What’s Your Climate Story?

by Mary-Margaret Zindren, EVP/Executive Director

In between enjoying warm, sunny days with family and friends and venturing out for experiences long derailed by the pandemic, we have another suggestion for your summer plans.

Tell us your story – your climate story.

As those who’ve worked on the AIA Minnesota Culture Change Initiative know, we have embraced systems thinking and leverage points analysis in driving change within the profession of architecture. Two of the most powerful leverage points within a system are goals and mindsets.

Many Minnesota firms have signed onto the Architecture 2030 Commitment. In doing so, they have committed to the goal of phasing out CO2 emissions in the built environment by 2040. (To find out more about how your firm can join, visit https://www.aia.org/resources/202041-the-2030-commitment  or reach out to our AIA Minnesota COTE committee co-chairs.)

Even more powerful than embracing goals related to climate action is changing our mindsets; changing how we view the world and how we view ourselves.

Do you see yourself as a person and as an architecture professional who is committed to solving the climate crisis?

If so, what is your climate story? How did you move from skepticism or ambivalence to making climate action a priority in your life and your work? How did you grow your knowledge and expertise? How has your heart been broken open; your resolve set and strengthened? What keeps you going in this work?

We want to know your climate story. And we want to share it with Minnesota’s architecture community, and beyond.

And if you don’t yet see yourself as committed to climate action as a driving personal or professional priority, why is that? Does this work feel too removed from your clients’ priorities? Does the nature of the problem feel too overwhelming? Do you feel like you need more knowledge and skills? Does the problem feel too politically charged? We hope that you will see yourself in the stories of others and that you will be moved and inspired by their journeys.

Taking cues from the approach employed at the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit, which we hosted here in Minneapolis in 2019, and Will Steger’s nonprofit Climate Generation and their publication Eyewitness (https://www.climateeyewitness.org/ ), we will be collecting members’ climate stories, sharing them with the AIA Minnesota membership, and highlighting several of them during the four days of the AIA Minnesota Annual Conference (October 27, November 3, November 10-11).

Here’s what we ask that you keep in mind as you craft your climate story:

  • As Climate Generation puts it, “a climate story is a personal account of climate change from your experience and observations, ranging from despair to hope, from loss to resolve. It is descriptive and makes an emotional connection to climate change.”
  • Make it short and simple – 300-500 words. Also think about a couple of photographs or images that can help bring your story to life.
  • If you find yourself having trouble getting started, consider working from these prompts:
    • Tell a story about an experience that helped shape the person you are today. How has that influenced the way you see the world?
    • What is your experience of climate change? How have you been impacted or what observations you noticed? 
    • How might you have moved from skepticism or ambivalence about climate change to it becoming a priority in your life and work?
    • How have you been thinking about climate change lately? What have you heard recently? What aspect resonates personally?
    • We know that to build a better future, we must first imagine ourselves there. What would a better world look like to you? Take a moment to move through it, and then write it down.
    • What is the role that you will play in making this future a reality? What will keep you going?
  • In reviewing and refining your climate story, consider these tips:
    • Hone in on a specific moment and describe it in detail, using sensory imagery. What did it look like, what did it feel like, what did it taste like, what did it sound like, what did it smell like? 

    • What are some emotions that you felt in your story, or emotions that your story brought up for you? (relieved, frustrated, thankful, ecstatic)

    • What values can you find within your story? (beauty, compassion, family)
    • Where might you find the connections to climate change within your story. Adding 1-2 climate change facts can help to ground your story (i.e., Minnesota’s winters are warming faster than any other state in the U.S.).

We know Minnesota summers are precious and they go so very fast. We hope you’ll make time to craft and share your climate story during these next three months. Even if you never turn it in to us, the act of thinking about your climate story, and the clarity that comes from putting your thoughts to words, is an important action.

Thank you for embracing this ask. We look forward to hearing from you.

Submit your written climate story (300-500 words) along with 2-3 photographs/images that represent your story, to info@aia-mn.org. An AIA Minnesota staff member will confirm receipt of your story and images. The deadline is Wednesday, September 1st.

View the June 2021 edition of Matrix.