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Everyone is Talking About Climate Change, But What are we Doing About it? Floyd Takes a Stand

Kurt Holtz

Remember that old joke: ‘everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it?' Well, as we all know by now, weather and climate are very different things. But people in the tiny town of Floyd, Virginia, are trying to do something about climate change, one carbon footprint at time.

Two years ago, after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Agreement to mitigate climate change, members of a group called SustainFloyd were crushed. But as the saying goes, rather than 'curse the darkness, they're lighting a single candle,' asking people to make a ‘personal climate pledge’ to reduce their own carbon footprints in any ways they can.

“You have to believe that taking some sort of action is the right thing.  You can’t just give up,” says SustainFloyd president Billy Weitzenfeld. “Here’s something we can do if our government is not going to do anything.”

Students at the Springhouse School made a video inspired by the pledge. It opens with a screen shot of the front page of the New York Times.  The headline: “Global Warming Has Begun, Experts Tell Senate.”  The year is 1988.

Tati Alba, who is in 10th grade, worked on the video project. “One thing that infuriates me about climate change,” she says, “is that we’ve known about it for so long.  So long! And we’re not doing anything about it. On the change level, I think we can only do so much as individuals.  I think the change that really needs to happen is on the institutional level, especially on the corporate level.” 

The Personal Climate Pledge is “a call to action” says Dean of Students Chris Wolf. “It kind of wakes us up to a responsibility in a culture that has a million ways to distract and escape and ignore.”

Spring House is an Independent community school for 7th to 12th graders. It doesn’t give grades and its mission is to re-imagine the purpose and practice of education, with a focus on the natural world, according to Wolf. He says, there are a lot of people here (in Floyd) who are very connected to the earth, through farming or the land they own, or just wild beauty of the region, people “who really care about being in a relationship with place.”

Credit Kurt Holtz
Student, Tani Alba with Mentor, Roxanne Greenberg at Spring House School, Floyd, VA

Roxanne Greenberg is Financial Manager, and Discovery Learning Coordinator at Springhouse.  “People take care of things that they value," she says, "so if you don’t feel connected to something or if you don’t value it, you’re not going to take care of it. You won’t be a steward.”  Each student at the school has a mentor. Greenberg mentored the students working on the video project. Perhaps not surprisingly, one person they interviewed said he knew very little about climate change.  And that’s something the 'Pledge' is out to change, “A solution” says Greenberg, is helping people understand the value and their connection to the earth in order to be a steward.  And I think that looks very different for everyone.  Not everyone is an avid outdoor adventurer, and I understand that. I’m not expecting everyone to be that way, but I do know, and I’ve seen small ways in which people can connect.”   

For Spring House School’s co-founder, Dr. Jenny Finn “getting to know what is my relationship with the earth as I scoot through a cave on my belly or I ride down the New River, white water rafting, or I take a hike and learn what the plants are right outside this door, I begin to develop a relationship with the earth just like I would another person. And what I really appreciate about this project, and about “SustainFloyd” is that they’re addressing what’s happening because of our disconnection.” 

Finn refers to a book she’s reading, called ‘Emergent Strategy’ by Adrian Marie Brown: “She’s talking about how we have this mentality that change is made by big things, critical mass or big money. When you look at emergent theory.  It’s these small connections in complex systems that begin to make change, and I think that is what is happening here.  We’re starting on the ground in this place with these people to address big things.   So, we’re repairing connection in small ways that will have a ripple effect in big ways.”

The Town of Floyd will hold its third annual Energy Fest, July 13th at Chantilly Farm from 9am to 4pm.

2697 Franklin Pike SE 
Floyd, VA 24091 United States

Phone:  (540) 808-4984

Co-host, Apple Ridge Farm will be there with and interactive Kid Zone and SustainFloyd will be bringing workshops to the stage where you can see how renewable energy directly impacts your home.

Admission: $5 for individuals, $10 for families

Call 745-SEED or email info@sustainfloyd.org for more information.

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.