At the end of In Transition 2.0 (a great documentary we showed last year) it says:
What we are convinced of is this:
- if we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late
- if we act as individuals, it’ll be too little
- but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.
In many ways I think this is a great summary of the position we find ourselves in today.
In the Do the Math documentary (you can watch it online by providing your email) they present three important numbers 2; 565 and 2795:
We can emit 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming — the level of warming that we hope we can cope with. The only problem is that burning the fossil fuel that corporations now have in their reserves would result in emitting 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide – five times the safe amount.
In other words it is vital that we find alternatives to fossil fuels. Of course it is not just fossil fuels we need to think about. The following video introduces the concept of ecological overshoot.
Global Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity exhausts nature’s budget for the year.
- In 1993 overshoot day was October 21 (day 294)
- In 2003 overshoot day was September 22 (day 265)
- In 2013 overshoot day was August 20 (day 232).
We can’t rely on the Government to fix things.
At the national level, the Government is abandoning the carbon tax, it has axed the Climate Commission, it is planning to axe the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and it has appointed a self-proclaimed climate sceptic to review the clean energy targets.
Things are not quite as grim at the state level but it’s still not great. Proposed changes to NSW planning laws are a matter of concern (e.g., making the economic benefit of large mining projects the main consideration in the approval process); the budget for the Office of Environment and Heritage has been eroded over a number of years and there is continued to support for Coal Seam Gas.
In Newcastle we have seen climate change and sustainability slip from the Council’s agenda as demonstrated by the Environment and Climate Change Services Team being slashed. Things are looking a bit better in Lake Macquarie with programs like their great Sustainable Neighbourhoods.
If we wait for the government it will definitely be too little too late.
Transition Newcastle’s approach to sustainability is to encourage a local community response. We worked hard last year:
- We completed the pilot of the Transition Streets Challenge. I won’t go into detail, but essentially feedback was very positive (see feedback from the street coordinators) and we were delighted to be highly commended at the NSW sustainable City Awards.
- We held a number of successful events including a talk and workshop by Michael Mobbs (author of Sustainable House and Sustainable Food), and screenings of Bag It! and Garbage Warrior.
- We partnered with One Just World to hold a forum on Hunger Pains: Food Scarcity in a Changing World with over 180 people coming along
- Annie and the Nourishing Newcastle Urban Tucker Stall (NNUTS) team have held fortnightly markets (on the first and third Sunday of the month) at the Newcastle Farmers Market where they sold sell excess produce from home or community gardens
- Pete and the Nourishing Newcastle Neighbourhood Supported Agriculture team have continued to develop the garden in Mayfield.
For the coming year we have three main focuses (although others may be added):
- Community awareness raising through our monthly gatherings on the first Tuesday of the month
- Nourishing Newcastle will continue their NNUTS stall and the Neighbourhood Supported Agriculture garden in Mayfield.
- And of course we will be putting a lot of effort into the Transition Streets Challenge both locally and in working with some Transition groups in Melbourne to create a workbook that can be used nationally.
Of course there are going to be a variety of other activities. We have a small group looking at the possibility of hosting the third Fair Share Festival, we’re looking at the best way to promote verge vegetable gardens on nature strips, and we are discussing a parenting forum in partnership with the Family Action Centre to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the international year of the family. (See some reflections on one we held in 2012.) It is going to be another big year.
I must admit I’m proud to be part of Transition Newcastle. We are a small core group putting in a lot of work. For example, we worked out that the group put in at least 1800 hours volunteer hours to the Transition Streets Challenge. It is also a good group to work with. Sure we get frustrated with each other at times and we don’t always agree on everything, but there is a good vibe in the group and we work well together. The little things like sharing brunch at our committee meetings help make a difference.
The end of the quote I started with was “but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.” It’s important to recognised that Transition Newcastle is not alone. There are many other initiatives, groups and individuals in the Newcastle region making a difference. We are only one part of a growing groundswell.
- There are groups like the Hunter Community Environment Centre, Climate Action Newcastle and the Newcastle branch of the Wilderness Society who are taking a stand over a range of issues.
- There are groups who are creating networks or communities working towards change like Casablanca and the Commons.
- There are groups like Permaculture Hunter (who are like our favourite cousins), Purple Pear Farm, the Kids Vegies on the Verge and many community gardens promoting local food production.
- There are also many other projects that are totally independent of us but which could sit very well as transition initiatives for example CLEANas, the Bike Ecology Centre, and Beanstalk Organic co-op.
It is nice knowing we are not alone.
I’d like to finish up this year’s report with some heartfelt thanks. A big thank you to Hamilton Uniting Church for the use of their facilities – it is wonderful having that support. We have had a few generous donors who have wanted to remain unsung, but we really appreciate their support.
Many people have put in a lot of hours into the group including our office holders and the people who come regularly to the our committee meetings; there were the street contacts for the pilot of the Transition Streets Challenge who played such an important role in making it a success (and welcome to our new ones for 2014!) and there are a many other people who have helped in a range of other ways. We really do appreciate all the work done.
It is risky singling out individuals but I do want to specifically acknowledge Emily who has been treasurer for the last three years and Cathy who puts in 100s of hours to Transition Newcastle (especially the Transition Streets Challenge). Thank you!
And of course thank you to all of you who have come along and supported our annual general meeting.
We achieved a lot in 2013 and we are looking forward to an even better 2014.
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