YPCCC Partnerships: Interview with Climate Generation’s Kristen Iverson Poppleton

Based in Minnesota, Climate Generation builds and sustains the ability of educators, youth, and communities to act on systems perpetuating the climate crisis. Their climate education, advocacy, and organizing efforts work interdependently to advance systemic climate change solutions based on science and lived experiences. They are a nationally connected and trusted nonprofit centering climate justice in climate literacy, climate change education, youth leadership, and community engagement to accelerate action on the climate crisis. With support from YPCCC tools and resources, Climate Generation has bolstered its mission to engage with communities with relevant, intentional communications and resources.

Alison Thompson from YPCCC’s Partnerships Program had the opportunity to sit down recently with Kristen Iverson Poppleton (she/her), Senior Director of Programs at Climate Generation, to learn more about Climate Generation’s climate communication work and partnership with YPCCC.


Alison: Thank you for speaking with us about Climate Generation and your ongoing partnership with YPCCC. Can you tell me about yourself and your role at Climate Generation?

Kristen: I have been with Climate Generation since 2010. When I first started, I managed our education program. But now, as the Senior Director of Programs, I oversee our education program, youth program, and community engagement program. Climate Generation’s mission is to ignite and sustain the ability of educators, youth, and communities to act on systems perpetuating the climate crisis. We work with these groups and align our work to combat misinformation in the climate arena while centering systemic equity.

Our global education program, Teach Climate Network, provides over 10,000 educators with workshops and unique resources to support them in teaching youth about climate change. Our youth program is focused on organizing around the issues that high schoolers are most interested in. In the last few years, our high schoolers have focused on writing and advocating for a climate justice education bill in the state legislature. It is exciting to see the passion and interest the students have! Our community program includes our Talk Climate Gathering, a three-day online virtual conference focused on developing climate stories.

Alison: Your organization is doing incredible work. What led you personally to where you are now? How did you get involved in climate work?

Kristen: I have been in the environmental field my entire professional life. Growing up, I was a camp counselor. In college, I majored in biology and Hispanic studies but focused on environmental education. As a young adult, I lived at environmental education centers, where I taught school groups about environmental science. I was also a naturalist at the International Wolf Center [in Ely, MN] for several years. Through all these roles, I started to see how the environment was changing, and I wanted to learn more about how to prevent damage from occurring. So, in graduate school, I studied conservation biology with a focus on climate change, education, and communication, and that’s where my interest in climate change started. I saw that climate change was a significant threat to all things I loved about the environment, and I wanted to do something to fix that.

Alison: I love hearing what brings people to work in this space. What are your organization’s broad goals for climate action with your members, partners, or constituents?

Kristen: We focus on elevating the role of education and engagement in the climate crisis. Our organization focuses on supporting educators and increasing public participation. To achieve our climate goals, we need folks to be educated about climate change. If we don’t have folks who are knowledgeable about climate change or the careers needed to mitigate and adapt to it, then we can’t fix what is not working. We focus on stakeholders whose voices need to be centered, such as young people, marginalized communities, and frontline communities. We send delegations to the UN Conference of the Parties each year and focus on providing accreditation badges to those who need to be centered in the conversation the most.

Alison: That is so important in the climate movement. Who is Climate Generation’s target audience?

Kristen: We are a national organization based in Minnesota with staff and partners throughout the country. As I mentioned we work with youth throughout Minnesota, and educators and individuals throughout the world, but mostly in North America. We also take annual delegations to the United Nations Climate conferences. While we work directly with these audiences to build their self-efficacy and capacity to take action, I would say the audience we are most focused on empowering is at the local and community level- ensuring communities most impacted by climate change are centered in decision-making and receive the benefit of solutions being enacted. We consider training teachers in justice-centered climate change education, supporting young people to organize in the policy arena on just solutions, and developing and sharing the climate impact and action stories of individuals to be effective levers to do this work.

Alison: I’d love to learn how Climate Generation has utilized YPCCC resources or insights in strategic communication, organizing, or advocacy work.

Kristen: We have used YPCCC resources in a few different ways. First, we partnered with Yale Climate Connections, [Yale’s climate news service and radio program broadcast each day on more than 700 frequencies nationwide], to tell a number of our program’s stories, which has allowed us to have a broader impact and reach a wider audience. (Check out: We all have a climate story to tell.)

We also share YPCCC’s resources for educators, in our monthly Teach Climate Tips newsletter, and at our annual Summer Institute for Climate Change Education. We frequently use the Yale Climate Opinion Maps, with educators and in community presentations. Two of the questions we highlight often are the number of people worried about climate change and the number of people who talk about climate change. In our programs, we highlight the fact that 70% of people are worried about climate change, but only 30% talk about it. That gap is a grounding point for us to get people activated. We also share the percentage of Americans who believe climate change should be taught in schools, which is important to relay to educators. We have also used Climate Opinion Maps to explore data on a county-by-county level, especially to assess, through surveys, if we are reaching a representative audience.

We also use YPCCC’s Six Americas SASSY survey questions to do pre- and post- surveys for most of our Summer Institute for Climate Change Education and Talk Climate Gathering attendees.

There is one particular YPCCC survey question that I really like, which I call the “Hope Question.” The question asks something along the lines of, “Do you believe we will actually do something about climate change?” I always like to ask this before and after our program events. Before the program, the responses often err more to the negative, with people feeling hopeless about something being done about the climate crisis. But after our programming, people respond more positively. There is a much higher feeling of self-efficacy, a feeling that we can do something and solve this problem.

Alison: It is awesome to hear about how YPCCC informs your work and climate communications strategy. What does your organization do well that other climate communicators could learn from?

Kristen: We are very deliberate about partnership building and about partnerships being a two-way street. A partnership is an opportunity to elevate and support the work of someone else who has the same goals as we do. We are very good at compensating people for time and resources, and we also give credit where credit is due. We recognize that unique talents are missing from the climate conversation, and we try to bring in those voices, including BIPOC and justice-focused partners. We are constantly looking for new partners and voices to help us grow in new ways. We are also a youth-centered organization and are trying to build on our youth programming. We focus on supporting youth and want to find ways to help them tackle the issues they find important.

Alison: The intentionality and inclusion you bring to the movement are hugely important. What has been your organization’s single, most exciting, or surprising discovery that you’ve made while communicating or organizing around climate?

Kristen: Gosh! That is a big one. I am really proud of our organization’s work in the last few years to center systemic equity and anti-racism. This is something we have been working on and have incorporated into every aspect of our strategic planning. We are still learning, but this is one of the most important things we have ever done. This work has also reminded us how important being in our communities is. We must be in the community, and we have to be learning from our community, and we have to let communities guide our work and lead us to the solutions that work best for their challenges and needs. We need systems and staff that reflect our community values to achieve this. This includes having diverse staff and partners with unique perspectives. All aspects of the work need to be more community-centric, from fundraising to material development. Our mindset is that we always need to keep learning, adapting, and growing, which is essential.

Alison: How does your organization remain hopeful and inspired to build public or political will in the climate movement?

Kristen: Young people keep us hopeful. Also, we have super intelligent and passionate staff, incredible young people, and dedicated partners who have created a support system that keeps everyone optimistic. The work has created a tight network of incredibly passionate and driven individuals dedicated to solving climate crisis issues. This team dynamic of passion, momentum, and enthusiasm makes us inherently optimistic, despite the challenges.

Thank you to Kristen and Climate Generation for their time and thoughts on climate education, activism, and climate communication.

Editing and other support provided by Cora Hagens and Natasha Feshbach.