‘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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Mental Health: an entrepreneur’s struggle

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As part of a series of articles to raise awareness about Movember, contributor Conor Kelly talks about experiences of dealing with mental and physical health issues. To give a real and complete insight of mental health struggles, he also talked to Andrea. If you’ve missed the previous articles, you can find them here and here.

Andrea Horan is the owner and entrepreneur of Tropical Popical – a nail bar based on South William Street -, co-founder of the United Ireland podcast – which explores the problems facing Ireland and the world alongside Una Mullaly-, and co-founder of the group ‘no more hotels’ – a series of events based in Dublin to raise awareness of the importance of nightlife culture in Dublin city and the on-going housing crisis. She talked with me about what has influenced her life, her mental health and her self-care routine.

‘’I firmly believe that every moment has an equal impact on shaping my beliefs, approach and understanding of the world. Whether that’s a night spent clubbing or the death of my dad, both had an equal if very different effect on getting me to where I am now”, she started.

“I think the main thing everyone can do is to not post so much on social media and to understand and recognise the virtues of reaching out and talking to someone who is suffering or who is not quite themselves. Engaging in empathy at every level, and not just in a performative way can be the difference in making people feel less exposed” 

She continued – “My self-care routine is making sure I find the time to allocate enough time to doing things I love. Hanging out with friends, going dancing and partying, making sure I have enough downtime on my own. I get very claustrophobic if I’m surrounded by people all the time. It’s all about balancing my social and not so social sides!’’, she concluded.

As a writer and activist, I wanted to write this series on mental health because in this country we don’t talk enough about these issues, we don’t like telling people around us that we’re not feeling great. We, as a country, need to change the definition of mental health because we always think the worst of what mental health is. We need to understand it’s normal to go through depression, anxiety and stress because every single person we know has or is going to go through a similar experience as we do.

I could write a long-winded paragraph about what needs to change but all I’ll say is that we need to confront ignorance and toxic actions that lead people to suffer from mental health issues that we have all allowed grow in society. We need to do better.

 

Photo rights: Andrea Horan

 

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Students say minimum wage is not enough

Students say minimum wage is not enough

Eimier Kelly, Dublin City University Communications student, was a retail assistant receiving €8.65 an hour at the age of 20. She says her employers believed that a 2% commission would make up for the low wage. “It was  hypothetical, and not realistic,” she says in hindsight. Eimer said, “The commission did fill in the gaps around holidays – especially Christmas, but any other time of the year it probably made little difference.”

Despite living wage being €12.30 an hour in Ireland, minimum wage still stands at €9.80. In the 2020 Budget, minimum wage was meant to rise by 30 cents, to €10.10, but that raise has been delayed due to the risk of a No-Deal Brexit.

Even further, minimum wage can go as low as €7.80 or €8.60 an hour for those in their first two years of employment – even if they are over the age of 18 – under the Employment Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2018.

Eimer Kelly added that she was extremely lucky, because she lived with her family in Dublin. So, she did not have expenses like rent and food to worry about. “But there were other students working in the shop who were in hour-heavy courses and did have to pay for rent and food. It wasn’t realistic.” 

Eimer believes minimum wage in Ireland is not rising enough, especially in comparison to rising rent and education costs. She explained the living wage in Ireland should be the minimum wage, as people are trying to live off of those wages.

A recent report from the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) found that 74 per cent of students have to take on a job while studying and that 55 per cent are skipping lectures to go to work to cover financial costs.

Another student, aged 19 and currently working in retail, explained that they feared losing their job if they asked for less hours or a raise. “It took me so long to find a job, and I need to keep it to get by. But I am missing college to go to these shifts and it’s really starting to feel like it isn’t worth 8.60 an hour.” The student further stated , “I’m scared to ask [for a pay rise] because I can’t risk losing that income, even though it is so little…it just gets in the way of everything, like I am constantly stressing about not having enough money.”

Craig McHugh, Union of Students in Ireland Dublin Vice President, explained that students are also having to work to cover the cost of “tuition fees which are now the highest in the EU, and rent which has reached astronomical rates…” Regarding third level institutions he said they are “seriously strapped for cash because of the government’s inaction on higher education funding” and that the SUSI grant is, “a system that’s been crippled and is drastically under funded on rates that were low 7 years ago.”

Dublin City University’s Student Union Welfare and Equality Officer, Aisling Fagan, said “it’s a massive issue” and added “[working conditions] can easily impact a student’s mental health and negatively impact their university experience.”

The ILCU report found that 44 per cent of students did not think their third level institute gave efficient financial support or budgeting help. Fagan mentioned that DCU have a team who help students with finance and even have an officer specifically for budgeting and financing. She said these services are seeing an increase in demand as they are “seeing more and more people knock on that door.”

But added that “it all needs to come back to publicly funded education. And there needs to be more regulation in place for workplaces – many managers want to pay their employees more but simply can’t.” Similarly, McHugh explained more support was needed for students but “we also need economic change. We need to eradicate the norm that is precarious working contracts, now and forever.”

 

Photo on Piqsel

 

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What is Russia doing in Africa?

What is Russia doing in Africa?

On October 23rd and 24th, Russia hosted representatives from all 54 African countries at the first ever Russia-Africa summit, with the aim of improving partnership and trade links. Putin, the Russian president,  pulled out all the stops as host, and after the summit, announced that 12.5 million dollars worth of trade deals had been discussed. This event shows that Russia is clearly seeking to further its influence in Africa. But why is Russia so interested in improving ties with African states?

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was an influential player in Africa, supporting many liberation movements and providing financial aid to regimes, often with the aim of antagonising the United States and promoting communism. However, since the fall of the Soviet Union, Moscow’s influence on the continent has waned. Now, Vladimir Putin wants to bring it back.

There are several reasons why Russia wants to revive its power in Africa. The first is the desire to gain back what the Soviet Union once had. Russia wishes to be seen as a great power that can compete with the US and China on a global stage – for example, Russia may be interested in increasing its leverage over African countries to affect power dynamics in the United Nations. In 2014, 29 African states voted against or abstained from a UN resolution condemning Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in the Ukraine. This demonstrates that   increasing its power and sway can lead to clear benefits for Russia. The latter is also extending its power in the Middle East, evidenced by its involvement in the Syrian conflict. Similarly Russia has meddled in elections in multiple countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. 

‘All of these attempts to increase the number of countries in Russia’s sphere of influence signal its desire to exert more power globally and be taken seriously as a global player. One thing that helps Russia in this quest is that some African leaders are attracted to Russia over the US and Europe, due to the lack of conditions attached to Russian aid and trade. While more liberal countries are often wary of making deals with African leaders accused of human rights violations or misuse of funds, Russia, as well as China, is happy to provide help for those leaders, and uses that to its advantage. China has massively increased its involvement with Africa in recent years, while the United States has pulled back. These provide both an incentive and an opportunity for Russia to step in.

Aside from improving its status, there are some material benefits Russia can gain from increasing its relations with Africa. Russia is currently the largest exporter of weapons to Africa and the recent Summit suggests that increased trade links are on the Russian agenda. However, its overall trade with Africa remains small compared to some other countries. There is a lot of room for Russia to potentially expand the amount of weapons it exports to African countries. Furthermore, there are lots of potential business opportunities for Russian companies in Africa, especially in the energy sector. Many Russian state-owned energy firms already have contracts with African countries and are looking to increase these. Russian mining companies also stand to benefit from the rich mineral resources of many African countries. Additionally, Putin has stated that he would like to see an increase in Russian non-military exports to Africa, such as the food export sector.

As well as being involved in trade and aid in Africa, Putin has also increased Russia’s military involvement there, with Russian soldiers being active in several countries, including the Central African Republic and Libya. While many of these soldiers work for private military groups rather than the Russian government, their presence could be helpful for Putin in boosting the reputation of Russia among African countries where those mercenaries work for government forces. These military ties may be increasing soon, as Russia seems to be in talks with the Central African Republic to open its first African military base. This move could have been spurred on by the increased presence of the Chinese military in Africa, who have a military base in Djibouti. The United States also has three bases in Africa. Therefore, if Russia really wants to seem on the same level as these countries it may need to open its own base.

Overall, it seems that increasing its presence in Africa fits into Russia’s strategy of trying to project more power globally in order to challenge the US and China. It will attempt to achieve this by increasing its military and political sway in Africa, as well as hoping to improve its own waning economy by increasing trade with African nations. It remains to be seen exactly what effects this will have on Africa. It could lead to economic gains, but given Putin’s support for dictators and his habit of  turning a blind eye to human rights abuses, if Russia’s influence comes at the expense of that of more liberal countries, it could lead to further entrenchment of these abuses in many countries.

 

Photo by @KremlinRussia_E on Twitter

 

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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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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.

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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.

‘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

The climate strike in Dublin marks the fourth global student strike, and yet the Irish Government has made little progress to show for it.

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 of members of Friends of the Irish Environment Ireland 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.

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

Last week the Minister for the Environment 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 and a plastic bag levy increase. This is good news – so why has there been a murmur of controversy around this announcement?

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The truth about the climate crisis rarely reaches outside a certain cohort of people and often you have to seek this truth for yourself.