By Nicole Rom
Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy
Today, we are living on the edge. “The edge” is one of Will Steger’s favorite expedition terms, as it refers to moments of great challenge and great potential breakthroughs. The edge is where growth, learning, and character-building occur. The challenge confronting us is clear: With 2016 poised to surpass last year as the hottest on record, climate change is not slowing down. But this moment is also filled with opportunity, as momentum for climate action and a clean energy future is growing. The future of climate action is in our hands, and we believe in our collective power to move beyond the edge, and towards the future we want to see.
The power of community-based solutions to climate change should not be underestimated. Cities with ambitious climate policies serve as models of sustainability for the world. Minneapolis, for example, has adopted a goal of 80 percent emissions reductions by 2050 or sooner, with a Climate Action Plan in place to guide its operations. At our Climate Minnesota convening, the mayor of Rochester issued a proclamation to pursue a goal of 100% clean energy by 2031, in just 15 years!
For the past decade, Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy has been empowering individuals and communities to engage in solutions to climate change, and the results at the state level are telling. Today, Minnesota generates over 20 percent of its power from renewable sources, and is now home to the largest solar installation in the Midwest — the recently completed North Star project. Through our public engagement and youth leadership programming, Climate Generation has helped build durable public will for clean energy and climate policies, such as the Next Generation Energy Act — turning 10 in 2017 — and a solar energy standard.
Supporting educators, youth, and the public to act as agents for climate solutions has always been core to our work. Will Steger’s eyewitness testimony inspired over 60,000 Minnesotans to take climate action in their homes, workplaces and communities. He has also inspired decision-makers from Minnesota to the U.S. Congress to make climate change a priority. Today, we continue to work with individuals to share their climate stories, to commit to meaningful, locally-based solutions in their communities, and to effectively advocate for meaningful policies at the local and state level.
In 2014, Climate Generation launched an innovative public engagement project called Climate Minnesota: Local Stories, Community Solutions. The stories we have gathered from Minnesotans of all ages are empowering and inspirational tools that are helping us to build a stronger climate movement. Emma Hakanson, a 17-year-old from Burnsville who participated in one of our bipartisan legislative conversations on climate change, shared her story based on her love of Minnesota winters:
“One of my favorite winter memories is of my little sister and I rushing outside to play after every time it snowed. We loved the smoothness of the snow just after it had fallen, whether it was soft and fluffy, or a sparkling frozen crust that could almost support our weight if we tread lightly. I am hopeful, but also concerned, for the future. Winters are warming today and do not often have the same level of snowfall as in past years, and it melts too quickly. The winters my sister and I have experienced are already changing into something new, and together, we must change as well in order to protect our communities.”
Individual and local actions to address climate change have the power to scale up and lead to the broader changes we need. Minnesota is fortunate to have advocates for climate action in all sectors and regions in the state. You can join the growing number of Minnesotans engaged in climate change solutions by sharing your climate story; hosting a screening of our film, Minnesota Stories in a Changing Climate (screening at McKnight on December 9th); attending one of our upcoming events; or joining with your neighbors to address climate change in your community and urge your decision-makers to lead the way.
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