Small Climate Change Efforts

NEK- For the last few years, The Council of Rural Development has been working on a special program revolving around the climate economy, and from that program, a new group was created called the Climate Catalysts. 

Jon Copans works for the Vermont Council of Rural Development, and their main focus is to talk to communities in the state of Vermont. They want to help those communities find ways to make areas in the community better for residents.

The main focus is to bring community leaders together to discuss ways to solve the Vermont climate change crisis. Generating ideas, learning from one another, sharing advice, and Copans provides training to them as well as bringing in other leaders to provide training as well. 

"We provide guest speakers, and we are really sort of building this sense of a team that's working together to try to get things done in their communities," Copans said with enthusiasm.

The training consists of Copans getting together one on one with each participant in the group to discuss how their projects are going, and what can be worked on to make their project even better.

"So he really encouraged us to work with each other, in between our meetings, and share ideas, which we did. Then there was direct coaching from Jon, he would organize one on one talks by zoom or phone, if we wanted, and I found those really helpful," Ann Lawless says. She was one of the many participants in the program.

The first group of people to join the Climate Catalysts was earlier this year in February, Copan selected up to 12 people to be members of the catalysts. The first official meeting was in person, but when the pandemic hit, the group had to switch to online meetings. Copans says he could not have done it all by himself without the efforts made by all the participants in the group.

"They showed real sort of flexibility, and to some degree, we had to model in our work around the Climate Catalysts just what they had to do in their own work in their own communities. The name of the game right now is adaptation and flexibility," Copans goes on to say.

Copans says despite the pandemic, the group has come up with creative new ways to accomplish their goals, stay focused, and engage in their communities while staying safe. Each person to come abroad the catalyst takes on their own individual project to work on, Copans gives readers a little insight on some projects that have been done in the last year.

"I'll give you a couple of examples, if you think back to the spring, all of a sudden Vermonters were much more focused on where their food was coming from. There was a certain amount of anxiety, about the grocery shelves, and were they able to get good vegetables and that sort of thing. Well of course when you think about our food production there are tremendous climate implications for our food production as well, so the more Vermonters are eating locally, there are huge benefits in terms of climate change," Copans explains.

Copans goes on to praise a member who was really focused on working with their local school gardens. The school gardens were not being used as much as they could have been, so that member decided to gather up volunteers and grow vegetables for local food shelves in the community, as well as the school food programs.

"So to me that was like a perfect encapsulation of being flexible, seeing an opportunity. By the way, what she has done is she's built a stronger relationship with her schools," Copans says.

Copans expressed that it was very hard when deciding who was a part of the group. But now that the first session of people is almost done with their projects, Copans is looking at all the new applications that were submitted on October 9th. The Catalyst will continue to be remote until there is no more health risk concerning the pandemic.

You can go on the Vermont Council of Rural Developments website to learn more on the Climate Catalysts Program. Applications are all online, and if you are interested in sharing ideas with Copans, you can reach him best at (802)-272-0162.