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!