If you want to act on the global climate crisis — go local.
That’s the advice from Yanna Badet, an environmental scientist specializing in community engagement.
Yanna Badet knows what she’s talking about. For more than 18 years she has been advising governmental agencies, cities and firms in California and Germany about environmental planning and resilience. She has led the community engagement for several large infrastructure and resilience-focused projects in California, and she participated in Al Gore’s Climate Reality Training in Berlin, Germany in 2018. Get the best from her inspiring keynote in video and words of wisdom below!
Three key ways to get your community to go green
In a keynote during Earth Day Week, the world’s largest no-fly climate conference, she spoke of the role of local governance in dealing with climate change, and how to get involved. But she started with explaining one of keywords:
”Local governance includes local governments, but it’s not just about those specific services that keep our cities and communities running. Local governance is a much broader concept. It’s defined by collective action at a local level. That means every one of us can get engaged in shaping our communities and how we live together, and that’s an empowering proposition with lots of possibilities. We can all participate and help guide the direction of our future”, she said in her online presentation from Wiefelstede in Germany.
As people we tend to care more about the places we live in than in regions far away. It’s also easier to take action — and experience the effect of those actions — on a local level than it is on a national scale.
”Even though political decisions are in the hands of our national and global leaders, communities can create change locally and, even more importantly, they can inspire and demand green progress”, she said.
This is even more important in countries where the national leadership has decided to turn their back on the climate issue. USA is the obvious example, where cities and states like California have decided to go their own path and are participating directly in the Paris Agreement. But here are more examples.
”Climate Reality Europe has a program in Poland called Black to green. It helps define a green vision for the community and is empowering NGOs and local stakeholders to push the domestic climate debate. Poland still burns a lot of coal and have a lot of air quality and health issues locally, so this program also includes financial tools, so that the workers and the communities doesn’t lose out in the transition”, said Yanna Badet.
For those of you interested in taking part in local climate action, or maybe even lead the way, here are Yanna Badet’s three key ways to help you kick-start collective action:
1. Have many conversations.
Talk together about the future of your community. Find out what your community’s already doing. Does it have a climate action plan? A greenhouse gas inventory? Are actions actually being implemented, or are these plans just collecting dust on the shelves? What does people care most about locally, and what are some of the barriers to change?
Knowing these local challenges and dreams helps in defining the solutions.
”The good news is we can reduce our CO2 footprints with solutions we have at hand. It is possible even on an individual level to meet your personal Paris agreement goal. Yet a systemic approach will really help scale it and make it easier”, said Yanna Badet.
2. Dream together.
Create a vision of the future that is bid and bold and beautiful.
”Since our world has nearly stopped, it’s a brilliant time to reflect on what we cherish about our lives and our communities, and what we can improve. So gather your friends, your neighbours, everyone you know. What are the things your are most grateful for? What can you do without? What do you think could be done differently and better? What makes you happy? What would your best new normal be?”
Yanna Badet says that everyone she has met during her work, regardless of political standpoint, cares about their community and wants to do the right thing.
”That gives me a lot of hope. There is a big desire to understand what we can do to make our communities more resilient and becoming climate positive rather than being part of the problem. We can win through collaboration and showing up together.”
3. Boost the power of a local community
Community leaders are often a little hesitant, and need encouragement and support to change existing policies.
”They are worried about making hard and possibly unpopular choices, so formulating goals and desires and supporting local governments with collective action can really help. So network and team up!”
But if even if most local residents care about their home turf, not everyone would agree that going green is the right way forward. So what do we do when the person we encounter claims the climate crisis is a hoax?
This is Yanna Badet’s advice:
”We need to understand that people’s responses are often emotional, and that denial for example if often based on fear. So having an understanding for what your communication partner is going through in terms of emotional responses to this big crisis, and not judging it immediately but allowing that to sit is really important. Once they understand that this is about their community they do care, and they do want to do the right thing.”
Written by Markus Lutteman