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Tea, cake and tough conversations: the rise of the ‘local weather cafe’

“It’s hard to talk about climate change because climate change hurts.” But not to talk about it? Well that’s worse. At least that’s what Rebecca Nestor of the Climate Psychology Alliance, an organization that researches the psychological effects of the climate crisis, says.

“We need to talk about what our climate change means for us,” she said. “We have to imagine it in detail in order to be able to think about it constructively and with foresight.”

With this in mind, Nestor set up a series of regular meetings in her hometown of Oxford, where people could come together to discuss the climate crisis over tea and cake. That was in the sultry summer of 2018 – the hottest on record in the UK – when Nestor felt more people were talking about climate fear.

The gatherings, known as “climate cafes”, were loosely based on the death cafes in Britain, where people talk about death over a cup of coffee. However, it was not the first of its kind. The concept can perhaps be traced back to the Climate Cafe Birnam and Dunkeld, which was launched in Scotland in 2015.

“There are no guest speakers and no lectures,” said Nestor of the Oxford Climate Cafes. “It’s a no-advice zone with no pressure to take action, join a group, or change your mind.”

Covid has postponed the meetings online for the time being, which has expanded their reach. Other organizations – including Extinction Rebellion, Aberdeen Climate Action, and Sussex Green Ideas – are running their own, some through Zoom. The idea has also caught on abroad, including in the USA and Canada.

Keerat Dhami, founder of Ontario-based Our Climate Cafe, said, “Although there are spaces for activists to engage and empower one another to cope with the climate crisis, few spaces address the negative effects of the climate crisis own psyche. ”Her group, she added, provides“ a safe and supportive space ”for communities to come together to talk about the climate crisis.

Other climate cafes, such as those run by the University of Hull and York City Council, take a more purpose-driven approach. “We’re not just there to talk shop,” said Dr. Steven Forrest, lecturer at the university’s Energy and Environment Institute, told Positive News. “We also want to show possible steps that people can take [to mitigate the effects of climate change]. “

It’s about raising awareness of the issue, but also starting conversations and looking for positive action

The cafés in Hull and York – two cities threatened by flooding – offer “coffee, cake and quiche” and a forum to discuss the effects of the local climate crisis as well as tried and tested containment strategies.

“It’s about raising awareness of the issue, but also starting conversations and looking for positive action,” said Dr. Forrest.

Visitors to Cafes in Hull and York include policy makers, environmental experts and local residents, including some who have been flooded and have found strategies to prevent future floods.

“Communities and residents are critical to addressing the climate emergency,” said Forrest. “We need to connect academics, practitioners and communities as closely as possible to share ideas and find solutions that will help create more climate-resilient places.”

Main picture: Linkedin

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