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Let’s Celebrate What Local Neighborhoods Are Doing to Help Adapt to Climate Change

Let’s Celebrate What Local Neighborhoods Are Doing to Help Adapt to Climate Change


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Combating the effects of climate change is a broad effort that can take many forms locally.

When disaster strikes it can feel as if the world beneath your feet has shifted. Dust settles and things fall back into place, but nothing is the same. Scars forever mark not just the land, but the mind as well — remnants of the strength and force of the earth around us.

We know the globe is actively being altered by our actions. We know that the climate is changing at a rapid pace. We have seen the effects firsthand: not just the fire one year ago, but the floods last decade and numerous other disasters that have washed away homes, lives, businesses, and memories.

A before and after image illustrating the impact of climate change in Colorado. Courtesy of CU Boulder.

The frustration comes in part from the fact that so many of our leaders are sitting on this information. They acknowledge the climate is changing yet their actions do not reflect any sense of urgency. Everyone likes to talk the “eco-friendly” talk, but what communities are actually doing their part to mitigate the impact of climate change? Let’s highlight and celebrate the many ways that our local communities are working towards a stronger climate future.

There are numerous factors at play, everything from the obvious recycling programs and official disaster plans, but there are also the not-so-obvious: educating our youth in sustainability, ensuring homeless people have safe places to stay, and providing arts programs to express the frustration and emotion that comes from a looming crisis. It may not seem obvious, but the unpredictable weather will mean unhoused individuals will face even more daunting challenges. Studies and surveys consistently show that the younger generation feels hesitant about their future, are worried about climate change, and are hesitant to have children in part due to the climate crisis.

This changing landscape affects us all, but it is not an equal distribution of burden. Those with health or mobility issues, fewer resources, and the unhoused will all be more impacted by a changing environment. The deep irony is that individuals and nations with the most wealth are oftentimes the largest contributors to the climate crisis but will themselves be affected less by the damages caused.

Comparing how each city and town is doing is difficult to do. There is no one “winner” that is prepared beyond everyone else. Every neighborhood has areas to improve on, and every community offers a sliver of hope in their own sustainable solutions. The key is to take action where your community is lacking and celebrate the accomplishments of what has been done.

The unfortunate truth is that climate change is an international problem on a global scale, yet we feel the effects locally on a community level. Rising temperatures brought about by global polluters and massive corporations will alter ecosystems across the earth. Unfortunately, we must be the ones to prepare our home towns to lessen the impacts of these climate events.

The unfortunate truth is that climate change is an international problem on a global scale, yet we feel the effects locally on a community level.

To add insult to injury, oil and gas companies have free reign to frack where they wish in the state of Colorado. This harmful process accelerates the damage from climate change and is actually a key contributor to pollution and wildlife disruption. Possibly the most impactful way to make a change is to show up to town hall meetings in support of a fracking ban, to demand it from our officials, and to vote for candidates who refuse to take the millions of dollars these large corporations have to spend on our elections.

One way to drive change is to continue to look into the varied solutions suggested by other communities. Does your city or community have a similar program or is there a void that needs to be filled? Suggesting programs at city council meetings can be one avenue, starting a local volunteer chapter can be another. Holding officials accountable to climate action promises, making sure that cities are not just paying lip service to “going green,” and educating and spreading awareness to your peers and the younger generations are all ways to get involved that can appeal to nearly everyone.

When disaster inevitably strikes again, when helpers are needed in times of crisis, when we need to turn to the next generation for our climate solutions, what neighborhoods are leading the way?

Photo courtesy of the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless.

Homeless Services

Surviving the winter cold without a home is already a near superhuman feat that many members of our community must endure every single year. It is only going to get worse. As the national homeless population grows, more and more individuals and families will be facing the prospect of a winter without a roof. Coupled with an increasingly volatile climate, the challenge of navigating life outdoors will only become more and more difficult. Planning for a future where existing without shelter will be even more lethal than it is now and will require long-term thinking as well as immediate solutions. When disasters destroy houses, what communities are best equipped to help residents recover?

Homeless Shelters:
Boulder – 6
Lafayette – 1
Longmont – 3
Louisville – 1
Westminster – 2

City Services/Programs:

  • The city of Boulder offers several services including a critical weather shelter at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless on nights when temperatures reach dangerous levels.
  • Longmont created a street outreach program called the Longmont Targeted Homeless Engagement & Referral Effort that aims to provide resources for those experiencing homelessness.
  • Louisville provides a listing of over 3,000 places to find shelter, affordable housing, and transitional places to stay. Simply having a roof over your head can make all the difference in the world on the road to recovery.

Education

A sustainable future is only achievable through an educated and active population. Polls consistently show that younger people care more about climate change and see it as an existential threat to be dealt with immediately. We need future leaders to be inspired and informed about the dangers our communities are facing in a changing future. From floods to fires, those who model the changes, who provide solutions, and who lead us through the next chapter will be the youth. They will not only bear the burden of an inherited environment fraught with signs of collapse, they are also tasked with conserving plant and animal species, managing sustainable growth, and finding solutions to unforeseen problems yet to arise.

Elementary Schools:
Boulder – 20
Carbon Valley (Frederick, Firestone, Dacono) – 6
Erie – 8
Gunbarrel – (served by Boulder)
Lafayette – 7
Longmont – 20
Louisville – 3
Lyons – 1
Nederland, Ward, Jamestown – 1
Niwot – 2
Superior – 1
Thornton – 17
Westminster – 3

K-8 Schools:
Boulder – 15
Carbon Valley (Frederick, Firestone, Dacono) – 27
Erie – 2
Gunbarrel – 10
Lafayette – 15
Longmont – 19
Louisville – 6
Lyons – 2
Nederland, Ward, Jamestown – 2
Niwot – 1
Superior – 3
Thornton – 17
Westminster – 3

High Schools:
Boulder – 19
Carbon Valley (Frederick, Firestone, Dacono) – 3
Erie – 3
Gunbarrel (including Dawson) – 3
Lafayette – 4
Longmont – 13
Louisville – 1
Lyons – 1
Nederland, Ward, Jamestown – 1
Niwot – 2
Thornton – 17
Westminster – 13

We need future leaders to be inspired and informed about the dangers our communities are facing in a changing future.

Arts & Creativity

Not everything is doom and gloom. From darkness comes light. Creativity and artistic expression are fantastic ways to let off steam, express inner emotion, and inspire others to action. Creating a new path forward will require different ways of seeing things. We need the artists, the visionaries, and those who think outside the box to be encouraged to develop their voices. Art and science will both need to play a role, working hand in hand to guide us through a changing planet.

Libraries:
Boulder – 6
Carbon Valley (Frederick, Firestone, Dacono) – 1
Erie – 1
Lafayette – 1
Longmont – 1
Louisville – 1
Lyons – 1
Thornton – 4
Westminster – 5

Mental Health Services

Recovering from a life-altering disaster can take more than just rebuilding. Losing your home in a fire, flood, or other natural disaster can be one of the most tragic events in life. The collective trauma experienced by our communities last year is punctuated by the individual trauma of possessions lost, homes destroyed, and lives uprooted. We will need mental health services for acute loss as well as long-term support for everyone recovering. Mental health, therapy, and wellness programs can benefit anyone but are especially helpful for those in marginalized communities of all kinds.

Healthcare Services

The unfortunate reality is that the impact of natural disasters can often be measured in human loss. Although the impact of property damage and the loss of one’s home are completely devastating, the dire truth is more of us will be in need of medical care following weather events. Climate change increases the frequency and intensity of future disasters. The warming environment can absorb more energy, meaning storms will be stronger and potentially more lethal. Communities will need robust healthcare services capable of handling all types of injuries.

Hospitals:
Boulder (not including branches) – 2
Carbon Valley (Frederick, Firestone, Dacono) – 2
Lafayette – 1
Longmont – 3
Louisville – 1
Superior – 1
Thornton – 3
Westminster – 4

The unfortunate reality is that the impact of natural disasters can often be measured in human loss.

Disaster Preparedness

Community effort is needed to prepare any city for natural disaster. From diligent homeowners clearing their brush to the local city inspector checking for code violations to the countywide disaster plans once tragedy strikes, there are numerous ways a neighborhood can prepare for and help mitigate damage from wildfires, floods, wind events, and other storms.

Wildfire Mitigation Groups:
Wildfire Partners
Saws and Slaws

Fire Stations:
Boulder – 7
Carbon Valley (Frederick, Firestone, Dacono) – 1
Erie – 2
Lafayette – 2
Longmont – 5
Louisville – 3
Lyons – 1
Nederland, Ward, Jamestown – 3
Niwot – 1
Superior – 1
Thornton – 5
Westminster – 7

Destruction left by the Marshall Fire. Photo courtesy of Dan Bruder.

Rebuilding

Unless you have previous construction experience, the rebuilding process can be convoluted and fraught with red tape. The permitting process can seem unnecessarily complicated and move as slow as molasses at times. Finding a licensed, experienced, and reliable contractor is another can of worms. Then the actual construction begins. It is a stark reminder to have adequate insurance and be aware of the risk of natural disaster. Now that recovery has begun, what communities are doing the most to help their residents rebuild from the Marshall Fire?

Re-Building Permits Issued:
Louisville – 123
Superior – 92
Unincorporated Boulder County – 28

Recovery Money:
Unincorporated Boulder County Grant Money – $3,592,000
Superior Rebate Money – $918,927

Affordable Housing

Sometimes rebuilding is not feasible. Sometimes it is best to move on. There is no one answer to everyone affected by disaster. Every individual and family will need to come to their own best solution.  For those who choose to move to a new location, cost can often be the prohibitive factor. Insurance can help, but we know that too many homeowners were under-insured and face massive costs after the Marshall Fire. The cost of rebuilding and recovering, plus the stress of navigating an insurance company that probably is not covering everything you need can be daunting. Finding an affordable place to live in a new community can be the beginning to the end of your stresses, or it can be another nightmare of its own.

Affordable Housing Programs:
Longmont – 9
Thornton – 7
Westminster – 11

Median House Price:
Boulder – $790,100
Erie – $423,300
Gunbarrel – $605,000
Lafayette – $498,400
Longmont – $423,300
Louisville – $677,000
Superior – $660,000
Thornton – $376,900
Westminster – $388,300

Median Rent Prices:
Boulder – $1,711
Erie – $2,564
Gunbarrel – $649
Lafayette – $1,733
Longmont – $1,538
Louisville – $1,831
Superior – $2,162
Thornton – $1,608
Westminster – $1,598

Non-Profit Organizations

Shifting our society away from a carbon-based fuel system driven by for-profit corporations is a monumental task. The largest entities are often the largest polluters. Help support the local non-profits that make the world just that much better by doing their important and varied work. If you have the time, get involved and make a donation out of your time. If not, they always appreciate a monetary contribution for their efforts as well. Either way, let’s make a difference.

Number of Non-Profit Organizations:
Boulder – 5,402
Erie – 5,882
Lafayette – 5,864
Longmont – 5,100
Louisville – 5,890
Lyons – 5,447
Niwot – 5,067
Superior – 5,452
Thornton – 5,199
Westminster – 5504

Local Farming

Sustainability comes in many forms, but some of the impactful ways to move towards a greener future is to grow your own food, or at least support those that do. Transporting food across the globe uses massive amounts of fossil fuels. Climate crises will make it more difficult to grow certain crops and nearly ensures that some yields will fail. Farming locally creates a stalwart community more resilient to global uncertainty and more connected to the earth locally.

Boulder County Farm Data:
Over 1,000 Farms in Boulder County
13,000 Acres of Irrigated Crops
3,000 Acres of Dryland Crops
90% of all crops end up in our food system

Author

Austin Clinkenbeard
Austin Clinkenbeard has been traveling the world with his wife for the past several years exploring food, history and culture along the way. He is a passionate advocate for stronger social science education and informed global travel. Austin holds degrees in Anthropology and Political Science from San Diego State. When he’s home there’s a good chance you can catch him cooking allergy friendly food. You can follow along Austin’s travel adventures and food allergy journey at www.NowWeExplore.com.

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