning to address environmental racism and stay engaged to hold them accountable as they govern.

It may feel like Minnesota has a long way to go when it comes to environmental policy, but I encourage you to consider recent victories. President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, passed by democrats in August, is the most significant climate bill in American history. If the right leaders oversee the implementation, this legislation will significantly reduce U.S. climate pollution. The IRA includes provisions specific to low-income families and contains $60 billion for environmental justice.

Gov. Tim Walz’s newly released Climate Action Framework pairs nicely with the IRA to help secure increased climate benefits for Minnesota. Walz’s Framework has promised that at least 40% of investments will go to disadvantaged communities. It also pledges to reduce Minnesota’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

On the flip side, a Scott Jensen administration would have devastating consequences for our climate and environmental justice. He’s questioned the science around climate change and promised to appoint employees of utility companies to oversee our energy industry. He’s also the leader of a party that has refused to hear any piece of legislation that contains the words “climate” or “equity” in it.

The fight for environmental justice doesn’t stop in the governor’s office. From suing the oil industry for misleading us on climate change to shutting down polluters in North Minneapolis, Attorney General Keith Ellison has been a stalwart defender of our environment. His opponent, Jim Schultz, has called these actions “frivolous” and “business harassment” while tweeting that he’s not interested in climate justice.

We have seen what happens when people come together and begin to heal years of institutionalized oppression. If we continue to support these endeavors for a greener future, we can maintain this momentum toward addressing public health. To see a brighter future, vote for climate leaders and then hold them accountable.

Olivia Rivera is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities CLA and the storyteller and copywriter at Climate Vote Minnesota.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Accessibility Toolbar

Comments (1)

All The Minnesota Daily Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Meat Eater
    Nov 4, 2022 at 4:46 pm

    The earth’s population has increased from 4 billion people in 1974 to 8 billion today. That means that we are using twice as many resources today, as we were back then. Even more importantly, we are generating twice as much pollution. But it is worse than that, given that second and third world countries are fast adopting the lifestyle of first world countries. Anybody who has taken high school biology is familiar with the bacteria in the petri dish experiment. For those not familiar, it does not end well for the bacteria (nor for the experimenter, some would argue). The emphasis seems to be on using resources, and the waste generated, but it is really population growth that is the problem. People consume resources and generate waste, there is no getting around that fact, improving the efficiency of consumption and waste will slow the problem, but only population control can solve it.