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University of Missouri student calls out Columbia's broken climate promises

Riley Cole standing outside.
Laine Cibulskis
Riley Cole, MU student and It's Our Wild Nature volunteer, speaks at a It's Our Wild Nature meeting on May 2, 2024, at the organization's nature area off Bluffdale Drive. Cole spoke at a Columbia City Council meeting last month to address the city's lack of progress on its climate goals.

The city of Columbia has a Climate Accountability Action Plan, but some climate advocates say progress hasn’t moved fast enough. When University of Missouri student Riley Cole discovered that only thirteen out of 161 goals had been met since the program’s implementation five years ago, he decided to speak up at a February 19th city council meeting. KBIA’s Laine Cibulskis sat down with Riley Cole. He’s an MU senior and environmental science student. Here’s an excerpt from their conversation.

Laine Cibulskis: So what did that process look like for you when you were starting? Can you describe the moment when you actually realized that only 13 of these goals have been met?

Riley Cole: I was frustrated when I saw that almost all of the orange or yellow, yellowish orange status, status bar is there everything awaiting resources, and…

Just felt like something needed to be done. I guess that I spoke with Mayor Buffaloe in my class and wasn't really able to get any answers as to why things hadn't been implemented. I do know that she said that, you know, they weren't put in place just as boxes to check. But they're also not just put in place to be put on a shelf. So that's why I ended up having the public comment at the city council meeting. I want to let them know that the community is watching and growing impatient.

Cibulskis: Do you have any, you know, recommendations for the city or the school board to really take advantage of the resources that you mentioned, like MU, and things like that to prevent that kind of environmental degradation?

Cole: Yeah, I mean, not only have we only completed 13 out of 161, but 100, which is over two-thirds of goals have yet to be assigned resources, or some... They're not started yet. So in almost five years, that's kind of shocking and alarming. When I went into college, it was 2019. And we had just implemented the CAAP. And it was kind of full of hope, so to be where we're at now and to seemingly have little accomplished is, is concerning. I think, I do think we just need to use the resources that we have better. I mean, there are so many ways that we can incorporate the community, whether it's classrooms, in our colleges and universities, the research centers and the staff and faculty that we have, or if it's the classrooms of the high schools.

Cibulskis: Do you have any advice for what the average person can do to help combat climate change?

Cole: Yeah, be the change you want to see. It can be overwhelming. But don't be overwhelmed. Don't give up. Keep going to meetings, being involved in your community. And asking, asking that question every day, what can I do for our environment? What can I do to help others? What can I do to be the change that I want to see?

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