Jackson Hole is well-stocked with people and organizations dedicated to curbing their harm to the planet. What the valley lacks is a unifying force to draw all those separate efforts together.
That could change Monday after an unstructured meeting that climate advocates hope will spark a communitywide push toward sustainability. The event, 7 p.m. at the Pink Garter Theatre, was organized by Mayor Pete Muldoon, who has reached out to dozens of people to sow the seeds of a grassroots advocacy movement.
“I’d like to see a couple hundred people there in my wildest dreams,” he said. “But I think the most important thing is that the people who show up are really committed to doing something.”
Interest surged following Mountain Towns 2030, a regional climate summit hosted in October by Park City, Utah. The premise of that gathering was to spur dozens of Rocky Mountain communities to strive for carbon neutrality within a decade.
A contingent of town and county officials went, along with representatives of other sustainability-oriented groups, and they returned home with a newfound resolve to reverse the damage humans have caused in Teton County. The summit was especially timely given the recent release of the 2018 Jackson Hole Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, which showed emissions rising by 17% since 2008 and outpacing population growth.
“For all of us, going to that conference kind of lit a fire under us,” said Katy Hollbacher, founder of Beyond Efficiency. “We can’t just sit around anymore.”
She and others who attended the summit have met a few times since, trying to identify the “low-hanging fruit for carbon emissions reduction,” as Muldoon put it. But Monday will be the first meeting advertised to the community at large. It’s open to anyone with a desire to guide Jackson Hole toward a viable future.
“The goal of this group is to really rally the troops,” Hollbacher said. “Get everyone working together toward that common goal.”
It’s not yet clear what that “common goal” will be. There isn’t much of an agenda for the meeting, Muldoon said, and he has no long-term plan for the coalition it will theoretically form. All that will have to be hashed out among those who show up.
There will be a facilitator of sorts, though. Emily Skill, who recently received a master’s degree in environment and society from Utah State University, plans to explain how other communities have organized to achieve sustainability goals, and what the process here could look like.
“I think the idea of the meeting is to help find people who want to lead this effort,” Skill said. “There could be a role for anyone with any skill set, and this should be an inclusive effort.”
Phil Cameron, executive director of Energy Conservation Works, said a new group centered on climate advocacy could fill a void in Teton County.
“We would be excited for the community to increase their engagement around energy and emissions issues,” he said, “and it sounds like this effort could accomplish that.”
Monday’s meeting will follow a Thursday presentation from climate change communicator Rob Davies, a physicist at Utah State University. He enthralled the Jackson Hole delegation at Mountain Towns 2030, so they invited him to speak here. (See Scene for the full story.)
Muldoon hopes Davies’ speech will inspire people to join the budding sustainability movement, holding elected officials and the community accountable for their actions — or lack thereof — to do their part in the worldwide struggle to protect the planet.
“I hope that our community will take the problem of climate change into account with all of its decisions,” he said. “I don’t know where it’s going to go, but I think we’ve got to start somewhere.”