Vadnais Heights resident Steve Jorissen retired early so he could raise awareness on climate change.
Jorissen, who worked at H.B. Fuller in Vadnais Heights for 30 years and has a Ph.D. in chemistry, is the leader of Northeast Metro Climate Action, a volunteer group that formed about a year ago.
“The primary mission is to raise awareness and do outreach within our communities,” Jorissen said. The group has 10 members from White Bear Lake, Vadnais Heights, Shoreview and North Oaks. “We are very active. We usually have one event and one planning meeting per month.” Members also spend time advocating before local politicians and volunteering.
The group was started by Chuck Prentice, who has launched several other climate action groups across the Twin Cities metro. Several months after it was launched, Jorissen joined and then stepped up to lead the northeast metro group.
“When I saw what they were doing with the events and speakers, I wanted to be a bigger part of this,” he remembered.
Jorissen’s interest in combatting climate change began when he was a junior at Hamline University in 1983. For his term presentation for his chemistry major, he chose to study the “greenhouse effect.”
“I looked at how the Arctic was warming faster than the rest of the globe,” he said. When he gave his presentation about how some scientists expected the Northwest Passage sea route through the Arctic Ocean to melt so much it would be open by 2050 and the Northeast Passage to open by 2100, his professor laughed.
“At the time that was inconceivable,” Jorissen said. “The ice north of Canada was 15 to 20 feet thick and no boat could go through other than an icebreaker,” he said. But today, you can book a cruise through the Northwest Passage. It has been open almost every summer since 2005. Some commercial boats can get through the Northeast Passage without the aid of an icebreaker.
“That is 85 years earlier than the alarmists were saying back in the ’80s,” he explained. “It is all happening very fast, faster than most scientists predicted. To see the inaction we’ve taken over the last 30 years is pretty hard to take.”
Now, Jorissen hopes he can influence others to each do the small part they can to combat climate change.
“Given the lack of action at the national level, we need to step up our efforts here to demonstrate to the rest of the U.S. and the world that these changes are economically advantageous, better for our near-term health, and will provide a better world for our children and grandchildren,” Jorrisen noted.
It begins with understanding and then getting involved, he said. Northeast Metro Climate Action holds educational events once a month that anyone can attend. The group is also looking for more members from the northeast metro, from New Brighton to Mahtomedi. Other groups are forming further south and north, in Maplewood and Lino Lakes.
“Our future vision is to get at least four or five people from each of the communities we are in to work more locally with city governments and our elected representatives,” Jorissen said. For example, Jorissen, who has lived in Vadnais Heights for 27 years, has been meeting with Vadnais Heights community leaders to encourage the city to join GreenStep Cities, a state program that helps cities meet sustainability goals. Neighboring cities White Bear Lake, Shoreview and Mahtomedi are thriving in the program, Jorissen noted, and it would make sense for the city of Vadnais Heights to join as well.
“We need to act collectively as individuals and demand systemic changes from our policymakers,” Jorissen noted. “Minnesota has been one of the states leading the charge on transitioning to a clean energy economy.”
The public is invited to the group’s monthly speaker and film events. The next event is 7 p.m. Jan. 13 at Ramsey County Library ̶ Shoreview. Stan Sattinger of MN350 will present on farming, food and the climate crisis. Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by eliminating food waste and reducing the proportion of meat eaten or by purchasing meat produced in a certain manner. Sattinger will discuss ways people can take action on this.
Northeast Metro Climate Action will hold events with former news anchor Don Shelby and meteorologist Paul Douglas this winter and spring. Watch the Press Publications calendar or northeastmetroclimateaction.org.