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LaDuke: Mother Nature is in charge

I recently took to flight, the first plane I've been on for a bit. I had to ask my daughter if Dallas was still there. She told me Dallas was good, it was Houston that had 50 inches of rainfall. Glad I'm not flying to Florida. Despite advances in technology, the wizards of weather reporting, and, of course, the president, we are entering a world where everything which was predictable is no longer so. What's apparent is that Mother Nature is actually in charge, not President Trump.

From my beautiful territory on Round Lake, what I see is fires to the west, drought on the prairies and the hurricanes to the south. Perhaps the rain of toxic chemicals we've transported through air currents to the Arctic will rain and snow down this winter from the north. And then there's a force of orange hair from the east who seems to blow dark winds towards me every day. I am looking around for that fabled ark because these are catastrophes of biblical proportions.

A few years ago, Munich Re, the world's re-insuring giant, predicted that climate change-related disasters would cost us 20 percent of world GDP by the year 2020. As of a month or so ago, costs for U.S. disasters were at about $15 billion.

And let's not forget the forest fires. Indigenous people managed forests for thousands of years through selective cutting and burning. We don't do that now. We allow big clearcuts and not a lot of burning. A couple of years of drought, some beetle infestations, and we are pretty much cooked.

"The fuel mosaic we have out there is unprecedented," said John Bailey of the OSU School of Forestry. "There's more biomass out there than we've ever had. We've created forest types we've never had. Those acres are connected to each other in ways they never were, and they are burning in ways they've never burned before." So here we are, we're looking at a 915,000 barrels of tar sands oil to come through northern Minnesota a day on Enbridge Line 3. But it's not only the pipeline and the oil spills that concern me. It's the tipping point on climate change. Line 3 will bring 170 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere to refineries and to combustion. Start pricing that (about $1,000 a ton to remove from the environment according to the American Physics Association), add in ecosystem damages, and the total annual bill is $397 billion, not payable by Enbridge.

I'm trying to figure out why Minnesota would equate jobs on a pipeline, oil and carbon passing through our territory as a plan for the future.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres explains, "The real danger is not the threat to one's economy that comes from acting. It is, instead, the risk to one's economy by failing to act .The message is simple: The sustainability train has left the station. Get on board or get left behind. Those who fail to bet on the green economy will be living in a grey future."

LaDuke is executive director, Honor the Earth, and an Ojibwe writer and economist on Minnesota’s White Earth Reservation.

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