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Living Green: Building a community climate response

Attendees of Thursday’s Building a Community Climate Response event pack the Peter White Public Library Community Room to learn from over a dozen organizations about local efforts to build a climate-resilient community. The event was held for several hours and featured exhibits, presentations and more. It aimed to inspire communication and collaboration among the organizations present, as well as attendees, Forslin said. (Jounral photo by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE — Over a dozen local organizations working to build a climate-resilient community gathered together Thursday in an effort to inspire community connections and collaborations.

The Building a Community Climate Response event was organized by John Forslin, a leader with the Climate Reality Project Upper Peninsula Chapter. It was held for several hours at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette, giving attendees a chance to drop in for handouts and chats with exhibitors, as well as listen to talks by a variety of presenters in the evening.

It was important to bring these groups together, Forslin said, as the event aimed to build “cross communication” and “cross pollination” among the many local organizations working to address climate-related issues locally.

“We are all pointing in roughly the same direction,” Forslin said. “We have maybe different spins on issues, because we have different short-term and long-term objectives, but we’re all working towards making it a more resilient community. And if we can agree on that, then we can talk to each other.”

The varied exhibits, handouts and presentations gave a wide perspective on the multiple approaches to addressing climate-related issues in the area, which range from infrastructure interventions, land conservation, political activism, climate science education, offering spiritual connections with nature, promoting local foods and more.

For example, Transition Marquette County, which has been active for over a decade, aims to promote “creative, compassionate resilient communities in northern Michigan,” through a number of avenues, said Charlie West, a member of Transition Marquette County’s steering committee.

The organization’s main goal at this time is to help get groups and projects started, West said. For example, it has helped to develop spin-off projects such as the Repair Cafe and the Queen City Seed Library.

The group also holds a monthly book club to provide attendees with deeper connection to the issues.

“We realized about five years ago, that artists, writers, novelists sometimes can change a culture’s paradigm and understanding in a way that — I hate to say it — more scientific stuff, more journalistic stuff maybe doesn’t,” West said. “People read the science books and say, ‘OK. We read the newspaper articles and we may be touched.’ But you read a novel, and that really puts you into the situation, and really starts you thinking more deeply.”

The importance of reading fiction related to climate change was echoed by Carolyn McManis, the program coordinator at the library who leads the sci-fi book club at PWPL. She brought a large range of climate-related fiction to display at the event in an aim to inspire attendees to pick up a book and gain a new perspective.

“One of the reasons that the fiction aspect is so important is because it allows people to actually become more invested in the problem, because they become invested in the characters that they are reading about,” McManis said. “So that’s why I thought this was a different way to try to understand what’s going on in our world and see what the possible consequences are.”

Attendees of the event also learned how they can get involved with various climate efforts.

For example, Kristen Carlson, leader of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Marquette Chapter, spoke about how area residents can volunteer with the local nonprofit, nonpartisan grassroots organization.

The group provides volunteers training on how to talk to members of Congress and many opportunities to engage with legislators, from phone calls, emails and tweets to in-person visits, as the group is lobbying Congress to pass the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, or House Resolution 763, she said.

Overall, Forslin was glad to see so many active participants in the local climate response gather together for the event, he said, noting he was also glad to see many new faces in attendance.

“We just have to get more people talking at more levels, more often about this,” Forslin said. “Somebody asked Greta Thunberg: ‘What should people do?’ She said: ‘Do everything you can, with everyone you can, as often as you can.’ And this is part of it.”

The event offered information, representatives and presentations from the Climate Adaption Task Force, the Superior Watershed Partnership, the Climate Reality Project, the Citizens Climate Lobby Marquette Chapter, the Repair Cafe, U.P. Wild Church, Transition Marquette County, the Marquette Food Co-op, the Queen City Seed Library, the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy, StyroFree Marquette, Alger County Amateur Radio Service, Northern Michigan University EcoReps, Taste the Local Difference, the website Skeptical Science and more.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.

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