In July 2019 our District Council declared a climate emergency, and in September set out a plan of action for how it would approach the challenge .
Having spoken at the Council meeting, and launching a petition calling for urgent follow-up action, we were invited to give our views to the relevant committee and their advisers from the Carbon Trust on a community response to the declaration.
After introducing Green Southwell, our activities to date and our areas of interest, we set out where we think the opportunities are and what we think the challenges are, from a community perspective.
Opportunities, or why the Council should not hold back
- Resilience: one of our motivations as a group is to build links between people and groups, to strengthen the community in its response to a challenge – where recently we have seen responses driven by division to the detriment of all.
- Wellbeing: in responding to the challenge we need new knowledge and skills, from how to recycle and reuse materials, to how to respond to the major changes required in our infrastructure. Building knowledge and skills provides mental stimulation and with it, fulfilment and wellbeing.
- Green jobs: one of our starting points as a group was meeting people in a professional sphere who were trying to protect the environment – in heavy industry, education, housing, and in island nations already suffering from the changing climate. Many more people are needed, with the potential for new jobs in every community.
Challenges, or what communities want from the Council
Admittedly as an area we are at an early stage in our community response, but we put forward ideas provided on our facebook page and at Green Drinks.
- Recycling: there is too much confusion about what can be recycled where. People want easy ways to recycle items that Veolia can’t collect.
- Waste: community litter pickers know where the problem areas are, potentially down to a small number of repeat offenders. We’d like the Council to research how to crack down on these.
- Network: the nature of the district is that different communities rarely interact, and we requested the Council consider how they can provide a contact that enables peer-to-peer networking, can point communities to the right Council contact, identify potential land and buildings that could be a resource for neighbourhood projects, and share other resources.
- Air quality: we suggested that some people may be more engaged with air quality than carbon and that air quality monitoring could help us understand issues with local pollution from fossil-fuelled transport (and perhaps wood-burning stoves)
- Transport: we recognised that NSDC has no responsibility for transport and roads, but would be interested to hear how they can support car pools, pedestrian zones and kerbside recycling (eg for glass) where people don’t have car transport.
- Housing: nearly ever house needs better insulation, and its a win for affordable bills, cosy homes as well as cutting carbon. We referred to the frustration in Southwell Town Council about new homes connecting to gas, and asked that NSDC use its procurement for its social housing to support the development of accredited skills in the area, to use planning nudges where it can, and to share lessons from local retrofits to show what is possible.
- Food: we don’t know the answer, but it seems that as a society we need to understand that our soil needs natural nutrients returned to it, rather than being dumped in our waste bins, and asked that the Council consider how it can improve rates of composting.
On the last point, we asked the Council to engage with local farmers and landowners, some of whom are more aware than most of the risks of a changing climate.