Can we be heroes?

Global warming is not a lost cause, if the energy and innovative ideas in community and work groups are any guide. They give hope that we might yet be able to move the emissions mountain. [4 December 2007 | Peter Boyer]

As Eric Ulthwaite demonstrated, weather’s what you talk about when you have nothing else to say.

Eric, of Michael Palin’s Ripping Yarns television comedy series from the BBC, was the one whose parents fled the family home because they couldn’t stand their son’s chatter about black pudding and shovels — and the weather, which being English was invariably miserable.

The long-term climate outlook hasn’t been looking so rosy either. So when I started as a Climate Project presenter there seemed a fair chance of striking the Eric syndrome, where people run a mile rather than listen to worrying or depressing messages.

I’m happy to report that in reality, things have been very different. Discussing climate change with nearly 3000 Tasmanians in over 60 groups this past year has given me a sense that we just might be able to right the ship.

There are some notable aspects to this. I’ve been surprised by the strong interest of seniors groups, who might be expected to take a back seat in this “future debate”. Not a bit of it – they have been some of my toughest interrogators and strongest advocates for action.

I had expected that discussing our future would interest Tasmanian school students. But I didn’t anticipate the depth of their knowledge and their sense of urgency in seeking solutions.

Most heartening of all have been the community groups who, having sat through a long slide presentation — and sometimes a screening of An Inconvenient Truth — still had enough energy and enthusiasm to discuss what they can do next.

Often, a facilitator from Sustainable Living Tasmania has been on hand to help shape this conversation into a workshop, where people have begun to fashion their own, local responses to this big, big issue.

In this “community action” mix have been ideas for improving home insulation, purchasing schemes for solar hot water systems, car-pooling schemes, “walking buses” for schoolchildren, lobbying for better public transport, local produce markets and communal vegetable gardens.

There remains much to be concerned about in the apparent reluctance of politicians, bureaucrats and business leaders to engage in the climate debate. We must never assume that the islands of community action I’ve just described are solutions in themselves.

But in this great campaign they give hope that this odd species, homo sapiens, will be able to embrace the new ways needed to fix things, and that, just maybe, we really do have it within us to make this world a better place.

We can be climate heroes, if we only try.

Community initiatives: some useful contacts

Walking school buses: Walking School Bus(tm) Guide prepared for school communities throughout Australia. Go to <>. Also Hobart City Council has information on walking school buses: tel. 6238 2711 or go to <>.
Solar hot water: For information and advice contact Sustainable Living Tasmania: tel. 62345566; email <>.

Home insulation: The Australian Greenhouse Office has a good overview at <>. Advice and information from Sustainable Living Tasmania: tel. 6234 5566; email <>.

Lobbying for better public transport: Melbourne-based Public Transport Users Association: go to <>. Here you can find links to other sites, at <>.

Community gardens: Tasmanian Community Gardening Network, c/- Eat Well Tasmania; tel. 6223 1266; email <>. Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network has good website about managing community gardens; go to <>.

Local produce markets: Coal River Valley Farmers Market: 2nd Sunday, Campania Hall and Grounds; tel. 6260 4126, email <>; Geeveston Growers Market: fortnightly, tel. 6297 1601, email <>, website <>; Burnie Farmers_ Market: 9am-1pm, 1st and 3rd Saturdays, Wivenhoe Showgrounds, Burnie; tel. 6431 5882; email <>; Deloraine Showgrounds Market: 9am – 1pm, 1st Saturday, Lake Hwy, tel. 63695321, email <>; Launceston Farmers_ Market: 8.30am _ 12.30pm Sundays, Inveresk Showgrounds, off Forster Street, Invermay, tel. 0428 475 855; Wynyard Farmers_ Market, 9am – noon, 2nd & 4th Saturday, Wynyard Showgrounds, Wynyard, tel. 64 381165, email <>.

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