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Network Gathering 2014 County Carlow :)

An account of the 2014 Network Gathering from one participant – Ciara Ryan Gerhardt 

I am very grateful to Young Friends of the Earth (YFoE) and Friends of the Earth for their involvement too, for giving us the weekend oasis in such beautiful nature in Ireland that was the YFoE Network Gathering.

Even for the one day that I could join, I really wanted to and appreciated the networking opportunities that the YFoE Gathering offered. Simply being a part of the action and skill-sharing, meeting other people who are doing great work in other parts of Ireland that I do not know so well. It offered this chance to meet people that we may not otherwise in our daily work, whether we work in the environmental field or volunteer our time to different causes. This really strengthened the weekend I thought: there were people doing all kinds of different work from policy to practical, to advocacy and activism, to community development and art-work, to being a student in an environmental discipline. It meant that we learned even more and had a more holistic approach to what’s currently going on in Ireland, what are the issues and what can we possibly do about it.

Despite varied levels of understanding of the issues we face in Ireland today, there was a sense that we were equal and our input valued. People shared their knowledge and skills openly. There was a scope to what we discussed which cannot be found in all environmental work which is generally more focused on one particular issue, and so I enjoyed this.

There were speakers, however as I had arrived late due to another workshop the same day that I had to attendthat spoke on topics ranging from the Brehon laws in Ireland to how we live now, to fracking and forestry. Our host, Mary White, a former Green Party politician, also gave a foraging tour of the local area). The YFoE hosts gave us a sense of ‘the bigger picture’ – in Europe and beyond – and where we might fit into that, and also what’s happening in Brussels this December. We had a brief history session on climate change and what had led to the creation of the ongoing Conference of the Parties (COP) and learned that protestors, climate justice activists and environmentalists like ourselves would be joining in Brussels for one week, to stand in solidarity, to show that we are informed and will not stand back and let “important people” not bother to make important climate decisions that need to be made. Now.

We want to show that this is important to us, to the planet and to the future. By not doing anything and not coming up with workable targets for emission reductions for example, the problem becomes more difficult for future generations to deal with. We need climate justice, and it is an issue that requires international co-operation, agreement and clear action. It involves and affects everybody, and that, to me, is precisely why I want to go to Brussels: I am aware that it affects everybody and the planet, and unfortunately not everybody can have their voice heard as I can – and so also I feel a duty to go on behalf of those who cannot speak. To me climate justice is very interlinked with social justice.

YFoE had four funded places to give so that we also could come and learn about direct activism tactics, media interviews and get to know many other people and aspects of the current climate justice movement in Brussels. It seemed like the ultimate opportunity to show we care about what will be decided in Lima! I am not sure how many of us applied, but certainly many of us seemed to perk up our ears at this opportunity. To be part of something bigger than ourselves and learn from other countries and people is something that I would love to do! Who wouldn’t – the application is called “Climate Champions”! Who wants to be a Climate Champion anybody?

(P.S. The application deadline has just passed, so you shall have to wait till next year for next year’s application.)

Thanks again to everyone who made it happen and was part of the wonderful weekend that was the YFoE Network Gathering!

 

Climate Champions Competition 2014 Now Open!

Do you….

  • Want to join a movement of young activists in Europe?
  • Want to be creatively involved in the global movement for Climate Justice?
  • Make sure Ireland does its fair share to Stop Climate Chaos?

 

If so….

Young Friends of the Earth have an exciting opportunity to bring a group of young people to Brussels to join activists demanding fair action on climate change.  This week of action will take place as our leaders meet to decide on the future of our world at the UN Climate talks in December.

To be a part of the movement contact us for more information before the 10th October at:

youngfoe@foe.ie

01 6394652

Facebook YoungFriendsoftheEarthIreland

Twitter @YoungFOEIrl

 

We look forward to hearing from you!

Young Friends of the Earth Summer Camp in Bulgaria!


As the new intern with Friends of the Earth, I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend the Young Friends of the Earth Summer Camp in Bulgaria right at the beginning of my internship. Alongside another Irish participant, I travelled to Sofia where we met representatives from Young FoE groups across Europe including Finland, Norway, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Lithuania. After a 3 hour bus journey, we arrived at our camp-site in the beautiful Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria!

We eagerly set up our tents and were shown around the camp-site which included compost toilets and solar showers, before having a delicious vegetarian dinner cooked by the two Bulgarian chefs who looked after us for the whole camp.

The focus of the camp was Food and Agriculture so there were plenty of opportunities to learn new vegan and vegetarian recipes, learn about the medical properties of local plants and hear from experienced guest speakers on topics such as producing compost and creating an urban garden. There were also opportunities to hear about the wide range of current campaigns across the Young FoE groups. I found the “Protect the turtles” campaign in Cyprus and the “Green Canteen” campaign in Finland particularly interesting. There was of course time to share food and drink from our own countries and learn about each other’s cultures and local food traditions which was very entertaining!

The camp was also an excellent opportunity for the participants to develop practical skills through “Capacity Booster” workshops which focused on helping us develop creative campaigns, learn facilitation skills and how to communicate with the media. There were many ways to get involved in the running of the camp such as by writing a blog of the daily events for the YFoE Europe website, facilitating morning meetings and being a “Listening Ear” who were a group of participants who were available to address any issues relating to gender equality and multiculturalism to ensure that everyone felt comfortable and happy to participate in the activities at the camp.

Of course as well as great learning opportunities we had plenty of time to socialize and develop other skills including canoeing, mountain biking, yoga, swimming in the lake and I even had a go at the high ropes garden which included zip lining over Lake Beglika!

All in all I found the camp to be a great place to share experiences and ideas for environmental justice campaigns and to meet interesting, like-minded people from across Europe. I would definitely recommend the summer camp for anyone looking for inspiration and to make new friends, look out for it next year in France!

Shale gas exploration begins in Fermanagh

Sian Cowman writes a short account of the activities surrounding current shale gas exploration in Fermanagh, and the strong local resistance.

Since Australian company Tamboran moved their equipment onto a piece of land outside the village of Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh, there has been staunch local opposition. Tamboran are planning to take rock samples to test the viability of shale gas in the area. They have said there will be no fracking as part of this test phase – but this is the first step towards fracking. Furthermore, this is an all-island issue: water knows no borders, and the Irish Petroleum Affairs Division has said they will accept the results of these tests as part of Tamboran’s work programme under its Irish options licence. The test site is only a few kilometres from the border.

Locals had no notice of Tamboran’s plans. They simply moved onsite at 5am on the 21st of July, and later that day dropped some leaflets into locals’ postboxes. The land belongs to local quarry Acheson and Glover, who has been the target of criticism for leasing land to frackers. Locals immediately set up a 24-hour vigil outside the huge metal gates, which are surrounded by razor wire and watched over by security guards with dogs. Protectors have hung signs and flowers on the gates, organised rallies, public meetings, and a place for people to camp. Furthermore Fermanagh county council is unanimously opposed to the test well – this is an issue that crosses party lines.

There are frequent public meetings, a tractor run on Sunday 3rd, and an action camp next week. Keep in touch with Belcoo Frack Free on facebook for more information! If you can’t head up to join the Belcoo Community Protector’s Camp, join this e-action!

Why to Skip on the TTIP!

Meadhbh discusses the harm a new EU-US Free Trade agreement could cause if it comes into effect.

Poster designed by YFoE volunteers for the TTIP Day of Action on July 12th
Poster designed by YFoE volunteers for the TTIP Day of Action on July 12th

The EU and the US are currently negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).This trade deal is set to be the biggest bilateral free trade agreement in history, and will act as a template for future global trade agreements. The key focus of the TTIP – “harmonising regulations” – could seriously dilute hard-fought regulations that provide social and environmental protection, reduce the ability of governments to implement similar regulations in the future, and hand over more power to corporates.

Now, many of us tend to switch off when we see phrases like “investment partnership” and “harmonising regulations”. Perhaps we’re thinking “what has this got to do with us? Let’s leave it to the experts; they know what they’re doing”. However, when we break down the technical lingo, it is clear that this trade agreement will have huge consequences for all levels of society and will set a worrying precedent. The damage it could cause to our planet and its inhabitants greatly outweighs the modest potential for economic gain.

Secrecy enables corruption. So also does an inattentive public enable corruption” (Robert David Steele)

The negotiations surrounding the TTIP have been conducted at high governmental levels in a secret manner, with access to talks dominated largely by big business and industry. The interests of these groups are generally not in line with the everyday person, so why are they being given access to key decision makers while the broader public is left out in the cold? It’s time we level the playing field and demand truth and transparency.

Through an examination of global trade relations over the past 250 years it becomes evident that industrialised countries have become rich often at the expense of developing countries; it is a system which appears to only benefit rich countries. There is a very probable risk that the TTIP will serve to reinforce this unjust system.

Even within rich countries, the TTIP could establish undemocratic procedures resulting in excessive corporate power. There are clauses included that would make it necessary to examine at a very early stage of any legislative procedure whether the new law being proposed will have a “material” impact on trade relations. This would allow large and powerful EU and US companies to drastically expand lobbying activities, because they would constantly have to be consulted, giving them substantial influence.

 

Causes for Concern

Investor State Dispute Settlement clause (ISDS): Simply put, if this measure is included in the agreement it would allow foreign investors to sue their host country if their investment potential and profits are affected due to decisions taken by that government. There are hundreds of existing cases where countries have been sued millions for introducing socially and environmentally protective legislation. For example, under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which includes an ISDS clause, a US energy company is suing the Canadian government over its moratorium on fracking in Quebec. The TTIP ISDS clause will reinforce this power of corporations to sue, so if passed we’re set to see a large increase in cases. Not only does this place huge burdens on states’ public funds, particularly damaging for poorer countries, it also directly infringes on a states’ responsibility to implement adequate protection for its citizens and environment.

Precautionary principle: in the EU the precautionary principle is enshrined in law stating that a product or process must pose no risk to environmental, social, or animal welfare before it can be approved for retail. In contrast, the US operates in the opposite way whereby a product or process must be proven to be hazardous before it can be removed from the market. This means that hazardous products can be sold until they are irrefutably proven to be harmful. Through the TTIP, the US are pushing to remove this precautionary principle to allowing investors greater ease of access to markets with products and processes that are possibly damaging to the health of people and the planet.

Climate justice: the level of complacency evident in the TTIP negotiations with regard to climate justice is extremely worrying. The Fifth report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that 80% of existing fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground, and that renewable energy must be scaled up to avoid catastrophic climate change. However, in spite of this call for commitment, the TTIP snarls in the face of making the necessary global commitments. An examination of the European Commission’s official Impact Assessment analysing different scenarios for EU-US trade, predicts that the most ambitious TTIP scenario (maximum regulatory dilution) would serve to increase greenhouse gas emissions by 11.8 million tonnes in just 10 years. TTIP also seeks to make it easier to export gas and crude oil from the US which would result in more fracking for fossil fuels.

 

We can beat the TTIP

It is possible to beat the TTIP! Back in the 1990s, due to huge public outcry, the international investment agreement, MAI, was dropped. Let’s be part of a movement that will apply the same pressure so that the TTIP, and other damaging free trade agreements, are dropped. Together we can transition to a sustainable, happy and truly democratic society.

There has been a growing movement of concern and public outcry about the TTIP agreement in the EU and US. A number of Irish civil society organisations working for the causes of social and environmental justice, have come together to share information and to stimulate greater public awareness regarding these negotiations. We marked the beginning of this road to success with a Day of Action on Saturday 12th July in parallel with the World Development Movement’s day of actions throughout the UK. The day was a huge success and drew much needed attention to the issue. More actions and awareness building are coming up so keep an eye out!