Interview of the Month: For Our Grandchildren Celebrates Two Years since Peterborough Declared a Climate Emergency

Editors Note: For Our Grandchildren and PACA wanted to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of Peterborough’s climate emergency declaration but due to COVID restrictions and the emerging 4th wave thanks to the delta variant, they have decided to put the community celebrations on hold. To quote Alan Slavin, a member of both 4RG and PACA, “In the absence of the Celebration of the Planet, we need to remind our City Councillors that they have a responsibility to get involved directly in the key issue of lowering CO2.” Connie McCracken and Linda Slavin were two of the organizers of the Celebration of the Planet event.

PACA and 4RG, along with many others across the country, are pushing municipal, provincial and federal governments to do more to deal with the climate emergency.
CL: Connie, Linda, how did you get involved in For Our Grandchildren?

CM: 4RG was initially 12 or 13 people that got together and helped get the city to declare a climate emergency. They were really sharp and knew all the facts about climate change. I came along and just said, “I have a grandson, I really need to get involved in this,” even though I didn’t really deal with politics. So, then I met the 4RG president and basically pushed myself onto the executive [laughs]. I got involved with membership and now we have some committees and are working on our bylaws and we’re starting to see people that are joining our committees.
I went to the Kitchen Table Climate Conversations workshops and realized that if you want to get more done, it helps to be in a group, but that group has to be active. So, I’m hoping we can have more events to get people involved in our work. The more people we have the more we can influence politicians.
 
LS: Forty years ago, I started in community work and it just keeps going. I worked on race and oppression issues, (I’ve worked with those in conflict with the law), anti-poverty, on food security, developing social enterprise, the environment, and international equity—all kinds of issues and they’re all connected.

CM: Linda spearheaded this event.

CL: Well that’s a great segue to my next question: What spurred you to create this event?

LS: It was primarily to revive interest in the climate emergency because we feel councillors have had the COVID crisis to deal with and consequently are not taking the climate crisis very seriously. We want to take the focus off COVID a bit and get moving.

CM: Of course, we understand there’s been a pandemic but as I keep saying nothing else matters if we don’t fix the planet.

LS: We want more action. We’ve invited the Mayor and the councillor in charge of the environment to speak at Millennium park, and we’re getting Malaika Collette from Peterborough Youth Empowerment to speak.  She is young and passionate and very involved so we’re hoping she’ll challenge them a bit. Then when we walk to City Hall, we’re going to talk about what it means to “hold space” for the climate, what that looks like, and get the councillors to see that we’re serious.  All the Councillors have been personally invited along with senior staff from the City and the County, along with the County Warden.
We know councillors fairly well, it’s a small town, but it’s been fairly difficult to get them going on this, there’s not a great deal of cohesion. On the other hand, they did vote together [on the Climate Emergency Declaration] so I think they’re beginning to see the urgency, but now we want results.

CL: It sounds like 4RG is doing a lot of work with youth. Why is that?

LS: Youth speak directly to people, especially when they say, “it’s our world you’re screwing up”. They have a directness that is really amazing. I love working with them. One time the raging grannies were singing at a school and they worked with the kids to find a good idea to take to your grandparents. The kids said, “oh our grandparents aren’t interested in climate, they’re only interested in going to Florida in the winter.” So I think working (and learning from) kids, giving them the tools for discussion has been a very important part of what we do.

CM: Sometimes we also ask grandparents, what are you going to say when your grandkids ask what you did for the planet. We have a website that encourages folks to do that (www.toallourrelatives.ca).

LS: We’ve also got to connect with Indigenous peoples, and to follow their lead. I work with them quite a lot on reconciliation issues. I’ve invited the Chiefs of Hiawatha First Nation and  of Curve Lake to speak at the Celebration but  haven’t heard back yet.

CM: Linda’s very good about including the need for a just recovery.

LS: We all have to be.

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