Some Good News: Updates from Whitefish Service

By Zack Darby

As I contemplated this blog post I decided that I wanted to talk about something uplifting – it seems like we are constantly bombarded with negative media these days. It felt, however, that it would be some sort of disservice to not address the pandemic that has affected so many of us. Therefore, I will try and delicately discuss some of the positive impacts that the corona virus has had on my service and the environment at large. I want to approach this topic by acknowledging the social, economic, and physical hardships that this pandemic has created. For some it has been harder than others, and I don’t want my words to, in any way, discredit or invalidate the continued suffering that is taking place. With that being said, there is kind of a silver lining that can been seen if we look hard enough.

As the Energy Corps Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Whitefish my primary goals are to decrease the greenhouse gas emissions in Whitefish and increase community resilience in the face of climate change. Thanks COVID-19 for making these aspects of my service easy… With the depressed economy and shelter in place mandates, non-essential transportation drastically decreased – the transportation sector is the biggest GHG emitter. For February and March, China saw an 18 percent decline in carbon emissions. Meanwhile, the EU is projecting emissions to fall by 400 million metric tons in 2020.

While the post-COVID era will undoubtedly see a return of industrial emissions, there is the possibility to continue to curb the transportation sector. For many individuals and businesses working from home has become the norm. If this behavior could be continued, we could continue this current trend of diminishing our footprint. Imagine, instead of flying across the country for a meeting, or sitting in traffic commuting to work, employees could eliminate or reduce this behavior. The resilience and adaptability that many businesses have shown gives me hope that we can continue this long after the global pandemic has ended and reach our emission goals.

Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. In this instance, communities across the world have shown a tremendous amount of resilience in the face of this pandemic, and Whitefish is no exception. Essential personnel, city employees, educators, and business owners have all adapted in ways previously unimaginable. This demonstration of resilience has been a positive outcome and provides me with hope for the future.

For me, the social distancing has been a difficult transition, but there has also been some personal growth that has come out of it! With a little bit of extra personal time, I have been able to ask myself, “what is something I have always wanted to try but never had the time?” The list was too long. The shortened list has involved: reconnecting with old friends, reading novels, practicing/relearning Spanish, calculating my carbon footprint, thinking of ways to reduce this footprint, becoming proficient with website design and other technology, and being outside as much as possible. Don’t get me wrong, this change has been hard, but I also think it has given me the extra time to expand the personal and professional aspects of my life. When I am really sad about the inability to go to a restaurant or coffee shop – places I enjoy spending free time – I try to think about some of the positives impacts our current situation has had on my life. This provides a little bit of relief.

While a lot of my work has been put on the back burner for a bit, we are still moving forward with grant proposals for solar arrays, online Earth Day events, the water conservation ordinance, and new transportation plans. These things are keeping me busy, and it is starting to feel more like spring in this neck of the woods, providing all kinds of new outdoor activities and areas to explore. Cheers to the positive aspects of this strange, strange time! Until next time…

Adapting Our Service
It’s Easier with a Smile

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