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What have our Climate Champions been up to?

by Camilla Kane

Young Friends of the Earth Ireland awarded the position of Climate Justice Champion to five Young Activist before Christmas- So let’s find out what have these guys been up to?

Over the last five months our fantastic Climate Justice Champions have been hard at work developing their own projects as leading activist for Climate Justice. We have had film screenings on TTIP, creative street actions for a stronger Climate Bill, Panel discussions on Eco Entrepreneurship, the setting up of an Alternative Economics society in Trinity and a Home and Habitat Nature Walk.

Just before Christmas of 2014, these young activist were awarded the opportunity by Young Friends of the Earth to attended the Lima in Brussels conference – a training week in Brussels for activist from all across Europe to connect for the Climate talks happening in Lima (COP 20) and to plan towards the next discussions in Paris next December 2015- get a sneak peak of the week’s events here.



In preparation for this training the Champions teamed together and delivered a creative street action asking students of Trinity College Dublin “How can Ireland Cop on to Climate Change?”  Check out the responses from the day here.

Since then our Champions have been working independently on their own projects in various locations across Ireland including Cork, Belfast and Dublin. First off we had Hazel Hurley who took to the streets of Cork and asked the people to Doodle a Duck for Climate Change.

Creative Street Action – “Doodle a Duck for Climate Change”

Champion- Hazel Hurley

Location Grand Parade Fountain, Cork

23rd March @12pm

This Creative Street Action demonstrated the effects of climate change on the people and local businesses of cork. For the weeks running up to the action on the 23rd Hazel paid a visit to various different traders in Cork who were dramatically affected by flooding in the last few years and asked them to share their messages on the rubber ducks. For the creative action on the 23rd she further engaged more people Cork in the conversation with the use of the rubberducks and plans to put these messages to Micheal Mc Carthy – the chairperson of Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht to encourage him to speak out and push for the proposed amendment to be made to the current Climate Bill for Ireland. Watch this space for lots more Rubber Ducky Fun. :)

Event – Homes and Habitats Nature Walk

Champion Ciara Ryan

Location Howth, Dublin

27th March @2pm

In Dublin we have Ciara who organised a “Homes and Habitats Nature Walk” . This invited young children to join her on walk across the Sub-urban area of Howth identifying home of various species along the walk. They crossed the Deer Park golf course, went up to the reservoir – a small lake – and then down into a more forested part, before making their way back again. Five young children aged 9-10 joined her on the day and as they walked they tried to ‘spot’ the homes and habitats in hedgerows, underground, or in the trees, of animals they know – or were maybe not yet familiar with. Ciara facilitated the educational experience for the young children as they explored their surroundings and connected their findings to human homes and expanding their concept of homes. Everyone on the day got some great – very practical and basic – insights about nature, animals and their homes, and really enjoyed being outside.

Photos by Patrick Bridgeman www.bestselfphotography.com

 Facebook www.facebook.com/BestSelfPhotography

If you would like to know more about the different events being organised or how to become a climate champion yourself. Email us at youngfoe@foe.ie or check out our website youngfoe.ie and our facebook page Young Friends of the Earth Ireland for up coming events. Keep an eye out here for more Champions events to come :)


Does lobbying TDs have an impact?

By Camilla Kane

I attended a briefing day held by Stop Climate Chaos- a coalition of organisations campaigning to ensure Ireland plays it’s part in preventing runaway climate change. I watched over 80 TDs and many more constituents come and go from the Buswells Hotel, all there for one reason, to discuss/debate the need for a stronger Climate Bill.

Although it will be a while before we see the impact these discussions will have on the bill, I am left wondering what is the purpose of lobbying as a young activist, does it really have an impact?


I spoke with two of our members from Young Friends of the Earth who attended the event, Barry McMahon from Dublin North Constituency and Conan Connolly from Cavan-Monaghan constituency. They highlighted their thoughts on the impact of the day.


Barry – “I could see myself looking far more in depth at the amendments being proposed by Stop Climate Chaos than I would have if just sending an email or signing a petition, and found myself reflecting on my own views and values, because I was going to have to present them to somebody else who I wanted to influence. It made me think that if everybody else who was contacting their TDs was also going through the same process then perhaps making a habit of lobbying politicians in person has the potential to not just change policy, but also change and develop the people advocating for it.


A very positive response from Barry indicates that lobbying TDs in person ignites the activists and leaves little room for passive supporters. This has got me thinking, with such a huge movement of young activist across Ireland today, why wasn’t there a bigger representation of young people at this event? Are young people not inclined to lobby their TDs in person?


Barry recalls he was apprehensive about meeting his TD in person as this was his first time, but was reassured by Ciara from Stop Climate Chaos as she supported him with advice.


I was concerned beforehand that I might be a bit meek in talking to them in person, but when it came to it, I felt that if anything I had the opposite problem. I was determined to have a conversation that was frank, personal, and had some tangible outcome, and I was pleased how upfront the TDs were.


How easy is it to get a commitment or tangible outcome from a TD?


Conan and Barry both recall their meeting with Olivia Mitchell TD for Dublin South. Despite being under great time pressure, Olivia was very keen to speak with constituents regarding the Climate Bill. She spoke about how she agreed with the need for strong action on Climate Change and elaborated on the various work she has done in areas affected greatly by hurricanes. To prevent the conversation from staying too general Conan put the pressure on Olivia by addressing the issue of Fine Gaels link to the big farmers in the IFA and the influence this has on the weakness of the climate bill.


“Agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland and FGs policy on harvest 2020 and the planned harvest 2025 are at odds with this legislation being strengthened.”


Olivia pointed out it is a committee who make these decisions and recommended speaking to the members of the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht. Barry persisted and indicated that her access to these people in power is much easier for her than it is for him so requested that she addresses these changes with them. She agreed with this, and suggested she would follow up and let them know how the conversations went.


Conan raised concerns over the current trade agreement being discussed between EU and US TTIP. TTIP is a trade agreement currently being discussed between the EU and US offering jobs and increasing economic growth as it’s tag line, however, the beneficiaries of this growth will not be the people but the large corporations. It raises huge concerns regarding it’s social and environmental impact. Conan was dismayed to find she didn’t know more about the impact of this agreement and recalls her response as


Richard (Bruton – the Minister for Enterprise and Employment) tells me it’s absolutely essential for Ireland”.


Unfortunately Olivia is not alone in this opinion, therefore, it is clear there is a great need for many more meetings to be had to keep pressure on our TDs to take notice to the issue of TTIP, and other environmental concerns, and encourage them to use their power to better the outcome for the people rather than corporations.


These two young activists have really demonstrated the impact lobbying TDs can have on both ourselves as young activist and in influencing your TDs to be more active on issues of concern to you. It has certainly inspired me to find my voice and speak up when approaching TDs. To recognise the power they hold and how to guide this power in the right direction for social and environmental justice.


Join us for Global Divestment Day Action – Saturday 14th February at 2pm Sean O’Casey Bridge outside the IFSC

By Meadhbh Bolger

Imagine all the money that is put into oil, gas and coal industries is instead directed towards clean energy, community and social projects, arts and culture. Imagine a worldwide shift in consciousness and awareness where we all gave our heads a little shake and woke up to how ludicrous it is to destruction and control of this amazing planet? The fossil fuel divestment movement, which kicked off in 2012, is all about urging banks, institutions, universities, pension funds, individuals and more, to withdraw money they have invested in fossil fuels. Financially speaking, they are risky investments if we want to prevent destruction of the planet. So far, more than 837 institutions and individuals have committed to divest, and there are lively campaigns happening all over the world.

With the movement being led by students and young people, each week it seems, there are new creative, innovative and exciting events and actions taking place, alongside new promises of divestments. Just yesterday, students from University College London held an “oil orgy” (looks interesting); and last week, a big Norwegian fund removed their risky coal, oil sands, cement and gold mining investments. There have also been many “big” names speaking out on the issue, including the governor of the Bank of England, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and our very own Mary Robinson, who says:

“By avoiding investment in high-carbon assets that become obsolete, and by prioritising sustainable alternatives, we build capacity and resilience, particularly for more vulnerable people – while lowering carbon emissions.”

A really exciting and big moment in the movement is happening this weekend – the first Global Divestment Day. It will be the largest culmination of divestment events yet, with over 330 actions taking place between the 13th and 14th February worldwide, including three Irish events in Dublin, Letterkenny and Belfast.

What’s going on in Ireland? Well, things have just kicked off. A group of us from Friends of the Earth, People’s Climate Ireland and interested individuals have got together to do a bit of research into Ireland’s fossil fuels investments, and organise an event for Global Divestment Day. This Saturday in Dublin, we will be having some fun photos at 2pm on the Sean O’Casey bridge (near the IFSC) and will proceed to walk down to College Green to the Central Bank where there’ll be music, public engagement and divestment-themed cakes!

Join the event on facebook, or get in touch with Young Friends of the Earth (email here) if you are interested in joining the growing global movement. This is just the start for Ireland!

Action in Dublin as Ireland is awarded “Fossil of the Day” award in Lima!

We at Young Friends of the Earth took to the streets of Dublin on December 14th, courageous amidst frantic Christmas shoppers doing their  best to maintain sanity as the clock struck Santa. Our shared mission: to bring people back down to earth through casual conversations,  exploring our relationship with the earth herself from whom all presents come.

Why December 14th to battle the maddening crowds? Well to support our fellow YFoEers of course who had mobilized in Brussels with  environmental activists all over Europe during the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP 2014). The COP
took place in Lima, Peru  December 1st to 12th. An action on December 14th allowed us time and space to reflect on the outcomes of the COP, to sit with the discomfort  of Ireland having being awarded the ‘fossil of the day’ award along side 5 other countries, and Ireland’s failure to contribute to the Green  Climate Fund to support those countries hardest hit through climate chaos and with least resources to cope.

The feeling of disillusionment with those in power was all too familiar. Our so called leaders failing yet again to act in the interest of real and  sustainable progress. We decided a presence on the streets of Dublin showing solidarity with all those who care deeply about the Earth, was  something we could do.
Armed with 100 fliers, some fancy dress and a lot of heart we engaged as many people as were engaging. We spoke to many youth who also  felt disillusioned with not only environmental issues but their related social justice issues and the prevailing neoliberal agendas being upheld  that continue to exacerbate inequality. We spoke with people from many different countries and cultures, and each conversation left me for one  feeling richer and more appreciative of the diversity of culture, opinions, and expressions culminating on the streets of Dublin.

We ended the day with a trip to Dublin Food Co-op’s ‘World Fusion Sunday’ on New Market Square, feeling empowered and happy with the conversations sparked and the connections made. Taking action, sharing stories and listening to others opinions felt good.

Nicola Winters

Photos courtesy of Andrej Blagojević

How meeting MEPs forced me to think clearly about what climate justice means

During Lima in Brussels, some participants reached out to and met with some of their MEPs in the European Parliament. Ciara Ryan-Gerhardt from Ireland reports…

Two things stopped me in my activist tracks at the European Parliament Building this week. I am here to learn about, campaign and build awareness for climate justice; today I was reminded what a complex and difficult to define topic, and more hopefully movement, it is. The first meeting was less serious: my friend Rob and I were about to pass through the security screening in the front lobby when he said quietly ‘I have an egg in my pocket.’ (At breakfast in our Hostel he’d taken one and forgotten to eat it.) I laughed and said I reckoned we’d be ok—the security check wasn’t as strict as airports. We moved on through and followed our Member of European Parliament (MEP’s) assistant whom we were going to speak to.

The second meeting with another MEP made me stop for a more serious reason.

As activists we are fighting for a cause with our words; we have to be clear and precise. I sometimes feel that as an activist I put on my ‘Activist Hat’ (or in the words of a podcast interview commentary on Jeffrey Sachs, my ‘Advocacy Hat’). I get idealistic, big and global on a highly complex, politicised issue…and, I hate to say it, but a little naïve. But here’s the thing (and this is where it gets very interesting and why some would say ‘idealistic’): no increase is safe.

The United Nations (IPCC) says a 2°C increase is safe, climate scientists say 1.5°C is safe, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and other environmental organisations and groups say no increase is safe. And current knowledge says that if business as usual continues we’re faced with a 5-6°C increase by the end of this century. Climate science is interwoven with a lot of uncertainty, But in the words of an atmospheric physicist in Thin Ice: I don’t worry that we are going to all get killed by this ‘thing’ [he refers to our adaptable and resilient nature]. I do worry [though] that our children are not going to thank us for giving them the headache we’re going to be giving them if we carry on the path were following… Because if we don’t get out of this, they will have to. He says that each decade we postpone action to combat climate change and global warming,is another billion of tons or so of CO2 released in to the atmosphere.He says that that is the sort of climate where we really can’t predict where the warming will stop.

So what is climate justice? I’m still not sure I have an answer to that question but for me it’s got something do with the following: the global North is historically responsible for our climate crisis so it’s really up to us to lead. We have the finances, we have the technology, and we definitely need it: whether people are aware or not it is a human rights issue too and affects marginalised groups and sectors of society. That means working directly on local, practical and community-invested ownership of resources and energy, and local and sustainable jobs. It also means at an EU and local level, binding targets that are more ambitious than our current one that meant once we’d reached it (on overall EU level), there’s no more action until post 2020 (Yes, that’s right!). Given that once a Climate Bill is passed it has already been through the Parliament, Commission and corporate/industry-lobby hands, and is watered down each time, this is particularly important. Accountability (for example ensuring the advisory body is independent in their duties) Intergenerational equity is important, this is an issue that will affect our generation and many more into the future – that is actually where the whole issue gets quite scary, because as of today it is very difficult to say what this looks like.

It was hard learning but thanks to my MEP for pointing out the loopholes in my argument and my attempting to get clear.

Resources: I highly recommend watching the film ‘Thin Ice,’ which gives an overview of climate science by the researchers that are at the forefront of this interdisciplinary science. Physicists, biologists and chemists combine to make this film interesting and informative. You’ll find it here: http://thiniceclimate.org/watch-the-film