Guest Opinion: W. Slope community effort to solve climate crisis |

Guest Opinion: W. Slope community effort to solve climate crisis

Robert Castellino and Pete Kolbenschlag
Robert Castellino

The Western Colorado Climate Challenge & Solar Fair May 1-3 in Paonia will bring a full weekend of fun, exhibits, presentations and hands-on breakout sessions to resolve Colorado’s climate crisis. The weekend opens with the Solar Fair at Solar Energy International and closes with a special Sunday matinee showing of the acclaimed documentary “Merchants of Doubt.”

The time between is a working conference bringing people together to take action on the challenges that climate change poses for western Colorado. The event specifically focuses on issues we face that are unique to our region, communities and resources.

Like many places, western Colorado is experiencing the threats of the climate crisis. Temperatures are rising, shortening winters and the amount of snow that falls. Spring runoff and our water supplies are both diminishing. We don’t need to look at our desperate downstream neighboring states, but to our own mountains to understand that climate change is an issue staring our already arid state square in the face.

Colorado’s wildlife is also feeling the pressure of climate change. And prolonged drought has weaken our forests, while warmer temperatures allow beetles and other insects to thrive. The cycle sets us up for wildfires that year after year seem worse than the last. All of us everywhere — people, wildlife, our forests and rivers — are being impacted by the climate crisis in Colorado here and now.

The Western Colorado Climate Challenge is a forum where people can learn, engage, devise and take steps to solve local issues related to the climate crisis. No longer can we stand by without taking responsibility. Neither can we wait until policy and legislation catches up with our circumstances. This is truly the time when the people must lead. The day has arrived when each of us can be responsible for how we energize our lives, how we reduce our own consumption, lessen our own footprint.

At the heart of the Climate Challenge is the Switch 2020 Contract that sets a goal of cutting individual, business and community carbon footprints to net zero, and to cutting water consumption in half.

We already have tools available to accomplish these goals, and the Western Colorado Climate Challenge is the place where people of all ages can join in getting it moving. Our panels and presentations will bring current knowledge and innovative ideas from industry, academic and movement leaders in the region. During the breakout sessions we will use the process of “rapid prototyping” to tackle four specific climate crisis challenges.

Those who come can expect to roll up their sleeves and dive into developing solutions to address a specific regional issue, working with a local leader and expert and a trained team of rapid prototyping specialists who will facilitate the 90-minute challenge.

Solutions and plans will be conceived and tested then reiterated. At the end of the event, participants will be a part of team with a plan to solve these problems. Not only will we learn how we can move western Colorado toward net zero and reduce our water use by half, we will also have the team in place to take the necessary steps that will get it done.

Finally there is hope and way for all of us to do something about the climate crisis. Each of us can have a direct impact in our own lives, work and communities. The Western Colorado Climate Challenge recognizes that we must act with urgency. Combining West Slope ingenuity, smart innovation and hard work, we can make Colorado a leader in solving the climate crisis. Imagine. This is something we can do together.

Robert Castellino is founder and CEO of Climate Colorado and the annual Colorado Climate Summit. He is a professional photographer, writer, author coach, speaker and book publisher. He has written five bestselling books on Colorado. His TEDx Talk, “Solving the Climate Crisis by Rapid Prototyping Change,” is live on YouTube.

Pete Kolbenschlag is a longtime conservation advocate, community organizer and grassroots campaign consultant working with his company Mountain West Strategies from Paonia.

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