top of page

The Climate Crisis; Why Town Boards Will Save Us

Krishna Elwell - Monona Grove High School - Class of 2024

Editor The Connection Website

solar system on a school roof
Solar panels were installed last year on Monona Grove High School.

Across the world, the words ‘climate change’ possess a nearly biblical power. To one it’s a death sentence, the sight of the reaper's blade drawing ever closer. To another, it’s a fallacy, a conspiracy. Climate change, an apocalyptic future, or mere hysteria? But what are we truly talking about? The pundits and the politicians wrap the terms and their meaning up into their own agendas. Hysteria, political division, and ignorance follow suit, until all meaning has been lost.

On and on the media goes. But instead of offering a podium for the unheard, a forum of facts, the media is up in arms. So swift is its cycle, or so dramatic the news out of Washington, that any moment for understanding, for reason, is abandoned. In the

midst, what has become of America, the nation I’m proud to call home? Why do I hold my tongue when I learn my friend is a member of ‘that other party?’ Am I doing enough? Can I have hope?

The climate crisis, as with so many issues, reveals a deeper emergency when one sees the arguments it inspires. It’s a human issue, a fault of our behavior of prioritizing pleasure of winning over the pain of learning, reacting to the here & now instead of preparing for the ‘then’, and simply forgetting what we just saw the moment we turn away. There is little hope of scientific persuasion, as a study titled The Tragedy of Risk Perceptions, done by the Social Science Research Network, has proven that the more scientifically literate one is, the less likely they will see climate change as a threat. However, they are also likely to display more polarized, static opinions on political topics, deadlocking the hope for compromise on the national stage.

Hometown Opportunity

As a member of the next generation, as one whose life has been defined by such struggles, I know that this is not our end. We can and will save ourselves and our children. Our faults are not supreme, and the hope for tomorrow is inside your hometown. Our communities are the best places to inspire change. Local issues are relevant to you and all of those around you. While not everyone can take a flight to Washington and pick a fight with this senator or that President, it’s far more simple to have conversations with your town leaders down the street, or even become one yourself. There’s also a greater chance to have your voice heard, after all, what spreads quicker in a small town than gossip?

Of course, whether on the national stage or at City Hall, we still exhibit the same human nature. We’ll still have biases, there will still be injustice, and the doings of the City will be kept rather quiet without twenty major news outlets hounding them. Local politics certainly isn’t perfect, and its disagreements are far more personal. But for most of us, it's the one place our voices will matter the most. Isn’t that the founding virtue of this nation, to give all equal power? The more we expand that ability, and the more we practice it, the better our future will be.

people at tables in a conference
Dane County High School Climate Conference

I say this because my life has been the story of solving environmental issues locally. Three years ago I joined Dane County Youth Environmental Committee (DCYEC). Comprised of high school students from across the region, our successes have only compounded since. We’ve hosted conferences for hundreds of students and connected ‘green teams,’ which are high school clubs oriented towards sustainability. We’ve multiplied in size, and teamed up with other climate organizations such as ‘Action for the Climate Emergency’ and ‘Midwest Environmental Advocates.’

Meanwhile, my career has exploded within my community. I was welcomed as a student representative on the school board to assist with the construction of a solar array on the roof of Monona Grove High School. Today it stands, producing power and already saving the district money. Its savings, $20,000 in this year alone, will compound to a net of $1.5 million within 30 years. Schools typically finance projects via grants and bonds. This initiative was no different, and was able to move forward without cutting existing expenditures or incurring local tax hikes. Meanwhile, thousands of tons of carbon emissions were curtailed from entering the atmosphere, undeniable proof that we live in an era where sustainability and fiscal responsibility can go hand in hand. More details on the project can be found on the Monona School District Website, Sustainability at MGSD.

people in council meeting
Monona City Council Meeting

Opportunity Everywhere

This endeavor was undertaken by residents in our hometowns. While an incredible achievement, the City of Monona hasn’t stopped there. The recent passing of the Inflation Reduction Act has supercharged local efforts to determine local solutions to pollution. For example, among the grants won for the MGHS solar project paid for 20% of the array. The funding made available by Congress would’ve provided a grant that paid for 40% of the array. I learned this when I attended the City of Monona’s Sustainability Committee meeting last December, and it’s an option anyone can partake in. Even if one doesn’t have the time for a meeting, all records and projects of the committee are public knowledge, and can be found on Monona’s official website, my.monona.

There is much to be found as the City of Monona seeks to secure energy independence within the decade, upgrade its aging police fleet to EVs, expand public transit to Madison, and install renewable energy at public centers. Federal actions have made it possible for Monona, and thousands more small towns and businesses across the country, to pursue a sustainable future, both for the environment, and for one’s wallet.

Anyone, as citizens of their communities, has the power to learn more and make their voice heard. In my experience, I’ve come to learn that on the local level, policymakers are genuinely enthusiastic about hearing the opinions of others. It’s why I believe that anyone can save the world by starting in their own backyard. It’s a constant struggle that leaves its heroes unsung and its antagonists hidden, however, our hope begins in our homes.

The choice is yours, and anyone can make our future more perfect one hometown at a time.


bottom of page