Report back from Blenheim- A Climate Action Weekend

Report on Climate Action Workshop, Blenheim, 2018 April 22.

Lead-up It was particularly favourable that the workshop followed a large-scale celebration of Earth Day on the previous day. Jeanette Fitzsimons was very well-received in giving the opening talk on taking action on climate change. Joanna Santa Barbara held a stall on Our Climate Declaration and the issue of moving to a more plant-based diet, and this elicited a good deal of interest. Climate Karanga Marlborough, the local climate action group, was organised for action. Workshop participants were largely people with a high level of knowledge and activism.

Workshop. After an introduction to the Declaration and encouragement to support it, Jeanette and Joanna role-played a ‘bad’ climate conversation (battering the other person with frightening data) and a ‘good’ one. The characteristics of the helpful conversation were:

  • Approach the conversation with respect and empathy
  • Smile and say ‘hello’.
  • Start and continue with open questions eg ‘What bothers you most about climate change?’
  • Focus on what the other person cares about.
  • Link acting on the issue, eg supporting OCD, to what they care about.

Participants were invited to consider the communities they belonged to, and select the most promising to work with on a climate action plan.

There was a brief presentation on ‘Where do emissions come from?’, with the goal of applying that knowledge to the selected organization or community in order to identify the possibilities  for emissions cuts or carbon sequestration.

Measurement of emissions was discussed. It was suggested that in small-scale work on greenhouse gas emissions, people don’t attempt to measure them in conventional units (eg tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent). Measurement of baseline and progress is more meaningful in recognizable units –eg  number of car trips reduced, kgs or tonnes of food waste diverted from landfill to composting, etc..

Groups then worked on their selected community to develop action plans.

Plans developed by groups

Group on neighbourhoods, flood and storm-affected people.

What are the stated needs and values of such a group? The needs are to address the climate crisis, create resilience, to learn to live more simply and sustainably, using appropriate technology. People need transport, clear waterways and flood control, water storage facilities, pest control. They need contingency arrangements in case of failure of utilities, and a clean and quiet environment.

Values are resiliency in the face of climate crisis, saving money, knowledge, sharing of resources and knowledge, especially food growing.

Who will be supportive? People already affected by loss of some of their needs, people approached skilfully.

 How will you approach them? Knock on doors, walk your dog, distribute pamphlets, advertise event, ‘student army’.

How will you maintain momentum? Coffee, potluck, develop practice of checking on each other, eg if utilities go out, swap email addresses – informing each other of community events, sharing successes. Adverse external events eg storms will help.

Who will oppose or be hard to convince? Don’t waste much energy on them. Don’t expect everyone to want inclusion. Wait for teachable moment.

Who holds power in this organization? Long term, knowledgeable people; outgoing, connected people

At what stage do you prepare a formal proposal? A long way down the track could make a proposal to Council for resources.

Group on land use, forestry, soil.

Needs and values Sustainability, environmental protection, minimizing emissions, building community resilience.

Supporters Recreation groups (hunters and fishers), farmers (eco, sustainable)

Opposition Old boys’ network, absentee owners, economically vulnerable businesses.

How to reach them. Dialogue, empathy, demonstration (field days), commonality, build alliances.

Power Identify the leaders and network of power; work through the women and family.

Other workplaces.

Medical practice Could reduce costs, Council owns building. High plastic use – needs recycling, reduce paper use, video consultations?. Informal chat with practice nurse who is an organic farmer. Start small! Don’t threaten!

Community Trust for a residential home for people with disabilities.  Could reduce costs. Converse with residents and board. Write objectives and review. Insert into business plan. Show short video to educate and inspire.

Tour Guide Company The company has a green reputation and would like to enhance this (eg vehicle choice, food options) Talk with co-guides and boss. Does National Geographic have a policy on climate change? Organise offsetting – planting by company? A rating scheme – Qualmark, Enviromark? Perhaps all tourists could be required to plant trees, to offset their travel emissions.

Wellness Centre Sense of participation and supporting mental and emotional well-being of staff. Talk to co-director, participant holds some power. Opposition is unlikely.

Support young people who have developed their own initiatives.

 Group on education, schools, young people

Values: to promote sustainability via the Enviroschools programme.

Allies were identified specifically, with plans to converse about clear, practical ways to work with teachers and students.

Momentum could be maintained by building towards 2019 Earth Day, and to Open Days at schools and preschools.

Opponents Listen to concerns of teachers about obstacles and problems. Acknowledge teacher workload. Suggest volunteers to manage release time

Power The principal holds ultimate power to support time management, resources and budget.

Specific ideas. To develop a unit for the Community Educators’ toolkit. To meet with Enviroschools person about climate change and sustainability input to develop a programme for preschools and older children.

  It is very important to develop a love of Nature in young children from their earliest years. We can identify key knowledge that is age appropriate to begin learning about climate change issues with hope and a positive attitude.

Marlborough District Council Group.

This group planned to debrief the mayor, John Leggett, who attended the first half of the workshop. They will make a submission to the long-term plan. They hope to present to the whole council.     They would like to engage a consultant to help with a baseline audit of emissions.

Allies. The group is aware of five councilors who are enthusiastic about climate action