When Ryan Jackson was younger, he wanted to be a teacher or a Department of Conservation ranger. Tricky choice.

Jackson is now eight years into his teaching career, but his passion for the environment, particularly climate change action, is still very much at the fore in his work with young people, and his personal choices and beliefs.

Understanding the impact of collective action and the wish to give his time to something he cared deeply about, Jackson discovered 350 Aotearoa, the New Zealand arm of the international grassroots climate movement 350.org, which aims to unite the world around climate change solutions. Inspired by the grassroots, practical approach of the movement, and with support and encouragement – plus a bit of arm twisting – Jackson helped to found 350 Te Papaioea, a small but growing rōpū of climate justice activists in Manawatū. It was established a year ago.

“350 is the number that scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, measured as parts per million,” Jackson says.

Five people are involved in the group but they would love more to join.

Jackson says 350 Te Papaioea has already punched well above its weight in conversations and action. Last year, the group made a submission to Horizons Regional Council on its 10-year transport plan. It also presented a petition signed by 360 people to Palmerston North City Council strongly encouraging it to investigate solar panels on public buildings and help to address energy poverty with incentives for insulation and affordable heating.

The dedication and time worked on both counts. Horizons is looking to be more ambitious in its transport targets and the city council agreed to a desktop analysis for solar panels on its buildings.

“The fight is not won, and we will be keeping a close eye on the council and the actual progress they make with solar panels in our community,” Jackson says.

350 Te Papaioea’s focus this year will be linked to the national 350 Aotearoa campaign on homegrown energy, encouraging New Zealand to have 100 per cent renewable energy resources and addressing energy poverty for those who fall through the gaps with current government incentives.

350 Te Papaioea welcomes people to get involved and strengthen and grow climate action. Go to 350.org.nz to find out more, or email palmerston-north@350.org.nz.