Climate Momentum, working across generations: a rave by Bill James-Abra
Climate Momentum (CM) is a community-based climate action group and network of about 400 eco-minded local citizens based in Stratford, Ontario. Climate Momentum’s vision is for “a community engaged in responding to the climate crisis and committed to achieving a carbon-neutral Perth County by 2040”.
Climate Momentum got its start in early 2019 when Bill James-Abra (a marriage therapist who is also a recent grandparent – a key part of his inspiration to co-create CM) and Anne Carbert (a career counsellor who has been active in a wide range of community-based organizations) first began to dream together. Says Bill, “It started as a conversation in a coffee shop and, as Anne likes to say, at first we were just two people with a website! Anne gathered stories for a blog that featured stories of individuals and businesses that were taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Through the late spring and summer, Bill and Anne started hosting monthly “Momentum Mixers” with the support of a small downtown inn that donated a room to gather in. The Mixers brought people together for drinks and conversation and the network grew.
Through the Mixers, CM connected with students from the local high school’s ECO Club. The students were in the early days of planning a local “Fridays for the Future” event as part of Greta Thunberg’s global campaign. “The energy was terrific! Organizing that Friday rally brought together students, seniors, artists, business and community leaders… all to plan a march and rally in the Market Square behind City Hall.” Three hundred people attended this first CM-supported event (about 1% of our city’s population!!).
CM and the students continued to work together through the fall of 2019 to press for Stratford City Council to declare a Climate Emergency. The group made a presentation to Council in early 2020, and the Declaration was passed unanimously. Since then, Perth County, and the cities of Stratford and St. Mary’s have hired a contract Climate Change Coordinator to gather the data for a greenhouse gas emissions profile for the County.
And that brings us to today – CM is focused on a pressing Stratford to adopt a concrete plan, with measurable targets. “Other cities that are the same size or even smaller are way ahead of us on this,” says Bill. “We really want to encourage the City to up its game.” In support of those goals, CM hosted a community meeting on September 22, 2021 with presentations from the Perth Climate Change Coordinator and guests from Ithaca, New York and Whistler, British Columbia, two cities that are leaders on climate action plans. You can find more information at climatemomentum.ca or on Facebook and Instagram @climatemomentum.
Bill who hosted the event says “We are keen to learn from others about how small- to medium-sized municipalities are encouraging their local leaders to be bold in addressing the global climate crisis. We’d love to hear from others as CM starts work this fall to engage our city in a new form of annual budget planning. It is time to start planning and investing in our local community and economy with a lens towards addressing our city’s climate emergency”.
The real question here is how do we get our local politicians in particular all across our country to begin to act like we are in the middle of a true climate emergency …any ideas to share?