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Friday, June 22, 2012

On the front lines of climate change--really. Godspeed, Carol

by Dave Newport
[see 2 updates below]

She never asked me to write this—no way.

Carol Dollard is a tough minded, hard driving, independent, Western women who works every day to make Colorado State University more sustainable—and with it, embed a lifelong legacy of sustainability in CSU students that will improve their lives—and our society.

She will likely be upset with me that I wrote this. But that’s the least of her problems.

Today, her house may be gone, her beloved Colorado is in flames, and upwards of 70,000 acres the natural environment she works so hard to protect has been vaporized.

And it ain't over yet, not hardly.

Today and every day for the last two weeks, Carol has also been on the front lines of climate change as a Volunteer Fire Fighter working to save her neighbors’ homes threatened by the largest fire in Colorado history, the High Park Fire.

Carol is a volunteer fire fighter and is out there fighting to save peoples' homes, lives, and the wild things we all love.

Normally, she's the sustainability/energy engineer at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins. Carol has worked tirelessly for decades to help make CSU a great and sustainable campus.

At last contact (6/19), Carol reported she and her family were fine, she had evacuated to her daughter’s house in Ft. Collins, and that as far as she knew, her family home in Rist Canyon was still standing—but there was still lots of fire in her canyon. At least one person died there.

I have not heard from Carol since. I am assuming she's OK... 

[Update 6/23/2012 7AM: Heard from Carol. She's OK. Her house is still standing--but not out of danger. Another of her friends lost their home last night. Carol appreciates our thoughts and prayers]

Today (6/21/2012) it was 102 degrees in Denver—an all-time record. Tomorrow through Sunday it’s supposed to be hotter. Humidity is very low. The fire is growing again.

We all know why.

Carol will no doubt be out there tomorrow fighting on the front lines of climate change—and this huge fire—because that’s the kind of person she is.

I live 10 miles from the fire, smell the smoke, think about what I am smelling, and think about Carol. We work at “rival” schools, so they say (CU vs. CSU). Not today.  We’re on the same team: the human race.

I gaze up at the air tankers and helicopters flying over my house (safe and sound) and struggle with the irony: Hmmm, burning fossil fuels to power aircraft that help quell a fire driven by the climate change that burning fossil fuels helped ignite to begin with…

Yes, I’m a buzz kill at parties. Sometimes I hate connecting the dots. But that’s what we sustainabilistas do.

Lately, some in Rio are talking about climate change and sustainability and, hopefully, making a difference.

Others of us are at work answering email, phone calls, going to meetings, and doing the best we can to advance sustainability on our campuses and within our students.

And then there's Carol on the front lines of climate change and sustainability helping people in the most profound way: survival.

I am humbled by Carol Dollard. She is huge. I feel small calling her a colleague.

Carol has a job advancing sustainability at CSU that sends her a check every month. Others of her fire-fighter colleagues are not so lucky. They have no income since the fire has displaced them from their job duties. Carol may have a home still standing. May not. Others have lost theirs.

They are all heros, period. Help 'em if you can.

Carol may be reached via email at:

Donations to support her fire-fighter colleagues can be made at through PayPal or send a check (payable to RCVFD) to:

Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department
Fire Relief Fund, PO BOX 2,
Bellevue, CO 80512

Contributions are tax deductible.

Read more about this horrible scene at:

Godspeed Carol.

[Update. Monday, June 25, 2012 10AM EST. Another of our colleagues, Linda Kogan, Sustainability Director at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus, was evacuated from her home over the weekend. The Waldo Canyon fire sprang up and quickly threatened Manitou Springs at the foot of Pikes Peak where Linda lives. Linda's home is OK and she was allowed to go back yesterday, according to Kevin Gilford, her assistant in the sustainability office of UCCS. Godspeed all.]

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