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LaDuke focuses on climate change, peak oil and food security in address at DBU

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Bemidji, 56619
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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Winona LaDuke believes a brighter future for the world starts today.

LaDuke spoke about this vision in her keynote address, "Climate Change, Peak Oil and Food Security: Challenges and Strategies for this Millennium," Wednesday at Bemidji State University's ninth annual Student Scholarship and Creative Achievement Conference.

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Her keynote address marked the start of the one-day conference, which featured student presentations, performances, poster displays and exhibits, as well as the Beaver Film Festival. LaDuke spoke to students and members of the faculty, staff and community.

"What is society going to look like in the future, and who is in charge of that?" LaDuke asked. "It turns out that we are the ones who are here. We have this opportunity to do the right thing -- to make this the most beautiful future that we can imagine."

LaDuke, an American Indian land rights activist, environmentalist, economist, politician and author who lives on the White Earth Reservation, said she is currently working on issues of climate change, peak oil and food security.

Climate change, she said, needs to be addressed now.

"We've done a lot of combusting," she said. "We've got to move from the Jurassic age."

She said the earth's temperature has risen by 1 degree and is on its way to warming up another degree.

"The question is how to hold it at 2 degrees," LaDuke said.

She said this is a question for now, not 10 years from now.

"Now is when we have a shot at it," LaDuke said.

She also addressed peak oil, noting the large level of consumption by Americans.

"At a certain point, we've got to figure out how to check our habit," she said. "We know we need a plan. And it turns out you cannot put the whole U.S. corn crop in your gas tank."

She noted that food production today consumes a significant amount of fossil fuels.

"A big portion of the food that we are eating requires more fossil fuels to produce it than we get out in energy," LaDuke said.

She said it takes 10-15 calories of fossil fuels to produce 1 calorie of food due to the highly centralized, highly industrialized food economy.

LaDuke added, "We lack food security because we have decommissioned or dismantled our local food economy and outsourced them to large industrial corporations."

Addressing issues

LaDuke said the White Earth Reservation is addressing issues of food security and climate change, including increasing efficiency.

White Earth, for example, has installed solar heating panels on the south side of some tribal houses. Not only is solar power renewable energy, but it can save up to 20 percent on a heating bill, LaDuke said.

She said White Earth is also putting up wind turbines.

"We are technically the poorest people in the state of Minnesota and we are putting up turbines," she said.

She said White Earth is also growing more food locally, having plowed 150 gardens.

"My theory is if we can do it, anybody can do it," she said.

Taking responsibility

While some consider LaDuke an activist, she said she doesn't see herself that way.

"I consider myself to be a really responsible adult," LaDuke said. "So how do you make a change?"

To make a change, she said she has testified at hearings, written letters and newspaper articles, demonstrated, litigated and even been arrested.

"Democracy is not a spectator sport," LaDuke said. "It requires civic engagement. It requires people to participate. It requires more than voting. It requires you to use ... your mouth, your heart, your body to make it better."

Sometimes, she said, she believes more people in the United States watch reality TV shows than engage in reality.

"You all have the potential and the responsibility to do something with those gifts you have," LaDuke said. "I really believe we can make this a better place."

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