Caring About Climate Change
If you drove through Vancouver’s Kerrisdale today, or one of many other neighborhoods across North America, you may have noticed groups of people holding signs about climate change.
The group I stopped to chat with was led by Janette McIntosh of KAIROS Canada and Kevin Washbrook of Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC). They had a sizable turnout considering the freezing weather, and were received warmly by the many people driving by who honked their support.
Both organizations are grassroots and volunteer-driven. VTACC focuses on getting people involved politically on behalf of our planet with regards to climate change. When the group started in 2007, governments were not listening and although the large environmental groups were doing good work, they were not getting results. Kevin attributes this to a lack of involvement from the general public.
VTACC’s events are positive, fun and family-oriented, and include soap box derbies and parades. Occasionally the political signs appear, such as on the first day of the current international climate change conference. VTACC also organized leadership debates during the election. Their goal is to legislate serious carbon emission reductions to help stop climate change. “Climate change is not a political issue – it’s about creating the type of world we want to live in for the rest of our lives,” Kevin told me. “We’re not going to solve this unless we’re all working together.” VTACC forms alliances with other groups to accomplish goals related to climate change, as well as human rights and social justice. It’s an urgent time for action and although there are reasons to be worried, some things give Kevin great hope, including China and India announcing reduction targets, and the Canadian government’s shift in position. If groups are active now and then Copenhagen fails to reach an agreement, people will ask “why not?”.
VTACC is asking supporters to participate in a rotating fast during the Copenhagen talks – information is available on their Facebook page.
Janette McIntosh of KAIROS explained that her organization is multi-denominational and involved with climate change as well as social issues. Five years ago, Janette, a public health officer by trade, took on the issue of water abundance and went to churches to educate people. Soon after, other environmental activities related to resource extraction followed, especially in places where North American laws don’t apply. Three years ago, KAIROS decided to “focus on a longer-term, three-year climate change campaign, which gives us a chance, [as] volunteers, to become better educated and to become better advocates on the issues,” Janette explained. Being faith-based, KAIROS takes its message to congregations, and writes resources and policy documents based on Christian messages. Currently KAIROS is facing budget cuts from CIDA, which will negatively affect the international work they do.
Janette reports that some people who have witnessed old forms of environmental activism feel hesitant to get involved. Others are too busy, even lacking time to think or reflect. She approaches issues gently and takes time to build relationships and establish trust so people start to listen. In time, some join her group. She agrees that the role of stewardship is an important model. Feeling humble makes it much harder to approach our planet with an attitude of dominance. The bottom line is our relationship with ourselves, with other people, and with our planet. We need to examine who we are in relation to our world, how we live, and that we’re not alone. “In the business of going from place A, to B to C, communication dwindles – you’re not able to have meaningful conversation on issues that matter. If you’re not having those conversations, then the depth that all of us long for is not being met,” Janette suggested. Many people are not aware of how fulfilling life can be when it is lived intentionally, or with purpose.
Sometimes an overdose of climate change information — as with some media outlets during the lead up to Copenhagen — can make people feel hopeless or even desensitized. Those who get scared can bury it, pretend a threat doesn’t exist, and carry on with business as usual. Other people become overwhelmed as they stretch their energy in too many helpful ways.
There are different ways to approach this, but Janette suggests — and I agree — that people with an awareness or who have time to think, have a responsibility to help. “There has to be political analysis and an ability to work with an alliance-building and a partnership approach,” Janette suggested. Many people are helping and their voices have the right to be heard. A number of churches now have environmental committees or stewardship groups. Seattle-based Earth Ministry, for example, has a lot of activity going on to reach everyone. And we need everybody – all hands on deck, please!
The 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen started today. May great wisdom guide the decision makers and may they work together to reach an agreement that supports our planet. We wish them well.