University of Minnesota Alumni Association


Editor's Note

The Crisis du Jour

Photo Credit: Scott Streble

I’ve found myself distractedly musing in recent days as to what the upper limit is on the number of crises the human mind can contemplate at once. The answer, at least for me, tends to hover right around “just one.”

Of course, that isn’t helpful at all when the huge issues jockeying for our limited attention span multiply on a daily basis.

Against the backdrop of the worst pandemic in generations—and with the specter of mutated Covid-19 viruses lurking in the wings—this past year has surpassed itself for awfulness. Last May, the death of George Floyd put a long-overdue spotlight on the reality of structural racism in this country. On every daily newscast, it also becomes even more abundantly clear that the U.S. is deeply fractured. In addition, fringe conspiracy theories seem to surface now in polite society with alarming frequency.

Add in a heart-stopping live broadcast of a deadly January siege on our nation’s Capitol and we’ve got the cherry on top of an already rotten year.

And yet, as a nation, to emerge from the turmoil of 2020 better, stronger, and more resilient, we must find ways to grapple with not only these immediate challenges, but yet another long-term existential threat, climate change.

In late January, the New York Times succinctly summed this up: The year 2020 tied the record with 2016 for hottest on record. In addition, devastating wildfires, record Arctic ice-floe melts, unprecedented flooding, and historic rainfall events all brought this crisis directly to our front door.

You’ve probably seen the T-shirt, bumper sticker, or coffee cup that states, “I Believe in Science.” I do, too.

The U of M and the alumni who’ve passed through the doors of this renowned land-grant, research institution give us ample reason to believe in and embrace the power of science. Some of the world’s best researchers make their professional homes on these campuses, and many are focusing their efforts on finding ways to stop this catastrophe in the making.

The reality is that our climate is changing, and that this progression will likely be cataclysmic, but that we have the knowledge to halt it or mitigate its effects, if only we can find the willpower to do so.

In this issue, sparked by the reenergized focus the Biden Administration has placed on slowing climate change, we look at how U of M researchers and alumni are already helping us bring a greener Minnesota and world into fruition.

And remember: If we don’t act, our children, grandchildren, and their grandchildren will pay the price. And if we don’t act now, unchecked climate change could make 2020 just the prologue to a truly heartbreaking story.

Kelly O’Hara Dyer can be reached at

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