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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Thinking Locally to Confront a Global Problem

Cecily Anderson of Tunbridge, VT, a participant in the 2019-20 pilot of 2CLA, spoke at a February 2020 2CLA session. Subsequent sessions have been held online. Photo by Chris Johnson.

Vital Communities

Combating climate change takes national and global action. But it also depends on work we do here, in our local communities.

Promoting citizen-driven, community-level action in the Upper Valley is the goal of the Climate Change Leadership Academy (2CLA). From March through June of this year, 22 people from across the region are meeting for seven sessions to learn the latest climate information and devise projects to help their communities adapt to climate change or reduce climate-warming emissions.

The program is offered by the Upper Valley Adaptation Workgroup (UVAW), a group of leaders and partner organizations striving to make the region more resilient to climate change, coordinated by the Upper Valley nonprofit Vital Communities. Prior knowledge of climate change is not required, and the $30 tuition is waived upon request.

“The impacts of climate change have never been so clear and concerning; record-high wildfires, hurricanes, and temperatures, another summer drought here in New England, and rising sea levels,” said Erich Osterberg, UVAW vice chair and associate professor of earth sciences at Dartmouth. We need to empower citizen leaders to help our local communities reduce greenhouse gases while also becoming more resilient to the climate changes that are already happening.”

Along with the latest data on climate change and strategies for its adaptation and mitigation, the 2CLA curriculum includes “design-thinking,” a structured approach to planning projects. Participants also will learn how to seek and incorporate input from the most climate-vulnerable populations into the project design.

The group itself represents a range of Upper Valley people and interests. “Folks from all over the Upper Valley applied to take part in the Climate Change Leadership Academy, from high school students, to small business owners to retired community members,” said 2CLA Coordinator Caroline Wren. “We understand that this past year has been tremendously difficult, and we are grateful that we received so many passionate applications from folks who are inspired to develop community-based projects to address climate change in the Upper Valley.”

One participant is Louisa Spencer, co-owner of Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, NH. “Our family is trying to figure out how to adapt our very varied orchard and forest property into a force against climate change, and an example of how others can do the same, both on small- and large-scale,” she wrote in her application. “We have experienced climate change first-hand, with weather records that show orchards breaking dormancy weeks earlier than in the ’60’s. We produce food locally and would like to figure out how best to enhance the climate benefits of local food without charging the high prices typical of local food, also to set up ways local residents can lay in and store local food.”

When facing a huge, existential issue like this, thinking local can be helpful, wrote Amanda Porter, a consultant to businesses for the Springfield (VT) Regional Development Corporation. “One of the reasons I am interested in this program is because it is ‘local’ and allows for focus on one’s own community. I think discussing climate change in relation to what we can do in our own communities removes some of the overwhelm and anxiety.”

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