City Climate Corner

Youth Episode - St. Louis Park, MN

Episode Summary

Youth from the St Louis Park High School Environmental Club initiated St. Louis Park's Climate Action Plan over five years ago and remain involved today. We interview the leader that started the work five years ago and the current leader of the club.

Episode Notes

Youth from the St Louis Park High School Environmental Club initiated St. Louis Park's Climate Action Plan over five years ago and remain involved today. We interview the leader that started the work five years ago and the current leader of the club.

For more information and links, check out Episode 3.

Episode Transcription


Larry Kraft  00:02

I'm Larry Kraft. 

Abby Finis  00:04

And I’m Abby Finis. This is City Climate Corner where we explore how small and midsize cities are tackling climate change and moving toward an equitable and sustainable future. 

Episode background

Larry Kraft  00:17

Hey Abby. 

Abby Finis  00:20

Hey, Larry. So today we have one of our youth episodes. And I think this one is especially important to you.

Larry Kraft  00:26

That's right. It is from St. Louis Park. And as a reminder, we're doing these youth episodes because the climate movement has been so impacted and led by young people over the past several years, that we thought it's important to share the youth story and how it directly or indirectly impacts a city's climate work in the cities we investigate.

Abby Finis  00:52

Absolutely. And this one, of course, takes place in St. Louis Park, and you know our two interviewees pretty well, Jayne and Zoe, and I think have a fun conversation with them to highlight a lot of the accomplishments that they have spearheaded over the last several years.

Larry Kraft  01:09

Yeah. And it's really fun to talk to these two because one of them is now well into her college years, and the other is the current leader of the club. So we get two unique perspectives. So let's do it. 

Abby Finis  01:23

Let's do it. 


Larry Kraft  01:27

All right, welcome. We're here with Jayne Stevenson and Zoe Frank from St. Louis Park. So first, Jayne and Zoe, would you just introduce yourselves and tell us a bit about yourselves? Jayne, maybe you go first?

Jayne Stevenson  01:41

Sure. My name is Jayne Stevenson, and I'm a senior at Stanford University studying environmental science and policy.

Zoe Frank  01:51

And my name is Zoe, and I'm a senior at St. Louis Park High School, and I'm involved in a lot of environmental groups around the city.

Larry Kraft  01:59

Why is climate change important to each of you?

Jayne Stevenson  02:03

Climate change is important to me, because I truly view it as the greatest existential threat facing society right now. And not just from an environmental perspective, but also from an equity and social justice lens, as well as an economic lens. And climate change is such an interconnected issue in this way, and the repercussions touch so many aspects of our society to me, I've never thought twice about our growing imperative to address this crisis that's really unfolding right in front of us.

Zoe Frank  02:38

Yeah, like what Jayne said, it is the biggest crisis we are facing right now. And climate change just affects so much. And it's kind of a core part of everything, like it affects social justice, and the environment. And it's just like, relevant to everything. So it's super important that we address this now before it's too late. And especially at a time when a bunch of people, younger people especially, are getting involved in the movement, it's a vital time to start tackling the crisis.

Larry Kraft  03:10

Absolutely. Why do you think it's important for young people to be involved in climate action work?

Jayne Stevenson  03:18

I remember learning about climate change when I was younger, and thinking about it in a much more straightforward way than I think it's ever discussed in a political context. And while I've come to realize as I've gotten older that climate change is by no means a simple issue. I think there are lessons to be learned from the way that young people view climate change truly as it is, without the partisanship or special interests working in the background to hinder any form of political progress on the issue. And because of this, I think that youth understand climate change and can advocate for progress and a much more authentic way that actually succeeds in motivating elected officials to take action.

Zoe Frank  04:02

Yeah, not only are youth the generation that this is going to impact the heaviest right now. But also, young people are not acting out of self interest or to benefit themselves, financially or politically, but rather just looking out for the future world that they're going to live in. And it just creates a really unique involvement that stems from nothing more but wanting to help the crisis and make the world a better place so that people our age have a future that they can look forward to without it being clouded over by existential threats and a future of just damage and destruction.

Larry Kraft  04:47

Jayne, you said something about thinking about it as a simple issue and well, it's more complex and certainly, political folk can make it more complex. But I've always been so impressed and inspired by young people saying, hey, just do it. Right, come on. I think that's some of the moral authority you all have. Can you tell folks here a bit of your stories of how you got involved in St. Louis Park, and how the two of you are connected over several years. Maybe Jayne, you can start and tell how it started in St. Louis Park

Jayne Stevenson  05:24

Sure it feels like so long ago, now that I'm a senior in college. But when I was at St. Louis Park High School, I led the Roots and Shoots environmental club that Zoe is leading now. And at the same time, I was also a member of the environment and sustainability commission, which is how Larry and I met, and how iMatter and Roots and Shoots formed the partnership that ultimately led to the development of St. Louis Park's Climate Action Plan. And so as the leader of Roots and Shoots, I would say, I really took charge of the iMatter campaign effort here in St. Louis Park in the beginning -- delegating roles to other members and making sure we completed all of the necessary steps throughout the campaign, including speaking in front of City Council and making my personal case for climate action as best as I could. But of course, it didn't end after we presented the climate inheritance resolution and asked the city council to pass a Climate Action Plan. And so when I was at St. Louis Park, my role was mainly establishing the iMatter campaign in St. Louis Park, and the relationship between iMatter, youth, and city officials that still exists today, and that Zoe is working on in high school.

Larry Kraft  06:36


Zoe Frank  06:37

Yeah, so I am the current leader of Roots and Shoots this year, or co-leader of Roots and Shoots. And we're working to carry out a bunch of the long-term effects of some of the projects James and the other started several years ago. And I'm also a seat on the environment and sustainability commission, which acts as a bridge between the city and the school district. The first year I joined Roots and Shoots was the year that the Climate Action Plan got passed. So I have been kind of on the second phase of everything, instead of like working to get the plan passed more so working on carrying it out and overseeing that it is being recognized and is actually in practice. I've been involved personally with the climate leadership resolution, which is a plan adopted by the school district that says they are committed to the same goals of the Climate Action Plan, as well as working with the city and the schools to have solar panels put on all the school buildings and connecting with businesses and residents to become more environmentally conscious.

Larry Kraft  07:48

The school thing is pretty cool, because I remember that got kicked off with I think Jayne you made a speech at graduation, challenging the school district to live up to what the city had done. And Zoey, if I remember correctly, some of those initial meetings with the school district, they weren't exactly jumping to put solar everywhere. And now, aren't they putting solar on every building in the district?

Zoe Frank  08:16

They are.

Larry Kraft  08:18

That's great. When you approach the city, how did city officials react to you, Jayne, especially on this, and were you surprised by any of the reactions?

Jayne Stevenson  08:29

I think I was surprised just because as a high schooler, I think you don't really have the impression that adults and elected officials maybe take you as seriously as you think they should. But my experience with city officials in St. Louis Park was really positive. And I do think it's important to note how lucky we are to have the mayor and city council members we do. Because I've come to realize, especially as I've gone to college and met people from all over the country that not all city councils are like ours. And that makes me believe that we really do have something special in St. Louis Park. And when I was involved with the iMatter campaign, our city council members were always so encouraging and thoughtful, and I can tell that they genuinely valued our time and concerns. And I think because of the way that youth in St. Louis Park have really inserted themselves into the conversation and developed relationships with city officials. The changes that are happening here in St. Louis Park are especially meaningful and long-lasting.

Larry Kraft  09:34

And Zoe what's been your experience now in terms of how things work with the city government?

Zoe Frank  09:42

Like what Jayne said, I feel like the youth in St. Louis Park are taken very seriously and have a voice that city council members and just city members are willing to listen to and collaborate with. So that has been a really positive experience. And it's lucky that we live in a community where our voices are not shut down or disregarded. But that being said, I am the type of person who just wants action faster and faster. Although we have a great collaboration between students and the city, I think that it would be wonderful if we can just continue focusing on climate action and making sure that the plans we draft and pass go into effect as quick as possible, and that we keep a steady momentum to make sure that our goals are achieved in the near future.

Larry Kraft  10:35

Zoey I love that . The young people holding their public officials accountable to this because, you know, delay isn't really much of an option these days. Do you have any advice for let's say we have other city officials and other cities around the country listening to this, about what's the best way to engage with young people? And what kinds of things should they think about as they are engaging with young people?

Zoe Frank  11:07

I think it's important for everybody, first of all, to be willing to listen and participate in conversations with people from a different generation than they are in because the perspective is going to be massively different. Even if you have the common, shared want for climate change, the urgency is different generation to generation. And the younger people are the more urgent their want for climate change to be fixed, or their desire for a more sustainable world. Listening is most important. And I think that it's also vital to be willing to work together quickly and efficiently and cut all the muddled stuff in the middle, you know, so that there is a steady track of focus. And there's like clear communication, and just willingness to work together throughout the process. 

Jayne Stevenson  12:10

Yeah, I think Zoe you put it very nicely. And I agree with what you just said. I also think it's important and okay to admit that you're wrong, and admit that there are mistakes and admit that maybe enough climate action hasn't been done in the past. And that, you know, elected officials, even though they are older than youth can learn a lot from youth still. Even though we're young, and I think it's okay to have that sense of vulnerability on both sides, and that makes better collaboration.

Larry Kraft  12:42

Fantastic. Anything else you want to add?

Zoe Frank  12:47

One thing I guess, I would like to say was, when I was a freshman in high school, I didn't know anything about the environmental scene anywhere. I knew that the urgency of climate change was a thing, and I was scared of that. But it was not a main issue on my radar. And then by joining Roots and Shoots, I quickly became very involved with the environmental scene and have remained involved. So I think it's important to realize that it's at any chance you can get more involved, and there's opportunities everywhere. And climate change is something that affects us all. And there's never a shortage of ways to get involved in the fight against it.

Larry Kraft  13:29

That's great. Well, thank you both you two are my heroes. Really. An inspiration for my involvement in St. Louis Park. So thank you all for, Jayne for starting this process. Now, gosh, what, four plus years ago, four and a half years ago.

Jayne Stevenson  13:50

I think it was about 2014 when we met so it feels like a whole different world.

Larry Kraft  13:57

Thank you Zoey for being part of this now. Really cool series of generations of leadership and Roots and Shoots that continue to push things forward and keep holding us accountable to do the right thing. And I appreciate you being sometimes uncomfortable with the pace of things right. That's right. You should stay that way. 

Jayne and Zoe  14:21

Yes, thank you.

Abby Finis  14:27

We hope you enjoyed this episode of City Climate Corner. If you like what you're hearing, make sure to subscribe and give us a review. If you’re able, become a monthly supporter through Patreon. As always, you can find more information on this topic and resources from each episode's guest on our webpage, If you have an idea for the show, send us an email at or find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Larry Kraft  14:50

City Climate Corner is produced by Abby Finis, and me, Larry Kraft, edited by me. Music by... 

Abby Finis  14:57 

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

Larry Kraft  15:00

Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.