‘We are the voice, we are the youth and we are the power’: Dublin students unleash rallying cry against the Government’s climate change inaction

‘We are the voice, we are the youth and we are the power’: Dublin students unleash rallying cry against the Government’s climate change inaction

On a regular day, in a significantly more regular era, the phrase “school’s out” would result in elation from students (and some teachers). Ever since the now-legendary Greta Thunberg sparked the global youth strikes, the phrase has a more sombre note attached to it.

The climate strike in Dublin marks the fourth global student strike, and yet the Irish Government has made little progress to show for it. Arguably we are regressing, if we take the frustrating Shannon LNG result into account. Fine Gael’s decision to go ahead with the importation of fracked gas to the Shannon Estuary from the US has led to widespread protests and criticism from activists, experts and celebrities.

Ireland’s reputation is increasingly diminishing in the eyes of the world, with consistent failure to reach carbon emission targets, an agricultural and dairy industry pleading for transformation and an abysmal transport system. With this in mind, the school strikes are far more important than we could ever realise. The youth of today will be the ones facing the dire consequences of climate change head on. 

 

After being moved from the front of Dáil Éireann fairly soon into the protest, the large group of students were pushed down the road for the rake of speeches. Chants of “What do we want? Climate action! When do we want it? Now!” rang out with an impressive volume, with a positive atmosphere noted at the event despite the worrying ecological situation. 

The students used their creative skills to make some of the best posters yet, with Leo Varadkar facing many of the jibes after his woeful remarks on the “benefits” of climate change. Multiple speakers stood on the steps of William Plunket’s Kildare Street statue, inspiring the growing crowd throughout.

A list of their demands was read out by a member of Fridays for Future Dublin, with a ban on imported fracking top of the list: 

“We want the Government to realise that their inaction on climate change isn’t going unnoticed. We see the lip service and photo opportunities,” said speaker Amy Cody.

“A pressing issue currently is Shannon LNG. We will be affecting Pennsylvania’s community by ruining their biodiversity, their water and their air pollution. Why should we exploit somewhere else when we are ruining our own country.”

Other demands from the Schools Climate Action include; keeping fossil fuels in the ground, reforming the primary and post-primary education systems to address the need for ecological literacy, implementing every recommendation of the Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change, making transitioning to a CO2-neutral Ireland socially fair, enforcing stronger regulations on the corporations causing the climate crisis and implementing a Green New Deal.

 

16-year-old Conor Slattery spoke of the need to hold CEOs and politicians accountable:

“We know now that we all need to change our behaviour if we want to avoid the climate catastrophe. However, all the household recycling in the world will barely make a dent in the climate change that is underway. Much greater responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of large institutions such as national Government and global corporations, who can make a huge impact.”

“There are clear, well-researched and proactive steps that could already have been taken by CEOs or politicians, but to maintain tax revenues and additional opportunities for profit, they have stayed quiet, avoided the high road of ethical leadership and – to their shame – done almost nothing,” the teenager added. 

“We are knowledgeable, and watching carefully. What should come first, profit or the planet? They know in their hearts what is right. Greed and fear of loss of power and money is making them cling to outdated and dangerous practices and technologies.” 

Slattery referenced the work of Naomi Klein as he spoke about the need for ethics and morality when attempting to achieve climate justice and a Green New Deal. 

 

Friday’s strike also saw mobilizations in Cork, Ennis, Limerick and Letterkenny. Climate Action Network Europe recently highlighted that Ireland must do more for the earth within the next month, with the country well off-track in meeting its 2020 and 2030 targets according to EPA data. Ireland’s energy efficiency and renewable energy are especially poor areas.

Swedish instigator of the original strike Greta Thunberg is expected to arrive at the annual UN Climate Conference in Madrid on Tuesday, December 2nd, after delays occurred while sailing the Atlantic seas. The Fridays for Future movement is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, and neither is their 16-year-old inspiration.

The anger, fear and anxiety was palpable from the young speakers, who clearly have an advanced level of knowledge around the area of environmental science and politics. 

 

One highlight from the Dublin strike was an emotional spoken word poem, read by 17-year-old Lucy Holmes:

“We too, were born to the sea, to the flowers, to the field, to the water, to the trees. In this fight, we were never alone. We are waging a war with the place we call home,” she shouts.

“I will no longer stand by watching this carnage, this mass genocide. I will shout at the men in black suits, who burnt down my future, who sell out my youth. You are watching the dawn of a brand new age, a future filled with peace, love and rage.”

 

 

Photo by Kate Brayden

 

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Climate Case Ireland launch an Appeal

Climate Case Ireland launch an Appeal

Friday 22nd November marks the day that Climate Case Ireland lodged an appeal for the dismissal of their High Court case from January 2019. The coalition members of Friends of the Irish Environment stated that an application has been made to both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. The group must lie in wait to hear whether the Supreme Court will permit the hearing of their case at this time. The appeal has been lodged with the hope that the court will overturn the High Court’s ruling, stated in September 2019, that current Irish climate legislation is not unconstitutional. 

Climate Case Ireland was launched by Friends of the Irish Environment in 2018 in response to the National Mitigation Plan, which is an all-government plan aimed at decarbonising the Irish economy. The goals of the plan fall far short of the requirements of the Paris Agreement, which prescribes a reduction of 25-40% in carbon emissions by 2025. Climate Case Ireland claim that the government’s inertia regarding climate action is endangering its citizens and breaching the citizens’ constitutional right to a protected environment.

The case is part of a growing worldwide trend in climate litigation. In desperation, several groups have emerged brandishing law books instead of pickets to hold their governments accountable for their inaction on climate change. The catalyst in Europe for the spread of litigations filed was the landmark Urgenda case in the Netherlands. The judge ruled in favour of Urgenda Climate Case on June 24th 2015. The court demanded the government immediately take more effective action on emissions reduction by a minimum of 25% by the end of 2020; or they would be in breach of the duty of care, prescribed by the European Convention on Human Rights.  The trends in climate litigation are nuanced. In a report conducted by the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, it was stated that strategic court cases against governments are garnering attention and success. There are an increasing number of climate litigation cases being filed in the US under the themes of federal government transparency, environmental review and permitting, municipality – led suits against fossil fuel companies, public trust doctrine and liability for failure to adapt. 

Climate Case Ireland received a wave of support ahead of the January hearing. A petition circulated prior to the hearing garnered over 18,000 signatures in support and the courtroom was packed full of supporters on all four days of the proceedings. On the fateful September day, despite the unwavering public support and Mr Justice Michael MacGrath’s admittance that climate change is a very serious issue, the case was dismissed. The decision was made on the basis that current legislation does not directly jeopardise the public’s right to a safe environment and should not be viewed in isolation of other climate policy measures. He also referred to the separation of powers, stating that it would be inappropriate for the courts to prescribe how the government ought to legislate. 

With Ireland traditionally being a laggard in Europe on climate policy, FIE hope to fight the decision made by Mr. Justice MacGrath and have the ruling overturned. The group hopes to ‘galvanise a movement pushing for ambitious and urgent action’.

 

 

 

Photo of Climate Case Ireland’s team in front of the Four Courts, by Rachel Husson

Video by Climate Case Ireland on Twitter.

 

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Single-Use Plastics levies: The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly

Single-Use Plastics levies: The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly

Last week the Minister for the Environment Richard Bruton announced that the Irish Government would be introducing a number of levies aimed at reducing single-use plastics. Two of the most notable levies being a ‘latte levy’ on disposable cups of between 10 and 25 cents, and a plastic bag levy increase of 3 cents on the current levy of 22 cents. This is good news – so why has there been a murmur of controversy around this announcement?

 

The Good:

Plastic waste is a huge environmental issue and the fact that the Government is noticing and making moves to remediate this is a good thing. Ireland is the top plastic waste producer in Europe, with each person producing on average 61kg of plastic waste per year. Recycling, once hailed as a cure that would allow us to continue buying as much plastic as we liked so long as it went in the green bin, has gravely disappointed in its reality. It is estimated that only 30% of plastic waste within the EU is recycled. Seeing as this is inherently a problem of overconsumption, levies such as the plastic bag tax are to be welcomed as they discourage production in the first place. 

 

The Bad: 

The Environment Minister has been criticized for delaying action on installing a plastic bottle deposit and return scheme in Ireland, a scheme which the Green Party have been pushing for. This would involve paying an upfront ‘deposit’ on single-use plastic bottles and once you dropit to a recycling centre, you get that deposit back. This system is currently in use in many countries across Europe and has been successful in reducing waste. This, in combination with the levies already put forward, would help to redeem Ireland’s environmental reputation.  

Another issue is that the latte levy has left small coffee shops feeling disadvantaged as large coffee chains like Costa and Starbucks will find it much easier to pay such a levy. The announcement also left certain environmentalist groups frustrated as it doesn’t target the bulk of the problem. The proposed levies don’t tackle the items that are responsible for the majority of plastic in the ocean; fishing nets. It is estimated that almost half of ocean plastic is from discarded fishing nets and if this is to be tackled it means tighter regulations on fishing activities and reduced consumption of seafood. 

 

The Ugly: 

Plastic is a ‘hot topic’ at the moment and the Irish government knows that. It is much easier to introduce a few levies on bags and cups than to acknowledge the large elephant in the room – Ireland’s inaction on climate change. Ireland is consistently ranked as a ‘climate laggard’ and has the third highest emissions per capita in the EU. A latte levy won’t even begin to fix this, and installing a Liquified Natural Gas terminal in the West of Ireland that uses fracked gas certainly won’t. Yes, even slight progress on environmental issues is positive and should be commended, but slight progress is nowhere near the rate of change that is needed on environmental issues right now.

 

Photo by Michael on flickr

 

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Climate change: when will we acknowledge our privilege?

Climate change: when will we acknowledge our privilege?

I was out for dinner with some friends this time last year and after the waiter took our order, one of them turned to me and asked me why I was vegetarian. I told him that although there were several reasons, it was primarily an effort to reduce my carbon footprint. The conversation inevitably turned to climate change to which he contributed: “sure we don’t have to worry about that for another 30 or 40 years”. His comment, the product of benign ignorance, struck me for a number of reasons. I realised that the truth about the climate crisis rarely reaches outside a certain cohort of people and often you have to seek this truth for yourself. I was also struck by the realisation that we in Ireland carry a certain privilege which many other people in the world do not. 

That memory resurfaced this week when Leo Varadkar made comments regarding the “benefits” of climate change to Irish people, including lower heating bills and fewer deaths due to warmer winters. His comments have been subjected to much criticism; and rightly so. They represent a willful ignorance of the impact that climate change is already having to many people beyond our shores, without mentioning what is yet to come for Ireland. At the core of his message is a display of privilege which is not afforded to most. 

Privilege and climate change are deeply interwoven and intersect in a number of ways. Firstly, any worthwhile conversation about the climate crisis must realise that not everyone is affected in the same way. While Leo dreams of milder winters, many in the global south are already learning to cope with the damaging effects of climate change. In Leo’s familial home of India more people than ever are dying due to extreme heat waves; in Bangladesh, towns  are being displaced due to sea level rise; that sea level rise is destroying fertile farmland and ruining livelihoods in Vietnam; while communities in sub-Saharan Africa suffer crop failure due to increasingly irregular weather patterns. The common theme here is that the countries which are already suffering are those with some of the lowest per-capita emissions in the world. This disparity became abundantly clear at the Pacific Islands Forum in August of this year where a group of low-lying nations, including the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, asked Australia to stop burning coal because the country was directly contributing to sea level rise and land loss in the region. Australia arrogantly declined. Just three years previous, Kiribati was forced to purchase land in Fiji for the eventuality that the nation would be submersed in the coming years. The combined carbon footprint of these island nations does not even compare to the average Australian city, and yet they are losing their homes because of the greed of those in the developed world. 

This raises the second major intersection of climate change and privilege: not everyone contributes the same amount. One observation many people will point to is that greenhouse gas emissions are rising because Earth’s human population continues to grow far beyond a point it has ever reached in history. While there is a very real conversation to be had about curbing human population growth, the causes of climate change go far beyond just numbers. Many of the countries with the fastest-growing populations (e.g. India, Nigeria, Bangladesh) also have some of the lowest per-capita emissions in the world. This is because many of the activities which have driven climate change have, until now, been restricted to more privileged people in the developed world: air travel, car ownership, meat-intense diets, fast fashion and many other facets of consumerism which have yet to reach less developed nations. These are luxuries which most people in Ireland take for granted. If you’ve ever been on an airplane (even once), you’re among the privileged 18% of the world’s population; and I’d wager most people reading this have taken more than one flight in their lives.

If we are to reverse climate change, we first need to fully understand the dynamics that drive it, i.e. capitalism and its malicious offspring colonialism. The inequality that exists between those who are causing climate change and those who are suffering from it is the biggest challenge facing humanity presently. We are living in a globalised world and until now we have been a net beneficiary of a system which has left many other nations to fend for themselves against the consequences of our greed. It is time we held ourselves and other developed nations accountable for the negligent, reckless and sometimes heartless actions of the few. We are far beyond the point when a world leader can turn a blind eye to the devastating effects of the climate crisis. True leadership would recognise our privilege and use it to help those who have suffered under the same system which has benefitted us. But maybe that’s expecting too much of the Taoiseach.

 

Photo by Gareth Chaney/Collins on Irish Times

 

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Climate justice panel urges student activists not to underestimate their power

Climate justice panel urges student activists not to underestimate their power

The breakdown of our planet is the farthest thing from fair, targeting those most vulnerable in our society rather than the actual culprits causing the earth’s devastation. STAND’s Student Festival hosted a panel discussion targeting this exact issue on November 7th at TUD’s Aungier Street campus, featuring five excellent speakers from a range of backgrounds and specialities.

In a typical Irish rainy, darkened evening, the climate justice panel drew a great turnout of interested students who have valid concerns about the role we can all play in steering the course of history away from more damage and destruction. The panel was excellently mediated by TU Dublin’s VP Welfare Officer Moya Browne, and welcomed experienced guests who each had something unique to offer. Niall Sargent, editor of Green News, podcaster and sustainable fashion activist Molly Parsons, Manuel Salazar of Extinction Rebellion Ireland, Clodagh Daly from Climate Case Ireland and Daniel Whooley of the Green Party provided careful analysis of the inequalities facing people in the Global South as well as reflecting on the failure of Irish politicians to tackle climate justice.  The importance of enacting legislation which will hold corporations and fossil fuel companies to account was also stressed heavily, but the panel brought positive energy and uplifting attitudes towards student activism. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. 

The panelists were quizzed on numerous topics after introducing themselves, with each guest having changed their focus towards the climate at varying stages of their lives. Niall Sargent credits his wife for enlightening him about environmental damage, and brings hard news and investigations to the Green News website. Molly Parsons described herself as a ‘self-confessed Xico Mondays PrettyLittleThing hun’ who grew up in a capitalist system with infinite materialist values. She began a podcast and took part in No Buy November, discovered the world of slow and sustainable fashion and the rest is history. Her lifestyle changes are now influencing her 13,500 Instagram followers and Depop audience, so the activist is definitely one to watch. 

Manuel Salazar grew up in Venezuela, a country polluted and essentially commanded by oil. Salazar has seen first-hand the effects of fossil fuel damage in his home country and the morally reprehensible corruption of these corporations. His work for Extinction Rebellion has helped the protesters form a movement in Ireland, which has grown in membership from about ten people to 200 within one year. Councillor Daniel Whooley described the paralysing fear he experienced after seeing IPCC reports broadcast on TV, which led him to run in local Ongar elections at the tender age of 20. 

Clodagh Daly’s work with Climate Case Ireland brings the issue of law into the environmental fray. If the campaigner was ever oblivious to climate change, she doesn’t remember that part of her life. She has always seen the crisis through the lens of government and corporate policy, and learned about migrant injustice and climate class prejudice while living in Chile. Seeing a country whose resources are relentlessly exploited and privatised inspired Clodagh to turn her focus to activism.

The topic of greenwashing, or companies appearing more eco-friendly than they really are in order to benefit their products or services, was brought up almost immediately during the event. The population are being bombarded with lies regarding the state of the planet, and what they can do to bring about positive change. So, who can we trust? 

Molly emphasises the fact that young activists may not be experts or scientists, but they bring fear and passion to the forefront of the issue. Using their eco-grief to give rise to a movement has allowed regular people of Ireland to access protests and receive information in a way that they can understand. Disseminating knowledge in a way that allows everyone to join in is crucial, according to Niall. It’s a “pathetic defence mechanism” when political leaders ask the public for answers, Molly insists. 

How can students themselves make their mark on such an abysmal crisis, when most of us are scraping together our five cent coins for a measly chicken roll? Clodagh advises to push every party to treat climate justice as a societal issue that is permanently tied to factors such as housing, gender, class, race and Direct Provision. Daniel suggests joining Extinction Rebellion or even running in the election. Molly tells the audience to “arm yourselves with information”, read widely around the topic and observe small changes in food wastage and spending habits.

Moya later poses the question of communities who are most affected by climate change, with Niall putting the spotlight on Western habits of outsourcing our problems to less developed countries to achieve short-term perceived fixes. Only recently, Bord na Móna were linked to the palm oil industry in Indonesia, importing peat but abusing the land of those communities: “Countries which are contributing the least are being affected the most by climate injustice,” Molly says. “Western society has been stuffing that hole with money, offering  charity to victims of natural disasters while actively causing more problems.” Leo Varadkar’s recent comments on climate change bringing us the “benefits” of warmer weather is a classic facepalm example of obliviousness. 

Molly posits that our education system urgently requires scientists and experts to speak to children rather than teachers. Western countries are already witnessing the effects of climate breakdown at an increasing rate. “Every single step I make, I think about my children or the world ending,” Molly continues. Young people marching now must juggle hormones, the formation of their identity and school with politics, ineffective governments and the incoming apocalypse. “How hard must that be to deal with?” she says. 

Despite the impending disaster, Manuel is determined to stay positive. He maintains that it’s the best time in history to be an activist, with children inspiring adults rather than the other way around. Resources and borders are controlling our humanity, with certain humans being regarded as worth more than others, but soon it will come to a tipping point. The panellists are confident that the next generation will continue the fight: “When hope dies, action begins,” Manuel says, smiling. “We have the people on our side.”

 

Photo by Kate Brayden

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

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A lot of us are aware that our carbon footprint is terrible and that we have to change our habits. For some of us, this means leaving the car behind and starting to bike. Unfortunately, the way we “consume” biking is an ecological issue.

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On the last 14th of November, the city of Venice suffered the worst flooding in 53 years. Flooding is just one of the many impacts from climate change that is being experienced with more frequency and globally it threatens many vulnerable areas and regions.

An Anti-Waste Bill for France

In early December, the French Assembly started to debate on a revolutionary bill based on “anti-waste and circular economy”. The bill covers many topics, including more information on products for consumers, better quality manufactured products, no-more overproduction, no-more built-in obsolescence and plastic reduction.

What does ‘climate justice’ actually mean?

Over recent years, the noise around ‘climate action’ and ‘climate justice’ has been ramping up, but many people are still confused over what writers, activists and politicians are actually talking about.

The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

The European Investment Bank (EIB) recently announced that it would be phasing out investment in fossil fuel companies by 2021. The EIB is the biggest public lender globally and the move was celebrated by those within the banking industry and the environmental movement. It sends a clear message that markets are moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies.

What is Ecofeminism?

Ecofeminism is a movement that unites two issues close to our hearts at STAND: women’s rights and the environment. It is perhaps one of the most useful ways we can look at a wide range of social issues we face today. However, the term may be unfamiliar to many.

The Validity of Plane-Shaming

The Validity of Plane-Shaming

The no-flying trend isn’t new. We all know or have heard of someone who prefers to spend hours on a train rather than hopping on a plane to go on holiday. But things have got to a new level with plane shaming, a new concept whereby travelers are meant to feel guilty about the carbon footprint of their flights. The burning topic has taken centre stage after climate activist Greta Thunberg sailed to the United States on a zero-carbon solar-powered yacht last summer. Although the journey was a perilous one, and took days to complete, it is the only way the teen activist accepted to travel across the pond. 

Although the impact of flights on the environment and the climate is a growing concern for many people, many think that other forms of transport are simply inaccessible for overseas travels. Budget airlines offer incredibly competitive prices which allows the public to travel for a variety of reasons – to see family, to access healthcare or other treatments, and even to work. 

Plane shaming seems to have more reach, as many influencers, celebrities, presidents and ministers are questioned on their use of private planes as a mode of transport. These  individuals often take private flights that may carry as little as two people, and yet do not use less fuel than a regular flight carrying hundreds of people. 

Furthermore, short flights are said to produce a larger amount of greenhouse gas emissions per passenger than other lengths of flights. According to Vox, a “one-way flight across the Atlantic from New York City to London emits one ton of carbon dioxide per passenger. There are upward of 2,500 flights over the North Atlantic every day.”

Flying is not in fact the most popular method of public transport, with only one fifth of the global population having ever taken a flight. Unfortunately, this means that these very few amount of fliers are accounting for the 2.5% of carbon emissions worldwide which are due to air travel. Reports also suggest that if nothing is done, by 2050, air travel could account to a quarter of the planet’s carbon budget.  

Things are slowly looking up, however. Some initiatives are starting to push the no-flying movement, such as “We Stay On The Ground” in 2018, which mainly aimed to convince people to pledge to living without flying for at least a year. Greta Thunberg travels across Europe by train, and when she was attending the United Nations Climate Action Summit in the U.S, she travelled on a zero-carbon boat. It is said that the Greta effect has caused fewer flights in Sweden, her home country. 

However, the individual may not be the one to blame. When asked how she felt on the topic of individuals taking flights less often or not at all, final year journalism student at Dublin City University, Clara Kelly, said “a large majority of people can’t afford to travel by ferry, yet still need to have access to leaving the country”. 

Sonja Tutty, vice-chair of DCU’s STAND society, said that individuals should not be the only ones held responsible. “It’s also up to corporations – and especially the aviation industry in this case – to change, because they are the biggest contributors to the problem. Moreover, Instead of shaming people for using planes, governments can try and develop their public transport, and make sustainable alternatives more affordable and accessible,” she concluded.

 

 

Photo by Jordan Sanchez on Unsplash

 

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FGM: A Multifarious Practice Deeply Ingrained in Somalia

While FGM is frequently justified as a religious practice preserving the purity of women, it is, in reality, an extremely resilient customary practice which predates the conception and arrival to the Horn of Africa of Islam.

When Climate Change Refuses to be Ignored – Venice Floods

On the last 14th of November, the city of Venice suffered the worst flooding in 53 years. Flooding is just one of the many impacts from climate change that is being experienced with more frequency and globally it threatens many vulnerable areas and regions.