Steamboat residents hold rally for climate action (with video)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — “Climate change is not a lie, do not let our planet die.”

Those were the words chanted by about 35 community members as they waved signs and listened to speeches Friday outside the Routt County Historic Courthouse. While the speeches were from different community members, they surrounded one central message: Climate change is here and the community needs to take action.

“We feel an overwhelming sense of urgency to do something yesterday,” said Steamboat Springs City Council member Sonja Macys. “We need massive change in everyone’s personal behavior individually and collectively.”

Macys delivered a speech alongside Yampa Valley Sustainability Council Executive Director Michelle Stewart and Steamboat Springs High School student activist Emi Cooper. The three emphasized a need for taking action against climate change now, particularly for youth.

“Despite a pandemic that has threatened the lives and well-being of people in our community, we have continued this fight for sustainability,” Cooper said.

Most participants at the rally were teenagers from Steamboat Springs High School — holding signs that read “protect our Earth,” “honk for climate action” and “love your mother,” with a drawing of Earth.

While Macys and Stewart spoke about specific policy changes to decrease carbon emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change, the students attending said they did so because they will inherit a warmer, drier planet someday if change does not start now.

“Our future is at stake,” said Connor Frithsen, a freshman at the high school. “Younger voters also tend to be the ones to vote for more environmentally friendly policies and politicians.”

Stewart also said climate action should be led heavily by youth because other students will listen to their peers.

“Youth leadership is such an important part of community-based climate action,” Stewart said. “People listen to youth because it’s their future.”

In addition to raising awareness in Steamboat, event organizers also set up booths for their attendees to call Routt County’s state and federal representatives and register to vote, with raffle prizes for participating in each.

“We’re trying to provide people with a lot of options that they can do to get involved while also having fun,” Cooper said.

Many at the rally also said its timing was significant, as Friday was 55 degrees and had almost no snow on the ground, which Stewart called “rare and concerning for the Yampa Valley.”

“Climate change is already here,” Stewart added, referencing Colorado’s three largest wildfires on record in 2020 and a warmer, drier Yampa Valley each year.

Lulu Gould, head of voter registration for the Routt County Democrats, said she was at the rally working to register voters because enacting environmental policy is key to solving climate issues.

“A big reason we all live here in Steamboat is that we cherish our open space and we want to protect it,” Gould said. “Having an economy that revolves around outdoor recreation, we are so dependent on our environment.”

Stewart also said Northwest Colorado is already seeing heavy impacts of climate change because Routt and Moffat counties are “global warming hot spots,” meaning they have seen temperature increases quickly and more drastically the past several years than other parts of the country.

“Own and empower yourselves to be the changes we need,” Stewart told attendees.

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