Earth Day Speech

Let me first of all thank you for your participation at this gathering. I want to make it clear tonight that this is not only a forum for questions. Just as important as questions are the comments you want to make. I would just be very interested in what you all are thinking about this Earth Summit that is coming up in Rio De Janiero that I am lucky enough to be going to. I am interested in how you think about environmental issues in our own country, I want to get your perspective. So please don't view this as a forum for questions, which I'd be interested in, but also I'd like to get a lot of direction from you as well.

Let me also thank everybody for being here. I did not expect anywhere near this turnout. As a matter of fact, let me be just real clear about this: I've been traveling around the state and whenever we have a gathering or forum on healthcare, it is absolutely packed and that's a huge issue to me. I thought, this is the first gathering, leading up to the Earth Summit in Rio, this is the first town meeting held in the state of Minnesota on the environment, I can't even begin to tell you how good I feel about that. I mean, it really tells me something. I really appreciate the fact that you're here tonight, it really gives me, if you will, more inspiration to go on with this. I could talk for a long time, but we really want to make this a town meeting. Therefore, I'll only make 2 comments.

Number one: if you come out to western Minnesota, West central Minnesota and for that matter most of Minnesota, and you see the land with its bountiful harvest and the trees and the rivers and the streams, you are reminded, that environment and our natural resources is a precious resource. And you feel an awesome sense of responsibility because I know, and I think most of you know, it is really important that those of us who are here or our children or loved ones or grand children, have the opportunity to live in a beautiful and healthy world. But on present course, I think that that won't happen. We did make some progress on some pollution and some progress on water pollution, but it's upsetting to hear on television or to hear on the radio or to read in the paper that if you are a woman expecting a child, you shouldn't eat fish out of a different state, because of mercury PCPs, many of them carry thousands of miles away. It is upsetting to hear if you have a small child, that lets just eat fish out of our lakes in Minnesota. And it is also clear that a whole new set of environmental issues have kind of exploded. What we hear about the toxic waste dump sites, now literally mountains of garbage and landfills. And now, we hear about a new set of issues that can't really be solved without the global community.

Global climate change, I think, could have catastrophic consequences, if we don't do something about our reliance on fossil fuels and CO2 emissions. And I also think that it is shameful, that the United States government led by this administration, is the only administration and industrialized country now, that won't make a commitment with a target and a timetable. It is frightening to read about the gaping hole in the Ozone layer. There's a whole lot before us, there is a whole lot that needs to be done.

We think that the problem all too often, and I remember from being at this school a couple of years ago, is when you talk about these issues, it becomes numbing. It is so global, that people say what can I do? I see people out at the tables, I know people are serious about what they believe in locally. You do act globally and locally, but the other part of it is that I'm convinced right now it is a critical time in the country and if people are going to be angry about it. I see two scenarios. Scenario 1: people opt out, people just cop out and say I want nothing to do with this, therefore people become disengaged and we will be making a huge mistake. Scenario 2: people say we're not into the status quo mood, we want to see changes take place, we're committed to new policy, new forms of energy, turbine, solar, wind, water, and people say we want to see these changes happen.... I think that this kind of meeting is real important. I'm really, really committed to trying to be a representative senator and I can't tell you how much it means to me that you came here tonight.

April 20, 1992