System change, not climate change, say conference participants

If we want a future for our grandchildren, what changes must our society make in the next few years? What can we do as individuals and as a community?

Asheville was one of 15 cities across the country chosen by Rainforest Action Network for a Climate Leadership Summit, held on Oct. 25-26 at Lenoir-Rhyne University. Forty-five activists, including some who had traveled from Tennessee and South Carolina, converged to envision and brainstorm solutions to the planet’s most pressing problem: climate change. The weekend was devoted to collaborative visions and strategies for solutions.

There were students from UNC Asheville and attendees in their 60s or older with long histories of activism, including one man who was over 80 years old. Some had traveled to New York together for the People’s Climate March in September; many had been trained in civil disobedience in order to protest Keystone Pipeline. The Green Grannies — including me and Debby Genz of, the Pledge of Resistance, and the Climate March — gave a rousing rendition of the anthem, “Do It Now.” Dylan Ryals-Hamilton and Beth Gilman, permaculturists, and Cathy Scott, an artist, were among those representing Transition Asheville. Sherry Ingram and I are members of Asheville’s Food Policy Council. From Durham, an activist named Jodi invited everyone to a statewide climate justice summit.

After conference leader Todd Zimmer of RAN time-traveled us forward to a successful transition in 2050, some of the beautiful visions generated: an economy with worker-owned cooperatives, regional production, and a focus on restoring and healing devastated ecosystems (no more big box stores with goods from China); food growing in former lawns, with food access for all; no more flush toilets, bio-gas digesters producing methane from wastes and also giving rich fertilizer; decision making that is nonhierarchical and uses compassionate communication; bicycles everywhere, and biodiesel vans; an education system that is student-centered and allows children to learn from nature; community-built passive solar housing made from natural materials; a smart grid incorporating solar and wind; water revered as our most valued resource.

In the “Climate Relics Museum,” we imagined a smokestack, a tractor, pesticides, nuclear and coal plants, RVs, container ships.

What are the “pillars” that prop up the present system? The fossil fuel industries, of course, but also the multinational corporations, the banks, corporate personhood (money in politics), and the whole growth-centered economic system and the consumer society it spawned. How to knock down these pillars? As participants held up a poster symbolizing the present carbon-spewing system, others called out: “Divestiture from fossil fuels!” “Buy local movement!” “Move to amend the Constitution!” (to repeal corporate personhood and get the money out of politics) With each of these, the “pillars” groaned and collapsed.

What pillars can support the new society we want? The group decided that education, cooperatives, renewable energy, systemic planning including sustainable agriculture, and inclusive consent-based governance were keys. Invoking the Precautionary Principle, externalization of costs would no longer be allowed. We lifted up these new pillars.

Working together, the group laid out a timeline complete with benchmarks of important dates to accomplish goals. Some examples: Campaign Finance Reform enacted. Huge movement succeeds in mass divestiture from fossil fuel corporations. Rights of Nature becomes part of Constitution.

Already underway, we learned, are campaigns at UNCA calling for divestment from fossil fuels and promoting more local food on campus. The next step for Rainforest Action Network is to spread the process of collecting visions, by empowering summit participants to lead a similar process with friends and neighbors. This will be happening in the next few months, and leading up to a nationwide “Day of Action.” Stay tuned!




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About Cathy Holt
Cathy Holt is director of HeartSpeak: Listening & Speaking from the Heart ( She teaches classes in the Connection Practice and provides coaching in HeartMath for personal resilience. She is also a founding member of Asheville TimeBank and the Green Grannies.

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4 thoughts on “System change, not climate change, say conference participants

  1. JC

    End the subsides and tax breaks for animals products!

    With 60+ BILLION food animals on the planet our best chance to mitigate climate change is to severely reduce consumption of animal foods. More than 1/3 of human induced warming is attributable to animal agriculture. Methane is 24 times more potent than CO2 but takes only 7 years to cycle out of the atmosphere. CO2 takes around 100 years to come out. Human pursuit of animal protein is the leading cause of methane release and a primary cause of CO2 concentrating in the atmosphere. Check the facts and act!

    “As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” Worldwatch Institute, “Is Meat Sustainable?”

    “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains… the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund

    “A 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar investment in solar energy.” ~ Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy

    There is one single industry destroying the planet more than any other. But no one wants to talk about it…

    Step by Step Guide: How to Transition to a Vegan Diet

    • Cathy Holt

      Yes! Many participants spoke of transitioning to a mostly vegetarian-vegan diet, although the permaculture model where a few small animals play a role in healthy agrarian ecosystems was also voiced.

  2. Yes, many participants saw a future with most people eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, although some foresaw permacultural integration of some small animals into the ecosystem.

  3. The planet has been warming and cooling through out its history. Long before mankind.

    Climate Change Hoax Exposed

    American Free Press – “The idea of a carbon footprint is pathetic and ludicrous propaganda, since CO2 is beneficial for life,” Dr. Karlstrom explained to AFP in an informal email exchange.

    Dr. Karlstrom, who also manages a website, went on to explain the “global warming” hysteria, and it’s ultimate agenda:

    “Global warming is phony science that was concocted to justify implementation of an international political agenda. The idea of using ‘man-caused global warming’ as a ‘surrogate for war’ and as a way to ‘destroy excess wealth’ originated in American and UN-related think tanks such as the Club of Rome back in the 60′s and 70′s. This pseudo-science is the centerpiece of a phony environmental movement by which the UN hopes to redistribute wealth in the world (toward the super-rich and away from the people) to de-industrialize the industrialized countries (via the UN Kyoto Protocol-type carbon taxes, cap and trade schemes, etc.), and radically reduce the human population.”

    NewsMax – A British aristocrat has taken a swipe at activists and politicians who fan the fears of climate change as he claimed that recent research shows there’s been no global warming for almost 18 years.

    Lord Christopher Monckton announced on that his scientific satellite data show the temperatures have remained fairly stable between October 1966 and August 2014, despite a rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

    Calling it the “Great Pause,” Monckton wrote, “It is becoming harder and harder to maintain that we face a ‘climate crisis’ caused by our past and present sins of emission,” said Monckton.

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