Meet Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner, Will Steger and Dessa


kathy-headshotKathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner is a world-renowned climate activist and poet from the Marshall Islands. Her poetry focuses on raising awareness of the issues and threats facing her people, from social justice issues to the rising seas caused by climate change. She participated in the historic United Nations climate talks in Paris last year and received a standing ovation for her speech and poetry performance at the opening ceremony of the UN Climate Leaders Summit in New York in 2014. The poem she performed, Dear Matafele Peinem, is an open letter to her daughter about the climate threat confronting the Marshall Islands and the international movement rallying to combat climate change. She has been featured by numerous international news outlets, including CNN, Democracy Now, Mother Jones, the Huffington Post, NBC News, National Geographic, Vogue Magazine, Nobel Women’s Initiative, and more.

Jetn̄il-Kijiner teaches Pacific Studies at the College of the Marshall Islands, the first college in Micronesia to divest from fossil fuels. She is also co-director of the nonprofit Jo-Jikum, which empowers youth to develop solutions to environmental issues threatening their home island. They recently brought together over 30 high school students to participate in a one-week Climate Change Arts Camp. This video captures an overview of the week.

Will Steger is a polar explorer who has accomplished some of the most significant polar expeditions in history. Steger led the first confirmed dogsled journey to the North Pole without re-supply in 1986, the 1,600-mile south-north traverse of Greenland (the longest unsupported dogsled expedition in history) in 1988, and the historic seven-month, 3,741-mile International Trans-Antarctica Expedition in 1989–90.

Will Steger is also an educator, author, entrepreneur and eyewitness to the effects of climate change. With his ability to blend extreme exploration and cutting-edge technology, Steger pioneered online education – reaching more than 20 million students via online daily journals and even delivering the first-ever transmission of digital photography from the North Pole.

Based on his unique eyewitness experience with climate change in the polar regions, he established the Will Steger Foundation in 2006. Now Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, the Minneapolis-based nonprofit educates and empowers people to engage in solutions to climate change.


Photo: Bill Phelps

Dessa is a rapper, writer, speaker, and a proud member of the Minneapolis hip hop collective, Doomtree. The Utne Reader calls her, “A one-woman powerhouse…with a literary sensibility and an aversion to genre clichés.” Her most recent album, Parts of Speech, debuted at #76 on the Billboard charts.

As a writer, she’s contributed to magazines, newspapers, radio and has published two collections of her own: Spiral Bound and A Pound of Steam. As a speaker, she’s lectured at colleges and universities throughout the Midwest, including a keynote presentation for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

Dessa tours internationally, playing basement clubs, historic theaters, detention centers, and classrooms from Warsaw to Sydney, Vancouver to Johannesburg. She’s currently at work on her first collaboration with the Minnesota Orchestra, a full evening of music and monologue slated for April, 2017.



ethan-photoEthan Buckner grew up in the Twin Cities, and as a high school student he helped launch Climate Generation’s YEA! MN program in 2008. After graduating from Vassar College in 2013, he moved to Berkeley, California, where he currently works for Stand as a campaigner supporting communities to fight extreme oil infrastructure in California and beyond. Outside of his work, Ethan is a singer/songwriter under the pseudonym The Minnesota Child and is working on a new studio album.

siiri-photoSiiri Bigalke began her life-long interest in climate change activism in high school, when she joined and later co-led Youth Environmental Activists of Minnesota (YEA! MN) from 2007-2011. She served as a YEA! MN Co-Chair for 2 years from 2009-2011. Since then she has focused on understanding how humans influence our global environment. She is passionate about investigating local climate change impacts in order to help communities become resilient to future environmental changes. She has partnered with young climate activists from around the world to promote youth voices in national climate policy and international climate negotiations, even attending under Climate Generation’s accreditation. She graduated from Smith College in 2016 and now aims to blend her passion for travel, outdoor adventure, and climate change advocacy.

cole-picCole Norgaarden is a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, and a former co-chair of Climate Generation’s YEA! MN program. Originally from Wayzata, MN, Cole joined YEA! MN in 2009, serving as Co-Chair from 2011-2013, and was inspired to see the work being done by fellow youth committed to creating sustainable change in their communities. He is currently in his fourth year of the Urban & Regional Studies program and is completing a minor in Inequality Studies. At Cornell, Cole was part of a group of students who founded the Cornell Environmental Collaborative (ECO) and now serves as the Director of Environmental Justice Initiatives for that organization.


Craig Johnson (left) and Dr. John Holdren

Craig Johnson is an environmental and climate-change educator who has applied his commitment to environmental and experiential learning to a host of teaching and administrative positions over the course of his career. For the past decade, Craig has partnered with Climate Generation to integrate climate change into the classroom curricula at the School of Environmental Studies through field-based experiences. He has created a wide range of authentic learning opportunities, including school partnerships and exchanges, campus renewable energy projects, and student-led climate-change mitigation activities. In 2007, he brought high-school students to Baffin Island in conjunction with the Will Steger Global Warming 101 Expedition, where they heard from Native peoples firsthand about the impacts of climate change in their communities. Craig has led high-school student and faculty delegations to seven UNFCCC international climate change conferences around the world. In 2015 he was honored as a White House Champion of Change in Climate Change Education and is pictured here at the event with the President’s science advisor, Dr. John Holdren.

Board Chair

leigh-currieLeigh Currie has been a Board Member since 2010 and Chair of the Board for over 2 years. Leigh practices energy law as a staff attorney and the Energy Program Director at Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. For many years Leigh led wilderness trips to the Boundary Waters, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska and the Canadian Arctic and continues to enjoy the outdoors with her family. Leigh is the mother of two and lives in St. Anthony Park with her husband, Peter.