Guest blog by Annette Vaucanson Kelly
Greta Thunberg did it again.
The 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden took a 32-hour-long train journey to Davos, Switzerland, for the annual World Economic Forum. Addressing the gathering of the world’s super rich and powerful, she didn’t mince her words. Speaking truth to power for all of us.
“Someone is to blame [for climate change]. Some people, some companies, some decision-makers have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”
Listen, just listen to that awkward silence before Bono starts clapping – precious!
Greta Thunberg is an inspiration.
The voice of a generation who will suffer the effects of climate change, yet who doesn’t have a say.
A generation who has done little to contribute to climate breakdown, yet who will inherit a decimated planet.
A generation who has been ignored by the powers that be, yet who is waking up to the climate emergency.
This is the acorns’ generation. Our children’s generation. Their future is at stake. So let’s do something to protect it.
Collective climate action
The powers that be would have us believe that we all caused climate change and that it is up to us, as individuals, to fix it by making small changes to our lifestyle. It sounds a lot like austerity, doesn’t it? Making us all pay for the mistakes of the few.
Well, the truth is, small individual actions, as well-meaning and necessary as they are, will never be enough to tackle a problem of this magnitude.
I have always been conscious of the environment. Trying to buy and eat organic as much as possible, using eco-friendly household products and toiletries, recycling. The list goes on.
Despite my unease over the inexorable melting of the Arctic ice sheet and the frequency of extreme weather events, I’d somehow managed to convince myself that I was doing my best, within our financial means – for sticking to a green lifestyle quickly becomes costly for a busy family of six.
It took the resignation of French environmentalist Nicolas Hulot as Environment Minister and the latest IPCC report to wake me up to the climate emergency.
I felt let down. I felt helpless. But mostly I felt angry.
My anger spurred me into training as a Cool Planet Champion. The very last presentation of the training, by change-maker Davie Philipp, of Cultivate.ie and Cloughjordan Ecovillage in Tipperary, was a revelation – if small, individual actions are not enough, then we need to scale up. How do we do that?
Collective action is the answer.
Stop obsessing with how personally green you live – and start collectively taking on corporate power.
Neoliberalism has conned us into fighting climate change as individuals – Martin Lukacs, The Guardian, 17th July 2017
There are two ways of taking collective climate action – community action and direct action.
Act local, think global
Start on your doorstep. What change would like to see where you are? Less traffic? Locally grown food? Energy efficient housing? Then get together with a few other people and start changing the world around you.
- Get on your bike and campaign for more cycle lanes.
In the west of Ireland, the Galway Cycle Bus escorts children on their bikes to their respective schools – it has become so popular that a second route was started in January.
- Reclaim a derelict public space and start planting a community garden.
In Westport, Co Mayo, the Edible Landscape Project is growing edible plants along the Great Western Greenway, in order to improve local food security.
- Improve the energy efficiency of your community.
In Tipperary, Birdhill Energy Team carries out grant-aided retrofitting works on homes and community buildings – attic, cavity & external insulation, wood burning stoves, heat pumps, chimney draught limiters, solar panels, etc.
This is “the power of just doing stuff”, as per the eponymous book (affiliate link) by Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement. The idea is to build community resilience, in the face of an increasingly volatile climate.
Last winter’s Snowmageddon in Ireland was enough to disrupt the food supply chain for over a week, showing just how exposed we are to extreme weather events.
Growing food locally simply makes sense, as does developing zero carbon housing and transport. Besides, all such collective actions create a vibrant, close-knit community, better able to withstand whatever challenges may arise in this changing world.
So what are we waiting for?
There is already a groundswell of local climate action in Ireland, with many initiatives and stories shared on the Spark Change website. Why not add yours to the list?
Rise for climate action
We can no longer afford to wait for governments to do their part. Our children’s future is at stake. It it time to rise.
People power is the name of the game here. Feet on the streets. Peaceful protests. Climate strikes.
Signing petitions and emailing our elected representatives doesn’t cut it anymore.
We need loud voices. Civil disobedience. Direct action.
We need to make them take notice and take action.
As well as many climate litigation cases around the world, there is a rising tide of activism demanding that our governements take real, meaningful climate action:
School strikes for climate
Around the world, young people are taking to the streets in increasing numbers to demand climate action.
On 19th January in Dublin, the Children’s Rally for Climate Action, organised by Climate Case Ireland, gathered hundreds of families and supporters, including former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, author of Climate Justice (affiliate link).
Most significantly, with her school strike for climate outside the Swedish parliament, Greta Thunberg has inspired the #FridaysForFuture campaign. Every Friday, hundreds of thousands of school children around the world skip classes to demand climate action from their governments.
In Ireland, a group of secondary school students have gathered outside the Dáil every Friday since mid December 2018 – an action initiated by concerned parents, including Dr Lorna Gold, climate activist and author of Climate Generation.
The one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.
Climate change is, in Sir David Attenborough’s words, “humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years”. But it is also fixable. The ideas and tools already exist. What is needed is immediate climate action.
It would be far easier to keep our heads buried in the sand in the hope it’ll just go away. But our children’s future is at stake. And so we owe it to them to be the change, make our voices heard, and rise into climate action. In their name.