A group of local organisations held an exhibition showcasing ways of combating climate change at Maketank on Paris Street last Thursday.
COP-EXE was inspired by the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) taking place from 31 October to 12 November in Glasgow.
Event organiser Becky Wells explained that she wanted to publicise what was being achieved locally to mitigate the climate crisis. She said: “I want to help these organisations inspire people to do things themselves as we cannot wait for politicians to lead us.”
Local organisations brought informational displays to the event, where they answered questions from members of the public and facilitated creative activities. There was also a photography exhibition presenting images of personal responses to the climate crisis from local people.
Dr James Dyke, Assistant Director of the University of Exeter Global Systems Institute, delivered a presentation which outlined the seriousness of the climate crisis.
His talk included a history of past efforts to tackle the problem, explaining how ineffective they had been, and presented newly-released data which painted a bleak picture of our prospects.
While emphasising how much harder effective action would be the longer it was delayed, Dr Dyke nevertheless said that COP26 did not necessarily represent our last chance to prevent runaway climate change.
University of Exeter students from the Global Systems Institute flagship MSc Global Sustainability Solutions programme, which Dr Dyke leads, ran an exercise throughout the day in which members of the public contributed category-based responses to climate change challenges.
Discussing the perspectives needed for effective action against climate change, the students said that systems thinking is necessary to understand the complex feedback loops it involves.
Exeter Community Energy, a community benefit society which enables local renewable energy and energy-saving projects and helps reduce carbon footprints while saving money, also offered information and advice to event attendees.
Project Manager Tara Bowers said that Exeter Community Energy’s Healthy Homes for Wellbeing anti-fuel poverty project helped 1145 households to save a total of more than £1 million on their energy bills in the six months from September last year, an average of nearly £900 per household, by providing free practical advice and information in pop up clinics and home calls and visits.
Johanna Korndorfer was on hand to describe the projects presented as part of a display made from recycled cardboard, which included the Storied Seed Bank, a set of short personal stories each linked to a particular plant, as well as seed-based artworks.
Exeter Seed Bank collects seeds and redistributes them without charge to promote urban gardening in the city while sharing knowledge about seed saving, an ancient craft that is being revived in response to diminishing seed diversity.
Recycle Devon was also present on behalf of Exeter City Council, which has recently launched its long-awaited food waste recycling scheme in part of Alphington.
Carol Arthur explained it was better to use normal plastic bags to line food waste bins, rather than compostable bags, because of the method the city council was using to separate this waste.
Other organisations represented at the event included FLOW Orchard Exeter, a community art project which has created an orchard trail along the River Exe, Exeter Connect, a voluntary and community sector support service, and the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity & Sustainability.
A second day of COP-EXE events followed on Saturday, during which venues around the city centre hosted themed drop-ins offering ideas for action around climate change.
Divest Devon campaigned for Devon Pension Fund to divest £157 million of public sector pension money that it holds in fossil fuel investments outside St Petrock’s Church, and St Stephen’s Church presented a faith-based response to the climate crisis.
Meanwhile Maketank hosted a day focussed on campaigning and biodiversity with Exeter Seedbank, Devon Wildlife Trust, Global Centre Devon - Devon Development Education, Fairtrade Devon and Labour for a Green New Deal.
Exeter Extinction Rebellion engaged passers-by outside on Paris Street. A member of the activist group said: “We have reached a critical stage in the emergency and desperately need people to take action.”