Photo by Richard Thomas

For those of us who are concerned about climate change, we’re asking how our city should address and respond to the variety of challenges that we’ll be facing the next 20-30 years.

What do we do about the fossil fuel industry, the rise in CO2 emissions, microplastics, loss of wildlife, rise in annual temperatures and helping our vulnerable populations? 

There are a thousand questions out there. But what is the most powerful question that we could be asking ourselves? 

Gary Keller, author of "The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results," wrote, “Answers come from questions, and the quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question. Ask the wrong question, get the wrong answer. Ask the right question, get the right answer. Ask the most powerful question possible, and the answer will be life altering.”

Now, a lot of the questions that we’re asking are the right questions. But are they the questions that empower us, give us a hopeful picture of the future and engage our creativity and compassion?
Is there one question that could sustain us, lift our spirits and bring out the best in each of us?

What if you and I, as well as all of our city leaders, asked one simple question: How do we build a beautiful city? 

From that one question, we could then ask: How do we build a city that shows how much it cares for all of its citizens and all living things?

How do we build a city that promotes the health and well-being of everyone and our environment? 

Imagine that whenever any city or county department or commission comes together to address transportation, housing, energy, health services or any other public issue, the one question that is presented at every meeting is “how do we build a beautiful city?”

Imagine that at every meeting of the city council or county board of commissioners, the one question on every agenda is “how do we build a beautiful city?”

Imagine that at every meeting of the Chamber of Commerce or among many of the community organizations and social service agencies around town, the one question presented at each gathering is “how do we build a beautiful city?”

Imagine that at every environmental or climate event, we ask “how do we build a beautiful city?”

The other night, I was thinking about my two new grandchildren, my two sons, my partner and my community on Jefferson Street. And what I realized is that what makes all of these relationships beautiful is the kindness, care and love we show each other.

So, as we approach the future and address climate change in our city, can we just take a deep breath and look for all the different ways that we can help build a beautiful city.

We can build a beautiful city when we address environmental injustice and meet the essential needs of our most vulnerable citizens. We can build a beautiful city when we support our small local businesses and encourage new entrepreneurial ventures. We can build a beautiful city when we protect Lake Superior and all of the surrounding wildlife. 

We can build a beautiful city when we develop our walkways and bikeways and adequately fund our public transportation. We can build a beautiful city when we plant more trees, plants and benches throughout downtown. We can build a beautiful city when we provide the necessary resources and housing for our homeless population.

To address climate change and all of the interrelated issues that our city is facing today and tomorrow, we need a foundation or baseline for everything we’re doing.

Whether it’s a personal concern or public policy, we need something that centers us and provides a moral compass for all of our decisions and actions. What better way to bring the greater community together to address climate change than to build something beautiful for all of us.