Sparking climate conversations

Letter from the Executive Director

I remember reading an article called “What the Warming World Needs Now Is Art, Sweet Art” by Bill McKibben, founder of, where he wrote that although we knew about climate change, we didn’t really know about it; it wasn’t part of the culture yet. An intellectual understanding of the scientific facts was not enough – if we wanted to move forward and effect meaningful change, we needed to engage the other side of our brains. We needed to approach the problem with our imagination. And the people best suited to help us do that, he believed, were artists.

I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by art my whole life. I know the power art has in helping us see and feel things in different ways. It helps that my mother is an artist, and she recently produced a series of watercolors and collages to sound the climate alarm through her work (some of her pieces grace our most recent annual report). This weekend, I was proud to witness my city produce an all-night art and light festival dedicated to the issue of climate change – Northern Spark 2016: Climate Chaos-Climate Rising.

As I navigated the event, I was inspired and moved by the thought-provoking and artistically-savvy responses to climate change. The cold scientific facts were being translated into human emotions, and in some cases, into a visual of melting ice, through our partner exhibit Phase Change. This event came after an evening in Duluth last week where we organized an event called Duluth Climate Stories. The event showcased our Minnesota Stories in a Changing Climate film and four Duluth residents who used poetry, song, and creative writing to share how they are personally connected to and impacted by climate change. Their stories were powerful examples of an action we can all take to engage on climate change: speaking about it from the heart to our friends, families, and fellow community members.

I believe that what artists have to say about climate change will shape our values and behavior for years to come. For that reason, we should pay attention to their stories, installations and artwork.

Kind regards,

Nicole Rom, Executive Director


Duluth Climate Stories recap

IMG_7380Held in the charming and intimate setting of Zeitgeist’s Teatro Zuccone, last Tuesday’s Duluth Climate Stories event brought together film and live storytelling. Along with a screening of our Twin Cities PBS film, Minnesota Stories in a Changing Climate, 5 community members shared stories that highlighted their personal connections to climate change. One of the storytellers, Nikki Allen, shared, “you know, I’m actually not a storyteller.” It was a refreshing confession, because the truth is, that is how most of us feel, and actually what makes our stories more authentic. Listening to the personal stories shared by Greg Benson (Loll Designs), Nikki Allen (MN 350), Hilarie Sorensen (MN Sea Grant), Em Westerlund (Duluth City Council) and Lyz Jaakola (Member, Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Ojibwe) helped to create a sense of urgency and hope. These conversations, that intentionally make space to cultivate and share personal stories of climate change, create a sense of unity, stirred momentum, and the potential to move the needle a little further in each of the communities where they occur.

Want to know what you missed? Experience Lyz Jaakola’s story and song here (as performed with her young daughter, live at the Duluth Stories event).

Climate data brought to life

As we prepare for our 11th annual Summer Institute for Climate Change Education, we are excited about the new ways we have seen climate change data displayed. One example is the Unraveling Spiral, which shows in a matter of minutes how Earth’s temperature has changed since 1950. This surge of data spatialization displays was one reason we were thrilled to support the Phase Change installation at Northern Spark this year. It is important for the public to see and feel connected to data, in order to understand the nature of climate change.

Emerging Leaders

YEA! MN retreat prompts reflections and learnings at Steger Wilderness Center

IMG_5288The YEA! MN year-end retreat took place last week, June 8-10. It’s a tradition we love to continue with our high school students – especially when it means spending the days by the lake and among the trees, and nights under the vast, starry sky up at the Steger Wilderness Center in Ely. We closed the school year with reflecting on the ways students grew and what they learned from YEA! MN. Many themes emerged, captured by the student testimonials below:

“I learned that I have a climate story and I can tell it.”

“I grew by getting plugged in and have many contacts in the movement.”

“I learned the importance of storytelling in movement building.”

“I grew by feeling more comfortable expressing and owning my beliefs.”

During the retreat we also spent time celebrating and appreciating one another and especially our graduating seniors, collectively cooking meals and enjoying nature’s stillness.

Sparking conversations at Northern Spark’s Phase Change installation

During the night-long extravaganza of Northern Spark, YEA! MN students volunteered their time to the Phase Change installation created by artist collaborative Futures North. As volunteers, these youth engaged visitors in conversation about the melting ice, the emotions it evoked, and the thoughts it sparked around what our collective future holds. Additionally, YEA! MN volunteers handed out small glass jars of melted ice water as a takeaway from the installation, inviting visitors to continue thinking about, and engaging with, the issue of climate change.


Support our staff Climate Ride and Climate Hike participants!

13131078_1087144298009488_7325553848361956009_oThis summer, three of our staff will be setting off for Glacier National Park to participate in charitable biking and hiking adventures organized by the nonprofit Climate Ride. These events are intended to raise funds and awareness for groups engaged in addressing climate change, including Climate Generation, which our staff have selected as the beneficiary organization for their efforts. YEA! MN Coordinator Nicole Eknitphong will be touring Glacier by bike on the Climate Ride July 5-10, and Communications Coordinator Katie Siegner and Programs Coordinator Megan Van Loh will be hitting the trails for Climate Hike Glacier, August 3-7. Learn why they’re setting off on these endeavors, and donate to their fundraising efforts by visiting their individual pages: Nicole; Megan; Katie.

Apply by July 15 for the Department of Commerce’s 2016 Clean Energy Community Awards!

To recognize the great work advancing clean energy and energy efficiency happening in communities around the state, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has launched the 2016 Clean Energy Community Awards. We’re happy to support this initiative through the participation of our Education Coordinator Jothsna Harris on the selection committee. Any group united in implementing clean energy programs, policies or technologies is eligible to apply – if that’s you, submit an application by July 15! Finalists will be featured at the Eco Experience exhibit of the Minnesota State Fair, and award recipients receive a stipend, statewide news coverage and recognition on the Commerce Department’s website.

Thank you to our 10-Year Celebration Host Committee and sponsors!

The planning process for our 10-Year celebration event at the end of the year is underway, and we want to say a huge thanks to our 10-year host committee and sponsors that we’ve lined up so far. Visit our website if you’re interested in being a sponsor or purchasing a table!

Host Committee: Bridget & Ross Levin, Fourth Sector Consulting, Jud Dayton, Chuck Bennett, David Brown, Lynn Gordon, Ron Kroese, Heidi Bing, Kim Knutson, Julie Ristau & friends, Bailey Family: Joe & Michael Bailey and Jo & Gordon Bailey, Will & Claudia Kaul, Leigh Currie, Cathryn Kennedy Consulting Ltd., R. Michael & Sharon Conley,  Joann & Dan Knuth

Corporate Sponsors: Best Buy, Blue Cross Blue Shield

In the News

Duluth event to share climate change stories

Duluth News TribuneAhead of our Duluth Climate Stories event, the News Tribune previewed the event, which included a screening of our Twin Cities PBS film Minnesota Stories in a Changing Climate as well as a live storytelling panel of 4 Duluth area residents.

Sparking a climate change conversation

TheJournalLogoIn a preview of Northern Spark 2016: Climate Chaos – Climate Rising, The Downtown Journal featured the installation that we supported, Phase Change, which brought climate data to life in the form of melting ice. YEA! MN volunteers staffed the installation all night, engaging visitors in conversation about the piece, and what our collective future holds.

Photo of the Month

The Phase Change installation created by Futures North was a hauntingly beautiful way to visualize climate change, with heat lamps melting three walls of ice representing past, present and future climate change scenarios. YEA! MN student volunteers aided visitors in interpreting the experience.
The Phase Change installation created by Futures North was a hauntingly beautiful way to visualize climate change, with heat lamps melting three walls of ice representing past, present and future climate change scenarios. YEA! MN student volunteers aided visitors in interpreting the experience.


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