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Wild West CCL groups inspire each other on climate change action

Rocky Mountains

The majestic Rockies provided the backdrop for CCL’s Wild West regional conference in Salt Lake City.

By Davia Rivka

When Bill Barron (UT) invited me to come from Los Angeles to the Wild West Regional Conference in Salt Lake City, I jumped at the chance. The truth is I needed a strong dose of CCL. My soul was a bit parched, my heart hungry for connection. And if you’ve never been to Salt Lake, it’s God’s country—a valley ringed by 10,000 foot peaks, dusted with snow.

I wasn’t the only one to jump. 125 folks drove hundreds and hundreds of miles from Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming and Montana. They came to feast on each other’s crazy courage, and re-infuse their hearts and souls with CCL big love.

Mark and dog

Nuit, a dog owned by Sel Heidel, is now ready for Capitol Hill after sitting through Mark Reynolds’ advocate training at the Wild West regional conference.

Saturday morning started out something fierce — state leaders talking about their successes. Like 841 constituent letters from all over Colorado delivered to Senator Gardner’s aide. Like collaborating with fisher people in Montana and looking at the economic impact of climate change on snow sports. Like passing city council resolutions that endorse Carbon Fee & Dividend.

It was Suzanne Tveit, one of the panelists, (AZ), who said, “if they can do it in Utah, surely we can do it in Arizona!”

I love it. That’s what I call drafting on someone else’s chutzpah.

The whole conference was like that. Folks leapfrogging over one another. Not in a one-upmanship kind of way, but rather in a ‘thank you for helping me re-imagine what’s possible’ kind of way.

Like Grant Couch (CO), who led a workshop called Stepping Across the Aisle. Reminding me that people are people first — with fears and desires and passions. We shouldn’t let their labels — like Democrat/Republican, Progressive/Conservative — trip us up. We need to reach beyond the label to discover our common humanity. That’s where we find what’s possible.

Or like the unlikely panel on Saturday afternoon composed of Salt Lake’s first openly gay mayor — Jackie Biskupski; State Legislator — Patrice Arent; and Rob Axson, staffer to U.S. Senator Mike Lee. Two Democrats and one Republican — and not just any Republican — the most conservative Republican in the Senate. More than anything, I was impressed by the way the three of them listened to and respected one another. More than anything, I was impressed by the relationship the SLC group has with all three of them.

Wild West Salt Lake

CCL volunteers came from Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming and Montana to attend the Wild West Regional conference in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Anil Seth)

And just when I thought my heart couldn’t stretch any bigger, there was Piper Christian. Talk about leapfrogging. Talk about hoisting one another up. Talk about re-imagining what’s possible. Piper is sixteen. She just got back from COP21.

Even though she didn’t have a solid game plan, she just knew that she had to be there. On day one, she called home frustrated and disillusioned, “I’m completely insignificant. I’m just a spectator. I can’t get access to the real stuff. What am I doing here?” Her wise parents said, “Do what you do best — tell other people’s stories.”

And so she did. With her cheap Nikon and a tripod, she talked to young people on the bus, young people in the hostel, young people in the streets. She talked to young people from six continents.

And when she got home, she shared their stories.

And as if that wasn’t enough, in the three months since she’s been back, she and her fellow environmental club members drafted a resolution with short- and long-term goals addressing air quality in the city of Logan, Utah. It passed the city council unanimously.

Now I’m back in LA. Restored. The conference was just what the doctor ordered. Now I’m full. My heart is full. My soul has been massaged. Thanks to the Salt Lake City team for a shot of big love, CCL style.

Davia Rivka is a Los Angeles-based climate change warrior who is hard at work on her second book: a collection of inspirational stories about the extraordinary work of Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers. Check out her blog at