A Vancouver-based organization, the Green Technology Education Centre, was recently created in response to a straightforward question: why is the response to the climate crisis so sluggish?
It doesn’t make sense, given that the concentration of carbon-dioxide equivalents in the atmosphere has exceeded 415 parts per million.
“Our analysis suggests that there’s a couple of prominent factors,” GTEC board chair Arden Henley told the Straight by phone. “One is a tendency to wait for government regulation and incentives to solve the problem.”
Although regulation and the incentives are important, he believes they’re insufficient on their own to address the issue. The second reason, in his opinion, is that many people are feeling distressed but are too overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem.
Henley, a long-time Vancouver family therapist and educator, said that if people have no one to talk about this with beyond their immediate network, they often do nothing. In effect, paralysis sets in.
“So one of the ways to unlock that is to provide an environment where like-minded people gather to share their thoughts and feelings,” he said. “That’s the first step.”
He added that they also need to be provided with a sense that they can do something to address what is creating such despair.
This is why GTEC is planning to host a Crisis and Hope Town Hall from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday (November 18) at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House (2305 West 7th Avenue). Joining Henley as speakers will be retired educator Tom Heatherington, pipeline opponent Ruth Walmsley, former city councillor Fred Bass, and Rev. Emilie Teresa Smith.
“We’ll have some music,” Henley said. “It will be a little festive.”
He’s also planning to employ the Delphi method, which is a structured communication technique used to elicit answers in face-to-face settings.
The goal is to enable people to have an opportunity to express themselves and realize that they’re not alone in the way that they’re feeling.
GTEC hopes to encourage community action
GTEC has obtained registered charitable status and its efforts are being supported by the Vancouver Foundation.
Henley said his board is planning similar events at other neighbourhood houses, and it’s providing information in an online newsletter called the GTEC Reader. It’s trying to bridge the divide between academic journals—which are too boring and complicated for many people—and other newsletters.
Henley also revealed that GTEC is working with an IT startup to develop software to encourage individuals and communities to lower their carbon footprint.
This would be done with a downloadable free app, which enables people to see how they’re faring in comparison to households with similar profiles.
In addition, the app will allow users to learn about best practices to reduce their environmental footprint even further by letting people know that they can shop plastic-free at Nada, for instance, rather than Safeway.
Those who set goals for their household and then achieve them will receive positive feedback.
“AI guys call it the nudge,” he said.
That could take the form of having fruit on a tree added to the household profile online.
Or there could even be public acknowledgements in real life for those who demonstrate genuine progress.
"We're going to arrange a tree-planting celebrations with some dignitaries," Henley said. "So you could plant your tree in a community space that's being donated by a developer, a corporation, or maybe even a park."