Our Projects

This year, instead of staging our own Climate and Activism Fair, Living the Change Berkshires will spotlight the issue of Climate Change at the BEAT Spring Enviro Action Fair & Expo on May 13th.

This event, a fundraiser for BEAT, revolves around wildlife and nature, protecting the earth, living sustainably, farming and gardening, climate action, clean energy and more.Living the Change Berkshires will present:

  • The Tree of Hope (see its page for more information)
  • A poetry and spoken word performance with wordxword at 3pm
  • Rides on the PEBL, the coolest velo-car you’ve ever seen
  • Appearances by the “Climate Doctor”
  • A movie at 6.30pm, followed by a community dialogue
  • Solar companies and many other vendors and exhibitors working in inspiring ways to protect and heal our climate and the earth.

All this alongside many vendors and artists whose work reflects the values inherent in BEAT’s mission: to inform and engage people to protect the environment for wildlife. Many other family-friendly activities, games, guided hikes and kids’ crafts make this a big celebration of nature and humans who love it.

WHENSATURDAY, MAY 13th (the day before Mother’s Day) 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

LOCATION: The Stationery Factory • 63 Flansburg Avenue  •  Dalton, MA

The Stationery Factory is an exciting new community marketplace and event venue in a beautifully restored and enhanced Crane & Company factory building.Visit their website here: http://stationery-factory.com/  

We very much hope to see you there!

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The first Berkshire climate and sustainability fair entitled LIVING THE CHANGE happened
in May 2016 at the Shire City Sanctuary in Pittsfield.

It featured a full day of activities, including vendor and non-profit booths, community dialogue sessions, youth and children’s art and activities, music, food, the movie “This Changes Everything”, by Naomi Klein, and a dance party at night.

The LIVING THE CHANGE FAIR was a major celebration of the growing community and positive momentum of Berkshire County’s climate action network, 350Mass Berkshires, the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and all the environmental organizations, activists, sustainable businesses, individuals, and volunteers who give their time and energy to address the planetary challenge of climate change and make the Berkshires a healthier, more just and sustainable community.

In order to broaden and include more of us in the conversation about Climate Change we conducted three ‘Snapshot Surveys’ during the Third Thursday street-fairs in Pittsfield. Climate change is a topic many of us find overwhelming and at the same time elusive. It can make us feel helpless, guilty or angry.

Each time, we asked people only one question:

In July: How concerned are you about climate change?

In August: What do you feel would be the best way to address climate change?

In September: How much do you think your life/ that of your children will be affected by climate change?

People responded to the first question by placing a sticky dot on columns from 1 (not concerned at all) to 5 (very concerned). Of a total of 352 responses, 238 fell into this last column – very concerned. Column 4 (quite concerned) followed with 69 responses.  13 people said they were not at all concerned, with the remainder falling into column 2 and 3.

In August, the answers to choose from were: Alternative energy: 107 votes. Insulating homes: 22 votes. Electric cars/ alternative transportation: 45 votes. Taxing carbon: 22 votes. Planting trees and agriculture: 52 votes.

We also had a column in which people could write their own ideas or comments. Here, by far the most common response was ‘population control’.

In September most people answered that they felt their lives were going to be impacted significantly, those of their children even more so.

Here too people could write their own responses on stickies in answer to the question how climate change would most likely affect their lives. The most common answers were: Changing weather/ droughts-storms/ crazy weather/ flooding/ weather drought/ storms/hurricanes/ food and crop problems/ air quality/ everything/ affects how we live/ life threatening.

More important even than this informative data, the survey gave us an opportunity to speak with a wide variety of people: from a young man working with reforestation in Haiti, to a woman unaware of the flooding in Louisiana and the wildfires in California, to another man certain that climate change is not human-caused but still favors energy conservation and clean energy, to someone supporting second-generation nuclear energy.

The event left us hopeful that a vast majority of us is in support of measures to protect our planet and all of its life-forms from the worst of climate change. Now we have to let politicians know.

The Tree of Hope is an interactive art project, which engages the viewer in thinking about what gives her or him hope in the face of climate change, and to see what gives other people hope. The tree was originally conceived for the “Harvest of Hope Festival “ at the Pittsfield Commons in October 2016. This festival was a celebration of diversity and community spirit created by the grassroots organization Manos Unidas/Hands Helping Hands Multicultural Educational Cooperative and developed by multiple community partners.

Living the Change decided to ‘harvest hope” on the leaves of the tree. We brought tree branches wrapped with colorful tissue paper along with paper leaves, on which the public was invited to write what gives them hope in the face of climate change.
It was a moving experience to talk with people about what they wrote, and by the end of the day we had a tree full of leaves and hope.

Living the Change then expanded the project, placing its branches in several libraries in the county. (Mason Library and Simon’s Rock library in Great Barrington, the Lee public library and the Berkshire Atheneum in Pittsfield.) For two weeks many more people participated there by writing on the leaves. Some of the libraries created an exhibit of climate change books around the tree.
Next we brought all the branches to the Festival of Trees at the Berkshire Museum, where the tree was on view from November 18 to December 30, 2016. Many more leaves were added, particularly by school children.  The Festival of Trees features creative holiday trees sponsored by businesses, schools, and community organizations and is a significant fundraiser for Berkshire Museum. To fit in with the “movies” theme of the festival, our tree was surrounded by posters of films about climate change.

Stay posted on what the next phase of this project will be. If you or your organization/business are interested in hosting the tree, please contact us.

Advances in Enlivening Democracy and Moving Forward Together on Tough Problems

Living the Change has been hosting introductory evenings on Dynamic Facilitation and Civic Councils. Here’s why:

On a global, national and local level, we face difficult issues: climate change, racial and economic injustice, gang violence, a rapidly ageing population, the rise of nationalism and the erosion of our democracy. This final one makes it that much harder to find solutions to all the other issues.

Many people feel hopeless about governments being able to serve as effective stewards. At the same time, no politician or group of politicians can be expected to have a grasp, let alone solutions, for all of these complicated and complex matters. The current political system and process just do not harness enough of people’s intelligence, interest and perspectives.

In the midst of all this, we have become inspired by a new kind of civic participation in solving tough problems now being used in Germany and in Austria: the Civic Council model, a video of which is here. https://vimeo.com/135618811

There, planning and environmental departments invite everyday people, chosen at random from voter rolls, to meet for two full days as an ad-hoc Council. (This group includes a cross-section of people, including people whom party politics leads us to believe we could never talk with, let alone work together.) Using a specially facilitated process called Dynamic Facilitation, participants chisel out possible solutions to challenging and divisive topics, like the refugee crisis or climate change.

After this intensive work-session, the project sponsors host a large public gathering where council participants present their results and the broader community gets a chance to explore the issue using the World Café format. Before the project begins, the local government has already committed to reviewing the results of this work, and implementing what they can. So they are also present at this Civic Café, to witness how the Council’s work is received by the larger public.

In addition to being used for participatory politics, this approach has also been used in companies and non-profits, where it is called Wisdom Councils.

Here in the Berkshires, we are interested in exploring what topics might lend themselves to this process, and offering a taste of this work in introductory evenings.

Our long-term goal is to enliven democracy and work together on tough problems.

There is a certain power to this work that goes beyond an exchange of ideas or an effort to compromise. It has something to do with discovering the value that different perspectives bring, to the larger symphony that makes up our society – especially when we are able to hear one another well, and welcome each person’s gifts.

For more information, please visit http://diapraxis.com/home/my-writings-on-dynamic-facilitation.

The Seagull is an art project which connects the viewer with the huge plastic garbage patches in the ocean. Originally conceived by Judy Eddy as a way to make a statement with the piles of plastic bags she had refused to throw out over the course of years, it was built by Anne, Judy and Karen out of metal clothes hangers, used fence wire, plastic dry cleaner bags, and inside out chips bags, throw away chopsticks and recycled paper.

The seagull made its first appearance at the “Harvest of Hope” festival which took place at the Pittsfield Commons in October 2016. The festival was a celebration of diversity and community spirit created by the grassroots Manos Unidas/Hands Helping Hands Multicultural Educational Cooperative and developed by multiple community partners.

At the festival the seagull attracted the attention of many children, who loved to cause the wings to move, making the seagull fly, and dreamed of riding on its back. (A little toy dog did get to fly on the seagull’s back.) The seagull sometimes functions as our mascot. It accompanies us to festivals and gatherings, where it invites conversations about the effects of plastic waste on the environment.

Survey Results from June 2016: How concerned are you about climate change?

Very Concerned 0%
Quite Concerned 0%
Somewhat Concerned 0%
Not Concerned at All 0%