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Tia Nelson on climate change: “growing the congregation”

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — You may have heard that old saying, “You’re preaching to the choir.”

Tia Nelson, the managing director on climate with the Outrider Foundation and the daughter of Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, says that we need to “reach beyond the choir and grow the congregation” concerning efforts to address climate change.

Nelson was one of the keynote speakers at the Red Cedar Watershed Conference March 11 that was held virtually this year in conjunction with Wisconsin Water Week.

In previous years, the Red Cedar Watershed Conference was held in person at UW-Stout.

Regarding climate change — we know what we need to do, and we know how to do it, but now we must communicate with the public, Nelson said.

Addressing land use and water quality go hand-in-hand with addressing climate change, she said.

Nelson has produced a short film, titled “United We Can Solve This,” that is available on the Outrider Foundation’s YouTube channel.

People are encouraged to use the film in whatever way they see as helpful, she said.

Deforestation and agriculture are responsible for 25 percent of the greenhouse gases worldwide, while deforestation and agriculture are responsible for 10 percent of the greenhouse gases produced in the United States, Nelson said.

When land is restored, greenhouse gases are removed, she said.

Nelson compared solutions for dealing with climate change to a bathtub overflowing onto the floor.

The first thing you do is shut off the water, but the second thing you do is get a mop, she said.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the first step, but we must also enhance the land to sequester carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, Nelson said.

Governor Tony Evers’ global warming task force has produced a report that lists solutions for Wisconsin regarding forestry, agriculture and land use, she noted.

One tip for “growing the congregation” in our communities is for land trusts, land conservation groups and watershed groups to host visits to project sites for the public, Nelson said.

Hosting visits will lay the groundwork for conversation about climate change, she said.

Another tip for “growing the congregation” is for people to connect with the Citizens Climate Lobby, a bi-partisan group that trains citizens on how to lobby Congress on climate change, Nelson said.

Other presentations at the Red Cedar Watershed Conference included “The Art and Practice of Earth Repair: Stories from Around the World” by Judith Schwartz; “Completion of the Three-Year Red Cedar River Basin Assessment Project for Water Quality Improvement: What Did We Learn?” by Landon Profaizer and Dan Zerr; “Making Changes in the Watershed One Student at a Time, Jarrett Creek” by M. Paul Verdon; and “Charting a Path for Socially Regenerative Agriculture” by Adam Reimer.

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