Think global, act local
“The climate crisis is the culmination of all the societal injustices that have been building up for centuries” Jamie Margolin, Youth Climate Activist
Shannon Coles has volunteered with Otley 2030 for the past three years, heading up various projects and initiatives. Here she shares her thoughts on the global crises we face and discusses how you can tackle your own anxieties with action…
A relatively straightforward exercise, and it’s what Otley 2030 is all about. Focusing on what we can change, using our food, transport, business, energy, education and zero-waste groups to influence human behaviour locally. We take our message of necessary action out to the wider community and model the changes we need to see if our ‘carbon zero’ goals are to be meaningful. Building community cohesion and using initiatives such as the veg box delivery and the Kindness Festival we model a better, fairer, kinder world, and prove that we are not just a collection of idealistic ‘tree huggers’ on a mission! The Otley 2030 communications team share attention-grabbing news stories which seek to explain the global picture, whilst highlighting the positive effect we can all have closer to home: Stories that inspire people to think, “Hmm, that’s not too hard, or too weird, maybe I can make a contribution also?”’
At Otley 2030 we are using the Doughnut Economics model to take a sort of ‘selfie’ picture of our town, to chart where we overshoot planetary boundaries, and where we negatively impact the lives of people who may live entirely different lives a long way away. We also focus in on where we let our own Otley neighbours down when it comes to meeting needs for adequate and nutritious food, warm houses, responsive health services, and an empowered, connected and meaningful life.
And then…if we spend a bit of time searching, we are brought face-to-face with the magnitude of what we have done to the planet, to humans and to every living thing, and to the catastrophically under-reported effects of climate change.
7.7 million children under the age of five in the Sahel in danger of dying of starvation because of the failure of the rainy season over five successive years (UNICEF Warns of Malnutrition Risk for Children Under 5 in Sahel (voanews.com)
20 million lives at risk in the Horn of Africa because of climate change (Climate Threats in the Horn of Africa Are Multiplying (foreignpolicy.com)
Extreme heat events in India causing drought, followed by flooding, and severe threat to life. (Climate change: IPCC warns India of extreme heat waves, droughts | Asia | An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 10.08.2021)
These events are all the direct results of climate change, which is a result of human activity. They are happening much sooner, and more frequently, than any of the climate scientists ever predicted. And they’re happening right now.
The human brain is quirky when it comes to using our imagination. We can imagine, and weep over, the refugee family escaping a rain of bombs that we see on our TVs, the family struggling to come to terms with the death of a loved one from Covid, the distress of a young owner of a dog lost on the Chevin, and maybe also the distress of the lost dog itself. But 7.7 million starving children? How do we compute, how do we imagine, how do we get our heads round that?
I can look at my tiny bright-eyed granddaughter, cheerfully emptying her brother’s Lego box all over the recently tidied living room. I can look at my thoughtful four-year-old grandson, practicing his newly acquired grown up phrases - this week it’s ‘in the meantime’ and he uses it at every possible opportunity, as well as some impossible ones! How would it be if they were starving? And how would it be if it were my car use, my flights, my thoughtless consumption habits that had so damaged the world’s capacity to heal itself that we are moving into a terrifying and unpredictable future precisely because of the way we have been encouraged, and chosen, to live? Many of the forces shaping my life choices have been market driven; when I look at the devastation these forces have wreaked on our children’s future, with the support of successive governments and prevailing economic models, my pitiful efforts to resist and call out those forces look puny indeed.
But of course, it’s not my grandchildren who are starving, or any children that I know personally. That’s why we have to augment our emotions with knowledge, research, and with fact. It’s my generation, and the generations before me, back to the industrial revolution, and, so sadly, my son’s generation - we knew but we didn’t stop - that have caused this damage.
It’s selective damage so far. It’s been caused by us, the West, the North, the ‘developed’ countries, but inflicted, for now, on the global majority countries, overwhelmingly in the South. It will be our turn soon - ask people in Melbourne, in California, in Florida, where the fires almost - but not quite - reached Trump’s glitzy holiday home and private golf course. Oh, the irony!
I don’t know how to make sense of this, how to come to terms with what we have done. All I know is that continuing to Act Local is the only realistic response available to me in these circumstances. And I find huge strength, warmth and encouragement from having a group of wonderful, committed humans to work alongside whilst I do it. Thank heavens for Otley 2030.
Shannon Coles 23.5.22