Peter – Sustainable Tiverton
Faith and responding to the climate crisis
“I am the secretary of Sustainable Tiverton, which is now a Community Interest Company, responsible for a number of different projects in the field of sustainability and building resilience. Our projects include the Re-Rooted Surplus Food Project, which gathers and redistributes food from supermarkets through food banks, community centres, and schools. We also host a community meal once a month – using only recycled food – which is free for anybody to attend and give a donation if they wish. Our tree team is very active over the winter – replanting areas of woodland and establishing a community orchard. We’re now looking at the development of our community pantry, and we’re hoping to establish a physical presence in the town… a sustainability hub we’re calling it. My role is to provide administrative support for the projects and the group as a whole, to enhance and develop the work we do.
My primary motivation for volunteering is that it’s a response to my Christian faith. It is one of the ways in which I respond to God’s love for me and for the world. What also motivates me is the need for us all to respond to the climate crisis. So, I feel a kind of moral imperative, and it’s not a coincidence that I’ve become much more involved in this within a couple of years of becoming a grandparent. My three grandchildren will grow up in a world in which the impact of the deteriorating environment and the increasing instability of the climate potentially threatens not only their future, but the future of their entire generation. Realising this has significantly changed my level of concern about the climate and ecological emergency. I first became involved in Sustainable Tiverton when, towards the end of 2019, I attended a Green Party meeting where I met Teresa who, at the time, was the Chair. She said she was drowning in the admin and needed some help. I contacted her afterwards and the rest is history.
One of the activities I enjoy most is our annual Apple Day; we have an apple press and invite people with apple trees in their garden or nearby to bring along any surplus, which we use to make juice. I think what makes it so fun is the way in which it brings people together… that’s what I enjoy most. The Re-Rooted project and the Community Fridge are also invaluable – a real practical help to people who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. Even in Tiverton, hundreds of families are struggling to make ends meet. They simply haven’t got enough money to pay the heating bill and put food on the table. Throughout the pandemic, these projects have supported the community.
The education work that we’re starting to do now I think helps people to understand what’s happening with climate change – the threat it poses, and how people can act as individuals or families. We are providing them with opportunities through volunteering to tackle the climate emergency. As well as us taking individual action, I think the primary responsibility for responding to the crisis lies with policymakers, governments, and large corporations. I do what I can to support campaigning which pressures politicians to act, and the more that people are engaged locally, the more they realise that what’s needed far exceeds the scale of what we can do as individuals. It would also be beneficial for us to get more support from our local government, to provide resources and help us to engage with the general public.
In terms of being able to take action, I think the commitment of others has been really important, as well as reaching out to people who can help us start new projects. We don’t struggle to find people who will do something practical on a monthly basis, but we do struggle to find people who can provide the core commitment and expertise which are necessary for progressing and expanding the work. 10 or 12 people make up the backbone of the group, but it’s not enough. We can’t employ people unless we get more people involved who are really good at fundraising for example. So, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. We could also do more to build a wider network of other organisations, with whom we could collaborate. CAG Devon provides opportunities for this kind of networking. This isn’t something I’ve been greatly involved in, but I know my colleagues value those skill sessions quite highly. CAG runs forums which focuses on a particular subject area, and organisations meet online to learn, discuss, and share ideas. Sustainable Tiverton has been affiliated with CAG for quite a long time, and the link with them is important to us.
I think volunteering has made a difference to my whole adult life; it has given me the joy of working with other people to achieve something worthwhile. In relation to Sustainable Tiverton, volunteering allows me to make a contribution, however big or small, to the defining issues of our time. It can be a lot of hard work, but sometimes it’s fun as well. I find I am working more and more with like-minded people, which is great. The support and encouragement of others helps me to stay motivated. Spending time in prayer every day is a source of immense encouragement to keep going. I am someone who is naturally reflective, and I have developed over the course of my life inner resources to deal with setbacks, and I know that discouragement is only temporary. It is something you can develop in yourself, over time and with practice. I have come to see that I can choose to have a hopeful outlook. Other people across the world are making great strides towards making the world a better place, but you don’t always hear about this unless you go looking for it. The solidarity of being part of something that is making positive change is incredibly important and empowering.”