Climate project inspired by ancestors

Cross-country cyclist hopes to raise $500,000 to support environmental resilience

Donna Minter is preparing to bike 3,200 miles across the United States with the goal of raising $500,000 to support climate change organizations. — Donna Minter Donna Minter is preparing to bike 3,200 miles across the United States with the goal of raising $500,000 to support climate change organizations. — Donna Minter

Several years ago while tucking my 7-year-old granddaughter Hawith into bed, I lay next to her for a goodnight Grammy chat.

She leaned close and said, “Grammy, I want to do adventures with you!”

I replied, “Hawith, you do not have to ask me twice.”

That was it! The seed of “Get Outside with Grammy” was sown, and my responsibility as an elder to step up my game to care for the Earth was heightened.

I am reminded of my elders who cared for the Earth so that I and others can enjoy, share and be good stewards of its bounty. I want wild places to be available to everybody, everywhere. To accomplish this, we have much work to do, given the impending climate apocalypse.

My elders taught me how to be a good ancestor. They didn’t use the current language of climate justice, but they practiced what we now call climate stewardship and environmentalism.

Before it became popular, my mom recycled newspapers, cans, bottles and plastic. She calculated the amount of water used in the dishwasher compared to washing dishes by hand so she could have clean dishes while conserving water. To reduce food waste, Mom cooked just enough for our family of six.

My dad noticed the tree canopy in our small Indiana town was depleting and planted maple trees across town. I don’t think he asked for anyone’s permission.

Twice a week he filled a plastic kiddie pool with water in the back of an old red Ford truck and drove to every young tree to water them. He nurtured each sapling until it could sustain itself. The trees thrived because of his care, connecting them to the Earth’s supporting system for the benefit of generations to come. His initiative led to a town-wide tree board to grow trees.

Dad also planted trees on the land behind our family’s home. One of my paid gigs during a summer in college was to water these saplings. Every morning at 6 a.m. I carried water to each of 100 pine and red oak trees.

At the time I did not see his grand scheme: Planting trees was for the health, beauty and well-being of the Earth and generations of humans to come.

Mom and Dad purchased land in southern Michigan to place it in a local land conservancy and ensure that it would remain wild forever. Dad’s ashes are scattered on this land. When my 92-year-old mom transitions to the next life, her ashes will join his. They gifted this land to a church camp that had a history of practicing land stewardship and environmental sustainability.

As a family physician, dad launched a chapter of the American Lung Association in our town to reduce the harmful effects of cigarette smoking. He asked friendly yet poignant questions of his pharmacist colleagues about why they sold cigarettes in stores that otherwise promoted healing. I still have a small button from his anti-smoking campaign that says, “Make Love, Not Smoke.” As a seventh-grader, little did I know what I was naively promoting when I proudly wore it to school and church.

Dad pursued a smoking ban in public and private establishments. He ­talked to owners of taverns and restaurants about making our town free of secondhand smoke. This was quite an adventure, because dad did not consume alcohol. Not every owner liked what they heard from him. Still, he always felt good that he at least made new acquaintances during these bar-hopping excursions.

Several years later, with the support of many others in the community, the entire county became smoke-free in private and public establishments. Dad’s anti-smoking campaign showed me one person’s actions can make long-lasting change.

Dad and mom encouraged me to get outside to enjoy and share nature’s gifts. They supported my desire to hike, wilderness backpack and bikepack. They bought me my first backpacking sleeping bag for my 18th birthday. They encouraged my choices to engage in service opportunities, leading to working at a homeless shelter and thrift shop in San Francisco, a drug rehabilitation center in England and a wilderness school for troubled youth in Virginia.

Donna Minter will be joined by her friend Becky Bolander, right, on their 12-week bicycle journey across the United States this fall. — Donna Minter
Donna Minter will be joined by her friend Becky Bolander, right, on their 12-week bicycle journey across the United States this fall. — Donna Minter

I’ve led bicycling and backpacking trips with youth and adults, worked as a psychologist with people entangled in our criminal legal system and founded a peacebuilding institute to teach trauma awareness and resilience strategies within a racial and cultural justice framework.

These experiences taught me how to care for myself, others and the Earth. Now, at 66 years old, I know that to enjoy and share outdoor adventures with Hawith I need to engage with others and support those working for climate justice.

As a White, cis-gender, educated baby boomer woman, it’s incumbent upon me to use my privilege to work with others in the climate justice movement.

In addition to giving money to organizations, I can be an ambassador within my spheres of influence by talking openly about climate change and justice. I can invite other people to give their time, energy and money to climate justice organizations.

As a part of my “rewirement,” I said yes when invited to give my time and expertise to a racially and culturally diverse climate collaborative to develop a three-day training called Climate STARR (Strategies for Trauma, Action, Resilience and Regeneration).

Climate STARR provides communities and organizations the time and space to strengthen hope and build resilience for climate justice action. Climate STARR is for everyone who:
— cares deeply about our earth but wonders if anything they can do makes a difference;
— is burning out from guilt, concern or activism;
— has lived with environmental injustice for generations;
— sometimes feels overwhelmed or frozen by grief, despair and angst;
— can talk about climate data but holds numbed emotions in their body;
— has gifts and energy to give to climate justice work but is not sure where to start;
— wants to stay resilient as they address climate issues.

The collaborative is committed to economic justice by ensuring that all people, regardless of financial status, have access to the Climate STARR training.

Another way I am working toward climate justice is by saying yes to my lifelong dream to bicycle across America. As I bike 3,200 miles from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla., this fall, I’ll ask people I meet, “How has climate change impacted you personally?” I will video our conversations and post them on social media.

This 12-week Grammy Ride bicycle trip with my best biking pal Becky will fulfill my BHAG — Big Hairy Audacious Goal — to raise $500,000 for five fiscally responsible climate justice organizations: Climate Generation, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, Third Act, Climate Ride and Climate STARR.

While I will graciously accept large donations, I believe there are at least 50,000 people who will give $10 or more to achieve this BHAG. Many hands make light work. We can reach this BHAG together.

I am doing this because I love outdoor adventures. I love the Earth. I love our Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer. I love building community with others. I love being a responsible elder. I want to be a good ancestor for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and yours.

I want to ensure that I never join the Somebody Oughta Club. Yes, I do this because I want to share outdoor adventures with Hawith. I also want so much more with you as we care for God’s Earth together.

Donna Minter resides on Dakota land in Minneapolis and is a member of Faith Mennonite Church. She is a licensed psychologist and peacebuilding instigator who founded the Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute. She can be reached at

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