By Joe Bailey – Staff Writer

Many in the Chattanooga community participated in the Sept. 20th Youth Climate Strike, but the climate conversation is far from over.

On Oct. 10, community members of all ages and backgrounds gathered at Green|Spaces headquarters for a forum on the demands set at the climate strike. 

Green|Spaces is a Chattanooga organization whose focus is set on protecting the environment through sustainable solutions, and it was exactly this type of sustainability which drove the forum’s dialogue.

Hosted by Sewanee Sustainability Coordinator Lauren Newman, the introductory presentation gave a recap of the demands laid out at the strike, but more crucially, it opened the door for people expand and revise those demands.

“Now that we have the opportunity to have more of a dialogue, we want to start off by saying, ‘Are we missing anything in these demands?’” Newman said.

Of the demands stated, some significant ones include reaching 100% carbon-free energy usage in Chattanooga by 2035, expanding EPB and TVA programs for weatherizing the homes of lower-income residents as well as implementing and expanding the Chattanooga climate action plan. 

Officially called the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan, this ever-evolving initiative from Green|Spaces has sought since 2009 to reduce Chattanooga’s contribution to climate change through a number of green revisions to the city’s infrastructure. Another goal is to mirror Nashville’s various sustainability focussed ordinances, one of which passed unanimously.

In just one city, let alone a whole country, the task of combating climate change can be an overwhelming one. A forum provides the opportunity for community members to consolidate skills, knowledge and perspectives to hopefully make that task easier.

Urgent care clinic manager and mother of three Stephanie Hartline said, “I feel like I am morally obligated to share and use what I can and what I know to help this planet be better for our future generations.”

For Carol Putnam, a retired US air force, army and navy facility manager and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, solutions like solar power, for example, can be less helpful or sustainable than they first appear.

“The problem is that the batteries for solar, when it reaches the end of its useful life, it’s hazardous waste,” Putnam said. “It’s much less than it used to be, but sometimes, when we do these efficient things, they look really good on the front end, but you have to follow them all the way to where they end up.”

Just like the situation with the solar panels, it can be difficult to consider Chattanooga’s sustainable solutions in their totality. At the forum, attendees attempted to draw a graph which could allow people to see this larger picture. The graph, called a power map, had 2 scales: one axis measured influence and the other measured the degree to which a factor acted for or against the demands. The position of points on the graph represented people, organizations or resources in Chattanooga that were relevant to issues of sustainability and climate change.

The power map gave everyone a way to view resources and obstacles more concretely, but it also sparked numerous relevant discussions between its contributors. More than anything, the forum felt like a catalyst for the meeting of minds and the start of discussions.

Many of the proposals and plans laid out during the meeting were technical, rigorous and very specific. Like a college lecture, they would probably be better understood in person where questions can be asked and points can be expanded upon. Newman said that there are future forums planned for Chattanooga and that they will all be open to the public.


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