Hi there, my name is Isabella Cecchi, and I am working with Yampa Valley Sustainability Council this summer. I am going to be a senior at Rollins College next year where I am majoring in Environmental Studies with minors in Sustainable Development and Political Science. I have been interning under Ashley Dean, the Collaborative Initiatives Manager here at YVSC, in regard to how we can gain more meaningful public engagement towards climate action, specifically from the 18-40-year-old demographic.

Increasing meaningful public engagement and insight from this age demographic is critical in the Yampa Valley, as the needs and concerns of all of our community’s individuals must be equally represented when it comes to public issues such as these. It is essential for Yampa Valley residents to participate in community engagement and support their local government officials when policies regarding climate action are at stake.

I have been exploring the value and effectiveness of climate change community engagement strategies through textual research methods. To get quality engagement from the 18-40-year-old demographic in the Yampa Valley, it will be important to know this audience and select a credible messenger for them. In such a diverse community, connecting our message to cultural values and beliefs that people can connect their traditions, experiences, and shared values to is a considerable factor. Understanding the role of language when communicating the importance of climate action is essential, especially when the subject of climate change can be a hard concept to understand. The use of alarmism, which causes worry or panic, has been discovered to be an ineffective method when communicating the importance of climate action, as it reduces people’s attention to news about impending catastrophes.

There are many barriers that restrict people from participating in climate action. Poorly designed and implemented strategies can be seen as ineffective and a waste of public money, time, and resources and are seen as a mechanism for offloading responsibilities and costs onto local communities. Climate change is perceived as a distant threat both physically and temporally, with shorter-term individualistic priorities considered more important, particularly when it comes to the maintenance of current standards of living. People fear it is too late to influence climate change and that people are too selfish to do anything themselves.

Successful public outreach to the 18-40-year-old demographic involves understanding which messaging tools will be the most successful. Some effective communication strategies include using the most receptive messaging tools such as social media, email lists, newsletters, or local gatherings.

This past month, the Routt County Climate Action Plan Collaborative held an open house to present the CAP, identifying actionable projects and initiatives that best drive actions across the Energy, Waste, Transportation, Land Use, and Economy sectors. This open house allowed the public to review and comment on 41 prioritized recommendations that will potentially be implemented in Routt County. We had a great turnout with over one hundred attendees. We were able to have some great conversations with our attendants about how they participate in climate action and also what barriers they face that restrict them from participating. This event was a success in hearing feedback from Yampa Valley residents and learning new perspectives from our community members about how they feel about climate action.

We will be using the feedback from the CAP open house and other engagement activities such as questionnaires, interviews, and social media tools to gather data on how to increase climate action engagement from the Yampa Valley community. Our work hopes to identify and decrease barriers that restrict climate action and hope to gain an increase in meaningful community engagement towards our cause.