OWATONNA — In recent years, climate change and the overall state of our environment has become a hot-button issue for both the general public and politicians alike.
On Tuesday, State Rep. John Petersburg (R-Waseca) and State Sen. John Jasinski (R-Faribault) voluntarily put themselves in the hot seat for an open forum on the climate crisis, hosted by Steele County Indivisible at the Owatonna Public Library. A group of 16 people joined the legislators for an intimate and open discussion, taking advantage of the opportunity to air their concerns that included nitrogen levels, renewable energy, and emissions rates.
The chilling reality is simple: measures need to be taken as soon as possible to protect the environment, water, and air quality among us — something the constituents and politicians quickly agreed on.
“We absolutely need to reduce emissions, but we have to do it within reason and without it being overly expensive for everyone,” Jasinski said to the group as he discussed a visit he had in a German town that ran completely on renewable energy. “It’s important that we raise awareness about this issues and to get the whole world on board.”
Jasinski, whose district includes most of Steele County, elaborated on how transitioning to renewable energy can be an ongoing struggle that some may be unaware of, such has how to find a reliable way to store energy from either solar or wind farms.
“You can win on one side, but lose on another,” he added. “It seems we’re always fighting one thing for the sake of another.”
Petersburg, whose district includes Owatonna, was able to easily pinpoint the main problem that comes with combating issues revolving climate change and the health of the Earth, and that is garnering enough public interest in the manner, adding that the government can only do so much.
“A phrase that we used to hear at church when asking for volunteers was, ‘If you ask no one in particular, then no one in particular will help,’” Petersburg said. “Change can’t come from one or the other, it has to be both, but I think there has to be a higher focus on the public.”
Some of the issues that were directly brought to light by those in attendance included the strain that nitrogen run-off from farms has on water quality and how the use of automobiles has become the highest contributor to carbon emissions.
“There’s an assumption that nitrogen levels are growing because of farmers, and that may be the case,” Petersburg said, noting that he had worked as a farmer years ago. “But it may also be the case that as a group — from fertilizers we put on our lawns to things we do in town to what we do with our wastewater and what detergents we use could also be playing a part in that. We are all part of the cause and I think we need to be diligent in regards to being aware of everyone’s impact into it.”
“I think it gets back to trying to find a happy medium for everything,” Jasinski said. “No matter what you’re doing, there’s some counter effect.”