Over 10 years ago, a handful of us in my neighbourhood started a small initiative we called the Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers or GTUF.
Over the decade, the initiative grew to over 125 households, linked together by relationships built over the years of meeting over plants, seeds, speakers, garden tours, food shared and concerns aired. A local community garden also grew out of the original force as well as a seed bank, an annual plant and seed exchange, access to instant advice through a communal email address and so, so much more.
And, now, some of the original crew are back together again, hunkered over shared community concerns once more. This time, it’s not an agenda as concrete as growing food and creating sustainable food systems and food security – as big as that agenda has been and still is!
The agenda now is “What’s Next – Climate Crisis Group.”
The idea for creating yet another group also grew out of food. This time, we were at a pot luck dinner with some of the usual GTUF suspects. We had gathered together to say goodbye to one of our members who was moving out of the neighbourhood. While gathered, we spontaneously got into a energetic conversation about climate change and its impacts on our lives. We soon were all fired up about continuing the conversation.
So, a few of us emailed back and forth and picked another date to get together again. We talked about electric cars, solar panels and carbon offsets. Then we got together a third time. I remember this meeting being the one where I cried for most of the 90 minutes of the meeting. A dear friend was sitting beside me, and as we all started to share how we were feeling regarding climate and ecosystem and species collapse, she was wailing, I was crying and we held on to each other as if for dear life.
That can be what happens when one starts to feel what is really going on. Whether you believe climate change is “real” or not, there have been so many species going extinct and extreme weather patterns wreaking havoc with our usual delicate environments, that there is a lot to be grieving.
After that meeting, we got together another time at another neighbour’s home. By now, I was starting to call this my “end-of-the-world” group. However, at this meeting, people started talking about wanting to bring in more people, to reach those who may be experiencing the impact of climate news in isolation or in their own smaller networks.
There was a growing impulse to create a space where neighbours can come together and process together.
So, the idea of having our first public meeting was hatched! Emails were sent out to potentially interested parties, a poster created by the visual artist in our group, and a room rented in our local community hall. Then, only days ago, our little planning group got together one more time to plot out what we would do at a bigger gathering. We were moved to share food once again – we had a potluck dinner – with plenty of end-of-the-world gallows humour. There was a joke about roasting marshmallows at the end of the world, for example.
I found it all so healing, really. Much like doctors and nurses with their own black humour in the face of morbidity, it was helpful and comforting somehow. We cobbled together an agenda, and our key gifted facilitator offered to carry the group through the agenda.
Today was that first public meeting. I have to say, I had no real idea why we were having this meeting. Others in my small band of compatriots thought it was a good idea, but for me, there was no concrete idea of the focus. Unlike growing food, none of us have a clue what we’re really supposed to do in the face of the enormity of what is. And, are we replicating something else that is already going on?
I was not even sure anyone else but us original handful of people would show up. Turned out 14 other people showed up, all quite impacted by climate change and wanting to connect.
We sat in a large circle. Here is the general jist of the agenda for the 2 hour meeting, in case you are curious or tempted to start your own:
- The facilitator welcomed everyone and the original group of us six people identified ourselves as the instigators and invited everyone else to introduce themselves with a name and the area or street they lived on.
- A second round was started for each person to share what brought them out to the meeting and their concerns about the dramatic climate and ecosystems changes we’re living with.
- We group of six shared briefly what attracted us to the topic and to holding this meeting
- After a 5 minute stretch and connect break, we had a third round for each person to share what actions they are presently engaged in regarding the climate or actions that inspire and give energy or areas of interest (we could have done that in a smaller group, but chose to keep the larger circle).
- We six then spoke about our thoughts for the future of the “What’s Next” group and prompted those gathered to sign up to our email list if they want to be informed of any future meetings. We also welcomed people to join our smaller group if they would like to.
- We finished with a fourth and final lightening round, to express any appreciations for the opportunity to meet.
I can’t say where this group is going, but I hope some of this might inspire you to start a conversation with your neighbours. I’m curious to see how this initiative develops. And, I’d love to hear if you have any other community-oriented ideas for how you can show up more fully in the face of climate change and eco-systems collapse.