Climate convening comes to Albany

Albany-EnterpriseBy Liz Vos, The Albany Enterprise

Albany High School E-Club and YES! team member Anna Haynes took the stage last Tuesday night to tell the audience before her why she is a fortunate person. Haynes explained that having Minnesota as her birthplace

“Minnesota is a state with amazing access to Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in North America,” she said. “And we also have our own collection of absolutely amazing untouched woods and water. I love living in a town where I can step out my front door and see the constellations at night; I can watch the sun rise as I brush my teeth in the morning.”

Though she is grateful, Haynes also notes a bitter unfairness that she foresees for future Minnesotans due to climate change.

“It’s simply not fair that I get to live here and that when I have kids, they will be living in a different Minnesota than the one I got to grow up in,” she said. “Climate change means they may never get to go swimming in Cedar Lake like I did because the fragile ecosystem has been turned into a stagnate puddle.”

On Feb. 23, Haynes joined other Albany community members and students at a public convening about local climate change impacts and solutions, hosted by Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy and Youth Energy Summit (YES!). The Climate Minnesota: Albany convening highlighted the current and future effects of climate change in Minnesota, and provided the audience with tangible opportunities to build community resilience in the face of those impacts.

The convening was part of Climate Generation’s two-year public education project, Climate Minnesota: Local Stories, Community Solutions, which is supported by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the McKnight Foundation.

“Being part of this event was an incredible opportunity for the Albany High School YES! Team/E-Club,” said Sarah Gainey, Central Coordinator for the YES! Program. “One of the goals of the YES! Program is to provide opportunities for our youth to directly engage in community environmental efforts, and co-hosting this event provided exactly that type of opportunity.”

Featured speakers such as Climate Generation’s Director of Education Kristen Poppleton emphasized that climate change is affecting Minnesota today, creating an urgent need for action. “Climate change is no longer something to be studied as a problem of the distant future,” said Poppleton. “The science is clearly pointing to climate and weather shifts that are happening now, in our own Minnesota backyards. Just as our founder, Will Steger, served as an early eyewitness to climate change in the polar regions, we are all eyewitnesses now.” In her presentation, Poppleton gave a science-based overview of climate change, laying the foundation for discussions about how the issue affects what Albany residents value about living in central Minnesota.

During a storytelling panel, community leaders and youth shared the work they were doing to engage in local climate change solutions. Katie Winkelman of the Stearns County Soil & Watershed Conservation District and Albany High School graduate spoke about how her experience in Albany High School’s environmental club helped shape her decision to pursue a career in soil conservation. Anne Hemker of Hemker Park & Zoo discussed how animals have been impacted by climate change, and how the zoo has had to adapt its practices. Madison Schmitz, another Albany YES! student, shared her concern about the declining moose population in northern Minnesota.

“The storytelling panelists were selected to demonstrate the broad range of place-based climate impacts as well as youth- and community-led solutions work taking place in the Albany area,” said Jothsna Harris, Climate Generation’s Education Coordinator.

Following the storytelling portion of the evening, attendees had the opportunity to learn how to engage in climate change solutions themselves by choosing from a selection of three solutions workshops. The workshops included a climate storytelling workshop presented by Climate Generation, a youth-led solutions workshop presented by Youth Energy Summit (YES!), and a clean energy workshop presented by CERTs. Individuals at each workshop pledged to continue participating in their group’s climate solution into the future, and presenters offered resources and connections to facilitate future involvement. Convening organizers expressed a strong interest in maintaining the new relationships formed at the event through follow-up outreach and on-the-ground support.

“This convening was a great opportunity to showcase the spectrum of solutions to climate change that the Albany students and community can engage in,” said Kristen Poppleton, Climate Generation’s Director of Education. “We look forward to following and supporting the work that was started here tonight.”

Each audience member seemed to connect in one way or another with the speakers, who spoke from experience and from the heart about their own view of climate change.

“I don’t want to lose what we have been given,” Haynes concluded. “I have complete faith in humanity’s ability to solve this problem, but first we have to collectively acknowledge that we have a problem.”

Read the full article online here.

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