CHUN takes lead in neighborhood climate action

A new subcommittee dedicated to climate change meets this month

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Three members of Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods are looking for “movers and shakers” in the north Denver area, in the hopes of jump-starting lasting change in climate policy. The Climate Crisis Committee will have its first meeting this month.

Jim Slotta said that the groundwork for a climate change committee has been around for a long time. On the events side, CHUN has done neighborhood clean-ups and tree plantings. CHUN president Travis Leiker added that CHUN has also always had a mission to save and add to Denver’s tree canopy.

Slotta is also the CHUN representative at the Denver Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, an organization that represents residents citywide, and has its own sustainability committee. Slotta has also worked with Accelerate Neighborhood Climate Action, which held forums in Denver neighborhoods, including some in the CHUN area.

The first meeting on July 25 will likely go over what people want the mission of the Climate Crisis Committee to be, and how often the group will meet. City council President Jolon Clark, who is also District 7’s representative of the southwest Denver community, will be a speaker at the first meeting.

Slotta called Clark a “kindred spirit” because he has worked for sustainable policies in the city already. The meeting is open to all.

Leiker and Stephen Polk, another CHUN member, expressed interest in partnering with other organizations to help get things rolling. Polk specifically wants to work with grassroots organizations run by people of color to make sure the committee is inclusive.

“If we’re not fighting for the planet and also at the same time for all people, then we’re gonna fall short,” Polk said. “Those who are most vulnerable, and those who are going to experience the impacts of climate change most accutely are those people of color. So if we don’t have them at the table, we’re not doing our job.”

Leiker said that cities are often the best incubators for new and innovative solutions. He’s hopeful the committee will create change on the city level that can then inspire similar programs in other cities.

“Certainly we are very blessed to be in a city and a state that values environmental conservation and sustainability,” Leiker said. “I think the potential for cities and local communities and neighborhoods to champion environmentally friendly clauses is both critical and ever-present.”

Slotta agreed, saying that for people to make change, enough people must be interested in making that change happen.

“Unless it translates down to individual life changes, to culture changes, it isn’t going to work,” Slotta said. “I think that local activity is not a small part in what has to happen.”

The next step, Leiker said, is taking the interest of people and turning it into action, whether that’s calling city council members and asking for climate policy or using financial resources to help plant trees and hold events.

Leiker is hopeful the new committee will interest people in taking action at the city level. Some people don’t get involved in the process at all, while others take their concerns to state legislature or even the federal government.

But Leiker believes Denver residents and members of CHUN have an opportunity to create a domino effect on climate policy, starting with the neighborhoods and then growing citywide.

“I’m a firm believer in using the full ecosystem of organizations like Captiol Hill United Neighborhoods to advance policy objectives,” Leiker said. “I think that’s a space where CHUN can play a bigger role than it has historically”

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