Over 40 people from across the Midwest came together in Duluth, MN to participate in our Talk Climate Institute on March 25-26, 2019.

Polls on climate change show that 70% of Americans believe that climate change is happening and that it will cause harm to future generations, yet two-thirds of Americans say they never talk about it. So, we know that there is a disconnect between people feeling concerned, but lacking confidence. One of the most important things we can do to address climate change is to talk about it!

The Program

During the Talk Climate Institute, participants developed skills to unpack dynamics on beliefs and behavior to find common ground, and to learn practical strategies to begin new possibilities. They actively participated in a progression of activities that layered upon each other through personal reflection, group sharing, storytelling, art, workshops, partner conversations and more. The work is such that what you put into it is what you get out of it, and it tends to stretch people out of their comfort zone. This is where we see the biggest potential to build confidence and empowerment, which is essential for engaging in a challenging issue like climate change.

The American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) was a warm and welcoming space to come together. AICHO helped to reflect the beautiful place that Duluth is, along with the people whose stories are connected to this place. As a local example of climate solutions, AICHO showcases the first fully functional solar array on an Indigenous center in the country, and has implemented urban gardens and green space, with a focus on strengthening climate and cultural resilience among Native communities.

With an intentional effort to elevate Indigenous voices that are often not included in mainstream conversations on climate change, we were honored to have Indigenous perspectives and Traditional Ecological Knowledge shared with participants through powerful speakers, including; Karen Diver, Melonee Montano, and Robert Blake. An opening welcome with traditional pipe ceremony was graciously provided by Ricky DeFoe and Landon Manitowabi, and helped to honor this local perspective and to set the tone.

We culminated with a field trip to visit with climate friendly Mayor Emily Larson at Duluth City Hall. Participants shared their newly crafted stories to facilitate the conversation and heard practical advice for talking to elected officials to promote deeper action on climate change.

What participants are saying…

“Miigwech for all your work. With gatherings like this we can learn more about how climate change affects everyone, and everything. Without these gatherings we wouldn’t be able to come together, connect and work with people with different backgrounds to come up with solutions for a better future for generations that follow us.”

“This work can be hard and isolating. I highly valued meeting others that are also doing the hard
work. I felt I made allies in this fight and now know I am not alone.”

“The Talk Climate Institute was such an empowering workshop. We delved into the science, traditional ecological knowledge, and some deep emotion as it relates to climate change. There are not a lot of spaces that welcome these types of conversations. Great forum and people!”

The Impact

Pre- and post-survey results show:

  • 100% of participants said the Talk Climate Institute was worth their time
  • 100% of participants reported a significant increase in confidence in their ability to explain, mobilize, and communicate about climate change

Participants reported they:

  • Plan to tell their climate story to a friend, colleague, or family member (96%)
  • Plan to use their climate story to communicate with an elected official (56%)
  • Felt more connected to a community of support (100%)
  • Made a personal connection to climate change (100%)
  • Realized they had a story to tell (100%)

A goal we have in bringing people together is to grow attendees’ networks and provide opportunities for them to get to know people in their communities who care about climate change and want to engage in action. Attendees reported an increase in the number of people they felt comfortable talking to about climate change — ranging from calling or texting to actually meeting in person.


Take a virtual tour through the Talk Climate Institute agenda. Click on the links and handouts to get more information!

Graphic Recordings – Lisa Troutman, Drawnwell

How to #talkclimate
Tip Sheet
Video (credit: Alliance for Climate Education)

Keynote Speaker – Karen Diver, Inaugural Faculty Fellow for Inclusive Excellence for Native American Affairs at the College of St. Scholastica, former Special Assistant to the Obama White House on Native American Affairs, and former Chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

Traditional Ecological Knowledge – Melonee Montano, Traditional Ecological Knowledge Outreach Specialist for Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, GLIFWC.

GLIFWC Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment

Social Science – Kristen Poppleton, Director of Programs, Climate Generation

Storytelling Workshop
Handout #1

Storytelling Collection

Reflective Listening Activity

Hopeful Solutions – Robert Blake, Founder and CEO of Solar Bear and tribal member of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe Indians

Vote Workshop
Handout #1

Voice Workshop
Handout #1

Handout #2

Climate Cast Stories on MPR

Partnerships Workshop
Handout #1

Climate Convenings Toolkit

Education Workshop

At the end of the Talk Climate Institute, we asked participants…