Climate inclined

A new focus group will address Reno's changing environment

Reno City Councilman David Bobzien’s latest project involves forming a citywide response to climate change.

Reno City Councilman David Bobzien’s latest project involves forming a citywide response to climate change.


Last week, Reno City Councilmember David Bobzien got the go-ahead for a task force of sorts to address the local effects of climate change. It’s a mighty tall order, but Bobzien’s hope for the forthcoming Climate Action Working Group is that it will “bring together a diverse set of people with different backgrounds and different perspectives on the issue, with the idea of creating an action plan that has all sorts of what I believe to be off-the-shelf items the city can put into practice to deal with climate change.”

Examples might include new zoning to accommodate tiny houses and to address denser urban development, he said, and finding more warm-weather uses for city property at the Sky Tavern ski area, which is clearly strapped for snow. Apart from basic environmental stewardship and resiliency, the healing economy is also a motivator.

“I believe it’s crucial to Reno’s brand, with all the discussion of our new economy and with Tesla being here,” Bobzien said. “The big story about Tesla deciding to locate [a battery factory] in Nevada is that we are a community—we are a state—that prides itself on businesses that are dealing with the climate-change problem head-on. I think it’s our responsibility both socially and environmentally to deal with this issue, but it’s also consistent with our brand, with economic the development we’re doing right now around climate change and its solutions.”

Be the Change Project founders Katy Chandler and Kyle Chandler-Isacksen—a Reno couple who maintain a food and clothing ministry, and a sustainable, electricity-free homestead, among other things—have been an influence.

“We approached David to share the idea of Reno creating a Climate Action Plan like many cities and counties across the world,” Chandler-Isacksen said in an email. “Reno currently has none, and we are behind the tide as the climate crisis worsens at an increasing rate.”

On to the bureaucratic fine print, though: “To begin a climate-change focus group or workshop will probably take a year,” figures Maureen McKissick, assistant to City Manager Andrew Clinger. “And after that, we’ll tackle ISIS,” she quipped. The watch group also isn’t the first of its kind—two or three city sustainability groups have formed since 2006, McKissick said—and this one’s genesis could be especially slow if councilmembers must be appointed to serve.

“Obviously we’re at the early stages of forming this climate action team, and will look forward to input and participation from local leaders, experts, and organizers, many of whom have been doing climate-related work in Reno for years,” Chandler-Isacksen said, citing as examples Transitions Reno, which advocates against oil dependency (“In Transition,” RN&R Jan. 28, 2010), and the Desert Research Institute.

“There are so many common-sense solutions that are win-wins for all of us,” he continued. “Solutions that lower costs, save and honor water, help us grow healthy food, provide clean energy, heat water with the sun, make better homes, develop amazing mass transit … and make a great city. Sadly, many of these ’low-hanging fruits’ which are so obvious, even to children, are blocked by corporations and politicians putting money and ego before people and planet.”