My name is Cole Norgaarden, I’m a senior at Blake School and I serve as a co-chair of Youth Environmental Activists of Minnesota. The reason I’m here today, and the reason why all of you are here today, is because we are currently experiencing a truly pivotal time for the climate movement, both as a state and a nation.
Over 200 Minnesotans attended the Minnesota Environmental Congress on March 15th in Bloomington, MN, including high school and college youth from across the state. The one day conference provided an opportunity for representatives from environmental organizations, chambers of commerce, scientists, representatives from all levels of government, tribal leaders, as well as leaders from the business, student, and faith communities to create recommendations for the MN Environmental Quality Board (EQB) related to air, water, climate, energy, and land – and to shape a vision for the future that addresses Minnesota’s environment and energy challenges and opportunities.
The Will Steger Foundation was a proud partner in the Forward on Climate rally held in Washington DC on Feb 2013. We sent four delegates from our YEA! MN high school program, including this blog’s author, with the unwavering belief that even youth too young to vote have a powerful role to play in the climate movement.
From crippling drought to Hurricane Sandy, and overall record-breaking temperatures extremes across the country, it’s hard to ignore the effects of climate change. The American people recognize that the climate is changing.
Carbon dioxide levels in the Arctic have now reached 400 ppm and climate scientists consider 350 ppm to be the safe level to avoid catastrophic changes. What does this mean? It means a number of important things – but what stands out is that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere today is the minimum level we’re going to live with for the indefinite future since it will stay there for hundreds of years. It’s as though you gained the most weight in your life, and knew you’d never weigh even a single pound less, ever.
Yes, this is a very alarming reality. However, at the same time we are finding ways to reduce our energy consumption and empower action at the local level. We were part of a group that brought former Colorado Governor Ritter to Minnesota to learn and share ideas on how we can continue to lead on a clean energy economy through strong policy, including areas like energy efficiency, conservation and renewables. We also took a tour last week of the Audubon Center of the North Woods – an education partner and potential host-site for our educator professional development opportunities on energy and climate change. We were impressed by their commitment to reduce their carbon footprint by 80% in 10 years! They have made a variety of simple, inexpensive energy savings measures like insulation, low-flow water systems, and replacing all of their lighting prior to implementing renewable energy sources. Once they reduced their energy use as low as they could, they then implemented a geo-thermal heat pump system, solar PV arrays, solar hot water heating, solar air heat, and a wind generator. With these changes the Center has already reduced their energy use by over 70% and drastically reduced its dependence of fossil fuel sources of energy. We applaud their efforts as an example of what can be done to lessen our impact.
Nicole Rom, Executive Director
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