By Hailey Jorgensen:
In high school I took an AP Environmental Science class. It was supposed to be an easy way to get college credit and I always enjoyed science courses anyways. However, something really clicked for me. While my friends were falling asleep because Mr. Town never turned on the classroom lights, I was enthralled. Our impact on the planet became overwhelmingly clear. Climate change was a terrifying marvel; why are we not all driving electric cars?? I was unapologetically hooked.
Now, working as the Energy Corps service member for Climate Smart Missoula, I finally get a chance to make, what feels like, a real difference. Some days the reality of the situation we are in, especially with a new climate change denial administration, feels incredibly daunting. Even so, my first couple months with Energy Corps have proven to me that local communities like Missoula are the best source of hope for positive action. We have the power to make change happen here at a local level, and that is an amazing feeling.
Already, cities and communities like Missoula are setting the example for climate action, smart policies, and building climate resiliency. Part of our role at Climate Smart Missoula is developing the partnerships and connections needed to catalyze these actions while bringing climate change awareness and action to the community level. In just the first few months of my work with Climate Smart, I have already participated in some of the vital aspects of community action: conversation, celebration and information! We hosted a Health and Community Climate Summit in October. This event focused on the myriad of challenges climate change will pose to our health sector, from increased heat and smoke to mental health impacts. We celebrated our first full year with a big party complete with “Smarty Pants Awards”, a cake walk, and super cool solar lanterns. We’ve also launched two new web pages, Energy Wise and Solar Smart, in preparation for energy-focused programs next year.
But Missoula is far from alone in this movement. Cities large and small, from coast to coast are taking similar strides to build climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. Every one of these efforts look to other cities and communities for examples of best practices and programs. So on the days when I’m stuck wondering why I just spent four hours making infographics, I think why not? Why not strive to make Missoula an example for other communities? Let’s provide the information, have the conversations and create a space for celebration. After all, why not Missoula? Why not Climate Smart? Why not us?
Hailey Jorgensen has a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a minor in Climate Change Studies and GIS certificate from the University of Montana. She worked with the Clark Fork Coalition as their climate change intern in 2013 and served as the Climate Change Studies Program Assistant in her final year. Since graduating, she has lived in Bend, OR. Hailey is serving at Climate Smart Missoula where she is helping to update and implement a Community Climate Action Plan, and to communicate greenhouse gas emissions and resiliency efforts for the Missoula area. Overall, she will connect and support groups working on climate mitigation and adaptation, and initiate activities that directly address climate solutions.