Aspen environmentalists urged not to lose the faith, even in the era of Trump
Aspen environmentalists were urged Monday night to keep the faith even if the odds seem stacked against them by the Trump administration.
Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado, said his environmental group and many other regional and national organizations are beefing up their efforts, not falling back because of challenges such as climate denial, fossil-fuel preference and gutting of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“There are plenty of things we are going to be going to the barricades on,” Maysmith told an audience of about 90 people at the Limelight Hotel. He was the featured speaker in Aspen Skiing Co.’s Aspen U series on environmental issues.
“We can’t just play defense for the next four years when it comes to our environmental values,” Maysmith said.
Getting involved matters. Maysmith said Colorado has a huge opportunity to influence U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican who is well aware that Hillary Clinton won the state by 5 percentage points over Trump. Gardner realizes he cannot be in lockstep with the president, so lobbying from citizens can make a difference, Maysmith claimed.
If Gardner chooses not to listen to his constituents, groups like Conservation Colorado have the organizational ability to make him pay in his next election, Maysmith said.
In a conversation with Auden Schendler, Aspen Skiing Co. vice president of sustainability, Maysmith said he believes the majority of Americans, including Donald Trump supporters, are of like mind on issues such as preserving public lands. He noted that public pressure forced a Utah congressman to abandon a bill to sell public lands.
Colorado is proving that even issues such as clean energy are drawing bipartisan support. A conservative state senator from Colorado’s northeastern plains has embraced a wind farm because it brings jobs to his district, provides income for farmers leasing land for turbines and generates taxes for hard-luck counties.
“Now we have happy farmers in that state Senate district,” he said. And happy farmers influence their legislators.
Maysmith didn’t argue with audience members who lamented that big oil has a death grip on politics through contributions and lobbying, but he said people can overcome the petroleum industry’s influence. As an example, he noted that Colorado voters passed a state law in 2004 that established clean-energy requirements that utility companies must achieve. It won because of grassroots support, despite oil and gas industry opposition, Maysmith said.
He urged the audience to get involved to a greater degree and stay involved by constantly voicing opinions to local, state and national elected officials, and by helping organizations such as Conservation Colorado that have organizing clout.
“We can fundamentally change what happens when we’re organized,” Maysmith said. “We’ve got to do it. We’ve got to get our democracy back.”
More on Conservation Colorado can be found at http://www.conservationco.org/.
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