Citizen’s Climate Lobby looks for Park City support
Jim Wightman had his moment of realization after watching Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth." He had always been tangentially aware that climate change was an issue, but that film, he said, put things in stark relief. After that, the Bountiful resident began studying up on carbon footprints, net neutrality, and newer, greener energy advancements. But he wanted to do something to get involved.
"Then I heard about the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and attended a meeting,’ he said. "That was about a year ago, and I’ve been very involved since."
The Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a non-partisan, grassroots organization committed to addressing climate change by pushing for policy to be enacted at the federal level. Dave Folland, of Sandy, has been involved for several years now. He said the group has grown quickly just as the discussion around climate change has heated up.
"We have 310 chapters now, including one in Salt Lake City and one in Logan," he said. "We meet with our members of Congress and their staff, we write opinion pieces and editorials, we give talks, we meet with individuals, all in the hopes of advocating for policy change."
Folland said the group was founded on the premise that individuals can make changes in their own lives that will make a positive impact, but broader steps need to be taken, as well.
"There’s got to be big, systemic change if we are really going to reduce emissions and get the clean energy we need," he said. "And that will come through policy."
Folland said while the CCL is primarily focused on federal legislation, they also understand that the way to influence legislators is by showing them how widespread support for addressing climate change has become. And that is why they are hoping to start chapters in as many counties and cities as they can, Park City included.
"The way we go about establishing a chapter is to generate interest, and once we find enough people, which is usually between five and 20, we have a session called a group start, which is a three-hour training," he said. "We talk about the history of the group and go through our goals and philosophy. We actually practice lobbying together.
There is going to be a group start in Salt Lake City March 19 and we are hoping to bring in people from Ogden and Provo to get groups started there, too."
Folland said if enough people from Park City attend that session they can get their own chapter started right away.
"If it doesn’t happen by that group start event, we will keep working in Park City until we have enough interest that we can do one up there," he said. "Although frankly, with the little bit of initial feelers we’ve put out there, Park City is a breath of fresh air. We kind of suspected that ahead of time.
"I think it’s going to be relatively easy to get a group together. There are enough people in Park City who are concerned about climate change and want to get involved that I think it’s very likely we’ll be able to get it going."
Wightman said the CCL continues to make progress with federal legislators. Often they end up speaking with staff members but even in those cases he said he feels the conversations are productive.
"Not long ago I wrote a letter to Sen. Mike Lee, and I got a call from a member of his staff," Wightman said. "We spoke for about an hour, and he was very receptive, very patient. He was not blowing me off."
Wightman said he sees enthusiasm is building at the local level and putting pressure on legislators to aggressively move on climate change.
"That’s how we will make progress," he said. "That enthusiasm from the local level. It’s a groundswell. There is no question in my mind that momentum is building. And I think as time goes on it will catch on more and more. Our chapters are growing. We’re now in Canada, in Australia. The Pope talked about it. The Paris talks. I think there is a huge opportunity right now to move on climate change."
Folland said when he first joined the group, the conversation around climate change was still often about whether it was even real. In that sense, things have improved by leaps and bounds.
"Up until about a year ago I was basically taking this on faith," he said. "But now I see our work paying off. Will it happen soon enough to delay or mitigate really serious problems for the future? I don’t know. None of us know. But I go ahead with the belief that whatever good we do, whatever effect we have, is going to be better than no effect at all."
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Park City leaders are scheduled to receive a briefing from the Summit County health director about the state of the novel coronavirus. Phil Bondurant’s appearance at a Park City Council meeting is slated less than two months before the scheduled opening of the ski season.