Our future: We are all a part of this together

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Our future depends on sustainable development. That just happens to be my own personal opinion. I will let you come to your own conclusion as to what sustainable means, but simply put, we ought to focus on business and community practices that don't jeopardize the future.

That's pretty vague, but you can get the idea. Does it mean that we can only have "green" technology or that we all must shop for organic foods? No, but it does presume that we are all a part of this together and that by working together we can all be better off.

As a community, we have some work to do. We ought not to discredit someone for having an opposing viewpoint or for offering an opinion that conflicts with our own. When people or organizations or businesses exercise their right to express themselves, that should be considered a positive action and taken into the debate. Consider that in our democratic society we all insist on having our voices heard and once a vote is taken, we all come together and support the majority position. We don't go around attacking people for having an opinion, or at least we shouldn't. Recently, a group of businesses came together to form the Downstream Business Coalition, designed in part to offer a counter-argument in support of protecting Minnesota waters. That is not only their opinion, it is their right. Can we not simply respect that, even if we disagree? Yes, many do respect that. Yet we see political ideology bubbling over in the forms of threats, boycotts and the like. If we cannot even be allowed to voice our opinion, how is it we are going to build a sustainable future together?

Recently, I brought forward an idea that expands on the concept of economic redevelopment across Northern Minnesota. Yes, it's been tried in the past. Yes, it is already in progress on a number of levels. But I believe that our future requires individuals, communities and organizations to break down our history of animosity across the region and replace it with a sense of supporting one another. Duluth's economy depends in part on the Iron Range. We depend on the North Shore business community. We need and depend on cities like Cloquet, Esko, Grand Rapids, Virginia and many, many more. When one does well, we all can see gain from that. I would love to see a renewed and unprecedented initiative into an economic development enterprise that encompasses all of northeastern Minnesota, and builds bridges of sustainability between all of our communities while still respecting local autonomy. Can we do this? I know we can, but we must first be respectful and remember that our individual actions resonate further than perhaps we ever intended.

Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, is the Minnesota state representative for District 7B.