Positive change can start with a frank conversation. Delaware is one of the lowest-lying states in the U.S., which means people in Delaware are more likely to see the common flooding, the saltwater inundation and the seemingly worse storms.

The public is being invited to participate in Coastal Climate Conversations on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. at South Coastal Library in Bethany Beach. The event is free and open to the public. An RSVP is not required.

After a brief talk by experts, guests will openly discuss issues related to climate change. They can share individual beliefs, experiences and concerns, while learning practical ideas for a healthier planet.

Such conversations start with observations: “I’ve seen the flooded streets in Bethany Beach.” “I’ve noticed the frequency of devastating storms.” “I’m concerned about rising sea levels.” “I’m concerned about the quality of our water and air.” “What can we do?” the event flyer offered.

“We try to make these as intimate as possible. … Even if there’s a sizable turnout, we hope we can put some people around tables so they can have some personal conversations with each other,” said guest speaker Lisa Locke. “We want to provide … a candid and respectful setting to do this.”

Ultimately, everyone wants to live in a healthy environment, Locke said, so these face-to-face conversations can help open minds to different perspectives on both sides of issues.

First, three speakers will each have 10 minutes to explain the science, local risks and possibilities: Chris Bason, executive director of Delaware Center for the Inland Bays (CIB); Ted Spickler, retired CEO of Bayer Material Sciences and former physics instructor; and Locke, executive director of Delaware Interfaith Power & Light.

It will be a secular program, although it’s sponsored locally by the social justice ministry at the Parish of St. Ann’s.

“Care of God’s creation includes taking care of the climate. … It’s a big priority of the [Catholic] Church,” said Howard Boyd, leader of St. Ann’s Salt & Light Ministries.

Tackling big problems like climate change can feel so overwhelming that the everyday person doesn’t even know where to begin.

“One of our objectives of the evening is to show them what they can do … to make the environment better,” said Boyd. “We are hoping people come away from the event learning something and feeling good about it.”

Guests will learn practical, eco-friendly action items, ranging from big to small: get an energy audit; use eco-friendly boat paint; drive a car that requires less fuel; eat lower on the food chain; plant native landscaping; reuse and recycle; and much more.

“They don’t seem like much, but suppose everyone was doing this... It would be an enormous impact and help people save money,” said Locke.

Delaware Interfaith Power & Light has hosted other eco-friendly informational events. They are part of a national religious response to climate change.

“We can see effects right here in Delaware: eroded beaches, flooded neighborhoods, damaged farmlands, worsening coastal flooding and increased salt levels in critical estuaries and aquifers,” according to Interfaith. “We are having more extreme heat days, our growing season is being affected, as are migratory patterns of the birds and waterfowl that delight and sustain us, attracting tourists from around the world.”

“Typically, these are the things that concern people,” Boyd said. “You look out the back door and see flooding. In Bethany Beach, there’s flooding there all the time,” as well as encroaching bays and eroding beaches.

He mused over the future of local real estate values.

“If you were thinking about buying property at the beach, I would recommend they check out what’s happening in the water in the bays and the ocean… If you’re two miles from the beach, the value of that property is going to go down. … The flooding is coming. It’s getting worse all the time.”

More than a dozen Climate Conversations have occurred across Delaware. Another will be held at Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth Beach on March 4 at 6:30 p.m.

Staff Reporter

Laura Walter is an award-winning reporter on schools, environment, people and history. A graduate of Indian River High School and Washington College, she has rappelled off a building and assisted a magician, and encourages readers to act on local issues.