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
The Will Steger Foundation is kicking off the summer with research to develop and launch an innovative mentorship program within the RE-AMP network that connects youth climate leaders with veteran staff from climate-focused non-profit organizations across the Midwest.
Mentorship is defined as a mutually beneficial learning relationship between two people that involves caring, commitment and trust. This project, which received grant funding through the RE-AMP Strategic Initiative Fund, aims to build egalitarian and intergenerational relationships that allow both participants to gain powerful new insights and perspectives.
This past Tuesday YEA! MN (Youth Environmental Activists of Minnesota) teamed up with MPIRG (Minnesota Public Interest Research Group) to create a youth centered lobby day at the state capitol. Tons of youth from around Minnesota, came to the event. Everyone was excited to learn about the legislative process and make a difference in our state’s environmental policy. Students learned how to lobby with their designated senators and representatives from a workshop lead by MPIRG. Then everyone divided into groups to learn more specifically about the topics on which they wanted to lobby on. The topics were the solar standard in Minnesota, the recycling refund act, Voter ID, and environmental defense of existing bills. Students met with senators and representatives in meetings MPIRG had set up. The day concluded with all the participants singing Let’s Use the Sun (to the tune of Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles) written by Shira Breen and the South High School environmental club, The Green Tigers.
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