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Living Lightly column

Change begins at home

By Chris McGorlick

With social restrictions beginning to ease, there is a group gathering whose return I am eagerly awaiting.

In February this year, 30 of my neighbours, young and old, responded to a simple letter-box invite to a pot-luck dinner to share thoughts, ideas and feelings about climate change. Over salads, pastries and puddings, we shared our concerns about the climate future, and our reasons for wanting change. Despite our different backgrounds, life stages, and political affiliations, when these concerns were brought down to a local, household level, they were remarkably similar.

By the time we reached the rhubarb fluff, we had a long list of small actions that we could take as a neighbourhood to reduce our impact and affirm our connection to each other, as well as new and profound insight into people we thought we knew well.

We left with brains bubbling with ideas for a car share scheme, bulk food buying, gardening on our nature strips, tool sharing, mending. A fortnight later, just as these plans were taking their first tentative steps towards realisation, COVID-19 struck, and the momentum we’d gathered disappeared as fast as toilet paper from supermarket shelves.

Three months later, the talk of ‘return to to normal’ has me feeling just as anxious and helpless as I did during the bushfires. I don’t want to emerge from lockdown into a world of ‘gas-led recovery’ and economic snap-back. I’ve spent three months envisioning a world of Green New Deals and Universal Basic Income – I’m done with the status quo!

Social change is hard, and is always a long game. Building a society that can safely inhabit the earth will involve challenging powerful forces in our heads, and in our economies. If we are to have any hope of rising to this struggle, we will need strength and emotional resilience, and for me, I know that these are the products of the connections and small actions of my neighbourhood group.

Our group will gather again soon, with a whole new suite of concerns and ideas for action. And while we won’t be changing the world any time soon, we will be creating a platform of relationships upon which the new world can be built.