After two days of hearing about the issues that Morris area citizens need to understand around extreme weather and climate change (as detailed here and here in previous blog posts), the Dialogue participants are now getting down to the hard work of figuring out what the community should do. Focusing on key concerns such as the impacts on the agricultural sector, heating and cooling costs for citizens, and the overall local economy, Dialogue members worked together throughout the day to identify the important information, opportunities and shared priorities for the Morris area.
While the final report is still to be written, the earliest outcomes of the Climate Dialogue are already impressive. The high level of cooperation the participants embraced and the respect they showed to each other and their charge made the three days a time of authentic sharing of information, views and hopes, and a creative space for problem solving. Diverse in age, background and vocation, the citizens provided a perspective that is inclusive of the views of those community members inside and outside the room.
Their careful consideration of climate, extreme weather and Morris is equally impressive. Concerns ranged from very local worries about Morris town roads and sewer systems, to considering what kinds of other crops and agricultural systems may fit a changing climate, to thinking about how to bring accurate information to more citizens and policy makers. Answers to these problems varied from the from supporting better construction approaches and efficiency measures to implementing discussion of climate change in K-12 and in town meetings. But in all cases, the solutions proposed were discussed and agreed upon in a way that reflected their own expertise and their community connections.
What will come of this effort directly around climate and extreme weather will be decided by the citizens of the Morris region. But the amazing community discussion and shared work around solutions I witnessed over the past three days makes me believe that if more of these democratic dialogues about climate were held throughout our rural (and urban) communities, we’d be much closer to a shared solution to this crisis today.