On December 6th, the Global Carbon Project released their report finding that global carbon dioxide emissions reached a new apex this year, comparing the rise to a “speeding freight train.” 1 This news comes on the heels of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warning of societal and ecological collapse if we don’t quickly and significantly curb emissions. Shortly thereafter, the White House published findings by 13 federal agencies predicting that this impending climate breakdown will cost hundreds of billions of dollars and impact every corner of the country. Here in Minnesota, we face decreasing soybean, corn, and wild rice yields; threats to our fresh water; catastrophic flooding; more disease-carrying insects; and soaring summer temperatures that put the most vulnerable at risk. 2
Yet in the midst of this grim news we assert that the future is not lost. A clear truth, however, has emerged: incremental solutions are not enough. In order to create that livable future, we must fundamentally restructure our economy. We must keep as much oil, gas, coal, carbon, and methane in the ground as possible while we get to work building a truly equitable and zero-carbon society. There are those who try to justify our high-growth, fossil fuel-dependent economy by claiming that this is the only solution to global poverty and inequity. Yet the rich have never been as wealthy, and the poor have never been as poor. 3 The richest 1% now own 82% of the world’s wealth. 4 As the gap between rich and poor continues to grow, we must ask: Is the solution to this inequity more unsustainable growth? Or is it to share the wealth we have?
Across the country, years of grassroots activism, blaring alarm bells from scientists, and demands by communities who bear the brunt of fossil fuel pollution are finally being recognized in the institutions of power. On Capitol Hill, support for a Green New Deal is rapidly growing with endorsements from more Members of Congress, Senators, and 2020 presidential candidates every day. Hundreds of companies, more than 90 US cities–including Minneapolis, St. Paul, and St. Louis Park–and two US states (Hawaii and California) have committed to reaching 100% clean electricity within ambitious timelines. Earlier this month Minnesota’s Xcel Energy–one of the country’s largest electric utility companies–committed to producing only carbon-free electricity by 2050. The winds are clearly in the direction of 100% clean, renewable and equitable energy. Yet it’s clear that in order to achieve a drawdown of carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, as called for by the IPCC in order to avoid societal collapse, new fossil fuel infrastructure must be stopped now.
In this context, Minnesota’s continued commitment to allowing a new Line 3 pipeline seems at best, irrational, and at worst, suicidal. Line 3 poses an immediate threat to the lives and livelihoods of Native communities, creates a perpetual risk to the source of our cleanest water and Greatest Lake, as well as to a large part of Minnesota’s economy and outdoor culture, and is a potent symbol of Minnesota’s racist and short-sighted legacy when it comes to our relationship with our resources and environment. Line 3 also forces Minnesota to be a linchpin in tar sands infrastructure for decades to come, binding our state to a dying industry that is a major source of greenhouse gases.
Economically, the tar sands are doomed. 5 Environmentally, they are a disaster. In approving Line 3, the Public Utilities Commission failed to adhere to even its modest mandate “to balance the private and public interest,” prioritizing the short-term profits of foreign corporations and their bad-faith claim of “good jobs” above the will of Native communities, the overwhelming majority of Minnesotans, and even the Department of Commerce. As Twin Cities DSA, we believe fundamentally in the right of Minnesota’s workers to stable and secure unionized jobs. We will fight for a just transition from our extractive economy — an economy that continues to colonize people of color, dispose workers when they are no longer useful, and disproportionately saddle poor communities with its costs and toxins. We will fight for an economy that does not leave workers behind, and that addresses and repairs both the environmental and economic injustices of our current society. Yet Enbridge itself has conceded that Line 3 would bring at most 20 full-time permanent jobs, a number easily surpassed by those that could be created by decommissioning the existing pipeline and investing in the infrastructure our communities actually need: clean water, renewable energy, affordable and livable housing, sustainable agriculture, and widespread affordable public transportation.
We stand here today in solidarity with those who fight against this pipeline and the harm it will do but also to fight for something: the chance to build a world that prioritizes justice and our ecological interdependence. We stand with: the Native frontline defenders of the water and land that they have relied on and tended to for centuries, and to which they have treaty rights over the U.S. government and the state of Minnesota; young people who have the right to build their own future without the burden of their forebears’ disastrous decision-making; those farmers that fear for their way of life but see a future in agricultural practices that rebuild communities and livelihoods as they rebuild the soil; and workers who want stable, safe jobs that contribute to a healthy and sustainable society.
Like many others, we are inspired by the bold moral courage and imagination of the incoming members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Minnesota’s own Ilhan Omar, who are already taking action in the face of the spiraling climate crisis and yawning historic inequity. And as Naomi Klein recently wrote, their initiative also serves to highlight “the crucial difference between leadership that acts and leadership that talks about acting.” 6
We are asking you, Governor Dayton, will you act?
The end of your two terms as Governor, and the end of your decades-long career as a leader of this state and champion of the people, coincides with the acute and undeniable need for action. Should you leave office with Line 3 barrelling towards completion, you will be remembered as the governor that shackled our state, all its people and our futures (not to mention the viability of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party), to the disaster that is the tar sands. But you could be the governor that gave us a chance. Not just a chance to avoid impending catastrophe, but a fighting chance to begin a just transition towards a Minnesota that cares for its water, soil, irreplaceable resources, Native peoples, children’s futures, farmers, workers, north and south, urban and rural–all of us.
A better world is possible. Give us the time, space, and freedom to build it. As a governor who has said we must protect clean water–even at a cost; as a leader who is not scared to do what is right; as someone who can choose to be a good ancestor for us–protect your legacy and ours, and act to halt the Line 3 pipeline now.
—Twin Cities DSA Ecosocialists, Extinction Rebellion – Twin Cities, Science for the People – Twin Cities