Posted: 04.02.20 at 18:25 by Zola Hargreaves
Gwyrddio Penarth Greening (GPG), Penarth’s local environmental group, celebrated their 10th anniversary with a public debate about climate change from a local perspective.
The discussion was held in St Augustine’s church hall and the event saw a significant turnout from local residents with many struggling to get a seat in the packed space.
Gideon Calder, the chair of GPG, said: ‘’We wanted to bring people together who wouldn’t usually be in the same room, to discuss something that is affecting all of us.’’
The age range of attendees was well-mixed for the collaborative evening.
Penarth Youth Action (PYA) gave an impressive speech focusing on the extent of the issues that young people are facing environmentally and the need for education and involvement amongst the younger generations.
They said: ‘’Some young people are doing incredible, amazing things on a grand scale but sometimes the pressure of this means it’s quite hard to feel like you can get involved and make a real impact.
‘’Great Thunberg and other influential climate activists have shown young people that we have a voice, but it can feel like unless you’re doing those massive things you’re not making a difference.
‘’PYA is trying to look at things from a community level as well as looking at ourselves individually instead of reaching for the pinnacle of young people.
‘’Every change is a change and we want to get as many people involved in that as we can.
‘’For example, we had a stand at the Christmas light switch on, explaining to people the impact of wrapping paper on the environment. 108 million rolls of wrapping paper are thrown away on average and educating people on this and helping them make a change could have a massive impact.’’
Along similar lines, Gideon Calder encouraged locals to consider that, the changes people want to make and the knowledge those people need to make those changes are two different things.
He explained that a transparent view of what GPG do and an outline of what the community/ individuals can change to help make a difference would be extremely valuable.
He said: ‘’With the environment, there is often so much preaching to the converted that it can be counterproductive. Every action you're taking can make a change.’’
Haydn Cullen-Jones, from Transition Monmouth, and Steve Westlake, a psychology PhD researcher from Cardiff University, also gave talks hoping to engage with and inspire the Penarth group.
Mr Westlake said: ‘’A lot of my research has looked into those leading by example to promote pro-environmental behaviour.
‘’The social effect of somebody taking quite a strong stance is influential because obviously stopping flying in the modern world if you’re relatively wealthy and have a lifestyle which involves flying is a big deal and is potentially quite a hard thing to do.
‘’The important thing here is the idea of making a sacrifice having quite a strong communicative effect.’’
‘’Cultural evolution theory suggests that we have evolved to take notice of behaviour that seems difficult for the person doing it.
‘’The reason we might listen to that is it conveys information that you can’t get verbally. It is very hard to deceive someone through action.
‘’We can all do individual stuff and that is very important as well as working collectively as a community. These two things don’t need to conflict with one another which is often how it is discussed.
‘’However, in my opinion, the fundamental part of solving the problem now is for leaders to act in accordance with the scale of the issue.’’
Haydn Cullen-Jones talked about the climate emergency from a practical local level. He works with Transition Monmouth which is a community group that aims to increase self-sufficiency and reduce the damaging effects of climate change and economic instability.
He discussed a variety of projects that Transition Monmouth had done as examples of work at a local level.
He said: ‘’There are lots of different projects we have gotten involved in. We held a Climate festival (which brought activists together). People need to get out of halls and into the community.
‘’So, at a local level, we persuaded the county council to deliver grass clippings in autumn to our local composter which goes to the local allotment. These things are there but do we take enough advantage of it and how do we take advantage of it?
‘’One of the other projects going on is to do with food waste. We get a phone call from Marks and Spencers every evening telling us about what food is going to be available the next morning and then we dispense that to try and deal with food poverty and avoiding the excess waste.
‘’We also pay the local greengrocer a small amount to put a basket of fresh fruit in the Baptist Church food bank. The Trussell Trust won’t have perishable food. We also have a community orchard which people can pick as and when.’’
The speakers were followed by a group discussion exercise, which involved the community split into groups to collaborate with each other about ideas for moving forward.
Points that were raised included:
• Influencing leaders and changing their priorities – talking and communicating with the Vale of Glamorgan council and Welsh Government
• Democratisation of environmentalism – How to get everyone involved.
• Food waste at a local level – more information required in clearer ways from the council about how to do this most effectively.
• Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Repair Cafes, Shop Locally and Reuse Projects
• Library of things in Penarth
• Eco Features in Local News
Overall, GPG’s hopes are to collate all the information gathered in the event to use in the future planning of an environmental agenda for Penarth and its residents.
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