Meeting the challenge of climate change is a social affair that benefits, in more ways than one, those prepared to give it a go. [1 April 2008 | Peter Boyer]
Humans have always been social creatures. We like to come together and make things, or walk, eat, talk, or just sit. We tend to prefer company to being alone.
This has never been more so than when there’s trouble afoot. The approach of the storm or the bushfire, the threat of lost jobs or homes, an enemy menacing community or country… all have the effect of bringing people together in support of each other.
We’re most likely to congregate when the threat is imminent, and so big that it’s obvious we can’t manage alone.
That was what brought people together in Hobart last month to look at how Tasmanian communities might make the transition from a high dependency on fossil fuels to a sustainable economy.
The workshop, organised by Sustainable Living Tasmania, was focused on community action to address what is surely the greatest challenge in history.
In an afternoon of spirited and intelligent discussion, participants explored how we might work as local and state-wide communities to tackle the big issues raised by a rapidly-changing climate.
It was inspiring to discover how many people are already working in local groups to put their concerns into action. Presentations on actions to strengthen communities’ sustainability and self-reliance covered setting up a car pooling scheme, producing food in back yards, community produce gardens and markets and walking school buses.
Ideas came thick and fast when small groups tackled the all-important “how”. How do we make best use of our time and resources? How do we share resources and skills? How do we go about developing community self-reliance and sustainability?
And importantly, how do we stir our communities into action? And how can government most effectively deploy its resources?
It was good to see a representative of Tasmania’s Climate Change Office speak candidly to the meeting about the challenge ahead, and contribute strongly to workshop discussions. It’s to be hoped that such government-community dialogue is a sign of things to come. The fact is, community action will come to nothing without the authority that only government can bring to bear.
Among the 99.99 per cent of Tasmanians who didn’t attend the SLT Transition workshop will be some who need a bit more convincing that climate change presents a clear and present danger.
What political and bureaucratic leaders say and do is crucial in helping undecided people to understand the gravity of our climate predicament – and the great value of working together as revitalised communities to meet and overcome the challenge.
Community initiatives: some useful contacts
• Car pooling: A Tasmanian online car-pooling site is to go live on May 1, providing comprehensive information about options including travel times and destinations. For information, go to Cool Pool Tasmania>.
• Lobbying for better public transport: See Melbourne-based Public Transport Users Association for information and links to other sites.
• Walking school buses: See walking school bus information at Tasmanian Education Department website. For Australian Walking School Bus Guide go to <www.travelsmart.gov.au/schools/schools2.html>.
• Solar hot water: For information and advice contact Sustainable Living Tasmania: tel. 62345566; or visit <www.sustainablelivingtasmania.org.au>.
• Home insulation: Good overview at Australian Greenhouse Office <www.greenhouse.gov.au/yourhome/technical/fs16a.htm#levels>. Information from Sustainable Living Tasmania: tel. 6234 5566; <www.sustainablelivingtasmania.org.au>.
• Community gardens: Tasmanian Community Gardening Network, <www.eatwelltas.org.au/gardening.php>. Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network has good information about managing community gardens at <www.communitygarden.org.au/index.html>.
• Local produce markets: Coal River Valley Farmers Market (2nd Sunday, Campania), tel. 6260 4126, email <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Geeveston Growers Market (fortnightly), tel. 6297 1601, email <email@example.com>; Burnie Farmers’ Market (9am-1pm, 1st and 3rd Saturdays, Wivenhoe Showgrounds), tel. 6431 5882; email <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Deloraine Showgrounds Market (9am – 1pm, 1st Saturday, Lake Hwy), tel. 63695321, email <email@example.com>; Launceston Farmers’ Market (8.30am ≠ 12.30pm Sundays, Inveresk Showgrounds, Invermay), tel. 0428 475 855; Wynyard Farmers’ Market (9am – noon, 2nd & 4th Saturday, Wynyard Showgrounds), tel. 64 381165, email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.