Yesterday I attended a forum in Albury entitled Climate Change and the Community which was aimed at helping residents better understand the issues of climate change and its impacts on the Albury – Wodonga region.
I was heartened to see quite a large number of people from the community who made the time to come and listen to the guest speakers and participate in the engaging Q and A session which followed.
The session began with a stirring Welcome to Country presented by Yalmambirra who stressed the importance of utilising traditional knowledge when addressing environmental issues. This was followed by an introduction from Barney Foran, Adjunct Research Fellow at The Institute for Land, Water and Society who set the scene regarding climate change and discussed where the world is currently at from a scientific perspective.
The second speaker, Ms Tracey Oakman, Director of Public Health Murrumbidgee and Southern NSW spoke about climate change and its effects on health. This was particularly in regards to increased heat waves and their impact on our physical and mental health. Tracey also mentioned the impacts to be felt from decreased food biodiversity, poorer diets and reduced air quality as well as severe weather events including bushfires and floods in the region.
Following this, Dr Shelby Gull Laird, Lecturer at Charles Sturt University presented on the opportunity for community based action and the importance of building resilience. She mentioned the possible establishment of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) ventures in which people have shares in various local farms and then are given a portion of the crops yield in return for their financial backing . This lessens the risk for farmers and ensures that people are supporting local initiatives and receiving healthy and sustainable produce. This idea really resonated with me and is something that I would like to explore in further detail.
The final Speaker, Lewis Tinley who is a student at Charles Sturt University and member of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) spoke about climate change from a youth based perspective and the importance of thinking globally whilst acting locally to reduce your own carbon footprint. Lewis mentioned a series of organisations including the AYCC, OzGreen, and Beyond Zero Emissions which are currently working towards creating a more sustainable future.
Following the formal presentations a Q and A session was open to the audience which resulted in lively discussion and debate.
It was fantastic to see such a diverse range of speakers present on climate change from different perspectives. Although all the speakers had a different topic to present on, each stressed the interconnectedness of these issues (climate change, health, biodiversity, population) and the importance of working together to find solutions that are sustainable, ethical and socially responsible.
In a conservative region such as Albury – Wodonga, it is important that people continue to get together to discuss, mobilise and collectively tackle these enormous and at times overwhelming issues.