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    February 26, 2020 | 12:00 PM

    Three Climate Reality Leaders Share What Fuels Them

    It all starts with an idea.

    To fight the climate crisis, what’s the best use of my time and talents? How can I affect change? What can I do?

    Those questions plagued Erika Gilsdorf, Polly Andersen, and Mark Andersen – and they were intent on finding answers.

    Erika first met Polly and Mark at a small electric vehicles (EVs) exhibit in her hometown of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. She then interviewed the couple for a community TV spot about the action they were taking as part of West Central Climate Action, a grassroots effort to raise awareness of the climate crisis in rural Minnesota founded by Polly and Mark.

    She posed a foundational question to the couple: “Why should our viewing audience care about climate?”

    Their positive, can-do response of everyday people taking action hit Erika like a ton of bricks.

    “Erika had been feeling really depressed; working and living in a community where climate change is not talked about and often denied was hard [for her],” Polly explains. “But that day, as she looked through that camera, she said to herself, ‘Wait a minute, these two are so positive. Hey, I can be positive about taking action with climate change too.’” 

    Positivity in tow, it turned out that the path forward was best traveled together – and the three attended Climate Reality’s grassroots activist training in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota in August 2019. Soon after, What Fuels You: An Electric Road Trip was born.

    >> Learn more about our 2020 trainings today <<

    What Fuels You: An Electric Road Trip is a video series about “cool people doing awesome things for the planet.” When Erika shared her vision for the series, Polly and Mark knew she was onto something.

    “She asked if Mark and I would help,” Polly says. “And we said, ‘you bet,’ which is Minnesotan for ‘all in.’”

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    Erika, a self-taught videographer who cut her teeth creating videos about renewable energy for public television stations in the Midwest and went on to produce for international entities like National Geographic Wild Chronicles, had decided it was important to focus on solutions, particularly electric vehicles.

    “We wanted to promote EVs and broaden awareness on the availability and need for charging stations in rural areas,” she explains. “We also wanted to tell cool stories along the way.”

    And boy did they find some.

    “We captured stories around coffee and beer, EVs, farmers, Indigenous women, businesses, scientists, and a meteorologist. We sought stories that really brought out the passion of individuals to make a difference in their corner of the world,” Erika says. “Climate change can be a depressing and overwhelming topic, and we wanted to invite people into the discussion and action through inspiration, humor, and a bit of fun.”

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    What Fuels You can be found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Be sure to like, follow, and share so these Climate Reality Leaders can tell more stories about climate change and its solutions.

    The goal of the series, according to Polly, is to make the transition to a clean, sustainable renewable energy economy appealing to folks who may not be able to wrap their heads around the vast-but-achievable and necessary changes needed to protect the planet.

    “When I go back to my hometown area, I understand that many residents cannot imagine a retooled economy or a retooled, thriving community,” Polly says. “I know from first-hand experience that for some segments of our citizenry, if they cannot imagine it, they will not support it.”

    Erika, Polly, and Mark agree that attending the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Minneapolis-St. Paul was integral to making their project the success that it has become.

    “Climate Reality deepened and broadened how we talk about climate. It gave us the language and vision to go outside our comfort zones. It helped us be less worried about how to communicate the immediacy of the crisis and be more focused on finding ways to get the message out,” according to Polly.

    “It was Erika’s idea that we should apply and attend [the training] together. We invited her to stay at our home and our friendship deepened over those three days.”

    For Erika, the takeaway was even more personal. She left the training with something indispensable to the climate fight restored – her hope.

    “The biggest thing I personally and desperately needed from the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training was the realization that I wasn’t alone. That other people also felt depressed, overwhelmed, tired, angry … and hopeful,” she says. “And that by each of us using our strengths and talents, whether talking to small or large groups, writing, making videos, standing on the street corner, or holding a sign, we needed to speak our truth. The training helped inspire me to take action and [know] that we wouldn’t be alone in this effort and had people and resources to help when needed.”

    Beyond their What Fuels You video series, Polly, Mark, and Erika are dedicated activists taking climate action in every facet of their daily lives. 

    According to Polly, she and Mark – a “handyman and science geek” – devote “all of their spare time to climate activism,” and like to car camp, hike, bike, and spend time with friends and family in west-central Minnesota.

    Erika, a vegetarian who also loves all things outdoors, “avoids plastics and encourages others to do so as well.” She also seeks communities to visit in her travels where she can use her video talents to help local efforts around such things as pollution, overdevelopment, and deforestation.

    In the end, she hopes viewers will walk away from What Fuels You: An Electric Road Trip feeling hopeful – and ready to speak up for those who can’t on their own:

    “Visual storytelling is a way for me to give a voice to those doing good in the world, and to give a voice to those who cannot speak… our beloved wildlife, forests, waters, and wildflowers.”

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    Are you inspired by Erika, Polly, and Mark’s story and looking to create change in your community too? Join us for a Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in 2020.

    Bring your courage, commitment, and passion. Leave with the knowledge and tools to shape public opinion, inspire action in your community, and lead the fight for solutions.

    Click here to learn more about Climate Reality’s upcoming training events in Raleigh, North Carolina (June 29-July 1); Detroit, Michigan (August 11-13); and Orlando, Florida (September 3-4)

    Before You Go

    At Climate Reality, we work hard to create high-quality educational content like blogs, e-books, videos, and more to empower people all over the world to fight for climate solutions and stand together to drive the change we need. We are a nonprofit organization that believes there is hope in unity, and that together, we can build a safe, sustainable future.

    But we can't do it without your help.

    If you enjoyed what you’ve just read and would like to see more, please consider making a generous gift to support our ongoing work to fight climate denial and support solutions.

    The Climate Reality Project