By Anne Carbert
Think Globally, Act Locally has long been a slogan in the environmental movement. As we see the recent impacts of global warming close to home and far away, and as we also see the unwillingness of governments to lead with an adequate response to the challenge, I believe acting locally is now more important than ever.
And there is local action underway in Stratford and Perth County! Few of us are aware of the whole picture of local climate-related projects and initiatives and this blog aims to fill that information gap. The more people I talk to, the more I learn! This site will share the story of local climate action in our area, project by project and champion by champion. Upcoming stories will focus on a farm-based biodigester project, tree planting, vintage and consignment clothing shops, environmental school programs, county greenhouse gas monitoring, municipal efforts at energy efficiency, and much more.
But why we should bother focusing locally when climate change is a global problem? Isn’t this problem too big for people in a few communities in Perth County to make a significant difference?
But why we should bother focusing locally when climate change is a global problem? Isn’t this problem too big for people in a few communities in Perth County to make a significant difference? Isn’t it the USA, China, and India that need to change things to make a difference in global warming? And if Canadians need to do something, don’t we need sweeping provincial and federal government action for any impact?
Good questions! Here are my 5 reasons for local action, on which I elaborate below: to cultivate hope not despair, to find strength in community, to reduce our local carbon emissions, to do our fair share as Canadians, and to build climate resilience to adapt to climate change. (What would you add? Leave a comment below!)
(1) Cultivate Hope Not Despair: Engaging with a big worrisome issue is better than only worrying about it. If we leave this big issue for bigger actors — who may or may not take action — we are left feeling anxious and powerless. And most of us are worried and anxious. About 83% of Canadians are either “quite concerned” or “very concerned” or “extremely concerned” about climate change. Perhaps one of our greatest opportunities is to accept personal and community responsibility for taking climate change more seriously and to then commit to being informed, talking about it, and becoming more ready to answer calls to action and initiate action together. Commitment and engagement can lead to hope and keep us from despair.
(2) Find Strength in Community: We can think globally — and nationally or provincially — but we make our strongest connections locally. It’s in our neighbourhoods, schools, sports leagues, churches, service clubs, charities, other community groups and community centres, and at libraries that we meet and have opportunities to talk and collaborate. Idea sharing, encouragement, tag team action (for endurance!), and collective voice (for strength) are all needed to sustain our energy for a challenge as big and urgent as climate change.
As an example, the youth climate strikes worldwide are bringing people together, getting information out, and galvanizing the young and old(er). We’re learning a lot from young Greta Thunberg’s speeches, social media posts, and the media coverage. It is uplifting to see #FridaysForFuture climate strikes in Stratford and worldwide. Youth are informing themselves and each other and raising their voices to demand climate action. There’s positive energy there at the local level.
Also, being more informed, aware, and engaged within our own communities can help us to pay attention to who might get left behind in the shift away from fossil fuels. Then we can better plan for a thoughtful and fair transition that doesn’t disadvantage those already disadvantaged or leave families without livelihoods. Strong connections locally will support us to imagine and prioritize opportunities that care for each other as well as the environment.
Being more informed, aware, and engaged within our own communities can help us to pay attention to who might get left behind in the shift away from fossil fuels. Then we can better plan for a thoughtful and fair transition that doesn’t disadvantage those already disadvantaged or leave families without livelihoods.
(3) Reduce Our Carbon Emissions: What’s required to reduce our carbon footprints will take all of us and all our ingenuity and flexibility. Climate change is a complex issue. There’s no single solution but a multitude of smaller efforts together will make a bigger difference for cleaner energy production and reduced energy consumption. Together we can consider the most significant ways carbon emissions are generated in our communities and our daily lives and seek to build on promising solutions that reduce the fossil fuels used for transportation, for energy at home and in the workplace, for producing food and producing and shipping all we buy and consume, and for dealing with our waste.
(4) Do Our Fair Share: Measuring the carbon produced by human activity, Canada emits more carbon per person than most other countries and we’re in the top 10 on lists of emitting countries, so it’s not only the countries with very large populations that need to make changes. As Canadians we may think of ourselves as green, but we need to recognize our impact is disproportionate and significant and get greener in attitude and action. With increased local levels of knowledge and action we can demand provincial and national action equal to the scale of the problem and we may be better prepared for the changes necessary to reduce Canada’s reliance on fossil fuels.
(5) Build Climate Resilience: Change is not only needed to reduce our carbon footprints but to adapt to our warming climate and respond to severe weather and its impacts, such as floods and droughts. We can expect more heavy rains and heat waves and the risks and disruptions those entail. Things that matter to us — like our homes, farms, and livelihoods — will be affected. Thankfully, there is a growing trend of municipal and city-led action to provide us with ideas and examples. Often there is more willingness to experiment locally and climate solutions can be customized to the needs of each community.
Sharing information and building community are among the goals of this website project. Think globally and act locally! What do you see in Stratford and Perth County that gives you hope for turning the tide on global warming? What promising community awareness initiatives, environmental projects, and connections are happening? Please let us know so we can add them to our list of upcoming topics for our blog this summer and fall. Leave a comment or send an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.