In 2015, in a village in Scotland, a presentation from Climate Reality Leader led to a conversation across the community about climate change. After the presentation, in the street, local shop and park – people stopped to talk, ask questions and share ideas with her.
Trained by Former Vice President, Al Gore in 2013, she had taken the presentation to living rooms, communities, workplaces – and when it was shared it kick started an animated conversation in that place, and a focus on action, with those who knew the place best.
It sounded like people needed to get together to chat to share thoughts and ideas, and that this would inspire collective action. So in the village, those who had shared ideas and questions were invited to come together to consider creating a space for a regular chat.
It was agreed to create that space and call it Climate Café to be absolutely clear about what it was – a safe, welcoming, informal space to talk about climate – where you could have a cup of tea and share chat. Just before everyone met, this blog about a Death Cafe by local author Jamie Jauncey encouraged us to pursue the idea. The space to talk about a similarly taboo subject, especially one needing such urgent attention, seemed so important.
It was proposed that Climate Café should be a place to chat, and that those who came together proposed it should also be a place to act. The pop up space was created and began to meet monthly in the community arts centre. Just a kettle, tea and biscuits!
What we discovered was that many others really valued this simple space too.
Across the village other people asked to go on the mailing list and it grew. The Café met and focused on local action, leadership from children and young people, innovation and inspiration from local businesses, connecting with community growing projects and other groups. Within a year the mailing list was almost 100, and it had a thriving presence on facebook and updates by email too. Many visited and also valued the space.
As the Paris Summit approached, the Climate Café planned a day of action and live music for Live Earth. Everyone was invited to participate in producing a flag on the theme #fortheloveof (in line with the Climate Coalition initiative) to show what they love and why they want urgent action on climate change. With support from local people and businesses, this generated hundreds of contributions – flags from individuals aged from 2 to 106! Once sewn together these produced 100 metres of Community Climate Bunting that then went on to Paris.
Over months and years, more Climate Cafés emerged. Some created by our guests, who liked the space and created their own in their local area. Some were created after Climate Reality presentations in other parts of Scotland and enquiries from beyond were supported too.
As new Climate Cafés have emerged, Co-ordinators have stayed connected, they support each other, share ideas and learning. The Climate Cafés featured here all work to the same ethos – free, open, welcoming to all, inclusive, informal and a space to talk, listen, share and act – without judgement or politics. They are often very creative spaces and benefit from intergenerational conversations.
Many of the Climate Cafés featured have sparked ideas for initiatives and projects which have their own identity, allowing the Cafe spaces to continue to be informal spaces for chat often inspiring and informing action, rather than meetings with minutes and agendas!
For all those who share our ethos – we would welcome you to connect with us, and share your story so we can continue to feature Climate Cafés across Scotland and the rest of the world. If we can support you with guidance and connections, please do let us know.
Thanks to Birnam Arts, the original home of Climate Café which has supported our many events and ideas! Thanks to all Co-ordinators who offer support, share ideas and learning.
Death Cafe was developed by Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid, based on the ideas of Bernard Crettaz, see DeathCafe.com Thanks to Death Cafe, Jon Underwood’s work and to Jamie for his blog (afewkindwords.me) sharing his experience of such a space, that encouraged us on our journey.
Thanks too to The Climate Coalition for the inspiration for the Community Climate Bunting which has been such a community success, and is still enjoyed today in the heart of our community centre and soon to be extended for COP 26 in Glasgow!
While learning what works with our model, Climate Café has continued to be inspired and informed by so many who have been involved so far and others creating similar spaces to talk.