When not submitting proposals and resolutions, the Nordic Nature Group finds time for outdoor recreation. |SUBMITTED
Grand Marais—The Nordic Nature Group has been busy. Between collecting years worth of Grand Marais environmental impact data and presenting it to groups of supporters, it’s surprising that the group manages to squeeze in another big priority: school.
The main mantra of the six local (and two honorary) members—“tackling global climate change at a local level”—is one that rolls easily off the tongue of group leader Olya Wright, 11.
“I got the idea to start the Nordic Nature Group around five years ago. We started doing hikes and then we went on to bigger projects,” she explains. “At the beginning we didn’t do as much to help the environment, we just enjoyed it. We started to feel like we needed to do something more to help the environment.”
In conjunction with iMatter, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping groups like the one based on the North Shore, the Nordic Nature Group compiled their research from 2014 and 2015 to assess the environmental efforts of the city of Grand Marais. What they found through tabulating the “report card” is that the small town definitely has room to improve.
“The grade for the city was a D+,” said Wright. “We also delivered [to the City Council] a Youth Climate Inheritance Resolution.”
The report card, whose metrics were developed by a climate scientist, assesses a city’s efforts with net-zero emission planning, renewable energy use, waste, carbon removal and the inclusion of youth in decision-making. The resolution, delivered by the group, asked for the creation of a climate change action plan in the immediate future that includes the youth voice. Including a voice like Wright’s isn’t difficult, as she is becoming a figure in the community that is willing to stand up in front of a crowd. More than 50 individuals attended the group’s February presentation, which ended in a standing ovation.
The Nordic Nature Group’s connection to iMatter has been instrumental in teaching lessons that will extend beyond their current environmental mission. During biweekly meetings, leaders of groups of kids across the country meet with leaders of iMatter through an online video chat. These sessions focus on topics that are important for advocates of all ages: taking time for yourself, gathering signatures, elevator speeches, and more.
Larry Kraft, the executive director and chief mentor of iMatter, acts as a mentor and advisor for the Grand Marais group.
“Grand Marais was the third city in the country to pass a youth-led Climate Resolution,” said Kraft. “Young people are really the moral authority on climate change as they are going to have to live with the effects of it for a lot longer than the older generations. When they speak up authentically and passionately, it really has a huge impact.”
Developing an extended network has been a second-hand benefit for the young advocates. The work has encouraged the group to develop stronger ties, both within their own community and with other like-minded youth across the country hoping to achieve similar feats.
“I’m helping a girl—she’s starting a campaign in Akron, Ohio,” said Wright. “She called me up for some pointers about how we went about it. That’s been a nice friendship. She’s 11 years old.”
The work of the Nordic Nature Group and other youth-led coalitions across the U.S. and Canada serves as a gentle reminder that one day they will be the ones to inherit the planet
By Casey Fitchett