Two local organizations are working together to bring climate action into the communities we live in, as climate change continues to be a major topic of conversation. Seven Generations Ahead is active in Oak Park, River Forest and Austin. One Earth Collective is active in Chicago, Chicago, and elsewhere. PROVIDED
Gary Cuneen founded Seven Generations Ahead 20 years ago and says the organization’s mission has always been to address global environmental issues on a local level. He says, “The climate crisis is our first and foremost concern.”
Cuneen is fresh from a trip with local high school students to the climate summit COP26, Glasgow. She says one way to bring climate action into communities and engage students in the mission.
Cuneen states that the climate crisis should be a top priority for decision makers, but he insists that all levels of society must change, from the individual to the municipality to the state government to the federal government.
At the individual level, sustainable local foods, clean water conditions and plant-based food movements can all make a significant difference.
SGA collaborates on sustainability measures with many Chicago-area organizations and municipalities. SGA works in Oak Park and River Forest with school districts and Oak Park’s Park District.
In addressing energy use, Cuneen says it’s important for institutions like these to look for cleaner energy and explore solar energy and procurement. SGA is currently supporting Broadview’s efforts to create a solar corridor within an industrial area. It also has a Waukegan project to provide solar energy for low- and moderate income communities.
Cuneen says it’s important to realize that sustainability doesn’t have geographic boundaries. Cuneen says that as climate change threats become more prominent and more people agree that action is necessary, the next step is to encourage mainstream institutions to do more.
Ana Garcia Doyle, founder of One Earth Collective, began the organization in 2012 as a film festival to raise awareness about the climate crisis. The group now focuses on creating awareness and inspiring people to take action to address the crisis.
She says that while the film festival continues its role as an educational tool and a way for people to become interested in the movement, community partnerships help bring the fight to the local levels all year.
One example is a partnership with BUILD Chicago, Austin. Garcia Doyle says combining BUILD’s focus on anti-violence and gang prevention with a farm on the West Side where kids can feed chickens and participate in programming featuring locally grown food is a way to bring sustainable practices to a new generation.
OEC also works with local high school and college students, as well museums like the Museum of Science and Industry and Shedd Aquarium. Garcia Doyle says, “We’ll work with anybody.”
She says, “Our film festival and youth projects are all tools to help us educate and give people concrete things to do. We want people to take action. After our films, we have discussions, and then we always end with an action component — something people can do to take their interest another step.”
The One Earth Young Filmmakers Contest evolved into a national competition that has local roots. Through short videos that encourage action or change, young people can communicate important environmental messages. OEC hopes to reach a new generation with workshops in Chicago and River Forest, December and a Young Filmmakers Online Academy.
Garcia Doyle says, “We use film and youth programming because it’s a version of storytelling. You can connect with stories and feel the connections to your life. There is so much data available on climate change. If people feel emotion, that’s what makes them take action. We need to get heads, hearts and hands engaged.”