2018 Annual 350CO Planning Retreat, Salida

Closing one chapter to start another is usually a bittersweet moment. As we look to the future we can’t help but also look back and celebrate how far we’ve come. We wouldn’t be where we are today as an organization without dedicated, hard-working people that got us started. That is why we are celebrating climate hero Gina Hardin!

Gina is a long-time 350 Colorado Board of Directors member and one of 350 Colorado’s founding board members. This month, Gina is transitioning off of 350 Colorado’s Board after many years of dedicated service, and we want to take this opportunity to thank her profusely for her tireless dedication and hours and hours of service to this community.
In this special edition of “Climate Hero of the Month,” we’ll take a moment to honor Gina’s time with 350 Colorado while also allowing space for the telling of her personal story. Thank you Gina!

Gina Hardin is a long-time activist, a non-practicing attorney and a grandmother. She loves alpine and nordic skiing, backpacking, biking, water, and mountains. She is inspired by her never-ending awe of nature. As a founder of and lawyer for Ratepayers United of Colorado, she represented Xcel ratepayers’ interest in clean renewable energy at the lowest possible long term cost. As Chair of Colorado Common Cause, she was a leader in the effort to limit big money in politics through the passage of Amendment 65 and for open and accountable government, so critical to her current effort to limit the severity of climate change.

Gina was one of the founding board members of 350CO and has been with us since the inception of the organization. As our Board President, she  offered fearless leadership as well as has brought a sense of playfulness and joy to our work together.

“I’m so grateful for Gina’s tireless dedication and work for 350 Colorado and the climate movement in Colorado.  From the day I first proposed creating 350 Colorado as its own 501c3 organization, she stepped forward willing to serve on the board. She helped with crucial fundraising, board and organizational development and governance, strategic planning, events and campaigns organizing, using her many gifts and skills, including her understanding of law, to guide our work. She has served as a critical advisor to me for many years, and I’m eternally grateful and so glad she plans to continue to serve on our Advisory Board.” – Micah Parkin, 350CO Executive Director and Co-Founder.

“Gina has been a cornerstone for this organization. We could not have built 350 Colorado without her strong leadership and spark of inspiration and vision. Through think and thin, Gina has been there,” says Deb McNamara of 350 Colorado. “Gina has facilitated countless planning sessions, presided over dozens of board meetings, and has shown up countless times to protest and raise her voice when it has been most needed. She is a true gem in the climate movement.”

This month we honor all that Gina has done and look forward to celebrating her as she continues her journey as a fierce advocate for sustainability and justice!

Gina Hardin’s Story
My first big dive into environmental work was in 2005, when, under Leslie Glustrom’s tutelage, I formed a non-profit through which I fought against the ratepayer financing of the Pueblo III coal plant (which all other environmental groups had agreed to) and other fossil fuel infrastructure and policies at the PUC; as well as  challenged the BLM’s practice of leasing publicly owned coal for less than 25 cents a ton.
I’ll never forget my first day at the PUC, when I walked into the hearing room and was met by 34 lawyers – mostly men – opposing us. The phrase “climate change” brought them all to their feet with indignant cries of “Objection! Irrelevant!”.  We were mocked, scorned and demeaned, but continued to talk about climate and the fallacy of continued investment in fossil fuel infrastructure in future proceedings.  Our tangible progress was minimal, but we did raise the issues, educate and challenge the status quo and set the stage for legislative progress in the future. And we won the first Demand Response mandate in Colorado.

One year, a small group of us went to the Peabody Annual Meeting in Gillette, Wyoming. Although we had stock ownership or proxies and every right to be there, we were singled out by armed men in black, denied access to the meeting room and escorted to the bathroom and everywhere else we went. Meanwhile, because the annual meeting was held on public property, at a state college, students wandered about freely all around us, in and out of the bookstore and coffeeshop. Peabody security forces and the Gillette police department had arranged a “special” room for those of us who would bring up climate, other pollution and its reneging on retired miner’s pensions and health insurance. A couple of us were arrested for “trespassing” in the state community college parking lot, when they held a sign that said, “Environmentalists Stand With Coal Miners.” They were held in jail for 30 hours. The arrest was eventually found by the court to be frivolous, paving the way for a successful civil rights suit in which Peabody vigorously opposed the inclusion in the of John Prine’s lyrics “And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County

Down by the Green River where paradise lay? Well, I’m sorry, my son, but you’re too late in asking, Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.”

Gina and 350CO Executive Director Micah Parkin

In 2011, currently out going board member, Leslie Weise and I were arrested at the mass protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington, D.C. One of Leslie’s many claims to fame, was a widely published photo of her and Daryl Hannah sitting together, refusing to move. The worst of it was that we had to sit in a very hot paddy wagon with our hands zip-tied behind our backs for a couple of hours. In 2021, the Keystone XL pipeline was finally cancelled for good.

And then I met Micah, and in 2012, a small group of us formed 350 Colorado. I served as chair for the 7 years or so. It was a turbulent first few years and it still is, from time to time.  But in pretty short order, we became known especially for our ability to mobilize people.  For several years it was all volunteer run. Many on the board, and Micah approached it as close to a full-time volunteer position. Eventually, we raised enough money to pay Micah a salary of way less than she deserved.

And there have been countless legislative and regulatory hearings to testify at, regulatory proceedings to intervene in, legislators to talk with, protests, fun, laughs, bonding and adventures, over the years. Some successes and too many disappointments.

In 2016, I took lumber and warm clothes to long term protesters at Standing Rock. At one point, we formed a protective circle around tribal elders while they held a prayer circle in the middle of the road blocking progress on the Dakota Access Pipeline. It was very intense to watch men completely covered in black riot gear with arms at the ready, marching toward us. At one point, there was shooting by an incensed construction worker. No one was hurt – and I got off easy, unlike so many others.

Gina volunteering for 350 Denver

In the last seven years, 350 Colorado has grown almost exponentially. It’s been incredibly rewarding to all of us who have served on the board, to witness the transition to so much compensated leadership, the stability that such provides just could not be left to volunteers alone.  We are now an organization that the press, state political leadership, volunteers and funders recognize as a tenacious and credible force to contend with. I am particularly pleased that we’ve developed the expertise to meaningfully participate in extremely long complicated and arcane agency rulemaking proceedings, which is really where the rubber meets the road in translating hard fought legislative policy into practice. With the leadership of our fearless, Executive Director, Micah, the guidance of our governing board; our dedicated and knowledgeable staff; our willing and tenacious volunteers, we have become an effective combination of grassroots power backed by skills, expertise, knowledge – and even resources!

So as I leave this powerhouse – in excellent hands – I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has contributed to the organization’s success – and giving me the opportunity to participate in it.
We couldn’t have built this organization without Gina – so on behalf of all of us at 350CO – a huge thank you for all you do!!!