Spring has arrived in the Northland and it was clear as the Climate Minnesota team traveled north to west and south again. The trees are budding and the spring peepers are peeping in the ponds. The ice is close to out on Lake Bemidji and the winds of spring blew us into Crookston. Our first two convenings of the twelve convening Climate Minnesota: Local Stories, Community Solutions series are complete and we are returning to the twin cities metro with a much deeper appreciation for Minnesota’s communities, ecosystems and people.
Climate Minnesota is about bringing together communities, to learn together, feel together and engage in solutions together. The last three days we have visited Minnesota communities we have never been to before and were welcomed warmly by community partners we have been talking and planning with for months. As guests in each community, we were humbled by how kindly we were received and the willingness that each partner and attendee had to share their story, their time and their thoughts. On the drive home from Crookston this morning some consistent reflections surfaced from the Climate Minnesota team:
- Minnesotans have pride in their communities. Many of them have lived there for a long time and they know that something isn’t right, they want to talk about it and they care. This is true for farmers, moms, indigenous people, college professors, tree farm owners and the Mayors of Crookston and Bemidji (as well as many others!).
- There is a far greater openness to talking about climate change than we thought, in fact there is feeling that people need to talk about it.
- Creating a safe place where people can talk about climate change is so important and so rewarding. It means empowering people to realize that even though they aren’t science experts, they are experts about their community.
Finally, talking from the heart really does build trust and move people. I have read that this is true many times, but experiencing it in person was still a surprise. I was moved to tears listening to people’s stories, sometimes because they were sad, but also because they were so authentic, raw, and revealing about the character of the community. Although I of all people, should talk about climate change whenever I get the chance, I don’t always seize the opportunity. After these first convenings I feel myself more willing and motivated to talk about climate change. The stories I heard made me feel connected to greater Minnesota and realize in a very real way that telling your story and talking about climate change is something we all can do.
So I will plan on telling my story more often. And as I look ahead to May, I will also carry the stories of Bemidji and Crookston with me and remember them, as I hear from the communities of Duluth and Burnsville and in the fall, the communities of Virginia, Rochester, Owatonna, Mankato, Detroit Lakes, Brainerd, Minnetonka and Marshall. Follow along with us by attending a convening in or close to your community, on twitter #climatemn or by reading our blogs and web summaries. Video, photo and audio summaries from Bemidji and Crookston will be up at climateminnesota.org soon.