A year of Greta

A year of Greta

As I am writing this piece, Greta Thunberg is sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to New York, where she is due to attend UN Climate talks before touring South America. If her name isn’t familiar to you, you will likely have heard about school children going on strike – in Ireland and across the globe – to demand climate action from their government. The Swedish teen climate activist is the instigator and inspiration behind this worldwide movement which began just a year ago today. Since then, her name and her fight have crossed oceans and borders, just like Malizia II, the zero-carbon yacht that is currently taking her to the United States.

It all started on August 20th 2018. Greta Thunberg, fed up with her country’s inaction to reduce their impact on climate change, sat in front of Sweden’s parliament building, the Riksdag. She posted to Instagram and Twitter a picture of herself sitting by a simple sign reading “Skolstrejk för Klimatet”: ‘School Strike for Climate’ in English; ‘Stailc Scoile don Aeráid’ as Gaeilge.

The plan was to skip school until the general election on September 9th, to draw media attention to the Swedish government’s inaction on climate change. After the election, Thunberg returned to school. But with the success of her demonstration, she continued to strike every Friday. Soon her concept spread over the world, and with hashtags #FridaysforFuture and #ClimateStrike, encouraged  and inspired students and adults across the world to follow suit and make single demonstrations or set up local and national grassroots groups to pressure their own governments to take meaningful action. If you’re not convinced of the importance of this movement, a simple google of ‘climate action youth’ will demonstrate the volume of young voices calling for change for the sake of their own futures (as does ‘The Greta Thunberg Effect’).

And over the past year, the young activist has attended and spoken to thousands of people, from world leaders to local school children across Europe… All while travelling with a low-carbon footprint, completely avoiding air travel. Speaking to French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), Thunberg noted how ‘absurd’ it is that she has to sail in order to travel with no emissions, stating “It just shows how impossible it is to live sustainably today”.

If you google ‘climate action group’ followed by the name of your country or state (or even town), you might be surprised by what’s happening around the corner from you: what groups exist and what they are organising, from demonstrations to art installations to lobbying local councils and governments. In Ireland, numerous student-led groups support students in organising school strikes and protests, such as the Irish branch of the transnational Fridays for Future (FFF) movement, and Schools Climate Action Network (SCAN). In the past year, these groups have staged direct actions, protests, and have done policy development and community engagement. 

The most memorable events to date were when thousands of Irish students joined the world in the first and second Global Climate Strikes led by Greta Thunberg on Friday 15th March and 24th May 2019. The latter saw approximately 1,400 marches in more than 120 countries, reaching an estimated 1.6 million participants, all demanding government action on climate change. While Ireland was the second country in the world to declare a ‘climate and biodiversity emergency’ on 9th May, recent research by Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe shows Ireland is the second-worst EU country on climate change action. And since the emergency declaration, activists have denounced government actions as counter to their emergency declaration, such as granting consent for oil and gas exploration off the coast of Kerry on May 27th and blocking the Climate Emergency Bill on 5th July, which would have banned oil and gas exploration in Irish waters.

Students will have to continue the fight for the next 16 months, as those are set to be the most vital time for government decision-making, possibly a point-of-no-return. This follows the warning from one of the world’s top climate scientists, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who stated in 2017: “The climate math is brutally clear: while the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence until 2020”. The urgency for action is why Greta announced in June her plans to take a sabbatical year from school to focus on making meaningful change happen by 2020.

While the teen did what could seem as the impossible in less than a year (mobilising millions of young people on climate change globally), Greta Thunberg is still regarded by some politicians as a fear-mongering child. On the other hand, the Swedish climate activist has also received recognition, the most significant to date being her nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in March 2019. 

Her next Global Strike for Climate, which will take place from September 20th to 27th across the world, will certainly be an indication of the rising strength of this youth movement.

And you, would you go on the mitch to change the world?

Photo: Anders Hellberg, Wiki Commons

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A year of Greta

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For Earth’s Sake: our environmental crisis interpreted by young artists

For Earth’s Sake: our environmental crisis interpreted by young artists

Do you, like I, find the constant influx of news on our environmental crisis hard-hitting? The exhibition For Earth’s Sake by youth activist group Young Friends of the Earth (YFOE) is an opportunity to see the crisis from new, unique perspectives. It runs at In-spire Galerie in Dublin until Tuesday 16th of July.  I attended the opening last week and gathered some insights from some of the artists involved.

Thomas Morelli has always been interested in art. As he explained, the Teletubbies were his first muse. Speaking about his watercolour, Adult volcano, he said: “ the fundamental role of capitalism in causing the climate crisis left me very depressed for a while. Adult volcano communicates my idea that most of us must work far more hours than we are designed to. This plight we face, by living under capitalism, leaves no room for our creative instinct to develop.”Morelli went on to explain that children are open, curious and far more in touch with their creativity. “This part of ourselves that is us at our best is knocked out of us by adulthood,” he added.

Thomas intends to continue making art to get people around him thinking about his ideas and to talk about the climate crisis – which he does well with his other work on display here, Paint planets. 

“Nowadays, Nature is made, not grown,” explains Martina Dubicka, another young artist on display at the exhibition. “So much of the nature around us is artificial, calculated and planned.” Her work, Glass Natura is a digital video projection, made up of two pieces she combined. Martina explains that this piece was a way for her to communicate her thoughts on how we are making the natural world almost unnatural. “Nature is no longer growing of its own accord, frequently. Such as flowers which have been subject to some sort of human manipulation instead.”

Martina has always been interested in the natural world and visual art. But it was when she joined YFOE that she became an environmental activist. This was also when she realised that she needed to incorporate her environmental activism into her artwork.

For Earth’s Sake, is an opportunity to inspire yourself and engage with the visual conversation on the climate crisis. It is the first ever art exhibition organized by Young Friends of the Earth, and will run in In-spire Galerie until July 16th.

Find out more about the exhibition: https://www.youngfoe.ie/what-we-do/art-exhibition.html

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A year of Greta

A year ago, Greta Thunberg staged her first school strike for climate in front of the Swedish government buildings. Little did she know that she would spark a worldwide movement and mobilise millions of young people around the issue of climate change. Criofan Morrison tells us her story.

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The right to a healthy environment: a protected human right?

The right to a healthy environment is a complex issue, and this is reflected in the European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR] approach to the subject.  Although, the European Convention on Human Rights [ECHR] does not enshrine any explicit right to a healthy environment, environmental jurisprudence has developed due to the exercise of convention rights being undermined.  The rise in environmental awareness due to the risks posed by climate change has resulted in an increase of environmental NGO’s and public interest groups taking legal action against governments over their lack of action to combat climate change. The difficulty of public interest litigation, based on the ECHR, is that Art 34 precludes these groups from access to the ECtHR. This poses the question of whether the governments will soon have to legislate on this issue?  

The most valuable decision to date on this issue is that of State of Netherlands v Urgenda Foundation [Urgenda], an unprecedented case in the EU which galvanized the media and public interest in 2015. Urgenda argued that Article 2 and 8 of the ECHR imposes positive obligations on the government to take precautionary steps against climate change. In Ireland, the recent “Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill” used similar reasoning. 

In the Urgenda case, the court provided a rather political judgement by confirming the State owes a duty of care to its citizens, under Art 2 and 8 ECHR, to reduce greenhouse gases. However, the government argued that the impacts of climate change are too uncertain as a basis for a claim. Such language suggests that the court is reluctant to interfere in such a delicate domain. 

In a similar vein, the Irish NGO ‘Friends of the Irish Environment’ initiated legal action earlier this year to address the government’s contribution to climate change, the so called Climate Case Ireland. This case centers on the government’s approval of the ‘Mitigation Plan’ in 2017, which, it is argued, violates the Climate Action, the Low Carbon Development Act 2015 , human rights obligations, and falls short of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on reducing carbon emissions. Arguably, if the High Court decides to quash the ‘Mitigation Plan’, the right to a healthy environment as a human right would be recognized.      

This case, which is the first in Irish history where citizens are seeking to hold their government accountable for contributing to climate change, is still awaiting judgement from the High Court.

Photo: Thomas Millot via Unsplash

Discover more news stories below or sign up to our newsletter to get our top news straight to your inbox.

A year of Greta

A year ago, Greta Thunberg staged her first school strike for climate in front of the Swedish government buildings. Little did she know that she would spark a worldwide movement and mobilise millions of young people around the issue of climate change. Criofan Morrison tells us her story.

Book Review: The Milkman

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Why Are World Hunger Levels Increasing?

Rising inequalities and decrease in foreign aid funding are to blame for a rise in world hunger, writes Amyrose Forder.

Indie film or blockbuster: how you can support films that make a difference

The public influence the entertainment they get, and we should use this to promote films that give a voice to people who are usually denied a platform to share their opinion, writes Priscilla Obilana.

Review: Madonna’s God Control video

With a thought-provoking and graphic video for her new song God Control, pop star Madonna set herself on a mission to raise awareness about gun control, but found criticism on the way.

Female Sea Watch captain becomes a symbol of defiance

When Sea Watch captain Carola Rakete forced her way into Lampedusa harbour to bring rescued refugees to the Italian shore, she became a symbol of defiance, write our editor Cassie.

Can consumers control the conduct around climate change?

Can consumers control the conduct around climate change?

In the drive to discover how to best tackle climate change, researchers have explored why the trend of sole responsibility being placed on consumer behaviour is not only wrong but harmful and how consumer responsibility can be applied.

In recent discourse about climate change, increasing responsibility has been placed on consumers to recognize their impact on the environment and to turn the situation around. The push for individual recognition of their role in the fight against climate change marks an important change in the conversation. 

It has become increasingly clear that rather than the responsibility being shared by consumers and organizations to improve their environmental outputs, it has been more so shifted onto consumers. This trend of shifting away focus from corporate behaviour and focusing on that of the consumer, begs the question: can there be significant change, when for each small good the consumer does the overwhelming bad of the corporation counteracts it? Or is it a “two steps forward and ten steps back” situation?  

It has been theorized that organizations often create problems in order to provide a specific solution that furthers their own interests. The problem of climate change is one that already exists, framing the problem as largely an issue of individual consumption is not only wrong but harmful. 

While little actions are being taken in the right direction by individuals, giant actions are simultaneously being taken in the other by bigger entities. Straws are a perfect example: plastic straws having a negative impact on the environment, and especially marine life, businesses have pushed consumers to invest in reusable straws to lessen their impact.

However, behind those reusable straws, one must question the waste incurred in the process of its production, delivery methods and the packaging it comes in. Independent environmental consciousness is undoubtedly a good thing, still, there is a necessity to ensure the efforts of the individuals are not being invalidated by organizations.

The responsibility for environmental consciousness should be borne by all, on all levels. The consumer can fight climate change by their choices, but unless there is a big push for big corporations to take action to limit their own environmental impact, progress to a more sustainable society will be minimal.

Consumers have such an influence over the general market, by thinking consciously and acting accordingly, consumers can change the conduct of corporations. If we demand not only green products but also green means of production, and support brands who supply it, that would be a giant step in consuming our way out of climate change.

 

 

 

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Image courtesy of Markus Spiske via Unsplash 

A year of Greta

A year ago, Greta Thunberg staged her first school strike for climate in front of the Swedish government buildings. Little did she know that she would spark a worldwide movement and mobilise millions of young people around the issue of climate change. Criofan Morrison tells us her story.

For Earth’s Sake: our environmental crisis interpreted by young artists

Clara Corrigan reviews an environmental art exhibition curated by young activists.

The right to a healthy environment: a protected human right?

Is the right to a healthy environment a human right? Several court cases, including Climate Case Ireland, are using this argument to make governments legally obliged to take action against climate change.

German Circus introduces holographic animals into their show

German Circus introduces holographic animals into their show

The way we experience circuses may have just changed forever. A German circus has become the first in the world to introduce holograms of wild animals, in an attempt to create a cruelty-free show.

After several European countries banned the use of wild animals in circus shows, ‘Circus Roncalli’ got innovatively ahead of the times by replacing their animals with realistic 3D holograms. With the new show including a goldfish, a group of horses running around the ring and an elephant standing on its front two feet, spectators are bound to be watching in awe as these animals come to life.

Reportedly, founder of Circus Roncalli Bernhard Paul spent over $500,000 to create and produce the holographic show which has been seen by more than 600,000 people in the past year.

Realistic holograms appear right in front of the audiences eyes with the use of 11 projectors that shine onto a flat surface that goes around the outside of the centre ring. The projections have a 360-degree visibility, so spectators can see the show from all angles.

Founded in 1976, Circus Roncalli have used animals during their shows since they were established. They stopped using wild animals in their shows in the 1990’s and have since been trying to phase out the use of more ‘domesticated’ animals.

“We have decided against the animals for the benefit of the animals,” said media director of the Circus Roncalli Markus Strobl to Rheinische Post, “the focus of the Circus Roncalli is anyway on poetic and acrobatic numbers.”

In April 2017, they announced that from 2018 onwards they would no longer be using any animals, including domesticated, in their circus.This was largely due to decreasing ticket sales and the rise in people fighting against animal cruelty in circus.

By using holograms, the circus hopes that it will bring back an audience as they can enjoy the show without the guilt or concerns about the animals being used in the show.

 

 

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Image courtesy of Circus Roncalli via Facebook.

Mining: An Organised Crime that strips away Earth and Human life

Mining: An Organised Crime that strips away Earth and Human life

Mining strips away earth, prevents regrowth in forest areas and pollutes rivers. Despite its known impact, mining – often in an illegal form – is expanding in regions of South America that are known for their nature and wildlife. Both nature and humans are paying the cost.

The trend in mining expansion in South America dates from the mid-1990s. The large scale investments in exploration and exploitation have been steadily growing to an alarming rate due to the high demands for basic minerals by countries all over the world. An increase in the number of mining projects is a result of the expansions of transnational corporations that are given a free ride and concessions throughout the region at the cost of nature and human life.

The Amazon forest is a staggering example. Largest terrestrial carbon sink and a key front in the fight against climate change, it has become a host to a thriving criminal underworld.

It is believed that illegally mined gold has overtaken cocaine to become Peru and Colombia’s most lucrative illicit export. According to a news report – from the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime – the shift from drug cultivation to criminal mining in many Latin American countries is fuelling “staggering” human rights abuses and wrecking the environment.

In Colombia alone, the government believes it will take nearly $11bn and 25-40 years to reverse the damage caused by mining. In Peru, it is thought that illegal gold mining destroys 5-10 hectares (12.35-24.7 acres) of national protected rainforest areas each day in Madre de Dios.

Prof Aviva Chomsky of Salem University in Massachusett revealed some shocking facts about the connection between Ireland and the heinous crime in Colombia that has affected thousands of indigenous people. She says using coal from one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines in northern Colombia cannot be justified by ESB and other energy utilities, given its impact on human rights and contribution to climate change.

She says the scale of environmental damage caused by the Cerrejón mine in the La Guajira region of Colombia amounted to “the fourth conquest of remote regions of South America”. According to her findings, since 2011 the coal produced in these mines were used at Moneypoint Power Station in Co. Clare and has caused irreparable damage.

Coal Marketing Company (CMC) is the company responsible for the exclusive marketing of coal from the mine and is based in Dublin, they have coordinated the sale and delivery of over 450 million tonnes of Cerrejón coal.

Just a few months ago, indigenous and afro-descendent communities in the state of La Guajira launched a legal challenge against ESB’s coal supplier in the region. Groups in Dublin have shown their support to the people of La Guajira by staging a protest in front of CMC’s headquarters:

“Ireland is complicit in the documented human rights violations inflicted on local communities by the Cerrejón mine, as the ESB imports this coal, and the mine’s global sales company is located in Ireland,” said Sian Cowman from the Latin America Solidarity Centre (LASC), calling ESB to immediately divest from Colombian coal.

An account of the grim reality faced by the Wayuu people, who have lived in the region for centuries, and the hundreds of local activists who have been murdered defending their land may definitely throw light at the darkness faced by them. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJrPXWHNdls&feature=youtu.be  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHGQ9pM7QSU&feature=youtu.be

 

 

 

 

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Image courtesy of Jenny Mealing via Flickr