Headwaters Gathering shines spotlight on local climate change

Now’s the time to consider how climate change might affect our region, say the organizers of the first Headwaters Gathering. Dubbed “Southern Appalachia at the Crossroads,” the conference, slated for the weekend of March 27-29 at Warren Wilson College, will bring together a diverse mix of experts, environmentalists, activists, writers and community leaders, says Margo Flood, executive director of the school’s Environmental Leadership Center.

“There has never been an inclusive roundtable about climate change,” she notes. “This will kick off what we hope will be a regional initiative … that involves everyone.”

Scheduled speakers range from Native American activist Winona LaDuke to local climate scientist Thomas Peterson and former World Bank economist Herman Daly. “It’s time for a cross-sector conversation,” Flood declares.

Southern Appalachia “can be affected by climate change just as much as it has been by the current economic crisis,” says Flood. And with Western North Carolina facing a projected 30 percent population growth by the year 2030, the effects of climate change become all the more worrisome.

Two years ago, Warren Wilson became the first WNC college to accept the Campus Climate Challenge—a national movement to halt global warming by reducing the pollution produced by high schools and colleges and pushing for a clean-energy future. The idea for the conference grew out of those efforts, says Flood, as students, faculty and staff worked to improve recycling efforts, cut energy costs in every campus building, use green building methods in new construction, and implement projects such as the INSULATE! weatherization program for low-income residents.

“Once you become aware of how closely each of us is connected to the future, there’s no turning back. It becomes a mission to do the best we can,” she proclaims.

And by pooling the efforts of individuals, businesses, schools and government at all levels, Flood continues, “Imagine what we can do.” That includes co-hosting the conference with The Wilderness Society and Orion magazine.

But dealing with climate change isn’t just about the science and the environment: It also means getting the word out, she concludes. Accordingly, the gathering will include poet/environmentalist Thomas Rain Crowe, green-jobs activist Majora Carter, former coal miner Chuck Nelson and the Warriors of AniKituhwa, a Cherokee dance group.

“We’re not going to come with a plan for dealing with climate change unless it’s across many sectors,” notes Flood, adding, “It’s up to you and me to solve this.”

For more information, visit www.headwatersgathering.org.

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987. Follow me @mvwilliams

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