Recommended Read: Designing Roadmaps for Our Long-Term Future

“If we don’t think about Utah’s long-term future, who will?” – Republican Utah state house speaker Brad Wilson

A recent article in the Guardian describes how a combination of factors – action by young people, locally relevant climate impacts, and a desire for better planning for the future – led to a long-term plan for the state of Utah to address the climate crisis. This is a great example for communities everywhere to spur action by thinking through questions such as: What does climate change mean for us? What changes do we need to see to bring about a more desirable outcome than the one we’re headed for now? How do we make those changes happen?

“Tonnerhütte 38” by Guenter BEYER, Bad Erlach is licensed under CC BY 2.0
One reason Utahans want to act is the importance of skiing and outdoor space, which are threatened by climate change, to their identities and economy. What are the important characteristics of where you live that would be protected or strengthened by climate action?

The Utah Roadmap demonstrates that this type of thinking and planning is aided by collaboration: young people got the ball rolling by drafting and finding support for a resolution recognizing the climate crisis and encouraging action, the state legislature decided to request the report, and a university-based institute carried out the report along with a 37-person Technical Advisory Committee. It can be hard to see the impact we can have on efforts like this as individuals. I certainly don’t know how to go about organizing a 37-person committee to advise a state legislature. However, these larger actions often snowball from individuals or small groups – like the students who drafted the Utah resolution – doing what is within their capacity, sharing their ideas, and connecting with others. 

If you are interested in helping your local community or the Lehigh Valley region to think about its long-term future as it relates to climate change, here are some suggestions for building individual ideas into community-wide action:

  • In May, Northampton County will hold its second annual Climate Summit to discuss many of the current climate impacts in the region and potential solutions, presenting another opportunity to share your ideas and hear what others are doing. 
  • The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission engages in much of the long-term planning for the region. Attend one of their meetings and see how others are approaching these issues.
  • A new group, the Lehigh Valley Climate Action Network, connects a variety of technical experts, Environmental Advisory Council members, academics, and concerned citizens who are committed to climate change mitigation action in the area. Send them an email ( – Brian Hillard, LV CAN Founder) and see what resources they may be able to direct you towards. 
  • Connect with existing groups who are doing similar work – the Alliance for Sustainable Communities maintains a directory of Lehigh Valley organizations concerned with everything from climate to food access to outdoor recreation. 

What this all largely boils down to is: talk to people! Environmental Advisory Council members, local business owners, municipal officials, university professors, nonprofit organizations, etc. Share your ideas and see who has suggestions for paths forward, folks to partner with, or new approaches you may not have thought of. None of us can single-handedly decide what the future will look like, but we can all build momentum to move as a community toward the future we want. Here, as in Utah, if we don’t think about our future, who will?


Red-state Utah embraces plan to tackle climate crisis in surprising shift – Guardian (02/2020) 

The Utah Roadmap – Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, University of Utah