Small ways to make a big difference

February 26th, 2020 12:05 PM

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A grassroots army is gathering in West Cork to wage war on climate change. Aisling Meath catches up with them to hear their battle plan.

CLIMATE change is the biggest global issue of our time and one that the people of West Cork have not been complacent about.

As bushfires blaze in Australia and ice caps melt at an alarming rate, many concerned citizens across the region are doing their bit to highlight the crisis and reverse the detrimental effects of global warming.

Extinction Rebellion West Cork (XR) is part of a global movement that employs direct action and they plan to ramp up their activity this year.

Nationally, more than 150 Irish academics justified their ongoing peaceful protests stating that ‘it is perfectly reasonable that concerned citizens would bypass the government’s flagrant inaction and rebel peacefully to defend life itself.’

‘Extinction Rebellion West Cork plans to get louder as our group expands and we are preparing for more awareness raising actions in 2020,’ explained Lauren Guillery of XR.

Local efforts aren’t going unnoticed, either. Last summer, Greta Thunberg, who started the schools strikes for climate, sent a message of solidarity via video message to the people powered movements in West Cork commending them for their efforts.

‘I just want to send my full support to the climate activists in Cork who are fighting to stop the building of a plastics factory and the harvesting of kelp along the coastlines. Never give up,’ said Greta who the Council has invited to come to Cork.

Since then Skibbereen saw the withdrawal of plans for the plastics factory, and the kelp harvesting in Bantry was stopped in its tracks by a court  judgment.

Greta was alerted to the activism in West Cork by Saoi O’ Connor from Skibbereen, one of the most vociferous voices in Ireland in the schools strikes for climate movement.

Friday, January 10th marked a full year since 17 -year-old Saoi first started her school strike outside city hall.

More mature generations are also on board with making change.

‘We were having the party and they are left with the hangover,’ said Jim O’ Donnell, of O’ Donnell’s Furniture Skibbereen who was galvanised into action when his 14-year-old granddaughter asked ‘what are you going to do about it?’

‘We’ve all got to do our bit in reducing carbon,’ he said. ‘When you see a wave this big coming at you, it’s time for action and we cannot just leave it to the young people. Scientists have been warning us about this for years.’

Jim, along with Noel Casserly, a climate change consultant, formed ‘ Green Skibbereen’ and their ‘Skibbereen Climate Action Group’ held a meeting in November inviting local business owners to consider switching to solar energy. Attendees were informed of the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland Community Energy grant covering energy efficiency and renewable energy technology, with closing date for applications on January 31st.

The United Nations Environment Programme points to the ‘emissions gap’ between actual policies and what is needed to achieve the commitments they have made to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees, and they calculate that five times the current decarbonising policies are needed to achieve this goal outlined by The Paris Agreement in 2016.

Based on current policies, the Earth is set to warm by a disastrous 3-3.5 degrees by 2100, and 2019 saw Ireland as one of the worst performing countries in addressing the climate crisis for a third year in a row ranking 41 out of the 57 countries examined.

Reforestation helps offset emissions and ‘The Clonakilty Tree Planting’ project aims to plant 20,000 native species in and around the town during 2020. A meeting on January 18th from 10am to 1pm in the Community Garden across from the Direct Provision centre, will have tree planting experts on hand to demonstrate the correct way to plant.

The project has already received an anonymous donation of 10,000 young saplings, and they are hoping to plant on ‘any land, ditch or available garden’.

Separately, ‘One Green Village Baltimore & the islands’ will have a tree sale on March 1st, and Paula Marten from the group was recently in Fields Skibbereen to share her plastic-free tips with consumers. ‘If I can switch to using less plastic anybody can,’ said Paula.

Meanwhile, fishermen in Union Hall and Castletownbere are committed to  ‘Fishing for Litter,’ a European initiative to remove litter from the sea and raise awareness of the issue in the fishing industry and local communities.

The well-established ‘Cork Environmental Forum’ will be offering a free Greener Living course in February.

‘It aims to help participants implement changes to enable them to live more sustainably,’ said Bernadette Connolly of CEF.

The Kinsale community are no newcomers to this battle. Transition Town Kinsale, a voluntary organisation has been going for 15 years. Their vision remains steadfast – to promote a low carbon sustainable community.' Finally, Cork Nature Network (CNN), with a local branch,  works to protect wild life and conserve native species and habitats.  ‘Everyone can make a difference,’ said Gill Weyman from CNN.

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