By Sally Jo Sorensen.
Speaking to over 200 people gathered in the sanctuary of Granite Falls Lutheran Church for a forum on “Clean Energy, Climate and Health,” polar explorer Will Steger paused before a slide of a magnificent polar bear standing on an ice floe.
“I believe it’s a moral issue,” he said, “As a Christian, I believe that these creatures are God’s creation and we need to care for them.”
While a sense of moral duty may have compelled Steger to act, most of his presentation was based in the science of climate change, as he presented a wealth of alarming scientific data that documented the rapid changes to conditions that he has seen happening from his expeditions in the 1980s to the present.
Fresh Energy’s J. Drake Hamilton joined Steger as co-presenter, focusing on policy changes that Minnesotans had worked together to achieve since the group’s founding in 1991.
She segued from Steger’s polar perspective to her group’s more downhome focus by noting “Fresh Energy was founded on the premise that more Minnesotans should be weighing in on energy issues,” Hamilton said. “The first harbinger of climate change was polar bears, but we’re in this for people.”
Minnesotans are leaders in engaging ordinary citizens in discussions of the state’s energy future, she said as she reviewed the state’s collective decision to curb mercury emissions by coal-burning plants that were making it unsafe to eat fish caught in our lakes. Where Minnesota set the standard, the rest of the nation has followed with federal standards limiting mercury emissions.
Noting the state’s establishment of renewable energy standards—and recent reports by Xcel Energy that solar and wind energy were cheaper than burning coal—Hamilton urged members of the audience to contact the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission during an open comment period about the future of the Sherco coal-burning power plant.
Learn more and contact the PUC on a page Fresh Energy has prepared here.
As one might expect at an appearance by a celebrated explorer who has created a foundation to educate and engage young people in the movement to address human-made climate change, young activists from local schools formed a significant part of the audience
High school students from Yellow Medicine East, Lac Qui Parle, and Marshall joined college students from the University of Minnesota at Morris and Southwest Minnesota State University. MPIRG members were in charge of selecting questions from cards submitted by the audience for the forum’s question-and-answer segment.
CURE served as the local host for the forum, which it sponsored with Fresh Energy, the Will Steger Foundation, Conservation Minnesota and the Sierra Club – North Star. Co-sponsors included Land Stewardship Project, University of Minnesota – Morris MPIRG Chapter and the Izaak Walton League of America – Midwest Office.