Sometimes the picture painted by climate science data feels overwhelming and bleak: melting ice caps, rising sea levels, lush landscapes shriveling to arid desert. Faced with a photo of an emaciated polar bear clinging to a dwindling ice block, it’s easy to wonder despondently just how a mountain town dweller in the faraway paradise of the San Juan Mountains can reverse the tide. Yet as British businesswoman and environmentalist Anita Roddick famously put it, “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.”
On Thursday from 6-7:30 p.m., residents of the Telluride area — and anyone with an interest — can take action from the comfort of home by attending a free panel session with a focus on exploring local and regional climate action plans. The online event launches the “Community Climate Education and Action” series, a partnership between the Wilkinson Public Library (WPL) and the Telluride Rotary Club, along with several local organizations. The series is one of several programs resulting from the American Library Association’s Resilient Communities grant.
“One of the leading factors with this grant was to go from ideology to action,” said Joanna Spindler, WPL adult programs specialist. “It’s common for people to have conversations about changing winters, drought, wildfires — people see climate change and really care about making a difference. But sometimes it’s hard to bridge the gap between all of that ideology and taking action, and we are excited to connect people with tools.”
At Thursday’s panel, local government officials and representatives from sustainability-related organizations will discuss the current climate action plans for the towns of Telluride, Mountain Village, and the larger region. With the climate action plans in the process of being updated, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and weigh in.
“The key is around bringing the community into the climate action planning process, and letting the community know where we’re at with these various climate action plans,” noted Telluride Rotary Club board member Madeline Gonzalez Allen. “We’re at a phase where people can still help to shape it. We very much want this to be an inclusive dialogue.”
The panel will also highlight the climate goals and initiatives of several sustainability-focused local organizations, with panelists sharing resources available to the community. As part of the effort to zoom in to climate action on a local level, panelists will offer tangible options for engaging in regular grassroots climate action.
“There are many exciting ways to get involved in climate action from energy efficiency upgrades through our programming to planting trees, composting and recycling programs, and advocating for a cleaner energy supply for our region,” suggested panelist Emma Gerona, executive director of EcoAction Partners. “Reach out to your regional sustainability focused organizations and groups and see how you can get involved. There is a lot happening in our community and we welcome active engagement.”
While community members have an opportunity to get involved and learn about local climate action this Thursday, future events include a panel focusing on businesses and organizations and the resources available to them to take effective steps in attaining sustainability goals. The series also aims to connect the efforts of organizations, businesses, individuals and programs to create a powerful coalition to advance goals like the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to align with the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent by 2050.
“In addition, Telluride has a target of carbon neutrality,” said energy specialist and panelist Kim Wheels, noting that a year has not yet been set.
While the national stage has received lots of limelight of late, with President Joe Biden rejoining the Paris climate agreement on his first full day in office, local action is an important piece of the puzzle, and part of that includes ongoing education, observed Gonzalez Allen.
“We are at a moment in time where we make choices that can still allow us to be a thriving human species on this planet that we love,” she said. “It’s not too late. Let’s keep learning and sharing and working towards effective solutions. At the end of the day, that’s what can help us to make the progress that we really need.”