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April 21 2019

Growing Climate Solutions – Path to Positive Southwest Florida Partnership Launches

By Jennifer Roberts

NAPLES, Fla. (April 22, 2019) – The Community Foundation of Collier County, Southwest Florida Community Foundation, Florida Gulf Coast University and Conservancy of Southwest Florida formalized a three-year partnership to align community resources in an effort to address issues related to our region’s changing climate.

The founding group, Growing Climate Solutions – Path to Positive Southwest Florida, will work to build a coalition of residents across key community sectors, including health, education, faith, business and the environment. The goal is to engage stakeholders through educational- and awareness-building efforts and to provide research and information that will lead to local climate solutions to sustain our communities.

“The partnership is an outgrowth of the climate change survey results released in February,” said Eileen Connolly-Keesler, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Collier County. “The results were very clear. Southwest Florida residents believe now is the time to take action on this issue. Collective action means we are more powerful when we work together – within and across sectors.”

The recent survey also found that attitudes are changing, and the vast majority of Southwest Florida residents are concerned about the changing climate and believe action is necessary to protect the region’s future.

“We know positive change starts locally, making a Southwest Florida-focused partnership extremely relevant,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “The survey results illustrated that the changing climate knows no boundaries and impacts all who live, work and play in the region. Building personal connection to and collective leadership around the issue will empower action and sustain our quality of life.” 

Since February, $840,000 in philanthropic support has been donated toward a fundraising goal of $1.2 million. The partnership will hire a community engagement coordinator to oversee education and outreach efforts to engage more participants.

Leaders from each organization recently met to determine four primary goals for the initiative:

  • Empower community members and leaders to initiate change: Representatives from the health, faith, education and business community will make informed, effective decisions for the health, well-being and sustainability of this region.
  • Ensure a prosperous and healthy community: Partners will build awareness and understanding of the importance of withstanding the impacts of a changing climate, such as sea level rise, increased extreme weather events and flooding.
  • Build climate literacy: Using proven communication, education and engagement strategies, the partnership will lead community members to understand the root causes of the changing climate and support initiatives to address the problems and adapt to be more resilient to future impacts.
  • Protect natural assets: An educational outreach will help the community connect the changing climate to Southwest Florida’s treasured environment, including mangroves, wetlands and dunes that protect the shoreline.

“The university is highly involved in the health of Southwest Florida’s waterways and its impacts on the surrounding ecosystems, our economy and the people who rely on water for life and leisure,” said Robert Gregerson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at FGCU. “With an interdisciplinary approach, we’re addressing local issues with global consequences. This partnership allows us to expand our efforts.”

“Southwest Florida has experienced multiple impacts from our changing climate, including more intense hurricanes, flooding and worsening water quality problems,” said Rob Moher, president and CEO of the Conservancy. “We are committed to bringing our organization’s 55-year history of working with the community to find common-sense, science-based solutions to address the emerging issues related to our changing climate. Together we can build deep and lasting support for climate action.”

The coalition is partnering with ecoAmerica, a national climate leadership organization, to serve in an advisory role and help the coalition build education and outreach programs. A leadership gift from The Kapnick Foundation was also instrumental in funding this initiative.

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