Choose to reuse: Ask your campus cafe to be responsible this semester

Choose to reuse: Ask your campus cafe to be responsible this semester

Responsible Cafes is an Australian campaign that encourages waste reduction by offering discounts to customers who bring their own reusable coffee cups. According to the organisation, “becoming a responsible cafe saves money and reduces waste, and incentivises customers to do the right thing by bringing their own cups”.

But how can we in Ireland get involved? Well, the first place to start is by asking your college cafes to follow suit and make themselves more sustainable, be this through discounts for reusable cups or biodegradable disposable options. DCU are already in the process of making themselves more sustainable, “At present the head of catering is working with the Sustainability Office in relation to the introduction of compostable coffee cups being rolled out where possible in DCU.”

So get involved and ask your campus cafe to become a responsible one this semester.

Protecting academics in the post-truth era

Protecting academics in the post-truth era

Scholars At Risk protects academics, artists, writers, and other intellectuals threatened in their home countries, writes Hiram Moylan

Freedom of speech has been a controversial topic in recent times. As a basic human right, it offers a voice to minorities and critics of society. Conversely, it has granted a platform to those who openly speak of hatred and bigotry.

Despite the progression of society in its ability to accept more varied worldviews in the last decade, there are still a number of violations to freedom of speech internationally. One of these is academic freedom; that scholars may teach or communicate ideas or facts without being targeted for censorship, persecution, or imprisonment.

Scholars At Risk (SAR) has spent nearly two decades trying to protect this freedom. SAR is an organisation dedicated to the protection and support of the principles of academic freedom, along with the human rights of scholars internationally. On behalf of academics, artists, writers, and other intellectuals who are threatened in their home countries, Scholars At Risk arranges their sanctuary at other universities in various countries. The reasoning behind its foundation comes from the occasions when scholars attempt to communicate certain ideas that could impact negatively on authorities or political entities, they can face serious consequences, which include unlawful persecution or even death.

Since its formation in 1999 at the Human Rights Program in the University of Chicago, SAR has assisted in the relocation and protection of over 700 academics. Along with transferring them from unsafe and potentially life-threatening situations, SAR also aids these individuals financially and socially, connecting them with other faculty members in their field.

For example, the research of an unnamed public health professor from North Africa into infant mortality rates lead to the discovery that his government were declaring a much lower figure in official reports than reality. When the professor went public with these findings, he lost his job and was imprisoned by the state. This was one of many cases that led to the foundation of SAR.

Over the past 17 years, SAR has been involved in a number of instances where a scholar’s human rights have been infringed. More often than not, those they work with are facing prison sentences or public disgrace. With this, they have also developed a project known as the Academic Freedom MONITOR run by volunteers worldwide. Researchers identify and document attacks on third level academics in order to develop a better understanding of the nature and reasons for these incidents.

In response to the various attacks, SAR coordinates Action Plans that call upon governments and officials to protect the human rights of members of academic communities. The volatile nature of certain political regimes in our world has left many figures in education fearful to disclose their opinions or research, with SAR’s aim being to protect this supposedly inalienable right. Being students in a western society often leaves us ignorant of the struggles of our peers globally.

In “the era of post-truth”, we need to set and continue the standard of respecting academic freedom. Many of the freedoms we take for granted are not respected across oceans and borders, but this can change. Scholars At Risk has protected academics with the same credentials and views as our own lecturers here in Ireland. In defending the academic freedoms of older generations, we ensure our own freedoms for the future, something that because of the current political climate, we might have to live without.

Scholars At Risk’s network stretches to 400 institutions in 39 countries, and consistently look for volunteer help. See scholarsatrisk.org for details.

Pictured is Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa, a law student and activist imprisoned in Thailand for nonviolent expressive activity

Plan Bee: tips to help the bees this summer!

Plan Bee: tips to help the bees this summer!

Claire Gibbons highlights 5 small actions we can take to support the bees.

Nobody can deny the world-wide importance of these small humming creatures who were once revered by the Ancient Egyptians. Their impact is truly enormous; it is estimated they are responsible for one of every three bites of food we eat today. Yet with populations decreasing by as much as 30% per year, the humble bee needs our help.

It was first noticed during the 90’s that bees were in trouble when colonies began collapsing on a sizeable scale. Loss of habitat, climate change and increased use of pesticides and insecticides gave rise to ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ where worker bees die off leaving their queen behind.

Pesticides play a particularly sinister role in the downfall of our bees. A 2011 study showed that up to 17 different types of chemical can be found in just one sample of pollen from a honey bee. Pollen is the main source of protein for the bee and a plays a crucial role in the strength of the colony. However with this pollen contaminated, bees are becoming weak and losing their ability to forage.

However if you think this is the end of cashews, strawberries and even cotton- think again! There are plenty of proactive steps we can take to help our bees thrive and continue to pollinate some of our favourite foods and plants.

1. Start planting

Seems pretty obvious, I know. However before you run down to your garden centre there are a few things you need to consider. Native local flowers are more likely thrive in your garden. Getting exotic flowers that die after the first summer shower is no use to the bees. If you are already growing vegetables and plants, think about planting a border of flowers around them. This will attract bees and other insects to your garden and some of these new visitors could also help with pest control.

Bee hotel

Bee hotel

2. Build a bee hotel

Not all bees have a cosy hive to return to after a long day foraging. The vast majority of bees are actually solitary. In Ireland of our total 98 bee species, 77 are solitary. Bee hotels offer shelter and a possible nest for these kinds of bees.

You can buy bee hotels, but they are just as easy to make using a block of wood, which is then drilled with holes of different sizes. Just be sure to check up on your bee hotel for mould or anything else that might affect your guests.

3. Water stations for thirsty bees

By leaving out a small basin of water, you can help bees on their way from one plant to the next. If you want, you could also leave out a sugar and water solution which also helps to give them a boost. Do not however leave out any honey – shop-bought honey is often a mixture of local and foreign honeys which can contain virsuses and spores and can affect your local bee.

4. Be a lazy gardener

If your garden has some weeds and soil patches, don’t fear! Bees love nothing more than dandelions and clover and solitary bees often make snug nests and lay eggs in loose soil.

5. Keep the bees in business

There are many benefits to paying extra for locally produced honey from your local beekeeper. Not only will you have delicious honey, but you will be helping the beekeeper and their bees to stay in business. An added advantage for hay fever sufferers too, as consuming locally produced honey helps alleviate symptoms.

Just a few small steps can make a huge difference to help our bees, particularly in urban spaces where plants are not in abundance.

How do you help the bees? Let us know in the comments!

Author: Claire Gibbons

Claire has recently completed a Masters in Gender and Women’s Studies at Trinity College. She completed her undergraduate in History in NUI Maynooth. Claire has previously taken the Suas Global Issues course and volunteered with the Suas literacy support programme.

Photo credit: Honey Bees, Blu Dawson, (feature photo) Creative Commons License and Bee house, Iamdogjunkie, Creative Commons License.

Wave of global activism highlights need to break free from fossil fuels

Wave of global activism highlights need to break free from fossil fuels

Meaghan Carmody shares her experience of taking part in the largest ever globally coordinated wave of civil disobedience; BreakFree 2016.

FACT: 80% of known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground if we have any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Catastrophic means the end of civilization as we know it – millions of climate refugees, coastal cities submerged in water, a climactic tipping point which will set in motion terrifying feedback loops which once turned on, cannot be turned off.

So with this in mind; let me ask you a question. Which is more extreme – locking yourself to a coal digger in order to immobilise it, or digging up acres of perfect earth in order to find yet more coal to burn?

Reclaim the Power

Earlier this month, myself and 7 friends travelled via ferry and 3 trains to a little town called Merthyr Tydfil in Wales. We passed through a series of winding hills, with cows and lambs grazing on farmland on our right, and a series of coal heaps on our left, on our way to the Reclaim the Power campsite. Here we joined up with 300 other people who had all made the decision to travel to this secluded, unsheltered, freezing spot in the UK for the same reason.

We were there to take part in the largest ever globally coordinated wave of civil disobedience; BreakFree 2016. This was set in motion by 350.org in the wake of the COP21 Paris Agreement in December, a non-legally binding agreement which would at best bring us up to a 3.5 degree rise in temperature, not the 1.5 degrees that the inhabitants of sinking countries need to stay with their heads above water, literally.

BreakFree 2016

The action in Wales was the first of this 2-week period and involved occupying and shutting down Ffos-y-fran coal mine, the largest open-case coal mine in the UK. On the day of the action after donning our red jumpsuits, painting battle stripes on our faces and organising ourselves into ‘action blocks’, we headed up and across the hills towards the mine.

There were 4 actions blocks – 3 ‘arrestable’ blocks would enter the mine, and one would stay at the mining depot. As my block, block C, entered the mine, we passed a ‘lock-on’ – another smaller block of our comrades laying on the ground, their hands locked to their neighbours through a pipe so that the police could not remove it without harming them. The final block in the mine headed to the deepest part, aiming to scale the machinery and use their bodies to stop any vehicles from operating.

We passed miners along the way, workers who were rendered redundant for the day yet who waved at us nonetheless, videoing us as we chanted about the need for a ‘just transition’ from fossil fuels, a transition which leaves nobody behind, including those currently employed by the fossil fuel industry.

The people in our block who were tasked with keeping spirits high had brought a music player, and as it rained heavily, a group of people danced on the underside of a coal digger as another group played football on the rocky terrain.

Power out

The actions of 300 people ensured that the UK’s largest coal mine was shut for that entire day, and it illustrated to the local community who have been tirelessly campaigning against this injustice that there are people all over the world who are there to support them in their struggle.

From Canada to the Philippines, Turkey to Australia, South Africa to Brazil, people are risking arrest and conflict as a result of taking action. In New Zealand, two ANZ Bank Australia branches were closed by protesters in a statement against their $13.5 billion invested in fossil fuels. Hundreds of people in Albany, New York, camped on the railroad tracks which transport crude oil and endanger the local community.

Closer to home, 4,000 people taking part in Ende Gelände in Germany shut down one of Europe’s largest coal mines for 48 hours, and as if that wasn’t a powerful enough statement, they then forced entry into a power plant after blockading the coal railway transport routes.

Brave people have put their bodies on the line in order to send this message:

To the governments of this globalised world that has been forced upon us – enough is enough. You have sold the rights of citizens to power-hungry and financially-obsessed corporations who have ploughed our common home for the short-term benefit of the 1%, stripping us of our future. Your commitments are feeble and we will not accept them. Those at the bottom of this manufactured human hierarchy are the first to feel the effects of a planet ridden by a fossil-fuel dependent culture – but we are all on this same sinking boat. You will not act, so we have been forced to, and we will fight against this gross injustice.

Author: Meaghan Carmody

Meaghan graduated from NUIG with a BA in Psychology and has completed an Ethics of Eating course from Cornell University. She is Activism Coordinator for Friends of the Earth Ireland and Young FoE Ireland. You can follow her on twitter at @meaghancarmo.

Photo credit: Fields of Light Photography 

Video credit: Reclaim the Power

The Ideas Collective: Meaghan

The Ideas Collective: Meaghan

Meaghan shares her experience of taking part in The Ideas Collective last year. Applications for The Ideas Collective 2016 open until Tuesday 24th May!

The summer of 2014 was for me a complete documentary-binge. I had just finished college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and I just consumed documentaries with social, political and environmental themes like they were going out of fashion, waiting for something to resonate with me. And something really did.

It turned out that the food-centred documentaries really piqued my interest at first. Then it became those with an environmental theme. Then I stumbled upon Cowspiracy – the now famous exposé of the blight animal agriculture has on the environment (watch it on Netflix), specifically on the progression of climate change. This was the nexus of my two passions, and I knew I wanted to learn more about this area.

” I wanted to do something, but I felt I had no outlet, no platform to spread what I’d learnt”

The film was set in America, but it set me on a journey to delve a little deeper into the Irish context. Once I found out what was happening here, I was in shock.

I discovered that the animal agriculture sector was our most highly emitting sector at almost a third of all our greenhouse gas emissions…but the government was actually planning to increase the national cow herd by 35% (300 – 330,000 cows!). I wanted to do something, but I felt I had no outlet, no platform to spread what I’d learnt.

It was then that I came across the Ideas Collective. Even though I had absolutely no mental formation of a project, I applied anyway. I remember thinking up various ideas for what I could do…not really feeling enamoured by any of them! So naturally I was nervous as I arrived to Trinity for the first weekend. I really thought that everybody else would have their project completely planned and that I would be the odd one out. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Pretty much everybody was in the same boat as me – each group or individual had a general topic or area that they wanted to improve in society, but not much more than that. I was so relieved!

The next 100 days went surprisingly fast – as my project evolved from the idea of a website to a podcast to an article series and eventually, through the help and guidance of the facilitators and my fellow Ideas Collective participants – I decided to make my very own documentary, and thus was the beginning of No Snowflake – an investigation into Ireland’s conflicting policies on beef and dairy growth and climate change mitigation.

I never would have been able to do what I did last summer without taking part in the Ideas Collective. It provided structure to my ambition, incorporating timelines, feedback sessions, strategizing and problem-solving. It was hands-down one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve ever had, as I watched the projects of my peers grow from humble seeds into flourishing trees, such as Nu., who are bringing ethical clothing options to the people of Dublin, Dev Meet Tech who are giving people an opportunity to devise technical solutions to real-world problems, and Vocalism, a beautiful project which aims to give voices back to the voiceless through the power of song and community.

My advice, if you are in any way passionate about improving something in society: Just apply!

Watch No Snowflake

Do you want to be part of the The Ideas Collective 2017? Get your application in early to secure your place. Deadline for applications 15th May!

Information Pack Apply FAQs

Author: Meaghan Carmody

Photo: Meaghan with Duncan Stewart at the launch of No Snowflake

The Ideas Collective: Chris, Owen, Gary and Laura

The Ideas Collective: Chris, Owen, Gary and Laura

Meet Gary, Laura, Chris and Owen and find out how they’re supporting young people to get involved in politics. Applications for The Ideas Collective 2016 open until Tuesday 24th May!

Can you tell us a little bit about your project idea, where it came from and why you decided to apply for the Ideas Collective with it?

Around the time I saw the opportunity of the Ideas Collective, I had been thinking a lot about how inaccessible politics in Ireland seems to be. This was prompted by my experience as a campaigner for the marriage equality referendum. It was my first time being involved in a national campaign and it really opened my eyes to how little I knew about politics in Ireland. It also made me feel like myself and all the other young people driving the grassroots elements of the campaign could make a difference for other issues too. So I decided to learn more – about both Irish politics, and how citizens could be more involved in decision-making.

How did being part of the Ideas Collective affect your project?

Through our involvement in the Ideas Collective our project grew from a vague ideal to a concrete enterprise which could help fill a real gap in Irish society. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Ideas Collective was getting the opportunity to give and receive feedback on each other’s projects. There were so many interesting initiatives being developed by such great people and being able to witness and contribute to their evolution was really exciting.

“The common denominator was that we all wanted to take our various projects from a vague idea to something that would make a difference”

Who do you think the Ideas Collective is suited to?

The Ideas Collective is perfectly suited to anyone who feels passionate about a problem or an issue, and wants to do something about it! It was that sense of wanting to make a change for good that brought last year’s group together.

We were all approaching different issues, and had varying levels of clarity about our ideas, or experience in the area of social change, but the common denominator was that we all wanted to take our various projects from a vague idea to something that would make a difference. So, anyone who feels similarly about a problem or issue is well suited to the Ideas Collective.

Almost one year on, where are you with your project?

KEY Ideas and Decisions has come a long way in the last year. Since the end of the Ideas Collective, we have launched our website and grown a strong social media presence.

DSC_0186

We have also held two workshops, where participants discussed and developed policy objectives that they feel the next government should follow. Each workshop was followed by a forum, attended by political candidates, where we presented our participants’ policies ideas for discussion with them .

Highlights so far have been coverage we’ve received in The Journal, Trinity News, and A Lust for Life, as well as Niall “Bressie” Breslin joining us for our post-workshop discussion on mental health issues.

All in all, we’re thrilled with our progress so far, and excited about our future plans. The Ideas Collective helped us to take a massive step forward; we cannot recommend it highly enough.

Photo: Chris, Owen, Laura and Gary with two election candidates at the launch of KEY Ideas and Decisions in Galway.

Find out more about KEY Ideas and Decisions

Do you want to be part of the The Ideas Collective 2017? Get your application in early to secure your place. Deadline for applications 15th May!

Information Pack Apply FAQs