I am writing to introduce the Jeffco Climate Action Team, formed in 2016. There are 100 members in this independent organization, which provides resources, insight, and ‘boots on the ground’ in the effort to make Jefferson County, Colo., more sustainable. Our group is committed to climate action regardless of our political leanings.
This cross-party coalition recently received national recognition for its work in providing guidance to municipal sustainability teams, speaking out at city council meetings, organizing new neighborhood initiatives, and participating in the legislative process at the state capitol.
Now, I have the chance to take our message of unity and resilience to the international stage: I am crowdfunding my role as part of the U.S. People’s Delegation to COP 23, the largest international climate change conference. This year the United Nations’ Conference of the Parties, or COP, will be held in Bonn, Germany, where — with your support — I will present the great ideas of Jefferson County to a worldwide audience.
Things in Colorado have changed a lot since I was a kid in the 1970s: The average temperature is one and half degrees warmer, which we’re mostly seeing in, on average, higher low temperatures on summer nights. The wildfire season is longer. Spring and autumn extend longer into winter. The storms are more intense, dropping more hail, rain, or snow in a shorter time. Heat waves are more frequent.
So, when we talk about climate, we must look back 40 years to deeper winters and cooler summer nights and also look forward 40 years from now for our children and grandchildren. It is a beautiful and complicated balancing act between past and future.
In our community, part of sustainability means increasing transportation access and walkability. As our population gets older, fewer people can drive safely. By boosting our transportation access and walkability, we support the aging population and reduce our carbon footprint — while also reducing energy costs. Focusing on home solar installations, LED bulbs, and other energy efficiency means our folks on fixed incomes can control their costs.
All the better that these efficiency gains reduce our carbon footprint, doing something limit the impacts from storms of increasing intensity and frequency and the property damage that they cause. In other words, this spring’s intense hail storm and other weather events are considered in the bigger picture and our young group is positioning ourselves to do something about it.
By working at a county level, we take learnings from one city and apply it to others. For example, the city of Lakewood, Colo., has a renowned sustainable neighborhoods program. Neighbors unite to make changes and educate themselves about sustainability. That program also works in unincorporated areas, which municipal programs don’t cover.
This approach doesn’t require buy-in from the entire city, but it does expand the sustainable lifestyle to folks who might not have tried it on their own. When enough neighborhoods work together to achieve sustainable outcomes, we gradually but steadily see a sustainable town begin to take shape.
I am excited to share the stories and successes of Jefferson County as part of the U.S. People’s Delegation and show the world that you don’t have to be an enormous city to have a big positive impact on the future. We also want to show the world that we can be our sweet nostalgic towns and still embrace new technologies, new energy options, and new businesses.
I am honored to be part of the U.S. People’s Delegation, bringing ordinary folks into the arenas where big decisions are made — I hope you’ll consider supporting this effort, too.
Rhiannon Gallagher works as a user experience consultant, helping businesses identify and enunciate the stories of their users, clients, or products. Her passion is telling the stories that keep people from feeling helpless or overwhelmed by climate change. She highlights actions, innovations, and positive momentum, helping people to be hopeful and empowered. Rhiannon is a Climate Reality Leader and the North American Coordinator for Project 54, which educates the citizens of developing nations about climate change. She is the founder of Parents for the Planet and the Jeffco Climate Action Team.