By ASHLEY STEWART firstname.lastname@example.org
OWATONNA — While conversations about climate change have circulated at the national and international levels for years, organizers of Climate Minnesota want people to know its impacting Minnesota communities, like Owatonna, too.
And area residents will have an opportunity to learn more about those impacts as well as what’s being done and how they can get involved in local solutions during a public forum.
“Although it’s a global issue, we’re feeling varied impacts by region,” said Jothsna Harris, the education coordinator for Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy. “It’s not felt the same in all areas, but we want to start with the community and build community resilience.”
On Tuesday, Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy in partnership with the University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships will host Climate Minnesota: Owatonna convening at Camp Pillsbury from 5:30 to 8:45 p.m., which is one of 12 such events taking place across the state this fall.
The “convenings.” as they are called, are part of Climate Generation’s two-year public education project that connect Greater Minnesota communities to the climate change impacts, solutions and adaptions that are happening now.
“We want to build support around the issue, encourage people to learn more and get engaged in local solutions,” said Harris, the event organizer.
The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a resource fair, which will include refreshments as well as community organizations that support the cause.
Resource fair participants are Clean H2Owatonna, the Owatonna chapter of the Audubon Society, Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric, Rice Soil and Water Conservation District, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Environmental Quality Board, the University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, Northfield Area Community Solar, and Climate Generation.
At 6:15 p.m., Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz will open the convening with a welcome and introduce the event’s guest speaker, Mark Seeley, a University of Minnesota Extension climatologist.
Harris said Seeley will talk about climate change and what he’s seen in his data pertaining to its impact on the Owatonna community.
Then, an area storytelling panel, including Darryl Hill, and Audubon Society volunteer, with the Owatonna Christmas Bird Count, Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin with the Main Street project in Northfield, and Mary Jo Cristofaro with Northfield Area Community
“Climate change can often fell very abstract and far away from our lives, but when people hear about others’ experiences here, it reels them in,” Harris said.
Hill has coordinated the Christmas Bird Count in Owatonna for more than 40 years, and he said he will share information about what the National Audubon Society has found out about climate change through counting migrating birds in North America, South America and Central America.
“It surprises me because I always thought nature would be the reason for losing birds, but I’m finding global warming is the reason,” he said. “We need to do something.
Hill said he hopes the event brings awareness to people.
“The way we live is affecting the climate, and it’s generally not for the better,” he said.
After the storytelling panel, there will be an opportunity for event attendees to participate in one of five solutions workshops for 30 minutes.
Those solutions workshops are water solutions, climate storytelling, Owatonna energy solutions, climate adaption and innovation development and agricultural solutions.
“The convenings are all very diverse in terms of the conversations taking place because the state is very diverse,” Harris said. “While Owatonna has agriculture as part of the conversation…the Iron Range has forest management. It’s tailored to the specific community.”
At 8:45 p.m., a dessert reception will take place and attendees are encouraged to socialize and network.
Harris said Climate Minnesota program has convened in four other communities: Bemidji, Crookston, Burnsville and Duluth.
“They’ve all gone really well,” she said.
Harris said the events have drawn between 100 and 150 people.
“This event is not just for the choir,” she said. “We really want to get the word out to everyone.”
Harris said it’s an opportunity for residents to learn about climate change in a “neutral way.”
“We’re not including policy in our convenings,” she said. “It’s an effort purely for education and local solutions.”
Individuals interested in attending the event are encouraged to RSVP, although not required, athttps://climategen.formstack.com/forms/owatonna.
For more information about the event, visit https://www.climategen.org/what-we-do/education/public-outreach/climate-minnesota/climate-minnesota-convenings/owatonna/.
The event is free and open to the public.
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