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Tuesday, 17 January 2012 09:56

What happened to winter?

Letter from the Executive Director

Arctic Oscillation
Arctic Oscillation Diagram

It’s hard not to notice the lack of winter across most of the country, at least in the lower 48 states. Two weeks ago a January heat wave smashed records from North Dakota to California before spreading into the Northeast. At least 1,500 daily record high temperatures were set during the period from January 2-8, including Minnesota. Real winter weather is just around the corner though, thanks to the Arctic Oscillation. The Arctic Oscillation is a pattern of atmospheric pressure that helps steer the jet stream in the Northern Hemisphere and is transitioning into a new phase. When it’s in a “positive phase” as it has been so far this winter, cold air tends to remain bottled up in the Arctic. In fact, the Arctic Oscillation has been extremely positive this winter, with the Arctic Oscillation index reaching its second-highest level on record, dating back to 1950. This is the opposite of how things were in December 2010 and January 2011, when the Arctic Oscillation was extremely negative and several major snowstorms slammed the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Scientists do not fully understand what influences the behavior of the Arctic Oscillation, but some studies show links between it and the loss of Arctic sea ice, which is due in large part to global warming, and other research suggests that solar activity can have an effect on it as well. Our friend and Minnesota weather guru Paul Douglas was on MPR’s Midmorning show recently discussing our weird weather and more. Listen here.

At a recent school visit in Proctor, Minnesota in early January, Will Steger explained the difference between weather and climate and talked about how he navigated his expedition teams without a GPS unit using wind, the sun, and weather as a guide. Students were surprised to learn how skills he learned as a young child enabled him to survive in the Arctic. Learn more about Will's early observations and journals in our online classroom.


Nicole Rom, Executive Director

Published in eNewsletter 2012
Friday, 02 December 2011 10:58

COP Negotiations: Information Overload

One half of the boards with side events, and that is only the listings for the next few days!
One half of the boards with side events, and that is only the listings for the next few days!

View down one of the many rows of booths.
View down one of the many rows of booths.

My view from the back of the main plenary session.
My view from the back of the main plenary session.
The COP negotiations are not quite as I expected. I guess I envisioned a group of like 20 people talking back and forth, kind of like a Presidential debate, but with more people and a narrower scope. What I’ve found is that a “President,” who is a UNFCCC official or South Africa “recognizing” a delegate, typically an “honorable” one, so that they can take the “floor.” They don’t actually get up and take the stage or floor, but speak from their seat, which is alphabetized by country. This whole set up is less dramatic than a debate, and you need to look at one of the many screens to see who actually is talking. I’ve tried many times to see who is talking from my seat in the back, and usually can’t find them by the time they are done speaking. In this way, those of you back home can get most of what I experience (without the 90 F with 90% humidity) via the miracle of the internet. The one type of thing you can’t experience is the smaller discussions of workgroups and committees that occur throughout the day and are not recorded or televised.

The main benefit of actually being here, thus far, is catching the many side conversations and the so-called side events. Hundreds of official side events will take place over the two weeks of the conference, by hundreds of different NGO organizations. There are so many that it is very hard to keep track of when and where they’ll be happening! The side events happen in a big building next door to the main meeting area in some 10 or so large rooms. If I’m lucky, the room will have a sign next to it saying what it will be, otherwise I end up wandering around. Additionally, some organizations such as the International Energy Agency have full day mini-conferences.

A third option of information diffusion is to visit the 200 or so booths hosted by NGOs and trade groups. Most have brochures or other informational pamphlets, and some even give out books and CD/DVDs. I’ve built a solid collection that has almost burst my back-pack. I could probably spend the next 6 months doing nothing else but reading the giveaway stuff from COP17! There are also daily periodicals put out by at least 5 different groups, including a magazine called Outreach that published articles by Paul and myself.

Maybe you’ve gotten the impression that there is an overwhelming amount of information, at least that is how I feel. I haven’t even described the four football field sized tents out by registration, which is a hodgepodge of booths promoting services offered by businesses and other South African groups.

Published in International
Thursday, 17 November 2011 10:45

Midwest Powershift 2011 - Abby Fenton

video powershift_abby

Abby Fenton, Youth Programs Director for the Will Steger Foundation gives the keynote address at Midwest Powershift 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Watch the video...

Published in Midwest
Friday, 22 July 2011 14:13

Will Green Jobs be YOUTH jobs?

Just in case our 5 years of swarming state capitals decked out in green hard hats, running campaigns calling for more jobs in clean energy, and vowing to only vote for candidates who support renewable energy companies hasn’t made it clear — youth really want more green jobs.


Published in National
Tuesday, 08 March 2011 17:12

Why Youth?

Youth: Why Youth?
Youth: Why Youth?

Citizen engagement and grassroots organizing for the climate crisis has never been more critical and young people are an important part of the struggle and the solution. High school and college-age youth across the country are growing increasingly aware of the climate change crisis and becoming increasingly engaged in local solutions in their homes, on their school campuses, and in their wider communities.

Adolescence is a time of tremendous development and growth. The period from late adolescence to early adulthood is the time when critical habits are being developed. Our Emerging Leaders Program is based on this principle, that educating, engaging, and empowering youth in their teens and early twenties can lead to long-term civic engagement and critical leadership on climate change solutions.

Research shows youth who are engaged in service and community activities during adolescence are more likely to be civically engaged as adults (Hunter et al, 2000). Our Emerging Leaders Program prepares youth to enter college and/or the work force as agents of change. In tracking our high school and college alumni over the past four years, we have found that the majority of our youth do continue to be involved in environment and justice issues (many in the intersection of the two) after their high school and college graduation. Many have gone on to join state and national youth organizations, and found careers working for government and non-profits on climate related issues.

Our investment in youth leadership is a direct reflection of our commitment to citizen engagement and grassroots mobilization as a means to solving the climate crisis. Incorporating the core values of youth leadership, peer-mentorship, ownership, justice and collaboration, the Emerging Leaders Program aims to educate, empower, and engage a new generation of climate leadership on a local, regional, national, and international scale.

Published in CoreDocs
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