Already this summer, we have seen a glimpse of the frightening future we face with runaway climate change. Extreme heat waves, horrible air quality, unpredictable storms, flooding, growing food insecurity and it goes on and on. As difficult as these issues have been, the science shows us that it will worsen in the years to come if we do not act aggressively to combat climate change.
Staring into the face of this problem, there is some good news to report. At a federal level, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, we see an unprecedented level of funding coming to act on climate change. Here in Minnesota, during the last legislative session, the 100% Clean Energy Bill was passed committing our State to move forward on climate. And at an even more local level, 22 different cities in the State of Minnesota have declared a climate emergency and are advocating for aggressive action. All good news.
While this is good news to report, the truth of the matter is that aggressive climate action was needed 20-30 years ago so we have a great deal of catching up to do. With that in mind, the question to ask is, “What next?” The simple answer is that we need to continue to push for action at all levels and institutions within our society. One of the institutions that can and should be leaders in addressing climate justice are our public schools, locally that would be St. Paul Public Schools.
The question is, why are our public schools so important in this fight?
First, K-12 public schools are the largest consumer of energy and largest collection of public infrastructure in the country. This is a massive footprint and with public schools taking aggressive action to reduce their emissions, significant progress could be made.
Second, as we move toward a green revolution we will need millions of workers for those green jobs. Our public schools are the primary force in preparing our children to be in that workforce and to be in the position to benefit from our transforming economy.
Third, our public schools operate the largest mass transit fleet in the nation, estimated at 480,000 diesel buses. Imagine the emissions saved with our public schools electrifying that fleet.
Fourth, the children of our planet are screaming for action on climate. Our public schools can amplify those voices for needed societal, economic and social change.
Fifth and finally, it simply is the right thing to do. Our children, particularly our children of color, are and will continue to be the most harmed by the effects of climate change. As our public schools’ central focus is to prepare our children for their future, it is disingenuous at best to then not also work to ensure they have a future.
Our planet is in crisis. Our public schools need to be leaders in addressing that crisis.
Tom Lucy a parent and a resident of St. Paul.