by Gill Baker, NERSA member
Sustainability groups are cropping up all over Australia. They are formed of many like minded people who have come together because they sense that western lifestyles are unsustainable, the resources of our planet are finite, and that deeply disturbing things are happening to our natural environment as a result of human activity. They also feel that with a bit of thought and good management we can do things better.
The North East Region Sustainability Alliance (NERSA) was born out of the recognition that separate groups operating in Albury/Wodonga, Beechworth, Benalla, Bright, Wangaratta and Yackandandah may, in some circumstances, work together for greater effect. Representatives from the groups meet together every couple of months to share information on their various activities, plan future actions, and listen to guest speakers – in February Fiona from Gateway Community Health discussed food security issues, Julia from the EPA talked about upcoming community consultations, and Birgit told us where the North East Region Council’s Solar Hubs project was up to. Other guests had some useful information about where to go for grants for projects.
Sharing information about activities gives each group a broader base of ideas. The internet and a very devoted secretary means that everyone knows when and where film nights are on, or relevant public lectures, or community engagement opportunities. Some of the groups also have newsletters and websites which in turn offer links to Landcare, Catchment Managements, and to the major environmental agencies such as Environment Victoria, ACF, and the Climate Institute.
Ideas spread too, from community gardens to electric cars, and seed sharing to carbon sequestration. In 2010 very popular ‘Sustainable House Days’ were held across the region, and aspects of the 100% Renewables Campaign have been picked up in several municipalities. One recent idea well worthy of ‘borrowing’ is Yackandandah’s ‘Seasonal Food Dinners’. What a great way to build morale and enthusiasm within your team.
Joint advocacy at meetings with Ministers and other Members of Parliament mean that members feel a greater sense of support, and their messages carry more weight, as do letters and submissions to both State and Federal Parliamentarians. NERSA’s latest submission was to the newly formed Senate Committee of Inquiry into the use of wind power.
Learning to live more lightly on this planet is no longer a choice, it is imperative. We can do it, together.