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Growing change . . . Weston's Gail May-Sherman takes a break in her garden at home. PHOTO: SHANNON GILLIES

Change is coming to society – whether it wants it or not.

A movement called Transition Town has developed in the face of climate change to help make people resilient and build stronger communities in a world that promotes isolation.

Weston-based Gail May-Sherman (53) is one of those behind the local programme that will again run the Sustainable Skills Summer School early next year.

Workshops on finances, health and gardening are some of the options.

“We would like to make sure our community have skills that we still need.”

Mrs May-Sherman said Transition Towns were located all over the globe as a response to rapid changes in the environment.

“One of the big motivators is climate change, because we can not endlessly use fossil fuels in the way and at the rate that we do.”

She said the skills on offer were to help people adjust to an environment that may become much more turbulent, in a slow and manageable way rather than anything sudden.

“Two hundred years ago, nobody knew anything about using fossil fuels. There are ways of using energy we don’t know about yet because we’re not trying.”

She said change needed to happen or else the world people were leaving for their grandchildren would be bleak.

“If we can’t find these new ways, if we can’t tap into the creativity of others in our community and grow into something that’s much brighter than the future staring at them . . .

“I have a 1-year-old granddaughter and it doesn’t look good for her. It’s hard even looking at my son’s future. He’s about to turn 16. We have big problems facing us and we will have to address them in crisis mode or in advance and in a cohesive way.

Locally, there was support for the Transition Town movement across different groups, including environmentalists and farmers, but she felt more could be done to bring those passionate factions together.

“A lot of those farmers are interested in it, but baulk at the sustainable and green image.

“Oamaru is an interesting community because there is a whole bunch of very creative, forward-thinking people and there are a whole bunch of forward-thinking, conservative people on a different path.

“You’ve got farmers who are all excited about irrigation and dairy coming in because they see that as a future and then there are a bunch of environmentalists who see it as an environmental catastrophe.”

Mrs May-Shearman said both groups needed to understand each other, in particular the stresses local farmers were under from debt in a weather-dependent industry, but nobody could grow crops in scorched earth and poisoned water.

New environmental ways would have to be developed for farming and it was better to do that in a safe and controlled way rather than during something catastrophic, she said.

“I have tremendous respect and [compassion] for farmers, but I think they’re in an incredibly difficult position right now and I think they’ll have difficulty coming through.”