Building climate awareness through education and action

Youth rally at the state Capitol to call for a solar energy standard in Minnesota, singing a song to the tune of “Here Comes the Sun.” Photo courtesy of Climate Generation


Where We Live / Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy 

Location: 2801 21st Ave. S., Suite 110
Contact: 612-278-7147
Year founded: 2006

Not many nonprofit organizations have worked with governors to develop clean-energy policy, reached thousands of youth through an emerging leaders program and taken trips to the Canadian Arctic and Paris climate talks.

Minneapolis-based Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy has.

The 10-year-old nonprofit has been working for years to build climate literacy and action among educators, youth and the broader public. It’s reached more than 52,000 teachers and students in that time, engaging them on an issue that affects everything from Minnesota moose populations to global temperatures and the frequency of extreme weather events.

“You might not feel like you can fully see [climate changeWhere We Live / Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy],” said the organization’s executive director Nicole. “[But] it affects everything from food and electricity to way of life and recreation.”

For nearly 10 years, the Climate Generation staff has been working to raise awareness of those effects. They’ve built on the work of Steger, a Minnesota native and polar explorer who started the organization in 2006. It was known as the Will Steger Foundation until 2015.

Steger led dogsled expeditions across the North Pole and Antarctica in the 1980s, spending 1,000 days on Arctic ice. In 2002, he read an article about the collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf, which he had crossed years earlier.

“He was just shocked to learn of that ice shelf going,” Rom said. “Every ice shelf he crossed has since disintegrated.”

She said that inspired Steger to start the organization. He moved from Ely to the Twin Cities, speaking to thousands of people in the early years about climate change’s effects.

The organization coordinated expeditions to the Canadian Arctic in 2007 and 2008 and has continued to lead trips over the past 10 years, most recently taking 10 teachers to Paris for the United Nations climate change conference.

It has also created a free online climate-change curriculum for grades 3-12, worked with Minnesota’s governors to develop clean-energy policy and developed an annual summer institute for educators.

“We’re really unique in that our resources are interdisciplinary and focus on not just science,” Rom said.

The organization has especially focused on engaging youth, developing an emerging leaders program in 2008 that has reached thousands of students. It also coordinates an annual youth lobby day, during which students meet with the governor and state legislators.

“Youth is really where that hope lies,” Rom said. “We really believe that they’re our leaders.”

Climate Generation looked to generate awareness and action in rural Minnesota over the past year, hosting 12 climate convenings around the state. The events featured local speakers and presentations on climate-change solutions that changed depending on the community.

“In some it’s more ag-based,” communications coordinator Katie Siegner said. “And in Duluth, a lot of climate change work focused on water and better management of water resources.”

The organization hosted its 12th convening recently in the central Minnesota city of Albany, about 20 miles from St. Cloud. Attendees heard about efforts from the local zoo, an energy company and Albany High School environmental club.

“If we don’t talk about [climate change] now, our world, it’s not going to be suitable for life anymore,” said Albany junior Valerie Parker, who co-led a workshop on composting. “If we get people aware when they’re young, then they’re going to take it with them, and they’re going to apply it to their own households.”

Siegner said the project highlighted the need for more awareness and opportunities to engage in climate-change solutions. People often don’t realize that composting and other efforts have a positive effect on climate change, but events like the convening allow people to see that.

“There’s so much interest and so much more potential for action,” Siegner said. “It’s really shown us that there needs to be deeper engagement around climate change all across the state.”

Climate Generation will host its annual Youth Lobby Day on March 14. It is planning a 10-year anniversary celebration for Dec. 1, more information about which can be found at


By the numbers

52,000 — Students and educators reached by Climate Generation since its founding in 2006.

25 — High schools active in YEA! MN, Climate Generation’s network of high school environmental clubs.

0.5 — Average temperature increase per decade since 1970 in Minnesota. “We’re seeing much larger temperature differences when we look in the winter,” said Kristen Poppleton, Climate Generation’s director of education.

55 — Percent decrease in northeastern Minnesota moose population since 2006, a decline officials say in part caused by climate change.

14 — Number of days the length of the growing season increased in contiguous 48 U.S. states from 1895-2014.


What you can do:

Attend a Climate Generation community event, a complete list of which can be found at

Follow Climate generation on Twitter (@climategenorg), Facebook ( and Instagram (@climategenorg) for the latest news and events.

Reduce your ecological impact through small actions, such as recycling, taking shorter showers and unplugging electronic devices when not in use. Climate Generation has a more detailed list on its website.


About the Where We Live Project

This project is an ongoing series spearheaded by Journals’ publisher Janis Hall showcasing Minneapolis nonprofits doing important work in the community. The editorial team has selected organizations to spotlight. Nate Gotlieb is the writer for the project.