Review Editor Rating: Star Tribune Opinion publishes a mix of national and local news comments online and in print every day. To contribute, click here.


Last December, I read an article about an impending environmental disaster at the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica. Scientists have found evidence that Thwaites is melting much faster than expected. Without the glacier, which acts much like a cork in a bottle, Antarctic sea ice would be free to slide into the sea, potentially raising global sea levels by more than 10 feet over the next century. That means more New York, more New Orleans and, you guessed it, more Miami Beach.

Miami Beach and our local Hiawatha Golf Course were heavily designed when they were created. Miami Beach is built on a narrow strip of land, separated from the city of Miami by Biscayne Bay. In the 1920s, developers built Miami Beach by dredging the bay, placing a landfill above the Swiss cheese-like geology of Low Island.

Showing the same pride of that time, Theodore Wirth dredged Rice Lake in Minneapolis and dumped the excess soil into a swamp, creating what we now know as the Hiawatha Golf Course.

When Thwaites melts, Miami Beach will float in a watery grave. Similarly, a look into the climate crystal ball shows that the Hiawatha Golf Course as it exists today will not be resilient.

We know that Minnesota can expect more precipitation with more intense fluctuations between periods of drought and excessive precipitation. We’ve already seen a once-in-10-year flood in Hiawatha in 2014 that completely derailed a year and a half of golf and sent the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board begging FEMA for help. We can’t expect another million dollar federal bailout for the next Hiawatha flood (maybe as soon as two years). The chances of receiving this type of help in the future are close to zero.

Miami Beach’s climate deniers and 18-hole Hiawatha delusions ignore the inevitable – that our land is changing in ways that make it less hospitable to people, and frankly, to golf. Without significant expense, significant damage to the surrounding environment and neighborhood, and massive human intervention, we are unfortunately not going to fight our way to an 18-hole solution at Hiawatha.

To do nothing today is to abdicate responsibility for future generations, the majority of whom are not white. Indeed, global warming, whether it is the melting of the Thwaites Glacier, an intensification of heat waves or stronger storms, is more likely to be felt by those who are already less well-off, who tend to be brown and black and overall have fewer options.

Where golf is at its core a favored sport, global warming is a matter of environmental justice. We are doing a disservice to the black and brown children of Minneapolis today – the vast majority of whom do not play golf – by not working harder to leave them a world with clean water, with recreational activities to which they can access and with an urban ecology free of pollutants.

The vendors of 18-hole golf courses in Miami Beach and Hiawatha have a brazen disregard for nature and airs of superiority – that human ingenuity will trump billions of years of complex ecological and natural history of our planet.

As the top Park Board executives twiddle their thumbs and act like we’re off clock, Thwaites quietly slips away, not waiting for anyone. Where is the honor and respect for our black and brown children, and for the generations of climate refugees who will flock to the relative climate paradise of Minneapolis?

It’s time to face reality in Miami Beach and the Hiawatha Golf Course. We have water coming from above and below due to the unique geologies of each location. We have people crying out for our leaders to do something. And Mother Nature always wins in the end.

Becky Alper is District 3 Commissioner at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.