Grand Rapids High School Hosts Climate Conversation

Thursday, April 16, 2015
A panel of local experts speak to Grand Rapids high school students

Reprinted from School District 318: 

An expectant group of high school students gathered in the GRHS Commons last month. Composed of Advanced Geography and Agricultural Resources students, they gathered to hear Grand Rapids community leaders and experts discuss the impact of a changing climate on our area.

The discussion was entitled “Woods, Water, and Workforce: What are the current and future impacts of climate change in the Grand Rapids area?” A community-wide discussion on the top will occur in May, but the students were invited to host a discussion first, “because our students are our community’s future,” said Geography teacher Brielle Carlson. 

The students themselves researched the issue and the potential speakers to discuss impacts seen or potential impacts happening right here in our community. The experts in fields ranging from tourism to wildlife management included Megan Christianson, Director of Visit Grand Rapids; Harry Hutchins, Ecology Professor at Itasca Community College; John Latimer, area phenologist and radio host for "Talk on the Wild Side" on KAXE; Perry Loegering, Minnesota DNR District Wildlife Supervisor; Brian Palik, Forest Research Coordinator at USDA Forest Service in Grand Rapids, Jack Rajala, owner of Rajala Companies; Dave Roerick, Retired Forester from USDA Forest Service in the Deer River Ranger District; Bud Stone, President of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce; and Dave Weitzel, Grand Rapids Area Fisheries Supervisor.

“It’s not a debate about whether global climate change exists; it’s about how a rural community like Grand Rapids prepares for potential changes associated with climate change while paying special attention to what makes us unique,” said Carlson. 
“I’m glad the conversation has shifted to you [the students], because you are our will inherit the research.” said Rajala.

The discussion was hosted with support from the Jefferson Center in St. Paul, whose mission is to help Americans study, deliberate, and act on the most pressing challenges facing our country. The Jefferson Center also provided training to the students on how to hold a “Citizen Jury,” which allows students to hear about an issue, discuss, and deliberate about potential action that can be taken.

The speakers did not share a formal presentation, but rather participated in a conversation with the students. The teens posed questions that varied from potential positive effects of warming, effects of climate change on hunting and animal mating, and how changes in climate could affect the business climate of Grand Rapids.

“It’s not all doom and gloom, we’ll figure out a way to deal with it. We just have to get out there and get the work done,” said Rajala.

“It’s you guys [the students] who are going to make the change, and I know you can,” said Hutchins.