The problem of how to communicate and involve people is, for many, as perplexing a problem as that of climate change itself. The prospect of gaining practical help and developing ideas to overcome this hump brought together 22 people on Saturday March 24 at Tauranga’s Envirohub. They spent the day attending a workshop on Climate Action Plans run by Jeanette Fitzsimons and Pat Baskett, organised thanks to Mary Dillon, Envirohub’s chair.
From the start, it was an inspiring day that began with a round of introductions from a diverse group of 17 women and 5 men aged from mid-twenties to retirement. Here’s a selection of their backgrounds.
JW described her work as introducing sustainability options to businesses. The enormity of the task, she said, sometimes fills her with despair. She is a vegan. GC also works as a sustainable business representative and aims to get involved in his local school’s efforts to reduce their emissions. MR is a Quaker. She works in a carbon reduction network and is concerned to convey the importance of climate change to her grandchildren.
M W brought along her artwork. She runs a landscape business and uses images and paintings to communicate her concerns. MS is a junior doctor and is alarmed at the waste she sees in Tauranga public hospital. She has joined with a small group of colleagues to form ECO – Eco Committed Officers – to work on reducing the levels of waste.
RN is deeply concerned for the future of his and another marae that are on land that is less than a metre above sea level. He is committed to working with his hapu, iwi and the council to achieve environmental outcomes that acknowledge their cultural impacts. AL’s frustration at the failure of Tauranga Council to recycle glass has led her to start her own glass-recycling company.
These people are already engaged and working on climate action and it was a pleasure to work with them.
The first question for the morning was why climate change seems so hard to talk about. This led to a discussion of how to introduce the subject without evoking reactions of fear, guilt, embarrassment or overwhelming helplessness. Jeanette and Pat illustrated two opposing ways of presenting the subject in role plays: bluntly stating the facts, scaring people and impressing on them the urgency of action is likely to turn them off whereas a friendly smile and enquiry as to how they feel about the issue opens up a relationship.
The second half of the morning was spent in exploring situations in which these conversations might occur and identifying communities of action. Examples included schools, workplaces, unions, churches and local councils where decisions about waste, transport, energy and food are made.
After lunch, the afternoon began with a catch-up session on facts to clarify the major sources of emissions in New Zealand and to look at the global context. The main resource was the report called “Stepping stones to Paris and beyond” by the previous Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright. We also introduced participants to Drawdown (see our blog).
Participants then formed into groups according to their interests or affiliations and were given a set of guidelines for discussion when drawing up a climate action plan. These included establishing the initial needs of the community, the sources of its emissions and ways to reduce them, and being aware of where both support and opposition are likely to lie.
Each group reported back and their findings and different concerns were recorded.
Communication was lively and warm and the afternoon finished with expressions of commitment to pursue the connections made in three areas.
One group committed to pursuing the revegetation with food growing plants and restoration of indigenous biodiversity on urban land in the city.
Several parents of school-aged children chose to work together to set up climate action plans in schools. They hope to enable the students to drive this themselves, helped by the resources in the Declaration website.
The third group will work with their hapu and iwi towards incorporating climate action into their Hapu Management Plans, eventually linking up to cover the whole of their iwi, in conjunction with cultural impact assessments and kaitiakitanga.
We look forward to lots of exciting developments in Tauranga.