Sustainable Communities Day

Title

Sustainable Communities Day

Description

On June 1, 2023 ABCD co-sponsored the Sustainable Communities Day organized by the Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition.
Held in conjunction with the annual
Pen Bay Stewards Training, this event was intended to create connections among organizations with a sustainability-related mission and showcase their work for the interested members of our community.

The event took place at the Belfast Boathouse, with an afternoon of presentations and local businesses and nonprofits exhibiting around the room. It was inspiring to see the many organizations that are offering solutions to help us reduce our carbon footprint and green our economy.

Brenda Harrington (from ABCD) was invited to give an overview of the Community Climate Conversations series hosted by the Library's ABCD program and co-sponsored by the Climate Crisis Committee. She shared some of the ideas suggested by attendees at the programs as well as some of our key takeaways. 

At each of the four conversations we heard the need for education about available resources and leadership. In particular, there was a clear call for an organization or alliance to connect the groups already working towards sustainability and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. 

Following the presentations on June 1st, the panel discussion was a chance for the audience to ask questions and make suggestions as to what they see as next steps. These included: 

  • What would it take for Belfast to be a sustainable city?

  • Suggestion to encourage the City of Belfast to implement policies that require “Sustainability tied to economic development.” 

  • What are the next steps to forming a coalition of climate action groups? Who or what organization might fill this role? 

  • Suggestion to start by joining an existing effort – volunteer with one of the groups in the room.

From the discussion it is clear that there is an interest in forming a coalition, but no one is taking the charge to organize it, yet. If you are interested in meeting to discuss forming a Climate Action Network, contact Brenda at bharrington@belfastlibrary.org.

~~~~~~~~~~
Presenter's Notes for the Sustainable Communities Day ABCD presentation:

Slide 1 Introduction

Thank you all for your interest and for coming today. Intro self,

I am here to share some takeaways from the

Community Climate Conversations that the All of Belfast Climate Dialogues co-sponsored with the Climate Crisis Committee.

But first I will give a brief background:

In 2020, the Belfast Free Library won a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to facilitate conversations among a broad cross-section of the Belfast community about climate change to ensure that all voices and views are heard.

Part of this grant is to collect and save Belfast area residents’ observations, concerns and hopes about climate change impacts in our region at this critical time. This collection is meant to increase awareness of each other’s experiences, and serve as a benchmark for future reference - and hopefully as a catalyst for taking action now.

Slide 2 Inspiration from climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe

Inspirations and background of grant:

In 2019 when we applied for the grant, no one was talking about climate change. My grant partner, Sarah Kirn approached me with project idea - inspired by climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe. Talking about it is one of the most important things we can do to support climate action.

“The most important thing we can do about climate change is talk about it- talk about why it matters, and how we can fix it- and use our voices to advocate for change within in our spheres of influence”

Slide 3 Yale Program on Climate Change Communication
We were also influenced and encouraged by the reports from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication that their studies have found …  Read quote.

Slide 4 ABCD Project Goals

Slide 5 Engage

The ABCD project began in the fall of 2020, mere months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Our plans for facilitating cozy conversations among Belfast residents to help each other learn how to be comfortable sharing and listening to others’ perspectives, priorities, and observations of climate change and its impacts were no longer safe to do. We had to come up with another plan.

Engage via:

  • Farmer’s market tabling and conversations
  • EV demonstrations at Harborfest
  • Tide gauge event
  • Art & poetry exhibit; photo contest; Fireside Chats at Waterfall Arts
  • Monthly email newsletter & social media

Slide 6 Educate

When we started the project in fall of 2020 we did what we could to start the conversation by adding with educational resources to the library’s collection and website:

> We began adding books to the library collection.

> We created new webpages with information about climate change and the value of talking about climate change.

> Resources about Climate Action Planning and Climate Action Leadership. 

> And we offered a series of educational programs often with partner organizations.

Slide 7 Discuss / Talk About 

Earlier in 2022 With the CCC we also hosted the Waldo County Climate Symposium. The goal of the symposium was to foster collaboration and coordination among the active organizations.

Zoom panel discussions like this panel of Local Farmers was a heartfelt connection and dialogue between local farmers

Slide 8 Community Climate Conversations

In June of 2022, we teamed up with Belfast’s Climate Crisis Committee to host a series of Community Climate Conversations on topics to be included in a Belfast Climate Action PlanThese conversations were designed to inform residents about the topics covered in the plan and solicit ideas for the Climate Action Plan being drafted by the CCC

***

Now I would like to share some of the ideas people suggested and some of our broader takeaways from each of our 4 Community Climate Conversations which took place June 2022 to February 2023. 

Slide 9 June 14, 2022

Our First conversation was a broad / open conversation with the community. Moderated by ABCD’s Sarah Kirn, we began with a visioning exercise where audience members shared ideas to “paint a picture of a future we all want to live.”

As you can see on the flip chart image:

Visioning exercise / Daydream:
walkable/bikeable community

  • car-free lifestyle
  • better public transportation
  • electric vehicles & charging stations
  • net-zero homes for ALL
  • cleaned-up industrial spaces
  • vibrant ecosystems
  • solutions that are equitable for us all.
  • more can be seen on our archive page

Next we had an important discussion about power - who has it, where it is exercised and what power will the Climate Action Plan have (answer - its primary purpose is to advise and guide the City Council, who will need to adopt it). Need for clarity.

An audience member reminded us that we as citizens have right to stay engaged and involved in local gov’t and advocate for change.

Slide 10 The Three Buckets

In the next three conversations: we brainstormed ideas through a framework of actions individuals can do, actions we can do as a community together and the actions that could be accomplished with more funding and municipal leadership.

*** All of the notes, recordings and full reports are available on our ABCD collection site linked to from the ABCD dropdown menu. 

The topics of the next three conversations were decided in the first session and from the topics from Maine’s climate action plan “Maine Won’t Wait”

Slide 11 Building Resilience for Storms and Flooding

This conversation had two goals: offer an opportunity for residents to discuss and to learn about how to handle predicted impacts of climate change, and generate ideas for shaping the Climate Action Plan (CAP).

After presentations about predicted changes to precipitation and the subsequent runoff,  the audience had a big question: Who’s responsible for stormwater runoff? Who makes the planning decisions? Who pays to fix the existing problems? 

The attendees offered a number of creative ideas for things that people can do now, from placing rain barrels or replacing impervious surfaces like paved driveways with permeable ones.
The idea that generated the most excitement was creating a rain garden in a public location and using it for education.

Individuals and Together: Bullets on slide:

  • Rain barrels to capture rain
  • Replace impervious surfaces like paved driveways with permeable ones
  • Create a rain garden in a public location and use it for education
  • Be a good neighbor

Slide 12 Modernizing Our Homes and Buildings

This event focused on the topic of modernizing our homes & buildings for energy efficiency for immediate cost savings and to reduce carbon pollution. 

To frame our discussion, we heard from two experts:

Ross Anthony, the Buildings and Energy Efficiency Analyst for the Maine Governor’s Energy Office, provided a Maine-wide overview on the building efficiency and the guidelines from Maine Won’t Wait, Maine’s four year climate action plan.

Naomi Albert, Project Manager of the “Comprehensive Building Solutions Program” at A Climate To Thrive (ACTT) on Mount Desert Island offered an example of what community-led work could look like.

We learned:

Buildings are responsible for about 30% of Maine’s carbon emissions, and, according to the recently released report on Greenhouse Gas emissions in Belfastresidential and commercial energy combined account for 50% of emissions in Belfast.

Big takeaways:

  • People know they should weatherize their homes but don’t know how
  • Lack of awareness of incentives 
  • Not enough trained contractors

 Slide 13 Buildings con't

Good brainstorming session!

Things we can do together (from the flip chart)

  • Window Dressers
  • Need a community weatherization campaign like ACTT’s!
  • Green homes tours
  • Active outreach to those whose homes need weatherization
  • Consider & review building codes
  • Advocate for a non-profit inspector system
  • Launch a citizen action group to complement the Climate Crisis Committee
  • Help residents make sense of the growing array of incentives and opportunities and prioritize the efficiency measures so it’s easier for people to take action.  

Things the audience suggested the City to do

  • Hire a Sustainability Director - maybe even a shared position w/ other towns? & explore other regional collaborations 
  • Integrate climate considerations into Comprehensive Plan and City budgeting
  • City should sign up for Community Resilience Partnership 
  • Set a specific local goal and time frame for carbon emission reduction in Belfast

This is a big topic…we barely scratched the surface…we all agreed that there is much more to do.

Slide 14 The Future of Transportation in Waldo County

Transportation accounts for 49% of carbon emissions, both in Belfast and statewide. Reducing carbon pollution from transportation here in Belfast and Waldo County will certainly require a variety of approaches. 

We invited the Belfast Pedestrian, Biking & Hiking Committee to frame our conversation and Cara Harshman from the committee shared their vision for mobility options. They’ve done so much work on this and Cara’s presentation about the Creation of an Active Transit Plan for Belfast, directed the  conversation that followed.

  • Our team and audience members noticed this conversation had more energy and excitement. People seemed excited about the ideas, eager for these changes, and not only because of their lower carbon pollution. 

  • Someone said that we need a "culture shift" in thinking about the future of transportation. By improving bike lanes and safe walking, as well as public transportation (including ride sharing) we can do a lot to reduce individuals' reliance on gas powered cars. 

  • We talked about rethinking our expectations and habits about how we get around, and how we might work toward a “diversity of mobility options” to serve different populations.

Slide 15 -Transportation con't

  • We heard lots of ideas! you can visit our website to see more details
  • As always, We went over notes and put them into our three buckets. 
  • There are alot things we can each do now and even better to do in community and with peer support.

Slide 16 Archive

  • Each event is captured in our Omeka collection. Notes and video recordings are available.
  • I encourage you to check out all the material we’ve archived! 
  • Can be found by going to the ABCD drop down menu at belfastlibrary.org and choosing “ABCD Collection"

Slide 17 Turning conversations into actions, together

As the ABCD project is about to wrap up in August, our team wants to make sure the momentum / energy around climate conversations and actions keeps going. 

The ABCD Project was about normalizing talking about climate change and archiving those conversations - but grew into so much more - we saw the desire for action; the wish for connecting more and more people and orgs in our community; searching for ways we can collectively take action so we don’t feel as overwhelmed and alone. The antidote to feeling overwhelmed is to join together.

Join an existing effort - there are so many! 

  • Churches in town are working together to raise funds for public water fountains
  • There’s a growing effort around community composting
  • People were so excited about a rain garden to serve as a demonstration of both this approach and of collaborative community action 
  • We/I encourage you to join the effort that speaks to you, gives you a place to share your strengths
  • “In the face of climate change, collaboration is the antidote to despair.”

Slide 18: Partial List of local organizations

Slide 19: Thank you with contact information

Creator

Pen Bay Stewards, Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition, ABCD Team

Date

June 1, 2023

Citation

Pen Bay Stewards, Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition, ABCD Team, “Sustainable Communities Day,” All of Belfast: Climate Dialogues, accessed May 27, 2024, https://abcdbelfast.omeka.net/items/show/150.

Output Formats

Comments

Allowed tags: <p>, <a>, <em>, <strong>, <ul>, <ol>, <li>