The COP21 climate change negotiations have ended in what some are celebrating as a historic agreement paving the way for the end of the fossil fuel era, while others are still concerned the agreement may not be enough. What is clear following the Paris talks is the importance of people power; everyday people are coming together to create the change they'd like to see in the world.
The importance and power of people's actions to support personal, social and environmental wellbeing is something that we have tried to highlight through our Sharing Our World series, and we have been inspired by the people and projects who we have spoken with. In this post we share one brilliant example of community action against climate change. This is the final post in the Sharing Our World series; you can find all other posts in this series here.
By Florence Scialom
I met many inspiring people and projects while staying at Place to B in Paris during the COP21 climate change negotiations. This includes a lovely Scottish woman named Jess, who was often busy with hanging beautiful bunting up at Place to B, or photographing the same bunting at famous locations around Paris. It turned out the bunting was made collectively by people in the community Jess lives in – Dunkeld & Birnam in Scotland – inspired by the ‘For the love of’ campaign, to show what they love and want to protect from climate change. In total, Jess had around 100 metres of bunting, made up of 400 triangles made by people aged from 2 to 105! I spoke with Jess about the story behind her bringing the bunting to Paris.
Bringing people together
Jess is well aware of the different issues around climate change. She has a background working for organisations like WWF and the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, and is now a full time mum and a passionate climate activist on a voluntary basis. A few years ago Jess did a Climate Reality training, and following this did some talks on climate change in her local community.
Soon people started coming up to Jess in the street to talk about climate change related issues; to bring up their concerns, ideas and suggestions for action. “There used to be a time when I couldn’t have a chat in the playground about climate change, but now I feel that’s changed. People are more open,” Jess told me. “There is growing enthusiasm to learn more and take action on climate change from people of all ages in our society.”
Jess said she’s particularly inspired by the leadership skills many young people show in getting involved, and said, “it is clear that young people should be involved, both at a community level and at wider negotiations, such as COP21”. A teacher at a local school invited Jess to help support a 12-year old girl who had shown particular passion for taking actions to tackle climate change. Together with this enthusiastic young girl and other passionate volunteers in the local community, Jess has been involved in running a variety of events and activities to raise awareness on climate change issues, and the bunting idea was part of this.
For the Love of…
In order to involve people in the community, a group of local volunteers, including Jess and the young girl she was working with, invited people to share what they loved and why they wanted action on climate change. This activity was inspired by the ‘For the love of’ campaign from The Climate Coalition. (This is an idea that has been taken on in many locations, including local to NOW's offices in Totnes, Devon).
The Climate Coalition says, “Unless politicians know this is something we all care about, they won’t have the mandate to act. So this is the time for everyone to show our politicians that we do care, that this issue is really important to us. Because it affects the things we love most. Our families. Our hobbies. Our passions. Our lifestyles. Our safety and wellbeing. We’re saying loud and clear – let’s act on climate change, for the love of everything we hold dear.”
It’s heartening when you offer people a way to show they care, and they take it up with more enthusiasm than you ever could have hoped for. This was the experience of local volunteers in Dunkeld & Birnam when inviting people to get involved. Volunteers invited people to make there own bunting triangle, adding a creative twist to the campaign. Lots of people were keen to contribute a triangle and help out further with the project.
“People donated amazing material to make the bunting. Someone in the local sewing shop donated a bag full of supplies and others came by and just dropped off the most beautiful material”, Jess told me. This material was taken around to different places locally to get people of all ages involved in making bunting; including schools, sheltered housing, the local Post Office, the community orchard and the local Birnam Community Arts Centre, which is a hub for climate campaign volunteer activities in the area. The fact that so many people contributed helped to build a sense of community and excitement about seeing the bunting in Paris.
Communities coming together for change
Those passionate about climate change in Dunkeld and Birnham come together regularly for community events, to share learning, raise money and explore ideas. Following her time in Paris, Jess has been sharing her experiences with her local community, and she’s also of course been sharing the amazing photos of the travelling bunting!
There are also plenty of other ongoing local activities in Dunkeld and Birnam, as local volunteers continue to work to tackle climate change through community action. This includes thriving growing projects, a community orchard planted by local children, a community garden called The Field – in which food grown, sold, and consumed locally. Plus, sustainable activities are supported and promoted by local businesses too, with many domestic and local businesses investing in energy efficiency and renewables.
As Jess points out, “what is happening in our community is just a small bit of a much wider movement, but all of these contributions combined can create something very powerful, plus they can be lots of fun too!”
To find out more about the ‘For the love of’ campaign visit http://fortheloveof.org.uk/.