A PACKED public meeting was told that the Earth is beginning to suffer irreparable damage, with the climate changing far faster than expected.

Forest of Dean Council joint deputy lader and Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency, Cllr Chris McFarling, spoke of his personal journey and experiences, including seeing at first hand the destruction of coral reefs.

The Green councillor for St Briavels, who formerly worked for the BBC Natural History Unit and as a professional diver, told the Coleford Climate Emergency Drop-in at the Church on the Street how frustration at a lack of political action took him into local politics.

As the driving force behind the declaration by the Forest Council of a climate emergency, he spoke positively of his experiences of working for change locally.

He said the Forest of Dean had one of the cleanest streams of recycled waste sent to the recycling plant, which saves money on rates.

Cllr McFarling (pictured right), who is leading the council’s climate work to bring about change, said: “I was brought up in love with the natural world and am frightened by the prospect of losing it.

“We thought the Earth’s capacity for repair was limitless. We thought the Earth could absorb all the punches we threw at it. That we could consume, burn, exploit, use, buy and throw away regardless. We thought we had time to change our ways.

“It turns out we were wrong – the Earth is beginning to suffer irreparable damage and the climate is changing far faster than expected.”

Extra chairs and an audio link were needed for all to attend the meeting, as Cllr McFarling also took questions from the audience.

Organiser Mark Bick, of Mid-Wyedean Churches, said: “I was delighted by the turnout, we had people from all backgrounds and of many different views. The meeting was emotional at times, as Chris and others talked about the expected impact of climate cange on the natural world, on our lives and on future generations.

“Chris explained very clearly why it is an emergency and how we do still have a chance, with focused action, to avert the worst impacts.

“It feels awareness is growing, as is the commitment to action.

“The people of the Forest are great at working together when there is a short-term emergency like heavy snow, and I am hopeful we can rise to the challenge of this much deeper and longer-term emergency.”

Climate Drop In volunteer Hannah Palmer said: “As someone who has studied ecology and conservation, I am terrified for the future. Nowhere near enough is being done to deal with climate change. That is why it has become a climate emergency.

“Chris’s talk encouraged me as he shared positive actions being taken and really seemed to appreciate the emergency of the situation.” For more information, see the Coleford Climate Emergency Drop-in’s Facebook page, and the council’s climate action page at www.fdean.gov.uk/residents/environment/climate-change