Johnette Ostlund, a freshman at Carlton High School, was a climate storyteller featured during our Youth Convening Minnesota project at the convening in Carlton, Minnesota in partnership with Youth Eco Solutions (YES!).
Growing up, I’ve done a lot of mountain biking with my friends and family.
Now, I’m actually part of the new CEC (Cloquet Esko Carlton) mountain biking team. There are a lot of trails around the area that my family, friends, and I love to bike on, like the St. Louis Trail.
Throughout the years, it has started to rain more and more. When it rains, the trails get muddy and dangerous to bike on, and then they close. And, even though the trails are closed, people still go biking on them. This can cause the trails to get pretty messed up. When this happens, workers and volunteers have to go out and work on the many, many miles of trails that got ruined from the rain and bikers. This can take a lot of time and effort; I know from experience.
Last year, my biking team and the Duluth biking team had to get together and fix a trail we were going to race on because it was damaged from the huge amount of rain we got. We were only able to fix a small part of the trail.
It is very time consuming: we have to take dirt and rocks from other places and use them to reinforce and build up areas that have been washed away. There were around forty people working for about two and a half hours on two parts of the trail.
Another downside is that when the trails are muddy, we have to bike on roads. This isn’t nearly as fun as biking on the trails in the woods. There aren’t any cool jumps or super sharp turns. I also hate the smell of exhaust that comes from vehicles. It not only smells really, really bad but it also makes me feel sick and sort of dizzy. On the trails in the woods, the air is fresh and I don’t have to deal with cars and their bad smells.
I live in the country part of Carlton, and I’m used to being surrounded by nature and the fresh air.
In 2013, I went on a family trip to Chicago. I thought it was pretty cool there with all of the tall skyscrapers and big museums. It was definitely a different environment from what I’m used to being around. Even though I really liked it there, I was happy to go home because I missed all of the green—the trees and the grass and it’s quiet and the air is so much cleaner. In places like Chicago, people don’t have a lot of trails surrounded by wilderness like we do in Duluth. Road biking is the only option.
Growing up surrounded by nature and always doing things in it has opened my eyes to climate change and our future. I believe there is change happening in our climate. It’s not a color that we see, like the exhaust that I see when I’m biking on roads here. If it was we would have probably done something about it a long time ago.
But we can see that there are things changing. For example, the more rain we’ve been getting here over the years. I have hope that things will change, and people will continue to find new ways to do things to get rid of pollution and other factors that cause climate change.
I realize that this issue is bigger than my story and there is no easy fix.
But I do have an important role: I can encourage people to change, share my story, and help to find new ways to reduce our impact on climate change. I want to open people’s eyes to these problems so that someday everyone can breathe in clean, fresh air.
Want to contribute to our storytelling collection? Share your climate story with us.