Climate change anxiety is real. How some local leaders stay hopeful.
September 23, 2017
It seems like every day there's a new story on the doom and gloom of climate change. And rightfully so. The reality of climate change is scary. And not monsters-under-the-bed kind of scary. The kind of scary where local, national and global ecosystems and economies will be changed forever. With that ominous cloud looming over the future of our planet, how do you stay hopeful as voices for the environment?
The Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) posed this question to Roaring Fork Valley climate leaders to see how they — if they — keep the fires of hope alive as they work to protect our natural resources, reduce carbon emissions and study the changing climate. Their responses may surprise you.
Vice president of Sustainability, Aspen Skiing Co.; Town Councilmanr, Town of Basalt; Board Member, CORE; Board Chair, Protect Our Winters (POW)
"The great climate hero Bill McKibben just tweeted that we got Hurricane Irma at 190 mph, Harvey at 54 inches of rain, the West ablaze, record California heat, and Donald Trump is talking at an oil refinery. Alone in America, the only country among 190 to deny climate science, with all good science pointing us to 4 degrees Celsius warming by century's end, it's hard being a climate warrior. But I'm cheerful most days because I see the climate struggle in the context of the human condition. And I don't mean to get too meta here, but it's true: we fight impossible battles. Against bigotry, disease, poverty, ignorance and, at the most fundamental level, against sin, against mortality. We mostly lose. But that doesn't mean the fight isn't salutary. I don't see my climate work as a march to victory but rather as a practice, like martial arts or religion. My work on climate is a way to live a right life. What else would I do in this time and place? I feed on small wins and occasionally monumental victories. I have a short memory. Like a baseball player, I fail three quarters of the time and forget about it. Camus said, 'You have to imagine Sisyphus happy,' and I am."
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Teacher, Aspen High School; mentor, AHS Environmental Club; coach, AHS Nordic Ski and Mountain Bike teams
"As an educator, coach and environmental club mentor, it's the little things that keep my spirits up in this time of so many environmental challenges. Like seeing a few concerned students working diligently to monitor waste and recycling on their own time at the Snowmass rodeo each week all summer. Or watching former students go on to do fantastic things while making a positive impact on the environment (such as Eden Vardy and Aspen T.R.E.E., or a recent grad who has gone entirely waste-free in her life). Or helping a student who saw that our annual College Fair used only plastic water bottles to hydrate the masses and decided to change that by providing refill stations and reusable bottles and cups. There's inspiration in these small successes, and while we seem to be backtracking as a nation at the moment, these young adults are looking forward to their future — one that is hopefully brighter because of their efforts. And that gives me hope."
Co-chair, Citizen's Climate Lobby — Aspen Chapter
"(I feel hopeful) thinking about the next generation! We owe it to them. When it comes to enacting thoughtful policies that protect the Earth, we can all stay hopeful by looking at the world from their perspective and envision a place where careless and destructive behaviors change and political divides are overcome. Human-influenced climate change is the biggest challenge mankind has ever faced. But we must stay hopeful for the next generation. They are wiser, armed with a mighty will to survive and the technology to solve any problem, and are capable of some really good out-of-the-box thinking. Yes, we're on the Titanic, but all our voices together can keep this ship afloat!"
County commissioner, Pitkin County; Board Chair, CORE; Board Chair, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA)
"As a Pitkin County commissioner, I have had the opportunity to shape policies specifically to protect our environment and address climate change. Along with my fellow commissioners, we have been successful in protecting the Thompson Divide from oil and gas exploration, investing in renewables for our county buildings and adopting the most current international building codes. In partnership with CORE, we are developing a climate action plan for the entire county. Our joint Renewable Energy Mitigation Program (REMP) with the city has reinvested more than $12 million back into the community through grants, rebates and home assessments. The adage 'think globally, act locally' continues to inspire our efforts. Collaborating with CORE and other local elected officials, I am confident we will continue to ensure that our commitment in protecting our unique environment remains in the forefront of our goals. Doing this work helps me stay optimistic."
Executive director, CORE; co-chair, Citizen's Climate Lobby — Aspen Chapter
"I feel hopeful when I get outside and appreciate and connect with nature. I revel in the simplicity of the light from an almost full moon cast through aspen trees softly blowing in a light breeze. In those moments, I feel that there is something bigger than me, than humankind, and it gives me hope. I stay hopeful knowing that there are thousands upon thousands of people all across the world working toward common goals of a healthy planet and they are using or discovering a multitude of tools, resources and new technologies. I feel hopeful when I see that more and more, towns, cities, countries, corporations, etc are turning to clean energy because they know it will work and that the time is now. I feel hopeful because I choose to be one of the voices for the environment and work with people in an organization who are dedicated and committed to making a difference."
To join these local climate leaders in being a voice for the environment, visit CORE and the High Five at http://www.High5RFV.com. You'll be uniting with other Roaring Fork Valley locals who are taking action on the environment by saving energy. We'll provide you with tips, resources and prizes to be the most effective climate warrior you can be.
Kate Henion is an Energy Programs Coordinator at CORE, a nonprofit organization that has been helping people in the Roaring Fork Valley save energy and cut carbon emissions since 1994.