“It’s a universal thing that people feel: ‘I knew I should have done something, but I didn’t, and I wish I had,’” Falmouth’s liaison to the environmental action group Sustainable Practices, Christine H. Kircun, said this week.
Now 34, Ms. Kircun said that as she grows older, she looks back on her life and sees that there were moments when she could have stepped forward or spoken up, and she did not.
“I let fear, or intimidation, hold me back,” she said. “I look back on those moments with regret at not allowing myself to do the good I could have done.”
Ms. Kircun joined Sustainable Practices last summer because she believes that climate change is humanity’s greatest threat and challenge, and she wanted to be part of a group that was taking action to address that challenge.
“Strong words and strong speeches are fine, but we need to add meaningful and impactful action to those words in order to create change,” she said. “The best designs, protocols or plans come to nothing if all they do is sit on the table. People say, ‘We need to change.’ I realized that I am part of that ‘we.’”
Every week Ms. Kircun joins, via Zoom meetings, fellow Cape Cod environmental advocates of all ages and backgrounds—from high school students to people in their 70s, including one or more liaisons from each Cape town—to discuss environmental education and action initiatives.
Before COVID-19, they met in person at a central Cape location.
Sustainable Practices is a “Barnstable County-focused environmental action group,” according to its mission statement. “We work across all 15 towns in Barnstable County to facilitate a network to support environmental quality for our residents, visitors and fundamentally, the ecosystem on which we are dependent and of which we are all a part.”
In a successful Cape-wide initiative in 2019, the group filed the Municipal Plastic Bottle Ban in 11 Cape Cod towns. The ban focused on eliminating non-emergency single-use plastic bottle purchase by town governments and the sale of beverages in single-use plastic containers on town property across Cape Cod.
By the end of the year, all 11 towns had adopted the ban.
This year Sustainable Practices supported the filing of that same ban in Bourne, Mashpee, Truro and Barnstable, and has initiated, through citizen’s petition articles, the ban on commercial single-use plastic water bottles in the 11 towns that adopted the municipal plastic bottle ban.
The commercial ban will eliminate the sale of non-carbonated, non-flavored water in single-use plastic bottles of less than one gallon in size within the jurisdiction of each town, according to the group’s website.
Ms. Kircun filed a petition article on the commercial ban that was voted at Falmouth Town Meeting.
At a time when many people feel a sense of helplessness in terms of the impact they can have on helping the environment, she said, reducing the use of plastic water bottles is an important action.
“Plastics pollute and impact our environment across their life cycle from production to use to disposal,” the original ban petition stated. “Ultimately, plastic re-enters the human food chain with adverse consequences that are both known and emerging.”
“We have a great group,” Ms. Kircun said of Sustainable Practices. “People are deeply concerned about the trajectory of our society, the desire for change ties us together.”
“We talk about ideas and respect one another’s opinions,” she said. “Everyone’s input is valuable; everyone’s efforts are valuable, important, and needed.”
Ms. Kircun said that while the group tries to stay focused on its agenda during meetings, the members also try to make the meetings fun. “Everyone is doing interesting things in their lives, so we take time to check in with one another,” she said.
In addition to the Cape Plastic Bottle Ban initiative, Sustainable Practices hosts a weekly online film series on topics from environmental justice to social justice. The series can be accessed at www.sustainablepracticesltd.org.
The group also has a radio show and podcast, called “Sustainable Practices,” aired on Provincetown’s WOMR the first Friday of every month at 9 AM.
Ms. Kircun said she would really like to see “energy towards action in response to climate change.”
“At this point,” she said, “the climate change damage is done. We have to mitigate for the changes that are coming.”
“Look at the COVID-19 situation,” she said. “Science and health officials told us what we need to do to keep the virus under control, and there are areas of the world and the country that listened to the advice and are seeing the benefits.
“At the same time, we’re seeing the horrible consequences of people not listening to the scientific advice, and it’s happening in real time, really fast.”
Ms. Kircun sees our reaction to the COVID19 pandemic as a kind of condensed example of the situation with environment, whereby scientists warned the world for many decades that human production and consumption and carbon emissions into the atmosphere would cause climate change, and that the results of that would be severe if production and consumption go unchecked.
“Today the science is clear as the consequences are already occurring and are easy to see—in the frequency and severity of weather-related events, vector-borne disease, water scarcity, and sea level rise,” she wrote in a follow-up email.
The plastics industry, she said, is currently investing in higher production. By 2050, it is estimated that 20 percent of greenhouse gases will be from plastic production, she said.
“Yet there are still people who believe that addressing climate change is someone else’s responsibility, or that there is nothing they can do, or that the issue can be put onto the back burner, despite 60 years of warnings,” she said.
“Humanity has phenomenal potential to mobilize around a goal and go all-in,” Ms. Kircun said, “but the timing is critical. It’s so vital to address this right now.”
Ms. Kircun has a bachelor of science degree in biology with a concentration in marine biology, and has lived in Falmouth for 11 years. She works at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Woods Hole.