Local food resilience. Incentives rather than penalties for green energy initiatives. The changing market for recyclables. These were a few of the many topics that were brought up by more than 50 local citizens, politicians, activists and others representing local organizations at a networking event held as part of the Kent Environmental Council’s (KEC) annual meeting on February 17. The Social Justice committee of the Kent United Church of Christ (and KEC member organization) offered their fellowship hall for the event.
The evening started with the annual all-member KEC meeting. Renee Ruchotzke was elected president and Bob Heath was elected vice-president. Bob Wilson and Brad Brotje continued in their roles of treasurer and secretary. There was also a declaration of appreciation for Lis Regula, who had served for many years as president before relocating to Columbus for a new job. This was followed by a potluck dinner as other members of the community joined the gathering.
Facilitator Renee Ruchotzke used Art of Hosting principles, a facilitation style that makes space for all of the voices and experiences in the room. Everyone sat at round tables marked with a topic that interested them. They interacted “council style” using a process called “rounds,” where each person around the table sharded and was listened to in turn.
Everyone in each circle shared why they were passionate about the topic, then what they were doing, or would like to do. The rest of the time was an opportunity to suggest ideas about connections. Attendees then had an opportunity to participate in a discussion around another topic.
At the end of the evening the participants were asked if they wanted future networking events and they enthusiastically endorsed the idea.
The topics and themes from the evening included:
Food: Local / Natural / Sustainable
- It seems to connect to all of the other issues
- We need to prepare for resiliency as climate changes
- It can be an opportunity to build community
- We should do more to connect to and support the local food system, especially by eating locally
Conservation: Land / Water/ Wetlands
- Help people to understand that the wetlands have an important function for water quality and carbon capturing
- Create opportunities for children to learn more about and feel connected to nature
Recycling: Plastics / Waste Stream
- There seems to be a huge knowlege gap around the impact of waste, especially plastics (bags, micro-plastics)
- There are mixed signals about what is and isn’t recyclable
- Trash from other states coming to Ohio
- Need more opportunities for re-use (e.g. refillable glass milk bottles)
- Share information like the the video The Story of a Spoon
Poisons and Pollution
- Stop the local use of Glyphosate (commercially available as Roundup®)
- Stop the local use of Fracking Brine as a de-icer on local roads (commercially available as AquaSalina®)
- Stop spraying for mosquitos
Renewable Energy / Peak Oil
- Frustrations that the Ohio state government has missed opportunities to promote renewables — instead they are discouraging renewables
- Choose renewable options for current electric providers
- Need more local control since the state is failing us
- More infrastructure for electric cars
Promoting Awareness: Social / Psychological / Educational
- We need to change hearts and minds to help with action steps
- Engage youth and young adults
- Focus on grass roots actions — they can have a cascading effect
Preparing for Disruptions: Shortages, Climate Refugees
- We should do a lot of networking and constituency-building now
- Prepare to welcome climate refugees into our homes and communities
- Develop more community gardens
- Develop a socially responsible prepper mindset
- Work on a Community Climate Action Plan
- Change building codes to make it easier to install solar panels
- Work on home rule to prevent big money from negative local impact
- Vote for candidates who care about mitigating climate change
- Community solar on lands like the Mogadore Road contaminated fields.
- How might we be in right relationship with the land in the way the original inhabitants were?
- How might we re-wild part of our county