Volunteer Spotlight: Kristen Anderson

Kristen Anderson was in danger of being called a “bluestocking polymath” even before finishing college. Now, among her many activities, she is focusing her skills and efforts to serve MNIPL as one of its board of directors and a key member on the Line 3 Interfaith Team.

An outdoorswoman from an early age, Kristen learned to garden while studying political science and sustainability at the University of Minnesota. She started a micro-CSA for fellow students, served in student government, guided MNIPL’s work for her Dinkytown congregation, and spent a year studying water landscapes in Germany after being inspired by the Mississippi River running through campus and a class on urban waterfronts.

The Mississippi was the heart of the campus for Kristen and a symbol of renewal. “Many people do not realize,” she said, “that a hundred years ago the river was so polluted in the city that there were no fish in it. The urban riverfront has made a huge rebound due to the efforts of many people across decades.” It’s that kind of transformation that animates Kristen’s hope for the Mississippi now and the climate crisis as a whole.

Kristen first learned about MNIPL as a student in Executive Director Julia Nerbonne’s class on biological systems and the psychology of climate change. She became the MNIPL community connector at First Congregational Church in Minneapolis where she led the climate team to host a solar info party, gather dozens of signatures for climate petitions, write 100 postcards to US Senators on clean energy, and sponsor sermons and a Lenten series on climate change.

Overlapping this MNIPL service, Kristen was volunteering for another justice organization addressing immigration and poverty issues. While she liked and learned from her work there, it was MNIPL’s methods and “step up, step back culture” with the balance it offered that made for an enthusiastic “Yes!” when invited to serve on MNIPL’s board.

At the same time, Kristen was coming to grips with a new depth of the climate crisis. “I was seeing the existential crisis of suffering [that climate change means], how many people are being displaced and how many more will be displaced and suffer. It is much more than just carbon.”

Though a relatively new board member, Kristen met impressive fundraising goals for 2020 and has brought an important regional perspective as a current resident of Red Wing where she grew up. She has brought skills from her work in public affairs to help on the Line 3 Resistance team, providing a weekly roundup of the articles, editorials, and social media posts on Line 3. With on-the-ground realities of construction and resistance changing daily, this update has been vital to the Line 3 team’s ability to adapt and plan.

Backpacking across Europe, woofing in New Zealand, another summer growing food with her friends at Community Homestead— there’s no telling what Kristen’s future includes. But one thing is clear: MNIPL has captured this multipotentialite’s heart to solve the climate crisis and given her a return path to the Mississippi River and our common care of this heart and artery of Minnesota and the whole country.