Section Four: Environment and Climate Resilience describes Minnesota’s infrastructure challenges and some of the most practical solutions to be enacted by state, county and city governments, as well as by the people living in diverse communities.

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Minnesota’s climate is warming and changing at a faster rate than in much of the nation and world. In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the portion of our precious and iconic surface waters that are now officially classified as “impaired” stands at 56 percent. Unsustainable agricultural methods and unwise land use are polluting our landscapes and contributing to both climate change and deteriorating water quality.

Environmental and climate concerns emerged strongly among TBDN participants and all the groups we consulted for Blueprint research, regardless of whether those concerns had been previously central to their organizational mission. Consensus reigns that environmental degradation has now become an existential challenge.

General policy directions emerged: more sustainable land management practices in agriculture and on all private and public lands; decarbonizing transportation; shifting power plants and energy production from fossil fuels (especially coal) to renewable power sources; invest in energy conservation in the built environment; move toward zerowaste principles and away from landfills and incinerators, and move aggressively to clean up impaired lakes, streams and groundwater.

In each area, TBDN partners reinforced the interconnectedness of racial and social justice with environmental sustainability, along with special awareness of Greater Minnesota’s needs. Subsidies for energy conversion or conservation that benefit low-income households and small businesses were recommended, along with local ownership and cooperative shareholding of clean energy enterprises.

For agriculture and land use, the TBDN partners urged that every means available should be applied to reduce the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers and to stop further loss of forests, wetlands, and prairies. For decarbonizing transportation and electric power generation, Blueprint drafters urged rapid adoption and implementation of 100% renewable energy and “Clean Cars” goals. Waste reduction also emerged as a priority and incentives and regulatory actions were proposed to encourage re-use, recycling and composting.