Article by Laura Alcoverro Gil & Patrick Evans | Photo Courtesy of HCCA | Owl Staff
Violent hurricanes, intense heat waves, rising sea levels, acid rain, wildfires, and droughts are just a few of the effects of climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate-related issues will only get worse if rising global temperatures are not addressed soon.
Considering the effects climate change can have on the smallest of communities, many concerned people have decided to organize themselves and take action. Harford County Climate Action (HCCA), an association created by several Harford County residents, is a perfect local example.
Tracey Waite, HCCA president and co-founder, was inspired to create the organization after attending the People’s Climate March in New York City in 2014.
“There were at least 300,000 people at that march…it helped me understand that people all over the world understand the magnitude of this crisis,” Waite states.
Waite realized a lot of climate activists were not able to meet in person. “I felt a need for a local group where people would meet face-to-face, come to know each other and have a place to process climate related issues.”
Waite understands that in order to make a difference, efforts at the local level must be taken. According to Waite, the organization works “locally in order to seek policies and practices that will shrink Harford County’s carbon footprint.”
Pamala Dehmer, HCCA’s vice president, also acknowledges the impact of local change. “We realize that federally, there is not going to be anything done to lessen climate change … That is why it is more important for local action to take place … We have to do something drastic,” she states.
Since its beginnings in 2014, the group has been meeting once a month. During the meetings, the members of HCCA discuss current projects, past accomplishments, future plans for lobbying, and sometimes have guest speakers.
HCCA has participated in a wide variety of climate-related efforts and events. They have also worked alongside other environmental organizations including Food and Water Watch, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and DineKind Harford, among others.
Over the past three years, the organization has undertaken efforts regarding a statewide fracking ban, community solar energy, and an opposition to oil drilling and seismic blasting in Maryland.
Waite and the HCCA take pride in their efforts, especially when it comes to the statewide fracking ban. Waite states, “I think we were a big part of that.”
Aravinda Pillalamarri, another HCCA member, agrees with Waite. She adds, “We were able to mobilize so many people…we spoke at farmers markets, we went door-to-door…and it all culminated at speaking at the Town Council.”
For some members, like botanist Fawn Palmer from Churchville,Maryland, climate change has become more of a personal issue. Palmer states, “I have ten grandkids. So, to me, that’s a high investment. It’s very important that [I] go out there and do something…even if it’s a small thing.”
Steven Preston has also been a member of HCCA for two years. He decided to join HCCA due to his “overall concern with the climate change issue itself, with global warming and how it is impacting the world…and how it seems to have accelerated pretty quickly within the last five to ten years.”
In addition to their efforts within the community, HCCA members are also taking personal strides against climate change. Recycling, reducing trash, keeping the thermostat low in the winter, and trying not to use theair conditioning during the summer are only a few examples of their own eco-friendly actions.
By setting an example and informing the public about the risks of climate change, Harford County Climate Action is encouraging the community to become more active in the environmental fight. Waite says, “It doesn’t matter how small the county is or how rural the county is. We are at a point where we only have about ten years to reduce emissions to 45% of what they were in 2010.”
Those interested in finding out more or volunteering with HCCA can call (443) 243-3363, send an email to email@example.com, or learn about environmentally friendly practices at hcclimateaction.org.