Photo from recent Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show display.
It has been strange, this cautious and careful return to meeting in person indoors after 18 months of lockdowns and reliance on Zoom meetings. On the one hand we pick up the sense of continuity from before and it can feel as if hardly any time has lapsed at all. On the other there is that sense of something we once took for granted now seeming quite special, something to treasure – despite remaining masked except when speaking for the duration.
But as far as Planet Shaftesbury is concerned, those 18 months have seen a considerable amount of change, as regards public awareness and governmental/corporate acknowledgement that, yes, climate change is real, we humans and our activities are the cause of it and something has to be done in the face of an increasingly evident emergency. Change up to a point. As one of our number observed, climate change denial has been replaced by climate change delay. Statements of commitment abound, decisive, widespread and effective action is still apparently a rarity.
Our meeting – at which there were approximately 16 of us, mostly familiar faces but some welcome newcomers too – concerned itself largely with questions thrown up by this situation and how we might respond to it. After an intro, and a review of past and present activities, we exchanged the usual round of announcements from those representing Planet Shaftesbury’s member groups. We spoke of the upcoming Tree Festival (from 23rd Sept.) and the resumption of (and hoped for community involvement in) tree planting in the town this autumn; of the now current Extinction Rebellion campaign in London and of issues around the Motcombe Solar Park proposal. (Check out your Planet Shaftesbury newsletter, this website and XR information sources for more details.)
The working-together part of the session was around what’s to come: proposals for future meetings, events and activities. Our next meeting (16th Sept.) will centre around preparations for the Tree Festival, but what then?
We need to get to grips with the changed situation referred to above, to consider how in the light of that our ‘message’ is to develop with clarity and relevance, especially with regard to any direct action taken by member groups. This will be tackled in at least one meeting, possibly starting with the one in November.
It was suggested that Planet Shaftesbury needs to be a physical presence in the town on a regular basis, possibly with a leaflet/information table outside the Town Hall on Thursday and/or Saturday mornings.
Another suggestion was around Planet Shaftesbury as an advisory service for those who wish to live greener lifestyles. An info guide more detailed than the suggestions on the back of our current leaflet, but less intense than the Dorset Green Living Guide. And local ‘Which’-type guidance on products and installers of green housing materials (solar panels, air-pump heating etc.).
Direct Action suggestions were around a follow-up to XR’s London action, targeting local companies and institutions with vested interests in fossil fuels, and to initiate a Dorset wide action (not unlike the ‘pilgimage’ in 2019) around cleaning up the River Stour.
Events to come include a hoped-for resumption of the Covid-cancelled Charles Dowding ‘no-dig gardening’ talk and a film show in the run-up to COP26.
So despite the masks (and one comparison between unmasking to speak and unmuting on Zoom) I think there is practical and positive potential in all these suggestions (and hopefully more to come in time). Planet Shaftesbury is on the case!