An Earth Care Community in the Pocket

Not sure how to deal with climate change or the emotions and thoughts it brings? Maybe we don’t need to figure it out on our own. Check out this inspiring story from one Pocket resident who started her own climate change support group among friends and neighbours.

By Sally Wooton

Some of us will remember the 1970s when we cycled, pushed or pulled our recycling to the shed in the TTC lot attached to the Broadview subway. Pouring the paper, metal and glass through the openings at the top of the eight-foot structure, especially the glass, was cathartic at the end of a long day. Now, of course, we have only to push our private bins to the curb - less satisfying but more convenient.

However, there is so much more to the climate crisis than recycling and I believe the best beginning action is to form a climate change support group. I advocate putting together a small group of immediate neighbors, even though my own group of six women is spread over two provinces and meets through Zoom.

A dear friend of mine and I were chatting on Zoom in the early pandemic days and our conversation naturally worked its way into the topic of the climate crisis. We began to reflect on the climate change thoughts and attitudes of our own, and that of friends, acquaintances and strangers we had encountered. They ranged from – at one end, denial, which existed then and perhaps still does – to at the other end, total panic with the frustration of not knowing what we could do racing through the middle. However, we agreed that human beings need each other for emotional support, education, creative ideas and help. Sooo, we set up a Zoom meeting with four other women with like-minded thoughts about climate change, all of us with enough life experience to recognize anxiety but believe in hope. We all were enthusiastic about meeting regularly and set up two-hour meetings every other week on Zoom – and our group Earth Care was born. We have continued for over two years and share books, videos, articles, and our own thoughts and feelings on the topic regularly. An extra benefit to any support group is developing closer relationships as individuals and a stronger sense of community.

To start your own climate support group, simply invite some neighbors on your block or in your apartment building to join you in getting together regularly to share hopes, concerns, and climate change resources. Provide refreshments - think Tupperware party without plastic! Include a diversity of people but with a preference for those with an interest in the topic. Form a small enough group for easy discussion; six to ten works well. Some topics might be plant-based eating, pollinator gardens, commuting by foot, cycle and transit, and homemade cleaning solutions and use of clotheslines. Most important is the kindness factor, recognizing that we all need each other. For example, you might talk about who in your neighborhood would need help in a disaster – elderly people, those with disabilities, people with multiple pets and small children, and those who have no vehicle…

It's useful to have several recent climate change books available from the library on hand and a list of reliable website references. Take time for everyone to get to know one another before delving into the topic and the group's particular concerns. The group should be willing to meet regularly so as not to lose momentum.

After a year and a half of our group meeting on Zoom, some of us had never met everyone else in the flesh, so to speak. So, last June we gathered for the day in my backyard in the Pocket. We began with morning coffee, and then moving on to a potluck lunch when some of our spouses and partners joined us.

With smoke pouring down into Toronto from the North that month, climate change had become a frequent topic of conversation even among strangers, and the comments I most often heard whenever I spoke to anyone about it was “I’m scared, I feel unprepared, and I don’t know what do to!” As we reflected on this, our group decided to create a tiny eight-page zine (a simple, handmade magazine) that we could pull out of our pocket and give to anyone interested in how to prepare for a climate crisis. And that’s just what we did. The result was fully illustrated, and as two of our members are in Montreal, produced in both English and French.

It is called Storm Signals: A Climate EmergenZine. The front page warns the reader to give all of this some thought “Before the Knock on the Door.” These topics then follow on the next six pages:  

  • Support Group
  • Stress Management & Relaxation
  • Go Bag & Emergency Kits
  • Home & Garden
  • Lifestyle Changes
  • Call to Action

Each page includes a suggested resource. The back page contains a QR code that links to our Storm Signals website, which we continually update with new climate crisis and eco-justice articles, podcasts and videos. And guess what: CBC Radio even highlighted our zine on their What on Earth? show - yet another mention of the Pocket on that program.

If you’d like to make use of the zine too, it’s freely available. Please download Storm Signals: A Climate EmergenZine, follow the folding instructions, and help us distribute it by sharing it with your friends and contacts.

The Pocket Change Project has taken the lead in environmental issues such as native trees and gardens, sustainable transportation, and retrofitting your home using things like solar panels and heat pumps. My heat pump is experiencing its first winter and warming me nicely thanks to Wonder Women Sarah Grant and Anne Hogarth (Goldfinch Energy) whom I learned of thanks to Pocket Change’s Retrofit Coach, Paul Dowsett.  

My background is theatre and storytelling and when I think of our human condition the story that comes to mind and describes us best in terms of climate change is the Three Little Pigs. Obviously, the big bad wolf is greenhouse gases, especially methane, produced by the fossil fuel industry. Through exercising our voices and taking action in favor of alternative energy sources as well as a wider and wider choice of sustainable building materials way beyond sticks, straw and bricks, we as individuals and communities can make a difference.

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