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Kansas Citians are ‘holding on to hope’ following a climate action conference

A speaker presents on carbon emissions at the 2022 KC Climate Action Summit.
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
A speaker presents on carbon emissions at the 2022 Kansas City Climate Action Summit.

Residents who attended the Kansas City Regional Climate Action Summit said they feel empowered and ready to take actions to reduce their carbon footprints.

As people filed out of Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College Saturday, excited chatter filled the lobby.

Though the 2022 Kansas City Regional Climate Action Summit relayed some grim facts about climate change and its effects, it also showcased strategies to change the trajectory for the metro area. Speakers told people the time to act is now and talked about how climate change would affect the region if significant measures are not taken soon.

Bailey Patterson, who works as the city forester for Overland Park, attended the event to get up to date on current climate initiatives and see if there is anything she can implement in her work. Patterson said regardless of how heavy it is to learn about climate change, she walked out feeling optimistic.

“I think the staggering facts that you see, that are a little depressing, I think they're good to motivate people,” she said. “That's the reality that we live in. We have to know that in order to know why we need to change it and how to change it.”

Peyton Phillips and Darby Russell are juniors from Green Tech Academy at Olathe West High School. They left with a similar feeling. Phillips said even though the information from the conference was overwhelming, she feels empowered and ready to present what she learned to her class. Russell added that she was inspired to see other people who are passionate about the environment.

“Just seeing that there are other people who share the same interest as you and the same care and need to be better,” she said. “I think that was just really hopeful and a great thing to know that there are people who share the love for the environment and need for change.”

A topic that stood out to Phillips centered around making transportation more sustainable in Kansas City. She said a foreign exchange student from Germany opened her eyes to transportation issues the region faces.

“When he came here, the first thing he said to me was, ‘It's amazing how little transportation you guys have here,’ which I never even thought about,” said Phillips. “But I love hearing that we're trying to bring that back a little bit more, because I feel like we strayed away from it so much in the past. And I would love to get that back. Like that's just an amazing way to help cut down on those emissions.”

Although most topics presented on Saturday talked about climate action for the city as a whole, there was an expo with local environmental organizations before the conference. The expo gave attendees the opportunity to learn about what they can do at home to reduce their carbon footprint.

Cheryl Jefferson Bell is a pastor for the Community Justice Ministry at Church of the Resurrection. She said she wanted to come to the event to see how she can get her congregation more involved in reversing climate change, but also learn about climate change for herself. Jefferson Bell said the summit reminded her of some improvements she wants to make at home.

“I'm definitely gonna do some composting and get it right. I have messed up in the past really bad,” she said. “I'm thinking about an electric vehicle. I currently have a Prius, but, you know, I’m thinking about going to that next level.”

Jefferson Bell said even though she was discouraged by a lot of the data she saw and scared about what it could mean for the future, she is trying to stay optimistic.

“I'm feeling both emotions, but I'm holding on to the hope. I'm a person of hope, a person of faith,” she said. “And I've gotta believe that there's something that we can do to make things better.”

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga reports on health disparities in access and health outcomes in both rural and urban areas.
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