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The Climate Change Cafe is not here to scare you

Jana Vanderhaar, front, Mark Fleming and Tristan Vanderhaar (Jana’s 11-year-old son) particiapate in a brain-storming session.

Jana Vanderhaar, front, Mark Fleming and Tristan Vanderhaar (Jana’s 11-year-old son) particiapate in a brain-storming session.

Photo By David Robert

Upon entering the brainstorming event of Climate Change Cafe, I’m mildly cautious that I’m walking into a bitch session by a bunch of angry people about how we’re all going to die.

That’s not what Climate Change Cafe is.

“We’re not here to scare you into action,” Climate Change Cafe organizer Wendy Mason tells the group. “We’re here to facilitate this process.”

While there is a healthy dose of people on their soapboxes at the first of the two-part Climate Change Cafe, it seems mostly populated by people who believe change is possible, are already taking steps to create that change, and want to learn new ways to do more and network with people to do them with.

“We all have something to offer,” says Mason. “You never know whose will be the perspective to gather everybody together to do something.”

Modeled after World Cafe discussion techniques used globally, this “interactive workshop” is organized by the Nevada Coalition for Climate Protection. It’s based on the idea that people have the wisdom and creativity to counter the biggest problems, and when you’re part of the discussion, you’ll be more likely to take action.

Round tables covered with a sheet of paper and centerpieces of markers, daffodils and a painted rock hold about 50 people at the three-hour event at McKinley Arts & Culture Center on March 29.

Here’s how it works: A question is asked. For example: “What has touched or concerned you regarding the issue of climate change?” The four to five members at each table discuss it among themselves. To ensure people speak one at a time, the speaker holds the rock and relinquishes it only when finished talking, but people are encouraged to draw their ideas on the paper tablecloth at any time. After about 20 minutes, each group briefly shares their ideas with the group.

One of the first questions is, “What has moved you to attend today?” A gardener says she’s noticed that seasonal cycles are being thrown off with regard to bugs and crops. Another is concerned about Earth’s growing population. Local activist Phillip Moore stands and holds up a picture of his 6-year-old son, “I’m here to make sure he has a full life and a life worth living.”

By the end of three hours, the group has talked about local transportation, sustainable agriculture, buying less and connecting more. People have said what gives them hope regarding what’s happening with global warming. There’s a wide sense that grassroots efforts—often called “bottom up” in this session—is fueling the current wave of green consciousness, and that there’s something powerful about that. They’ve discussed what they feel most called to. Some have met people who’ve given them new avenues to create change within their lives and communities, be it regarding food, renewable energy or transportation.

No one’s saved the world by the end of it, but they are talking about it, and many are already taking their own actions. That’s a start.