Over 50 members and supporters of Alton Climate Action Network (ACAN) came together in Alton’s Community Centre recently for a double celebration; ACAN’s fifth birthday and a chance to say “thank you” to three retiring founder members and trustees.

The evening started with a presentation “Five Incredible Years” from James Willis and Sue Hubbard (above) who reminded the audience of ACAN’s beginnings on the crest of a wave of climate concern in 2019.  Many of the discussion groups formed at that first meeting went on to become the ACAN groups that still exist and flourish today.

Attended by the Town Mayor, councillors and representatives of all the ACAN groups

ACAN has expanded into over a dozen dedicated groups which between them involve young people, lobby those in power to cut carbon emissions, avoid food waste, repair broken articles, save energy, produce local food, preserve nature and protect wildlife, encourage cycling, avoid use of plastic, and loan toys and games.  There have also been separate projects such as two Eco Fairs, Eco-Streets and Greening Alton.  They are particularly proud of their Gumbi-Alton permaculture project which has educated groups of young farmers from a group of villages in Malawi, Central Africa in sustainable agriculture, and raised funds to help them to buy a plot of land and acquire equipment and farm animals. 

From left: Eleanor Hill, Jenny Griffiths, Phinna Brealey, Lesley Willis, John Hubbard, Sue Hubbard

The second part of the evening was dedicated to saying “thank you” to Jenny Griffiths, Eleanor Hill and Phinna Brealey, founding members, core group and trustees who have made sure that ACAN was always greater than the sum of its parts.  Lesley Willis pointed out how impossible it was for anyone to know all the things that these three have undertaken over the last five years as they have been at the heart of everything that ACAN has done. John Hubbard presented Jenny, Eleanor and Phinna with flower baskets hand-made by local willow-weaver Angela Cross.  Speaking on behalf of all three, Jenny expressed her thanks and stressed the power of community.  She also welcomed incoming officers and trustees who will write the next chapter of ACAN’s history and bring energy, ideas and a fresh approach.

To find out more about ACAN and read the “Five Incredible Years” presentation, use this short link:

Individual and community actions really matter

At the end of their presentation “Five Incredible Years”, James Willis concluded:

“Sue [Hubbard} and I have tried to give an overall picture to show how the ideas conceived five years ago at that meeting in the Assembly Rooms and in the garden outside have developed and blossomed in a way nobody could possibly have predicted. This is significantly due to the efforts of the core triumvirate who we are celebrating tonight, along with the many others who have embraced the vision.

“The ACAN model has been the inspiration for many others in Hampshire, including in particular the Petersfield Climate Action Network (PeCAN) and also Headley Climate Action Network.

“We have shown that if you give a range of environmental opportunities, people will come forward and we believe that this will grow and prosper under the new Trustees. Everyone in this room will join us in wishing them every success.

“I should like to conclude with the words of the leading article in the Guardian a month ago on the day they published their survey revealing near-despair among leading climate scientists, urging everyone to continue the fight:

It is not only useful; it is essential. Individual actions can seem futile given the magnitude of the task. But they can also build collective awareness, a sense that change is possible and momentum for wider systemic progress. Just as climate tipping points exist, so do social tipping points. It is imperative to hit the latter as fast as we possibly can.””

Aiming to hit those social tipping points has been the very centre of ACAN’s project since its inception. That fight must go on.

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