"Conversations" Could Lead to Environmental Action


Talk is cheap and we get plenty of it when it comes to environmental sustainability of our land and water. So what's the point of an event that's all about conversations?

As city administrator in Broken Bow, Anthony Tolstedt has seen the increasing regulation of
water. Now he gets a chance to speak up, as part of a diverse group, ranging from farmers to wildlife specialists.

"Having the opportunity to sit down and have individual dialogue outside the group setting
helps a lot. It helps flush out issues and get specifics," Tolstedt said.

Instead of one expert leading this environmental sustainability conference, everyone's an expert.

"We make every participant a talking head," Cecil Steward explained.

As head of the Joslyn Institute, Steward says the goal is sustainability.

He said, "If our community's going to survive, we need to take better care of resources, such as land, water, energy et cetera."

The coffee talk that's squeezed into breaks at a normal conference is the conference here. And with half the state's population in three eastern counties, they were deliberate about coming to Grand Island, hosting the Conversations Conference at the Heartland Events Center.

Sandy Scofield of the University of Nebraska Rural Initiative said, "There are issues coming. Regulation, taxation and soon the urban population will have the majority of votes to vote on those but it's in everybody's interest both sides understand each other."

But who's listening? organizers say they need to share what they learn with policymakers.

"If we don't take their ideas and do broader distribution then it won't have much meaning," Steward said.

A big question was how to get average Nebraskans interested. People won't conserve electricity unless it hits them in the wallet.

Nearly all land in the state is privately owned, so without people buying in, they say it's tough to bring about change.

Reporter's Notes by Steve White:
Two Conversations Conferences have already been held. A fourth will take place in Scottsbluff. They are funded by a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

Thursday's event saw participants come from Aurora, Axtell, and Broken Bow among other communities in central Nebraska.

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