#ClimateChange is wreaking havoc on our mental health — #Colorado Newsline

This car in Superior was among the victims of the Marshall Fire in late December 2021 that burned 1,084 homes and caused 30,000 residents of Superior and Louisville to flee. Photo/Allen Best

From apocalyptic disasters like the Marshall Fire, which destroyed over 1,000 homes, to soaring temperatures and high ozone levels making comfortable summer days a distant memory, to Colorado’s rapidly deteriorating air quality leaving us wondering whether it’s safe to be outside, it is clear that the effects of climate change are a threat to our health and safety.

Worse yet, there seems to be no end in sight, as experts are predicting further drought, polluted air, and wildfire conditions in every corner of the state that look like a tinderbox ready to ignite and cause devastation with even the smallest spark.

But beneath the visible impacts such as wildfires, which force people to take immediate action for their safety, lies a danger that is invisible yet no less insidious to the well-being of Coloradans — climate change is wreaking havoc on our mental health.

Every day, in every corner of the state, people are confronted with the terror of not knowing whether today is the day that a fire destroys their home, leaving behind cherished memories and permanently dismantling the sense of safety that a home represents. Given the existential dread that climate change forces us to confront, it’s no wonder that our mental health is deteriorating at the thought of this crisis that threatens our way of life.

Research about the impacts of climate change on mental health has yielded some unsettling data. In a 2021 report, the American Psychological Association found that over 75% of Americans “are concerned about climate change, and those who are most ‘Alarmed’ (about 25% of the U.S. population) nearly doubled from 2017 to 2021.”

As a licensed therapist who specializes in treating climate anxiety, I’ve seen an increase in the amount of stress my patients express about the state of our climate and its impact on them, their families, and their communities. It’s impossible to overstate how dire these impacts are on our mental well-being.

Communities that experience traumatic climate conditions, such as the Marshall Fire in Boulder County last December can see their mental health suffer greatly. Patients who have directly experienced climate-related disasters often show symptoms associated with PTSD, including flashbacks, triggers, nightmares, avoidance, depression and numbness. This affects their ability to function day to day — to parent, to work, to develop relationships, to thrive.

Studies show that climate impacts like heat and drought can contribute to anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, violence, suicide, and depression.

Some patients I see are parents grappling with a myriad of complex emotions and concerns: guilt, immobilizing anxiety, grief, anger, and themes around privilege. The uncertainty parents feel about the future of the planet that their children will inherit along with the hopelessness of not knowing whether a disaster will threaten their kids’ health and safety manifests in numerous mental health issues.

Climate change is having an impact on the mental health of all Coloradans, but poorer communities and communities of color in Colorado are more exposed to climate impacts like high heat, threat of wildfire, and high ozone. Studies show that climate impacts like heat and drought can contribute to anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, violence, suicide, and depression. It’s important that people in these communities be provided with increased access to mental health services to address the disproportionate impacts they face.

While the research shows that Americans are stressed out about climate change, it also shows that we can resolve some of this climate anxiety through therapy and investing in creating resilient communities.

Many pieces of legislation to help communities become more resilient against climate change and its impacts passed the state Legislature this year, including wildfire mitigation and disaster preparedness programs that will make communities safer when climate disasters occur. Providing communities with the funding to adequately prepare for wildfires, high heat, and drought is a great start to addressing anxiety around potential disasters and other climate impacts.

Colorado also made unprecedented investments in mental health this year. The Behavioral Health administration, which will help coordinate care and funding streams for that care, was created and hundreds of millions of dollars were directed towards all levels and kinds of treatment.

Though progress has been made, Colorado needs to continue the work to give people access to mental health services and improve the resiliency of their communities. Our leaders at the local, state, and federal level need to tackle this challenge head on both by combating climate change with aggressive action and ensuring that all Coloradans have access to the mental health resources needed to deal with the increased stress brought on by the climate disasters threatening our communities.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

San Luis Valley shows off diversity of farm operations to #Colorado Ag Commissioner Kate Greenberg — The #Alamosa Citizen #RioGrande

Click the link to read the article on the Alamosa Citizen website (Chris Lopez):

KATE Greenberg, agriculture commissioner for Colorado, is leaving Cactus Hill Farm in Conejos County when she reflects on the farm operations she’s visited so far on her weekend tour of the San Luis Valley.

Greenberg had made stops at the non-profit Rio Grande Farm Park in Alamosa, the large-scale Esperanza Farms managed by Virgil Valdez, and then the niche Cactus Farm where Elana Miller-ter Kuile spoke about the unsustainable nature of fast fashion that the wool farmer sees in an era of water scarcity and climate change.

It was during her time as western program director for the National Young Farmers Coalition that Greenberg would begin to acquaint herself with the area, particularly neighboring New Mexico where she was schooled on the practice of acequia farming and the generational ties to agricultural lands in the high-desert terrain of the region.

It’s been pointed out that she is the first female ag commissioner for Colorado, and maybe the youngest ever after she was appointed to the position in 2018 by Gov. Polis. What’s less described is her ease of command on the issues facing farmers at different scales of operation, and her willingness to engage in the divide between Front Range and rural Colorado as it wrestles with issues like the affluent bedroom community of Douglas County looking to raid the aquifers of the San Luis Valley to quelch its population thirst.

On her visit to the Valley, she sat in the living room of Virgil and Sherry Valdez at Esperanza Farms and heard about fears of getting crops out of the ground and to market this summer due to the lack of farm labor. Earlier she spent time with Jesus Flores and conversed entirely in Spanish with the Rio Grande Farm Park manager, and helped bottle-feed newborn sheep at Miller-ter Kuile’s Cactus Hill Farm.

Across America agricultural leaders like Greenberg wrestle with how to balance the rise of corporate farms that have sliced away at mid-level farming and ranching operations but left a bit of space for the family farmer, community organic operations, and enterprising people like Elana Miller-ter Kuile who clearly has found a niche in the wool-making world.

“Here in the Valley I feel like the different scale, whether it’s very small, or very large, or somewhere in between, it’s all about how do you support your family, support your business, take care of the land and find a market,” Greenberg said.

“I think all of the different operations we’ve seen, whether it’s Rio Grande Farm Park helping families provide food for themselves or for farmer’s markets, Elana selling wool all across the country, or Virgil and Sherry (Valdez) growing for potato sheds for exports, all of that has a place in our ag economy and you could see that just within a few miles of each other here.”

She grasps the very real burnout of farmers and the disappearance of the next generation of ag producers, but even there she found new hope in what’s happening across the San Luis Valley to maintain an agricultural sector.

Her trip into San Luis and Costilla County to attend Saturday’s Congresso de Aquequias 2022 and to learn about the Move Mountains Youth apprenticeship in acequia farming gave her more thought and more ways to move forward in her job handling Colorado’s $7 billion ag economy.

“I think from my experience throughout the years in New Mexico in particular, I come here humbly,” Greenberg said. “Even though I was invited to speak (at the Congresso), I intend to listen a lot more than I speak. I have a farmer friend whose dad always said, ‘We were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason.’ So I hope that’s what I can do, is listen and learn from the folks in San Luis.”

In this video interview with Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Greenberg, she reflects more on the job of ag commissioner, her visit to the San Luis Valley, and why the Renewable Water Resources exportation plan is the wrong approach for managing water in Colorado. Watch our car-ride interview with Commissioner Greenberg:

What the Supreme Court’s ruling on clean water means for rivers: Breaking down the recent clean water ruling — American Rivers

San Luis Valley. Photo credit: The Alamosa Citizen

Click the link to read the release on the American Rivers website (Amy Souers Kober):

Clean water is essential to all life. As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act this year, we should be moving forward – not backward – when it comes to safeguarding clean, accessible, safe, affordable water for all.

But the U.S. Supreme Court recently issued an unfortunate ruling on Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Kelly Catlett, director of hydropower reform at American Rivers, breaks down what the ruling means, and what’s next:

Why is Section 401 of the Clean Water Act important – what does it do?

The Clean Water Act helps prevent water pollution. Section 401 of the Clean Water Act gives states and certain tribes authority to place conditions for the protection of water on permits and licenses for the construction and operation of projects that could harm rivers, streams, and other water bodies. These protections ensure that infrastructure projects, such as dams or pipelines, won’t pollute our water or otherwise negatively affect water quality. Section 401 also allows states and tribes to work with the federal government to ensure that rivers are protected and that projects meet the needs of local communities.

What did the Supreme Court rule, and what’s the impact for rivers?

In 2020, the Trump Administration’s EPA made drastic changes that limit the way states and tribes can apply Section 401. The changes unraveled 50 years of practice and cooperation between the federal government and states and tribes in the administration of these protections. American Rivers, along with our allies, sued to overturn the rules and successfully convinced a District Court to nullify the 2020 rule while the current EPA works to revise them. A few states, the fossil fuel industry and the hydropower industry appealed to the Supreme Court and asked that the Supreme Court reinstate the 2020 rule until the current EPA successfully completes its process to change the rules in 2023. The result of this decision is that it will be more difficult for states and tribes to protect water. For example, the 2020 rules prohibit states and tribes from weighing climate change and its impacts in making conditioning decisions and it restricts conditions to addressing only point source pollution.

What happens now — what are the next steps?

American Rivers is not giving up because these clean water protections are too important. The Supreme Court did not provide a rationale for why they reinstated the 2020 rule, but the message appears to be that they found it inappropriate for the lower courts to nullify the rule without making a determination on the merits of the arguments each side had raised. American Rivers and our partners at American Whitewater, Idaho Rivers United, and California Trout will continue to make our case in the federal courts for why this rule should be overturned. We will also work with the EPA to make sure that the new rule due in 2023 will fix the flaws in the 2020 rule.