Climate Anxiety is Real. How Ten Local Climate Leaders Stay Hopeful.
Climate Anxiety is Real. How Ten Local Climate Leaders Stay Hopeful.
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 and fight the bubbling climate anxiety?
CORE posed this question to ten 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. Check out their responses below:
Vice President of Sustainability, Aspen Skiing Company || Town Councilor, Town of Basalt || Board Member, CORE || Board Chairman, Protect Our Winters (POW)
“The great climate hero Bill McKibben just tweeted that we got Irma at 190 mph, Harvey at 54” 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 four 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.”
Anyone who uses artist expression has a unique lens or soapbox to stand on. I feel really motivated through my work to have a conservation message. My art has provided a new way of connecting with my community and reaching an expanded audience. The central message I have focused my artwork around is public lands and water conservation. I’ve being doing this work for a few years and it’s like wearing a magic cape. I have a new tool set for connection and an expanded reach; art has a way of unlocking conversation and curiosity in people. And by making art live at festivals or private events, people have the chance to witness the creative process, humility and beauty through an interactive and engaging dialogue we can both share. All of these things help me feel hopeful and effective in exploring the bigger questions tugging at all of us.
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.
[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!
Energy Efficiency Consultant and Program Manager, CLEER || City Council Member, City of Glenwood Springs
I stay hopeful in my work as a voice for the environment by reminding myself of the many organizations and people who are working for the protection and preservation of our Earth and its systems and resources. All people want a healthier and stronger environment and economy for the future of their communities and families. Many in Garfield County have already taken steps to reduce their energy use and are saving money on utility bills and helping the environment. Many have also installed solar PV energy systems on their homes or businesses, harnessing the sun to produce their own clean energy locally. Western Colorado has incredible resources of clean air and water, sunshine, wild lands and wildlife. By protecting our natural resources and harnessing solar energy, we can ensure a successful sustainable future for all of us that depend on those resources. All these things give me hope everyday — and I continue to work locally for education and improvement.
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 over 12 million dollars 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.
Assistant Planner, RFTA || Environmental Board Member, Town of Carbondale
We are fortunate to have a long legacy of Lorax voices for the environment in the Roaring Fork Valley. I stay hopeful in my environmental work by remembering two words: resiliency and positivity. Although it has been scientifically proven that our anthropogenic actions are speeding up environmental/ecological degradation, sitting on a beach or climbing a mountain helps me remember just how small humans really are, and that Earth does adapt, heal and thrive in every moment. Although we are all doing our small part chipping away at the mountain of environmental repair in front of us, we also have to not take ourselves too seriously. We still need to have fun. I often push the proverbial reset button when I get out in the woods, get dirty and re-focus my priorities. My personal relationship with my immediate environmental surroundings is paramount.
What really keeps me hopeful is the knowledge that, although the problem is big, for the first time ever we have the tools to solve it. Renewables are finally able to displace coal on economic merit alone. Electric cars are viable in the mass market and are no longer just curiosities for the wealthy and socially conscious. Technologies like smart thermostats and other controls that enable us to understand and optimize our energy consumption are cheap and ubiquitous. If you look back ten or 15 years ago that wasn’t the case; any realistic solution to climate change demanded austerity. That paradigm has totally shifted. Now the challenge is not to get solutions to be realistic; it’s to take realistic solutions and deploy them globally fast enough to meet the need. I know that challenge is huge, but I also know it’s doable and that keeps me hopeful.
I remain hopeful by frequenting wild places and feeling gratitude for the natural bounty found there. For example, this late summer has been great for mushroom gathering and trout fishing. Then, I think of the earliest anatomically modern humans 100,000 years ago or so in Africa, who developed a capacity to cooperate along with simple technologies to survive the hardships of drought and scarcity. We all have that DNA for cleverness and cooperation; the natural ability to take on today’s significant challenges of preserving biodiversity, ecological integrity, and ourselves. That’s a legitimate addition to everyone’s resume.
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.
Kate Henion authored this post when she served as CORE's Marketing and Events Manager. For questions on this and other blogposts, please connect with Mac Scott, Marketing and Communications Manager, at email@example.com.