A weekend of adventure

EVS on-arrival training

From 1st – 4th December, the GEAI volunteers went to Dublin for their EVS on-arrival training, organised by Léargas. This training brings all EVS volunteers in Ireland together and gives them an opportunity to share learning and experiences and to have fun!

15369610_1808150142793664_1755525483_oAndrea, Kate, and Alex had a great time and connected with the other volunteers living in other parts of Ireland. It was a time to share experiences, learn about other cultures and their organisations. It was also a time to look back and reflect on the EVS experience so far. The three volunteers learned more about planning ahead, Youthpass and even received some advice on problem-solving!

One should not judge people based on stereotypes

Andrea found these four days a great opportunity to reflect on her own experience in a deeper way and to see things through the eyes of different people with different nationalities and cultures. She learned that one should not judge people based on stereotypes and that culture has a major influence in the way of thinking. She discovered that leaving her comfort zone can make her wiser! She met amazing people with whom she hopes to share trips and memories in a near future.

15388796_10154758038174770_1865133005_o

“As well as the non formal  learning experience, we had so much fun discovering  Dublin with our colleagues and challenging ourselves through a funny race  game with different tasks, tasting traditional Irish food in The Brazen Head and getting to know our charming trainers”.

An injection of positive energy

15399070_1269689253102227_983087386_o

For Alex, this was an injection of positive energy as he feels a renovated momentum to face his next challenges within the workplace and on adaptation to Ireland. Alex really enjoyed meeting volunteers from other parts of Europe and even got to do a little language exchange.

“The Dublin challenge was a fantastic opportunity to get to get to know the city better and learn more about the Irish history and culture. The indoor activities were thrilling as well, and the whole training was coordinated by two very friendly and competent trainers. Having dinner in the oldest pub in Dublin was quite an experience for me!


Art and allegories

15354048_1807855602823118_971173626_o

Kate, our Belarusian volunteer, was the only participant from a non-EU country. For her, it was a really enjoyable time in an international atmosphere full of creativity and ideas. Speaking about difficulties, challenges, success, disappointments and life using art and allegories is really useful for her.

We did a great job discovering ourselves during  4 days. 21 brave people in the same place is something inspiring!

15322398_1808110989464246_131175681_o

Climate Change – Threat or Opportunity?

Climate Change – a historical landmark?

Climate change is undeniably one of the hottest topics of today. It is widely seen as a major threat to the future of humanity and the planet. However, if we look at it from a different perspective, it can also be a historical landmark. Climate change presents an opportunity for societies to re-invent themselves.

The Paris agreement – a moment of unprecedented consensus
paris_agreement

The Paris agreement was ratified globally on 4th November 2016.

The Paris agreement achieved something remarkable. It was the first time that more than 190 countries agreed to a common framework. This is the acknowledgment of climate change as a global issue, to a point where the political representatives of almost all the greenhouse gas emitters in the world pledged to reduce their emissions. The most important thing that one can take from it is that this agreement opens the door to a future of total collaboration between the nations, in order to tackle such an important issue as climate change. This can be the opportunity for humanity to get together and engage in a dialogue that can take us in the right direction, a direction of re-invention towards a more sustainable future.

kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy – Former president of the United States

Living examples of sustainability?

The effectiveness of the Paris Agreement pledges may be arguable, and the ambitions are not very high but, still, this agreement is something unprecedented. Even despite the fact that some of the bigger nations might feel tempted to withdraw from the agreement, if we look at the smaller developing nations, we can see that they have a lot of potential of becoming living examples of sustainability. As John F. Kennedy (JFK), once said: “The humblest nation of the world, when clad in an armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of Error.”

For the developed nations, the transition to renewable energies may seem more difficult because these countries are already endowed with a whole set of infrastructures that rely on fossil fuels, whereas in most developing countries, the infrastructure is still not there. This means that sustainable infrastructures can be built from scratch and that an efficient renewable energy grid could attend to the needs of a growing population.

“Cape of Good Hope”

During the 15th century Portugal, “brought new worlds to the world”, by exploring parts of the globe that were, at that point, still unexplored by the Europeans. The Portuguese navigators were seeking for the route to India but faced numerous challenges throughout the way. Their biggest challenge was a rocky headland, situated on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. They used to call it the “Cape of Storms”, for the many storms the navigators had to face when crossing this cape. After Bartolomeu Dias crossed this cape for the first time, the king of Portugal, D. João II, decided to rename the cape as “The cape of good hope”because it symbolized a new hope for the much-desired discovery of the route to India.

cape_of_good_hope

The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa

At the present moment, climate change may appear to be a “cape of storms” for us, but, if the nations collaborate and the right efforts are made, it has the potential to become the new “cape of good hope”. It can help us make our way to a more peaceful, prosperous, sustainable and united world.

This piece could not be finished without another JFK quotation:

“The problems of this world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, where horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”

Alex

EVS icebreaker in County Galway

unnamed_1

On Friday 18th November we, the GEAI EVS volunteers, visited Youth Work Ireland Galway (YWIG) in Ballinasloe. There, we had the opportunity to learn more about the EVS programme and we met the YWIG volunteers and participate in some team building activities with them.

15182520_1801069043501774_583424784_oHelen Butler, who is the work coordinator in Ballinasloe Centre, organised a ”Reflection on EVS” Workshop in which we shared our experiences, expectations and points of view. During the workshop we answered such important questions: “Who was I before EVS and who will I be after my EVS?” or “How can we bridge the gap between EVS volunteer and hosting organization workers?”

It was really good for us to hear how volunteers from another organisation are working and planning their free time and to learn more about the dynamics of mentorship. It helped to get a new perspective on EVS life.

15133776_1801068933501785_1063043909_o

We really enjoyed the collaboration with the YWIG volunteers and we are really thankful for their hospitality. On Friday they treated us to a delicious curry chicken meal and invited us to stay at their place for the weekend. On Saturday they showed us around the Town where they are living – Ballinasloe, and we ended up going to a local pub to enjoy the “craic”. On Sunday we visited Galway and, even despite the fog, we had an amazing experience and fell in love with this picturesque town. Some of the things that particularly amazed us were the Christmas Market, the Spanish Arch, the Riverside Walk and Galway Cathedral.

In sum, the sympathy of the YWIG volunteers combined with the charming atmosphere of Galway made it a fabulous visit and one of the best weekends that we have had in our EVS! We left Galway with a feeling of amusement and a wish to come back soon

Is Carbon Tax a solution for our emissions problems?

co2tax
What is Carbon Tax?

A carbon tax is a form of carbon pricing by taxing fuels that contain carbon. Every hydrocarbon fuel (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) contains carbon which is released as carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, once these fuels are burned. A number of countries have implemented carbon taxes or energy taxes that are related to carbon content. Most environmentally related taxes with implications for greenhouse gas emissions are levied on energy products and motor vehicles, rather than on CO2 emissions directly.

From a theoretical economic perspective, carbon taxes help to address the problem of emitters of greenhouse gases by making them pay the so called “social cost” of their actions. However, carbon taxes can be viewed as regressive taxes, in that they may directly or indirectly affect low-income groups disproportionately.

“Raising prices reduces demand”

mankiw500wideAccording to Gregory Mankiw, Professor of Economics at Harvard University, who was featured in the newest NatGeo documentary “Before the Flood”, lesson number 1 of Economics is “if there is a tax that raises the price of some product/service, people will tend to consume less of it”. Mankiw, who has worked with former Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney and John McCain and with the Bush administration, uses this argument as a justification for the implementation of a carbon tax. According to estimations, by 2060, climate change will have cost a total of $44 Trillion USD and the professor’s view is that this tax could help tackling global change by dodging people into the direction of doing the right choices and adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.

Carbon tax may not be the answer

But is Mankiw correct? …In my opinion, carbon tax may not be the solution to the climate crisis we are facing today and will face throughout the rest of this century, and to justify my disbelief I will give two reasons.

First, Carbon tax is relying on the same sort of beliefs as trickle-down economics and Keynesian policies, which is that economics can predict exactly the behavior of the masses, thus regarding people as discrete, easily predictable parameters. The problem with carbon tax is that the consequences may not be that easy to predict, thus undermining the feasibility of such assumptions, as they often fail to consider factors that lead to completely different outcomes in the public’s behavior.

The goal of this kind of mitigation policy is to catalyze the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, in particular with regard to vehicles and heating. What carbon tax would do is to put the financial burden of climate change on citizen’s wallets, thus putting people in an even tighter stranglehold through yet another tax, slashing their purchase power.

A vicious cycle

carsIf carbon tax is imposed, I am concerned that people won’t be able to afford to switch to carbon free energy sources and transportation due to scarcity and uncompetitive prices. Then the vicious cycle begins: people who have less purchase power will be obliged to pay the carbon tax and their purchase power will be reduced even further.

industryAdditionally, carbon tax applied on industries may not drive those industries to adopt low carbon technologies, due to the fact that they could easily dodge such tax by increasing prices and then the consumers would be the ones absorbing all the impact. Another weakness of the carbon tax is that it doesn’t necessarily imply a reduction of carbon emissions but rather allows governments to “make a profit” out of it, as it derives income from taxes.

There is now the urgent need to cut carbon emissions in order to meet the Paris agreement goals of a 1.5ºC warming. Therefore, one can use Ronal Reagan’s own words to say “Carbon tax is not the solution, it is part of the problem”.2

Alternatives to carbon tax

There are a number of ways in which we could tackle carbon emissions more effectively and none of them requires increasing taxes on the working people, for example:

  • Having an efficient, high-quality public transport network with affordable ticket prices,
  • Subsidizing electric vehicles, making them more affordable,
  • Or even banning carbon emitting energy sources and vehicles from the market, the most extreme but also the most effective measure.

In this scenario, with the absence of carbon emitting energy sources on the market, people will switch to clean (renewable) energies and we would finally be in a position where our targets could be achieved.

Let’s look at asbestos as an example: the use of asbestos is forbidden since it poses a major threat to public health; no one can even buy asbestos to use as a construction material. This solves the asbestos problem and we no longer have to worry about the occupational health and safety of people as to what exposure to asbestos concerns. Now, if we adopt the same position towards dirty energy sources and vehicles, we could finally take the step that needs to be taken and open the door to a carbon-free future.

Alex

Youth fun with EVS energy promoters.

youth-center_1

On Wednesday 9th November our EVS volunteers, Kate and Andrea, visited the Youth Café in Drumshanbo to develop an activity programme on Renewable Energy with a group of kids between 10-12 years old.

The purpose of the programme is to understand what children know about the environment and what they are interested in. Our final goal is to arouse their interest in environmental protection and to recognise how we can protect the planet.

We organised different activities: first an icebreaker to get familiar with our group and try to have fun and know each other. After, a game to understand how important land is and the impact of climate change (floods, droughts, hurricanes) on those who lose their land. Finally we used different pictures related to pollution, recycling, energy, wildlife, and we discussed them. For Kate it was really interesting to explain to them what a hydroelectric power station is and how it works.

The children were full of energy and creativity, really engaged with the activities and we understand that they would like to have more sessions with us! We had great support from youth’s centre workers who helped us with all the activities.

It was our first experience with the group and we have found it a perfect combination of learning and fun! It was really interesting to see how all of them began thinking in a different way. We are looking forward to working with them again!

COPYRIGHT

® All rights reserved to GEAI. 2014