Volunteers and WSF staff greet guests at the Chasing Ice reception. Copyright 2012 John Ratzloff.
When the New Ulm journal published the headline: Polar explorer, scientist, bishop to address climate change, we knew we were pulling together a diversity of voices for climate action. Our efforts to bring strong voices together grew when we welcomed Bill McKibben and James Balog to Minnesota this month.
This last month was our busiest yet: we successfully completed an eight-city tour of Minnesota with free public forums and hosted several screenings of the new award-winning climate film Chasing Ice. Meanwhile, program staff attended national meetings on climate literacy and youth leadership.
Thanks to your support, we raised over $10,000 on Give to the Max Day in November! Five generous donors each provided a $1,000 match. We thank everyone for making this day of giving so strong for us and for Minnesota.
Our Climate, Clean Energy and Health tour across Minnesota was a success! Between 300-500 people attended each event to learn about Minnesota’s clean energy path and hear Will’s own eyewitness account. Several forums included reflections on faith and creation care. Events included dinner with community leaders, students and elected officials. Participants signed postcards to their local representatives and Governor Dayton urging Minnesota to achieve the state carbon reduction goal of at least 30% by 2050.
Will Steger joined Bill McKibben’s Do the Math Tour, where Will spoke to his own eyewitness experience with climate change in the Polar Regions and encouraged strong clean energy leadership from Governor Dayton. Hear Will’s remarks here.
A week later we hosted James Balog for the Minnesota premiere of his new film, Chasing Ice. Chasing Ice tells the story of Balog’s effort to capture time-lapse photography of melting ice. Climate impacts are often hard for us to see, which is why the eyewitness account is so powerful. Through the Extreme Ice Survey technology, Balog could speed up photographs taken over many months and years, allowing us to visually see ice melting around the globe. The film is playing through Thursday at the Uptown theater. We encourage you to spread the word and see it!
We are certainly feeling the power and energy of the past month. As we look towards the close of the year, we take stock of the changing climate, which has hit Minnesota and the U.S. especially hard this year. But with the incredible energy, dedication and passion behind all of us, together, we can meet this challenge head on into a better future.
Please support the Will Steger Foundation with a year-end contribution!
Nicole Rom, Executive Director
The Will Steger Foundation is proud to congratulate the following eight Midwest youth organizations for receiving competitive funding for climate solutions in partnership with the RE-AMP network. The Will Steger Foundation’s Emerging Leaders program is home to the Midwest Youth Caucus, a space where key youth climate leaders can network with one another and build cross-generational connections with veteran non-profit environmental organizations across the region. We play a key role in facilitating the Youth Caucus, mentoring grantees, and building a leadership pipeline. While most proposals include a movement-building component, many also include a very specific policy target. Together these initiatives exemplify the power of an integrated approach to change-making and highlight the vibrant youth leadership emerging across the Heartland.
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Chicago - Youth Volunteers
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization: Public Transportation in Chicago's Little Village Neighborhood
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization will continue to develop the Coalition “Communities for a 31st St. Bus Route” to advocate and support the expansion of the recently initiated 35th/ 31st St. bus route extension. The 31st St. bus route will serve six different Chicago neighborhoods and have an estimated ridership of 108,869 people who are mostly low-income and an additional 77,905 riders who have disabilities saving 490 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year and reducing emissions by 70% per trip for the average car driver in Little Village. Local youth leadership is a central pillar of LVEJO organizational structure and a core tenant of the campaign strategy for transit access.
Minnesota Youth Environmental Network in action at the Climate Math That Works conference, Minneapolis
Minnesota Youth Environmental Network/ Will Steger Foundation: Clean Energy Defense
Minnesota Youth Environmental Network (MNYEN) will build and excite the youth base across the state to protect and promote Minnesota’s clean energy legislation. Following on successful effort to secure Gov. Dayton’s veto on the bill to lift the statewide coal moratorium, MNYEN will continue to push the Governor to be a champion for climate legislation. Specific focus areas also include collaboration with Governor and staff on the MN Environmental Congress and partnership with MPIRG on a joint youth lobby day during the spring session. MNYEN is working closely with partner groups including the Will Steger Foundation (fiscal sponsor), Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Fresh Energy, and MN350 as well as youth partner organizations MPIRG and Grand Aspirations.
Grand Aspirations, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota, and Minnesota Public Interest Research Group: Youth Lead Minneapolis Excel
Grand Aspirations, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota, and Minnesota Public Interest Research Group are collaborating to organize Minneapolis youth as catalysts of the Minneapolis Energy Options campaign. The coalition will engage youth as constituents and as organizers of community events, grassroots outreach, coalition building, and grassroots media to educate and engage residents around a 2013 Minneapolis ballot initiative enabling municipalization. The coalition will use the threat of municipalization to secure major clean energy and energy efficiency commitments from energy utilities, create a model for other cities, and build a broad and diverse movement for climate and energy solutions.
Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition/National Wildlife Federation: Building Student Leadership for Clean Energy Campuses
The Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition is working with NWF (fiscal sponsor) to launch a statewide campaign focused on the following strategic outcomes: A “Road Map” for reducing carbon emissions on Michigan’s campuses; Statewide student led issue-based working groups to facilitate the exchange of action based efforts around reducing carbon emissions; MSSC as the leading youth/student voice for the environment in Michigan. MSSC and NWF will also continue their collaborative efforts close campus coal plants, stop fracking on public lands, prohibit Enbridge from expanding tar sands through the state, and increase renewable energy on campuses and statewide. This proposal couples movement building with action to make Michigan higher education institutions leaders and innovators in the clean energy movement.
Iowa City Summer of Solutions
Iowa City Summer of Solutions/ Grand Aspirations: Expand Energy Efficiency in Iowa City
Iowa City Summer of Solutions (a program of Grand Aspirations) seeks to increase energy efficiency in Iowa City and the Midwest through the promotion of a five-year energy efficiency plan for Iowa and maximizing Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards. The primary focus for this campaign will be encouraging tenants in rental units to improve their energy efficiency, and increasing cooperation of landlords in this process, primarily through policy. The IA City summer of Solutions program will employ youth from the Iowa City area, engage local policy makers, and engage partners from across the state.
Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group: Promote Public Transit
A new generation is leading a shift in transportation habits that could dramatically transform the future of transportation in Wisconsin and across the country, if the voices of this new generation are elevated. Young people ages 16-34 are driving significantly less, and walking, biking and taking public transit more – trends that will reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions. WISPIRG Foundation’s Transportation for the New Generation will elevate the voices that will shape the future of transportation and ensure that they are strong and forceful proponents of building a transportation system that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and that meets the needs of the future rather than the past.
Indigenous Environmental Network/ Energy Action Coalition: Movement Building to Stop Heart Mine in North Dakota
Indigenous Environmental Coalition (fiscally sponsored by Energy Action Coalition) is building a strong coalition of frontline and Indigenous communities, labor, youth, and communities of color across the state to halt the South Heart Mine and Power Plant in North Dakota, the first mine built in ND in 30 years proposed to produce 2.4 million tons of coal a year for the next 30 years. Organizing tactics include communication structures and in-person meetings, listening sessions with frontline communities, bucket brigades to collect air quality and soil/water samples, a campaign to educate legistators, and non-violent direct action training,
Illinois Student Environmental Coalition: Engage Students around IL Clean Energy Issues
The Illinois Student Environmental Coalition, a program of the Illinois Environmental Council Education Fund, will continue to engage students across the state in advocating for a clean energy future for IL. The 2013 campaign will focus specifically on the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) “fix”. Illinois’ RPS needs a challenging but important technical fix to continue to meet its goals. Students were an important part of the passage of the original bill and will continue to push for more effective legislation through grassroots training, a letter writing campaign, and youth lobby day.
At times, momentum can feel like a rare thing, kind of an endangered species. As an organizer and youth worker, I’ve learned that it’s typical for hours of emails, meetings, and phone calls to result in smaller-than-desired attendance and engagement. Sometimes our rallies, marches, lobby days, or conferences consist of a few dedicated young advocates, and not the revolutionary multitudes that we had initially hoped for.
But on Saturday December 1st at the University of Minnesota, this was not the case. Thanks to the momentum built by 350.org’s dynamic presentation on campus the night before and by the beautifully executed organizing efforts of MN350, MN Youth Environmental Network (MNYEN), and YEA! MN, a program of the Will Steger Foundation, the Climate Math that Works conference was full of energized high-school and college students from around the state, elders, and other community members.
The idea for the conference was direct and simple. We sought to encourage action around 350.org and Bill McKibben’s new campaign, which primarily focuses on divestment from fossil fuel corporations. The conference was meant to empower people to create climate change solutions in their lives, schools, or workplaces and to confront the institutions of which they are a part on the issue of divestment away from fossil fuel corporations.
The day was full of talented speakers and constructive workshops. The first activity of the day was a two-hour youth gathering where young people got together to network with one another and share projects and ideas. Next, Sam Grant from Embody Deep Democracy gave an inspiring talk about his organizing experience and work on divestment from apartheid South Africa, and the power of connectivity. Workshop topics in the afternoon ranged from in-depth discussions on campus fossil fuel divestment, to planning around the burgeoning and exciting Minneapolis Energy Options campaign, which seeks to empower localized energy options.
YEA! MN, the high school environmental leadership program of which I coordinate through the Will Steger Foundation, conducted a student led workshop and discussion about various school sustainability projects and obstacles that organizers have come across in their work. YEA! MN youth did a phenomenal job!
Reflecting back on the energy and spirit of the day, I am filled with a deep sense of joy and security. While people were eating lunch together, I remember feeling the sense of a new social and environmental reality; advocates gathered together to usher in the start of a different way of thinking about ourselves and our planet. Through my job, I am lucky enough to interact with youth and committed advocates on a daily basis. I am happy to play a small part of the beginning of a much larger movement. Now, I can feel the momentum. I can feel the pulse of change.
Bill McKibben and the Do the Math Tour were in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota on Friday November 30th where they spoke to a sold out crowd of over 1200 people.
Today marks the completion of the first week of COP18 as well as the conclusion of my participation here in Doha. Unfortunately the reality of life as a college student demands that I return to Smith College to finish my semester! I’d sincerely love to stay and contribute to youth involvement at COP18 for a second week. However I know that I am leaving this conference with very capable and passionate people to fill my absence.
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