First, the good news

Community action to reduce emissions and live more sustainably is filling the leadership vacuum on climate change. [18 September 2007 | Peter Boyer]

Climate change has a bit of a reputation. People who talk about it tend to be branded as doomsayers, panic merchants, Calamity Janes. So here’s some good news.

First of all, we can turn this around. We won’t stop the climate change juggernaut any time soon, and our climate will get warmer over coming decades. But it is possible to keep the temperature rise within a couple of degrees.

It will take dedication and effort, and there will be a price, which in Australia we’ll soon begin measuring when we put in place an emissions trading scheme – to which both major parties are committed.

The effort will need to be global – all developed countries and the major developing ones, like China, will have to be part of the deal. But it can be done.

At the other end of the scale, there’s us. This is such a big problem and we’re just ordinary people. What’s to stop us sliding from denial into despair?

For what it’s worth, from one who’s been through a bit of a climate change mill, you start to feel better about climate change when you look squarely at the problem. You feel better still when you talk it over with others.

And finding out what you and your community can do, and then going ahead and doing it, is a truly empowering experience.

We’re lucky in Tasmania. We have strong networks of people who’ve spent much of their lives thinking about how to move out of old, entrenched ways of thinking and living into new, low-impact ones.

I discovered this early in my Climate Project career. Just after returning from my training with Al Gore last year, I met a remarkable person named Margaret Steadman, who runs a tiny but highly effective group called Sustainable Living Tasmania (formerly the Tasmanian Environment Centre).

Since the 1970s, SLT has been building up information and expertise in shifting to a more sustainable way of life. Recently, they’ve been very busy with community climate change workshops.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Margaret and her team in these workshops. I’ve seen how they get the best out of groups wanting guidance in doing their bit to slow global warming and deal with its effects, and I’ve seen the benefits for participants.

It’s early days, but we’re on the move, and the feeling is good.

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