Regina Pistilli: Engaging Youth in Climate Advocacy

Regina Pistilli is a published poet and a member of the CCL Salt Lake City Chapter. For 10 years, she served as the Vice President of Information Technology for MP Associates in Boulder, CO. Now, she devotes herself to writing and volunteering. Her work with Citizens’ Climate Lobby takes up almost all her free time. In just a little over a year of being involved with CCL, she has published four op-eds in prominent newspapers across her state, including The Salt Lake Tribune. She co-coordinated the 2018 Wild West regional conference and helped organize over 6,000 screenings of the film “Saving Snow” across the country during Earth Week 2018.

What do you like about CCL and what inspired you to join?

After seeing the results of the 2016 election, I believed that the greatest challenge facing our country was climate change. Before the election, the US was headed in the right direction on climate action. We had strong leadership that put in place the Clean Energy Act and signed-off on the Paris Climate Accord. Now, that leadership is lost.

The 2016 election was also filled with divisiveness. If I was going to volunteer my time with a climate advocacy group, it would be important for me to find one that did not follow this trend. I joined CCL because of its non-partisan nature, its core values, and its grassroots approach. I appreciate the desire of the organization to work with individuals from all backgrounds on finding common ground and searching for climate change solutions that work for everyone.

How have you been involved with higher ed outreach?

I have been working very closely with a student environmental group at Westminster College and am currently in the process of starting a student group at the University of Utah. While neither are technically CCL chapters, they are both very involved with CCL process among other climate related work they conduct. Last year, I had the opportunity to teach a capstone project class for the environmental studies seniors at Westminster College. The students partnered with the local CCL chapter to develop an environmentally and economically sound sustainability plan for Carbon County, Utah. I will be teaching the class once again this spring, but this year’s team of students will be organizing a "Climate Aid" concert on the college campus to raise awareness on climate change and the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.

What have you learned about motivating young people to act on climate change?

Young people must understand that they have an incredibly powerful political voice. I have seen it up close and personal in lobby meetings. When they speak with MOCs, it is incredibly easy for them to find common ground. Staff members and MOCs have expressed that they love seeing young people connect with their legislators. They view young people as not yet tarnished; they are more idealistic and well-intentioned than older constituents.

When speaking with young people about specific examples of their political power in action, I often reference the story of a Utah State Senate bill called the Concurrent Resolution on Environmental and Economic Stewardship (HCR 007). The bill outlined our responsibility to be good stewards of the earth, as well as our need to take steps to mitigate the effects of climate change and offset its economic costs. The bill passed nearly unanimously due to the efforts of a group of high school students.

When the students submitted their original proposal to Utah State Senators, the original wording was very strident. Wanting to improve upon their work and find common ground with a majority Republican State House, they tailored the wording to make it more palatable for conservative legislators. The second year that they submitted their proposal, the bill was introduced to the floor and viewed as a huge success.

The reason HCR 007 was a big deal is because it showed that students can successfully work the systems our government has put in place to create legislation to their benefit. Eight years prior to the introduction of this bill, Utah state legislators would not even allow the word “climate” to be included in the language of any bills that were passed. Now, Utah is one of the few states with concrete legislation to take action against climate change.

What keeps you motivated to do this work?

I think about my nieces and nephews and their children: how they will lose money to the economic costs of climate-related catastrophes and how they will not be able to continue skiing like our family has done for decades.

I think about people all over the world who are suffering from climate-related catastrophes. The people who will suffer the most from climate change are the ones who have the least amount of money. You do not have to experience their hardships first hand to understand that. Hurricane Katrina killed nearly 2,000 mostly poor people, whereas Hurricane Harvey hit a much more affluent community and only 68 people died. This is a prime example of climate-related catastrophes already occurring in our own country. Additionally, access to clean water is diminishing. This is true not just in developing countries, but in the US as well.

What else has CCL taught you?

Working with CCL has taught me that it is possible to get results by working through the levers of democracy. I believe that people are good by nature, and that working with democracy can remind you both of your own inherent goodness and the inherent goodness of others. At the same time, I believe that negative actions are driven by pain, discomfort and anxiety. Those who chose to ignore climate change, refuse to acknowledge its existence, or act against climate activists are merely afraid of its reality.

I have also learned that it often takes time to get groups started, especially student groups. It is important to plant the the seed of CCL’s goals and to be persistent in finding a core group of members that can act as the pillars of the organization. If at first you fail, keep trying and do not give up. We have momentum, especially thanks to new legislation like the Green New Deal and the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. We can’t slow down now.

For information about the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and its Higher Education Action Team, please visit or contact Clara Fang at