On Oct. 17 at 7 p.m., Decorah’s Peace and Justice Center hosted a room full of community members discouraged by the recent UN report on climate change. I attended the meeting as a student employee for the Luther College Center for Sustainable Communities, as a student and as a citizen of the Earth. Going into the meeting, I was feeling the panic, disappointment and helplessness that many others had felt. I was looking for a place to not only voice these fears but learn about what I could do to help the planet before it was too late.
The meeting opened with a little over 36 people crammed into a small room that quickly ran out of chairs. A majority of the attendees were community members that had loved ones younger than them who will inherit the disaster climate change may bring. The other attendees were a mix of Green Iowa Americorps members, Luther students, and other people who wanted to learn how to make a difference. We began by introducing ourselves and how old we will be in 2040. In 2040, I will be 41 years old. I was alarmed to think of what could come about in the world in just twenty-two years. After this, we discussed the events that would happen as soon as 2040 that were in the UN report such as massive flooding, famine, drought, extreme weather and more.
After we were all thoroughly anxious, we broke off into small groups of four people to discuss our hopes for our futures or for the futures of our loved ones. This topic filled the room with feelings of hope, excitement, loss, and apprehension. We reflected on our hopes for the future and what we wanted in our lives. Then we reconvened as a group and discussed individual desires for the future. Whether it was to start a family or protect the families we already have, many people mentioned their relationships and how they hoped to still possess them in the future rather than losing them in the tragic face of climate change.
Next, we went back into small groups and talked about how we were going to either combat or survive climate change, or how the people that come after us could survive it. This led to some interesting conversations in my group we explored ideas such as food forests to sequester carbon, community style living to preserve energy, and as a result, reduce our carbon footprint, and the push for truly local foods to reverse the damage being done by the transportation of food from far away locations. After we returned to the larger group discussion,we discovered that these were common ideas within our community. We all shared ideas of a truly local and self sufficient community that could not only help reverse some harmful effects of global warming, but were also truly sustainable.
This meeting was extremely inspirational. It was heartening to see a high level of community engagement and to hear reassurance from other people who want to make positive change in our world. I met some fantastic long-time community members of all ages who helped me keep things in perspective and offered me different points of view outside of the "Luther Bubble."
The next Climate Resilience meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5 (location TBD). I encourage anyone who is able, to go. Meeting community members and engaging with them is rewarding. Join your neighbors and start to have the conversations that will allow us to create a positive plan for resilience in the face of climate change.