I remember when I first heard Will Steger give his Eyewitness to Global Warming presentation to a crowded audience in May 2006; I was visiting the Twin Cities for the first time to interview for a job as the founding Executive Director of what was then called the Will Steger Foundation.
Instantly mesmerized by his stories of adventure and drawn into his descriptions of the changes in Earth’s polar regions brought on by climate change, I knew at that moment that this was the work I wanted to do.
Will’s conviction and dedication to educate the public around climate change and engage them in solutions was urgent and compelling. Within a few months I had moved to Minnesota to begin translating Will’s vision into an organization, building off of his experience as an educator, youth mentor, advocate, and most importantly, an eyewitness to climate change. I remember thinking that I would probably do this work for a few years and then move on, not realizing that this was about to be a significant chapter in my life.
I’ve spent nearly one-third of my life establishing, building, and growing what is now affectionately known as Climate Gen, and along the way, I’ve witnessed progress and setbacks as we actively work to address the climate crisis through education, engagement, and public policy.
As I transition out of my role at Climate Generation, I couldn’t be prouder of the legacy Will – and I – have created and that will continue to be added to by the incredible staff and community supporting them.
I continue to think about our name—Climate Generation—and as the climate crisis feels more urgent each day, I wonder:
How can our generation meet this moment of the climate crisis?
Below are five parting thoughts for how we meet this moment:
1. The science has always been clear and is only getting stronger each day. Trust the science, and even more so, trust your own experience.
The scientific consensus on climate change has strengthened even further since the first studies documenting human’s impact on our climate system. And while the science has always been solid, the impacts of climate change have worsened, and the inequities of its impacts have been made visible with extreme weather events and more. We all have our own experiences with climate change and it is up to us to share those experiences with others as a motivator for action.
2. There will always be opposition.
While the clean energy transition is underway, rampant denial and misinformation and disinformation persist, thanks to a fossil fuel industry driving confusion. Thankfully though, the pillars of the fossil fuel economy are weakening and it is no longer prudent for their financial statements to reflect a future of fossil fuels. Opposition will continue, but remember there is always progress, even in small ways, and it adds up!
3. Talk about it.
We need to talk about our concerns, fears, hopes, dreams. How we are experiencing climate change and what a better world looks like. Our work began with conversations in churches, rotary clubs, classrooms, and in the halls of government. We can’t solve a problem we don’t understand, and we can’t understand the issue if we aren’t talking about it. So put aside your fears of being an expert and continue having climate conversations in your home, workplace, place of worship, businesses, and beyond.
4. Know you are not alone. You are part of an incredible, diverse community committed to change.
This is a hard moment in our collective history. We are living in a pandemic and the intersecting crises of racial inequity and climate change, and we are seemingly more divided than ever. But each year the climate movement has gotten bigger, bolder and more diverse and there is strength in numbers and power is shifting under our feet.
5. Stay optimistic, radically committed to hopeful action!
We need radical, resilient hope; hope that allows us to dig in and be the climate champions that future generations need us to be. It requires showing up, leveraging your unique individual strengths and what you’re passionate about, the combination of which will make the world a better place as a result.
As I prepare for my last day with Climate Generation at the end of January, I share this: what I’ve learned doing this work over the past 15 ½ years is that the most important thing is building bridges—not focusing on what divides us. The most effective way is connecting around a value or concern we genuinely share: there is no shortage of ways climate change affects us. We know this starts through the power of story, a guiding theme at Climate Generation, because we are all eyewitnesses to climate change.
Now, more than ever, it’s time to champion the efforts of communities and leaders advancing equitable solutions to climate change. The desire for change is real. The momentum is with us.
We CAN get to the equitable and sustainable future we envision. We are a community that is resilient, powerful, empathetic and determined.