A new member of the Climate Action Team shared at our most recent meeting that she tended to pay the most attention to federal environmental issues. Our group’s activism around congregational, local, and state initiatives was not as familiar to her. At that meeting last week, we talked about the city of Athens’ city-wide composting program and a pilot compost initiative in East Point. A member shared details of her recent tour of the Compost Now facility west of the city. Another member reported about her participation in last week’s DeKalb Green New Deal Summit. We learned that language for the CAT’s contract for a campus permaculture design is in final review. For a group that thinks globally, the CAT is certainly acting locally.
Local action in support of global environmental goals was on full display at the Oct. 15 Ray Day, a community celebration hosted by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation on farmland at Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills. Fellow CAT members Julie Simon and Lizanne Moore joined me for the free event, which included over 50 exhibitors, solar and EV displays, and hands-on family activities.
Ray C. Anderson was a respected corporate CEO who, at the height of his success, had an epiphany that he “called his mid-course correction – the beginning of his quest to prove that sustainability was not just the right thing to do, it was the smart thing to do for business,” according to the foundation’s website. “Ray was a gifted storyteller and inspirational catalyst who changed the way we think about consumerism and production,” the site’s biography continues. “His masterful penchant for storytelling was matched only by his uncompromising determination to brighten his corner of the world. What started as one person’s mission to change his company’s thinking stimulated a greater transformation: one that carried with it the momentum to break from the status quo.”
Ray Day’s exhibiting organizations ran the gamut from big names like Sierra Club Georgia, Drawdown Georgia, and Georgia Organics to smaller groups like LiveThrive/CHaRM, Whispering Hills Natural Green Cemetery, and WunderGrubs Farms. All of them seek in some way to disrupt elements of the status quo that contribute to accelerating environmental collapse. It’s sometimes easy for my cynicism to lead me to devalue the impacts of some of these non-profits, but the call to “act locally” can not be overstated.
Our lives are lived locally – within our homes, our neighborhoods, and our counties. My recent reading has me exploring national and global metrics that argue that widespread collapse has begun, but it’s what’s happening outside my door and outside my car windows that really grabs my attention on a daily basis. There’s the growing number of neighbors who contract yard crews that rely on deafening gas blowers. According to this New York Times editorial, “hydrocarbon emissions from a half-hour of yard work with the two-stroke leaf blower are about the same as a 3,900-mile drive from Texas to Alaska in a [Ford F-150] Raptor.”
As I type this, chippers are grinding the branches of beautiful trees that were felled in a close-by park to make space for a county sewer pipe upgrade. The project is just in time since, within two miles of my house and on a site UUCA considered during its relocation search, over 470 new apartments are being built in the massive Resia development (left), just across Memorial Drive from two other developments by the Kensington MARTA station that will add 500 apartments. Nearly 1000 new apartments means a lot of flushing toilets and much greater resource usage.
And there’s what’s happening with the clearing and land degradation for the City of Atlanta’s controversial “Cop City” facility seven miles from my house in the Weelaunee Forest. And there’s the unregulated industrial sludge waste that’s being dumped at dozens of sites around the state and threatening ground water quality, including 45 miles from me in Braselton. And there’s the titanium dioxide mining being considered 280 miles from me that threatens the critical stability of Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp, a national wildlife refuge that boasts extraordinary biodiversity. That’s 50 species of reptiles, 60 species of amphibians, 40 species of mammals, 600 plant species, 34 kinds of fish, and 200 bird species that call the largest blackwater wetland in North America home, according to this piece in Garden & Gun.
Thinking globally keeps us mindful of the UU seventh principle and the complex realities that shape the present and future. It’s acting locally, though, that brings reality home and empowers us to make choices that align with our values. That involves choices about our (conspicuous) consumption, our energy use, our financial investments, our philanthropic generosity, our political activism, our spiritual practices, and our self-care. The Climate Action Team helps its members think globally, act locally, and feel supported as they do both.
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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team is for you. Yes, you. Because you want to act on your love for the planet and because you need caring companions as you navigate these changing times. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library and Carbon Offset Fund. Contact Nicole Haines to connect to the CAT and join us for our next Zoom meeting on Nov. 20.