During the High Park Fire of 2012, employees of Mountain Whitewater Descent gave up their roles as whitewater rafting guides. Instead of directing tourists, the seasonal employees transported firefighters up and down the Poudre river.
According to the company’s “director of fun” Ben Costello, a swiftwater rescue technician and a wilderness first responder, the guides were put in danger to help prevent the flames from spreading. The fire caused economic hardship for the company and Colorado’s tourism industry in general.
“When tourism is affected, when recreation is affected, it affects every single person in Colorado,” Costello said.
Costello, a 2003 CSU alumn, was featured as a panelist at Fort Collins: On the Front Lines of Climate Change Thursday. The event was sponsored by Student Sustainability Center and Environment Colorado, an environmental advocacy center for the state.
Speakers included Costello, Holly Barnard, professor of geography at the Institute for Alpine and Arctic Research; Micheal Baute, CSU alumn and owner of Spring Kite Farm; and Rosemarie Rosie, who works at Fort Collins Sustainability Office.
“We tried to bring in members of the community to speak,” said Kim Stevens, campaign director at Environment Colorado. “It’s northern Colorado that’s been experiencing a lot of these climate change issues. Things like forest fires and then flooding quickly after have people saying, ‘Hey, this is weird.'”
Stevens said the purpose of the event was to raise awareness for climate change, as well as to train audience members to create their own events.
“For us to make a difference, we need people,” Stevens said. “We need people who will raise awareness.”
According to Stevens, climate change is especially relevant to Fort Collins and the rest of the 2nd Congressional District.
“We have a new senator Cory Gardner, who denies the fact that climate change exists,” Stevens said.
The event also showed a new short film called “Unacceptable Risk,” which discussed how firefighters face an increased risk as a result of climate change.
Junior environment engineering major Forest Shafer said he was eager to hear how Colorado is impacted by climate change and how he could help.
“I wanted to see how environment engineering specifically could impact climate change,” Shafer said.
Stevens said that recent graduates and students interested in participating with Environment Colorado can apply to Impact, a two-year program that partners with Environment America, the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) and Fair Share.
“We’re not just talking about problems,” Stevens said. “We’re talking about solutions.”
Collegian Diversity Beat and Entertainment Reporter Hannah Ditzenberger can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @h_ditzenberger.