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April 18: the Global Day of Action against the TTIP

by active member Jennyfer Pileggi

Today April 18 across Europe thousands and thousands of people are taking actions against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a massive trade deal currently being negotiated between the EU and US, that could have major implications for our food standards if completed.

Also in Dublin several citizens, famous chefs and organisations like Young Friends of EarthPeople’s Climate Ireland and many more demonstrated their dissent against the TTIP.

Read more

Should We Tip the TTIP??

Take a moment to perform a thought experiment. Imagine an energy company has begun to use a new method to extract gas from the ground. This method provides (finite) energy, but is incredibly harmful to people, animals and the environment. Animals lose their hair, chemical-laden drinking water becomes flammable and previously healthy people begin to experience migraines, seizures and increased rates of cancer. The country’s government finds evidence linking the energy company to these serious health concerns. As a result, the company loses out on profit. The company then sues the government, and wins.

This sounds crazy, but an EU-US trade agreement due to be passed in October could allow this unjust scenario to come true. The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a trade agreement which seeks to remove trade barriers and alter trade regulations, making it easier to import and export goods between the EU and US. By avoiding differences that hinder trade, businesses will pay fewer tariffs when selling their goods in foreign markets, and consumers will benefit from increased choice and reduced prices. The official line is that this trade agreement will bring ‘jobs, prosperity and growth’. But what else will it bring?

Firstly, the TTIP aims to align EU and US importing and exporting standards, which could result in EU standards being reduced to allow for US imports. This would allow US food exports produced to different standards to be sold on the EU market. However the EU does state that it will “keep its restrictions on hormones or growth promoters in livestock farming”, that “the TTIP will not affect EU animal welfare laws” and “growing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is subject to an authorisation process in line with EU law, and TTIP will not change this law”. Phew.

But hang on. The US notes that “US food and agricultural exports to the world reached an all-time high in 2013 of over $145 billion.  In that year, we sent just over $10 billion of agricultural exports to the EU, a figure that can and should be much higher.  Our goal in TTIP is to help U.S. agricultural sales reach their full potential by eliminating tariffs and quotas that stand in the way of exports”.

Let’s consider a few US agricultural facts. Virtually all US beef cattle, dairy cows and pigs are fed genetically engineered soybeans covered in a Monsanto-developed weedkiller called Roundup Ready that has been found to cause human cell death. 95% of all US eggs come from caged eggs, a practice which increases salmonella rates. A hormone banned in Europe called recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is injected into US cows to increase milk production, which increases insulin growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels in the milk. A study in the Lancet (1998) found that women with even a relatively small increase in IGF-1 levels are 7 times more likely to develop breast cancer than those with lower levels, and it has also been implicated in colon and pancreatic cancer. These are just three examples, but I could go on.

These are terrifying, but incontrovertible facts. Considering the scale of these practices in the US, and their goal to drastically increase exports to the EU, I find it difficult to believe that the EU could prevent any trace from entering our market.

Secondly, the TTIP aims to introduce Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS). These encourage US investment in the EU, which sounds great. But they do this because they allow companies to sue governments if the government policies cause a loss of profits. And we all know that what is good for people is not necessarily good for profits. Legislation protecting the environment, animals’ welfare, workers’ rights and the health and safety of citizens could be under threat if they’re negative for a company’s pocket. Remember that story from the introduction? That actually happened. In Canada, the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allowed a fracking company to sue the Canadian government for $250 million. This cost 700,000 jobs in the US and caused increased poverty in Mexico. Closer to home, in Germany, a Swedish energy company Vattenfall is suing the German government for billions of dollars over its decision to phase out nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. None of this cries ‘prosperity’ to me.

The bottom line is that this treaty will undermine government policies, policies put in place to protect the rights of its people and the environment. Trade agreements are made in the interest of corporations to increase profit, weakening food regulations, workers’ rights and environmental protection practices. Even if the EU promises that they won’t be weakened, why should we trust them if we aren’t even given a chance to vote on this?

Words like ‘treaty’, ‘trade’, and ‘regulation’ can seem boring, I know. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe the dull yet complicated jargon is used to distance us, breeding insecurity and causing us to refrain from delving deeper into these issues. But we have to, because they concern us all.

If you, like me, err on the side of caution with the TTIP, join the other 10,000 Irish people who already have and sign this petition; https://stop-ttip.org/sign/. Take part in the Global Day of Action against TTIP on April 18th at 10.30 on Middle Abbey Street, or create your own event https://stop-ttip.org/blog/global-day-of-action-on-18-april-2015/.

Please research this yourself, tell your friends and form your own judgment, because we can’t let this go under the radar #April18DoA

 

Meaghan Carmody

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!