by Karrie Skaife, member of St Mary’s Isles of Scilly WI
As a result of my Show the Love window display winning the CFWI competition recently, I was invited by Pippa Stilwell, Climate Ambassador, to attend a Zoom Climate Focus Event attended by Derek Thomas, MP, amongst others.
On a February afternoon, I logged into the well-organised webinar hosted by Pippa Stilwell. On screen were six faces, including Derek Thomas, MP; his assistant Meghan; and the four speakers, each of whom went on to talk briefly about their area and what is being done to make a difference to climate change and the environment.
Pippa spoke first, mentioning the aim for Cornwall to reach a net zero target for carbon emissions by 2030. As an attendee, I had no idea of the numbers present, apart from the occasional disembodied voice asking a question. Pippa was delighted that so many WI members and representatives were attending, and stressed the non-party political stance of the WI, with their role as a cross community organisation.
With the help of 100 trained Climate Ambassadors nationwide, the WI is leading the drive to reduce carbon emissions from the ground up. It is us and our neighbours who must make changes. It is not all gloomy news, as these changes can also offer health benefits, including exercise, better diet and cleaner air. Work has gone on since the first Climate Coalition March in 2014, but Pippa said we can’t relax, and we need to keep lobbying our MPs to work beyond party politics with the mandate we give them. She joked that “Carbis Bay is the new Davos!”
Jane Haslam from Sustainable Pendeen spoke next about the differences they are driving in their village, running all sorts of interactive events from The Centre, designed to be empowering, inclusive and fun, and leaving people feeling able to discuss and act upon environmental matters. Like Pippa, Jane realises the vast global nature of the problem can leave people locally feeling overwhelmed, but their events have covered many things such as making homes more heat- and energy-efficient, looking at electric vehicles, focussing on reducing plastics, running a repair cafe; all things everyone can be part of to make a difference.
Jonathan How then spoke about his involvement with climate change matters since watching a television documentary titled Due to Lack of Interest, Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled in 1971. He works with the Penzance Council’s Climate Emergency Sub-Committee to lobby for new frameworks and models to improve sustainability and efficiency wherever possible. One example is the introduction of electric Council vehicles, a mechanical road-clearing machine that uses no glyphosate to keep weeds down, looking at green energy tariffs, savings and investments, streamlining recycling and refuse collection, reducing traffic and increasing energy from wind turbines. What impressed me was his positivity that we can all do smaller things, altering aspects of our lifestyles and behaviour, that start to make local changes, building community engagement and creating serious change. His message was that we are all in this together; things take time, but they can and do happen.
The final speaker in this inspiring line up was Katharine Lewis of Helston Climate Action Group, an Outreach Officer, teacher and mum, who works with local schools and other organisations to make changes to reduce our carbon footprints, from planting trees, setting up a food hub, starting a repair cafe, planting for nature and supporting local businesses. She started by sharing a feeling of ‘eco anxiety’ and looking with fear at what the future holds, but Katharine turned this into action, securing funding and pooling resources with volunteers and groups like Join the Dots Network to share wisdom, invest in green jobs and create work opportunities. She said that Government legislation is not keeping pace with climate/ecological breakdown. Despite promises, homes are still not being built to new ecological standards. Like all the speakers today, she emphasised how easy it is to feel gloomy or unable to make a difference, but her view was to consider 2030 and “Imagine if …” – what can we do to be inclusive, have positive goals, strive to become carbon neutral?
Derek Thomas took notes of things mentioned in the webinar that he would look into and raise with Government, and offered advice to one woman whose question concerned local flooding from field runoff in Gulval village based on a similar problem he knew about elsewhere in Cornwall.
There was a question and answer section to the webinar, covering varied topics from possible warning eco labelling on fossil fuel pumps to how to measure success by more than GDP alone, citing New Zealand as an example, and Nepal’s Gross Happiness Index. Derek asked all the speakers if they were willing to share their details to encourage more volunteers to join them. There are further webinar events planned.
It was a most interesting and inspiring event highlighting so much that is positive and the many ways in which people in Cornwall are working to improve matters for the environment.