An influential group of leaders from across Southwest Florida has begun outlining action steps as the region addresses the impacts of its changing climate.

Growing Climate Solutions – Path to Positive Southwest Florida convened an initial meeting of its Leadership Circle on March 10 in Naples, where nearly 60 thought leaders representing the fields of health, education, faith, business, environment and philanthropy reviewed scientific data and began exploring possible solutions to counter climate trends.

“Changes to our climate are often discussed in relation to sea level rise, but it will impact far more than just those living along our coastline,” said Ana Puszkin-Chevlin, Ph.D., regional director for Growing Climate Solutions. “It will impact our economy and the businesses that thrive on tourism. It will impact wildlife that are unable to adapt to a new habitat. It will impact our health and safety as we’ll see more outbreaks of red tide, harmful algae blooms and more intense hurricanes.

The impacts are far-reaching, so it’s incredibly important that we start these discussions immediately.”

A regional survey conducted by ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners found overwhelming support for local action and concrete solutions in response to the changing climate. Nearly three-fourths of respondents agreed that urgency is imperative.

The initial Leadership Circle meeting included representatives from Lee Health, NCH Healthcare, Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida, the Collier County and Lee County school districts, United Church of Christ, The Lutgert Companies and dozens of other environmental groups, government agencies, religious leaders, philanthropic organizations, chambers of commerce, tourist attractions, developers, banks, real estate agencies, media, agriculture and others.

Attendees were asked to identify possible courses of action that could reduce their carbon footprint, or that of their organization, and help mitigate the changing climate. Ideas filled more than 230 sticky notes, and included action items like purchasing electric vehicles for their companies, establishing a carpool-to-work initiative, creating a community garden, switching to LED lighting, installing native landscaping, emphasizing recycling, installing solar panels, discouraging the use of Styrofoam and plastic bottles, printing fewer documents and more. The “Gallery of Ideas” stretched across an entire wall at the Leadership Circle meeting.

“The survey responses were loud and clear that Southwest Florida supports action, and members of our Leadership Circle will be the catalyst that champions a series of community-wide initiatives,” Puszkin-Chevlin said.

Growing Climate Solutions is a partnership between the Community Foundation of Collier County, Southwest Florida Community Foundation, Florida Gulf Coast University and Conservancy of Southwest Florida, with support from the Kapnick Family Foundation and other future-focused organizations, businesses and individuals.

The partnership’s four primary goals are to empower community members and leaders to initiate change, ensure a prosperous and healthy community, build climate literacy and protect natural assets.

For more images from the event visit our Facebook page.