Harnessing the power of the community
How do we engage people about environmental issues? One way to begin the journey is by bringing together local community projects and local politicians, which is exactly what happened in the East Midlands city of Lincoln.
Conferences held at a local level that look at and discuss the opportunities to be greener are a good place to start. The City of Lincoln Council held their first Low Carbon Lincoln conference on March 14, which gave local businesses a chance describe what they are already doing to be more efficient as a business and how they are helping the local environment.
To give the conference more national or even global grounding, it also had speakers with a great deal of experience. Alexis Rowell, director of Cutting the Carbon, says events like this are an opportunity to share good practice “I want to take the message about the good practice that I have seen elsewhere to whoever will listen and I want to pick up more. When I come to a place like Lincoln it is a great opportunity for me to learn but also hopefully for others to hear what I have seen around Britain and around Europe”.
Dr Robyn Pender from English Heritage also attended the event and said it was a great opportunity to converse one-on-one and to find out that lots of people already have solutions to the problems we face.
Pender argues that working on these issues at a local level means that more can be achieved. She says about working with central Government “they can only see who the noisiest person trying to get their attention is” because they have too many people pushing and pulling. “Whereas, if you are on the local level, you can see the results of what you do … and people come to you directly to tell you when it doesn’t work”, says Pender.
Rowell gave a good example of how events can bring local level problems to the fore. His particular bug bear is that some local councils ‘co-mingle’ their recycling, meaning that all waste for recycling collected in one bin – not good, he says. Being able to raise awareness in local councils is exactly why such events are so important.
It is clear that the problems that face our future cannot be saved by conferences alone or, rather, that such conferences have got to lead to “very definite actions”, says Rowell. They mark the beginning of more significant changes and help change the attitudes of whole communities.
As Rowell says, “Essentially we need to stop pretending that we are nature’s master, we need to start to live with nature, interact with nature, live within the limits of nature, rather than thinking we can subjugate nature, thinking we are in some way in charge […] we’re not and it is coming back to kick us really hard”. Such sea changes do not happen overnight, which is why replicating community level discussions like Low Carbon Lincoln that motivate real people to take action are so very important.
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