Pushback, Once Again

Climate Emergency

Members of Extinction Rebellion Twin Cities with banners that say Declare a Climate Emergency and Environmental Justice at the St. Paul City Council’s hearing on its Climate Action and Resilience Plan. Photo by the author.


This is the context, and we all know it:

• Climate change is real and already causing devastating effects
• Climate change is primarily caused by CO2
• Transportation accounts for the largest part of Minnesota’s CO2 increase
• We need to act now

Given that, let’s say you have a street (well, more accurately, a county road) in Saint Paul. It’s due for a complete rebuild, with a 100-year-old water main and the sewers being replaced to current standards. At the same time, it will have bike facilities of some type added because it’s the only through-street in the area, adjacent to a major academic institution with a lot of bike traffic, and on the Saint Paul Bike Plan.

There’s concern about not increasing the traffic speed on the street by widening it more than absolutely necessary, not making it wider for pedestrians to cross, keeping as many of the existing trees as possible, and not adding any more pavement than absolutely necessary.

So what should go if something has to, given all of those priorities?

It seems pretty clear to me: parking of privately owned vehicles along the street.

But removing the existing parking spots — even just some of them — will inconvenience the few single-family homeowners along the county road, even though 99% of them have off-street parking, and may mean the non-residents who park in those spots will shift to other nearby streets, inconveniencing the residents there, who are mostly in SFHs.

A long-time realtor starts making noises about the SFHs turning over to rentals and sending letters to legislators, city council members, and county commissioners. SFH-owners complain about not being able to get deliveries, have contractors come to their houses, or requiring their visitors to walk a block or two. A locally prominent person is mentioned as having moved out of Saint Paul because taxes are too high!

And here we are once again in NIMBY-land when we know:

• Climate change is real and already causing devastating effects
• Climate change is primarily caused by CO2
• Transportation accounts for the largest part of Minnesota’s CO2 increase
• We need to act now

How does this keep happening? Obviously, I am writing this because I don’t have a solution, except to keep pointing out those four key realities over again. I know I’m not the only one with this frustration, so maybe I’m just trying to create a space for venting. Have you seen projects progress (or regress) this way in your neighborhood? Have you been able to do anything to prevent or stall this NIMBY spiral?


Pat Thompson

About Pat Thompson

Pat Thompson is cochair of the St. Anthony Park Community Council's Transportation Committee, a member of Transition Town - All St. Anthony Park, and a gardener in public and private places. She is a member of the streets.mn Climate Committee.

16 thoughts on “Pushback, Once Again

  1. Tom BasgenTom Basgen

    Hello Streets community. Moderator here.

    I have deleted a comment regarding overpopulation and it’s following snarky commentary.

    Over-population is a myth pushed by eugenicists, a deeply evil, repeatedly disproven ideology. We live on a big beautiful globe with plenty of space and plenty of resources for every living person with room to grow. Thousands of scientists smarter than me have written countless papers any analysis that prove that is our behavior and not our existence that threatens our climate. I am not a Labrador and so I will not retrieve these papers for you.

    The second comment I deleted it: we get it, you disagree, lets keep it civil thank you.

  2. Guy

    I assume that anyone who bothers to read this particular website isn’t an idiot.

    Only an idiot would disagree on bullet points #1, #2, and #4.

    Bullet Point #3 is completely and utterly irrelevant to fighting Global Climate Change.

    I think Kevin Drum has been killing it at Mother Jones on Climate Change. I thought his piece here was great and essential https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/12/kevin-drum-climate-change-reseach/

    The entire thesis of this article reminded me of this quote from here: https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2019/09/should-the-left-stop-annoying-people-over-climate-change/

    “The question is whether regulations like this do enough good to be worth the loss in public support they provoke by being annoying.”

    “…no one thinks that personal commitments to lifestyle changes will ever have a serious impact on global warming. Only large-scale government action can do that. So maybe we should stop annoying people for something that produces little benefit.”

    1. Mike SonnMike Sonn

      Except “large-scale gov’t action” happens in very small increments on every single one of our streets. E.g. St Paul (large gov’t scale) created a bike plan that has to be fought on a street-by-street basis to be implemented. So yeah, individual changes will be needed to stop blocking large scale gov’t initiatives.

      1. Guy



        “…even if the United States (and Europe) cut their carbon emissions to zero today it would barely be a bump in the road to ever increasing global warming.”

        “This is the key: global warming is global. Any serious plan has to include a plausible way to reduce carbon emissions in China, India, southeast Asia, and other non-Western countries, which is where virtually all of the increase in carbon emissions is coming from.”

        ” it also has to include some way of removing carbon from the atmosphere, since no matter how much we reduce emissions we’re still going to end up with too much carbon in the atmosphere by 2050.”

        The city and its citizens are free to spend all their time arguing about bike plans and parking and density and transit or whatever but it will have no effect on global climate change and is in all honesty super annoying.

          1. Mark

            It’s unfortunate to quickly dismiss those that have different ideas and views. A healthy discussion is always good and can help educate some people.

            1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

              “Or whatever … what you want is super annoying” I guess is some type of discussion and not at all dismissive of different views and ideas.

              1. Mark

                My comment is directed at all parties. If you cut out the last paragraph there is some interesting information that Guy posted.

                One of the underlying issues with climate change discussion is that it has suffered from poor branding over the last 20+ years. At first it was global warming, which didn’t tell the whole story and made it easy for naysayers to comment about Midwest winters still being cold. Now its climate change, which is accurate, but doesn’t do enough to humanize the issue. Clearly the climate is changing, clearly humans are contributing to that change, but most people don’t connect with the issue. Most people don’t view themselves as the problem, they recycle, they bought a hybrid, they try and shop smart to minimize their impact. So when they hear people panicking about this stuff their natural instinct is to get defensive, because again they truly think they’re not part of the problem. That leaves you with a core vocal group trying to raise awareness and enact change that is instead pushed to the margins.

                I don’t have a global solution to the branding issue, but one of the things we could do a lot better about is listening to one another and cutting back the dismissiveness. I think most of us are on the same page, some feel the solution needs to start local, some think it will literally take an act of Congress, but we all feel that change does need to happen.

        1. Pat ThompsonPat Thompson Post author

          Does it make sense that if all the cities of the U.S. sit around doing nothing to structurally change our consumption patterns (along with all the other structural ways the U.S. over-represents carbon output globally with its small percent of the world’s population), it somehow will spur other countries to create the structural changes you think are needed?

        2. Mike SonnMike Sonn

          “What if this is all a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”

          But honestly, at the end of the day, being a car dependent society isn’t just about the climate. Changing it will bring us all closer together rather than dividing us by distance. It will lower housing costs by housing people instead of cars. It will boost local business. We’ll be a healthier population bcs we’re active in our transport.

          I’m not seeing how any of these things are “annoying” goals to strive towards.

  3. John AbrahamJohn Abraham

    This is a good, important piece laying out why this stuff is so hard to get even onto a local agenda. And the comments don’t exactly inspire faith in humanity to sort out its own mess. No, “branding” is not going to do much now that our carbon budget is down to less than a decade and yes indeed even if the entire planet cut emissions to zero today, there would still be enough carbon in the atmosphere to cause everything by 2050. That’s reality, that’s science, and pretending like you are annoyed by basic lifestyle changes when you are quite literally better off than HALF the global population just by where you sit (in the West) points to a lot of what still needs to be done.

    And in fact, groups like XR are in fact understanding the “annoyance” factor. It’s kind of annoying when swathes of the scientific community have been pointing this out to the public for decades and nothing has been done over the course of my lifetime. So yeah, it’s going to take some “annoyance” and a hell of a lot more to get the public to wake up and demand the global changes that some commentators seem content to wait around for. WE need to be the change, and it starts by attending local meetings about infrastructure and annoying local govt officials about the need to, y’know, survive.

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