SPEAKING AT THE UN ON LEITRIM’S CAMPAIGN AGAINST FRACKING

Me with Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason

With Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason

 

I had the honour of giving a talk on the role of women in our Campaign against Fracking at a UN event in New York on 14th March.  The event was organised by the Mining Group of the Commission on the Status of Women and was part of the United Nations two-week conference focusing on the empowerment of rural women globally.  I was invited to speak by Rev Debbra Gill, moderator of the event.

I also had the honour of meeting our Ambassador to UN, Geraldine Byrne Nason and President Mary Robinson.

In my talk, I focused on the stages the campaign went through, starting in 2011 at kitchen meetings, the showing of “Gasland”, protests, public meetings, social media campaigns and political lobbying, resulting in our wonderful ban on fracking. According to the organisers, the Irish campaign against fracking can act as a template for campaigns globally.

Because of the theme of the conference, I focussed mainly on the role that women played in the campaign.  It was only when looking back at the entire campaign that I realised how much women had contributed.  This is not to say that men did not play an important part (Tony McLoughlin and Eddie Mitchell for example), but from the start of the campaign, women were to the fore of the action – whether organising meetings or protests, making speeches, giving presentations, researching, lobbying, tweeting or emailing.  In fact, this campaign had the side-effect of empowering local rural women to make a stand against something they felt strongly about and to feel that they could make a difference.  Up to now, this was not fully acknowledged and I was very happy to emphasise the role that they played.

Fracking ban
June 2017: Government bans fracking!

It was also wonderful to have the opportunity to tell the world of our campaign starting in rural Leitrim that gained such momentum that it influenced our Government to agree unanimously to ban fracking in Ireland.

We now have one of the strongest bans in the world; to remind you, the wording is as follows:

“Notwithstanding anything in this Act or any other enactment or rule of law, it shall not be lawful for a person to search for, get, raise, take, carry away or work petroleum by means of hydraulic fracturing.”

And you can’t get any stronger than that!

Link to presentation: Campaign against Fracking in Ireland

Aedín McLoughlin, GEAI Director

 

GEAI field trip to Cloughjordan, the eco-village

Entrance of the eco-village

A few weeks ago a group of GEAI volunteers paid a two-day visit at Ireland’s only eco-village situated at the heart of Cloughjordan, a small town in County Tipperary.
Upon our midnight  arrival  we decided to grab a drink in one of the local pubs and something to eat at the only place we could find open at midnight. Afterwards, we spent the night at the Django Hostel, where we received a warm welcome from Pa, the hostel’s manager.
The next day, two of us took part in a workshop about “The Art of Facilitation” organised by Cultivate whilst the rest of the group took the opportunity to explore the village and its surroundings accompanied by a local EVS Volunteer.

Cloughjordan’s eco-village is a unique place in Ireland. The project is aimed at creating modern sustainable living. There are currently 130 low-energy houses of different styles, ranging from small apartments and large detached houses, built accordingly to high ecological standards which combine energy efficiency design with local natural building materials.
Moreover, residents can benefit from the community heating system totally supplied by renewable energies such as woodchip boilers and solar panels.

Cloughjordan community garden

This residential area is surrounded by community gardens and community or personal allotments available for food production. Besides, the eco-village also comprised about 50 acres of woodland and farmland. There is also a plantation zone which includes an area dedicated to tree nursery. While walking around the land it is also possible to visit the organic farm with sheep, pigs, cows and fields for crop production.
Reducing the carbon footprint is not just about energy efficiency but also transportation. For this reason, a pilot car-sharing initiative has been put in place amongst residents. In addition, the village is located within walking distance from the local train station of Cloughjordan.

Compost area

The eco-village is also an excellent centre of education for sustainable living. Workshops, courses, seminars and events about several topics are hosted regularly in Cloughjordan. Walking around the village you also come across several panels with useful and interesting information,  most of which have educational purposes, for example, there is an area used for composting where the whole process is explained is a simple way through colourful images. This is suitable not only for children but also for adults interested in learning how to correctly create their own compost.

The eco-village also organises “Experience day” tours twice a month where it is possible to walk around the village, have lunch while meeting members of the community.

Those two days were inspiring for all of us. We appreciated the strong sense of community engagement and cooperation surrounding the Cloughjordan eco-village project and learnt that it is truly possible to live our lives in a sustainable way.

Successful Irish anti-fracking campaign discussed at U.N. event in New York

UN flag

Dr. Aedín McLoughlin, Director of Good Energies Alliance Ireland, will speak before the United Nation’s 62 nd Conference on the Status of Women on Wednesday, March 14th as part of a session on the global resistance to fracking and its infrastructure. Aedín will be among five panellists to talk about “Frontline Leadership: Rural Women in the Anti-Fracking Movement.” The other four panellists will be Anna Klein, Mining in Haiti Project, Julia Walsh, Campaign Director Frack Action, Chris Schimmoeller, Anti-fracking activist and Jeanne Shenandoah, an elder from the Onondaga Nation.

The priority theme of this year’s Conference on the Status of Women and Girls is the challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. The review theme is the participation in and access of women to the media.

“I am very honoured to be asked to speak at this important side event associated with the annual U.N. conference seeking solutions to problems facing women and girls around the world,” said McLoughlin. “The story of our successful campaign against fracking has yet to be told and this is the perfect opportunity to not only tell that story but also to honour the vital role that women played throughout the campaign in Ireland. We can be proud – Irish women rose to the challenge of thethreat of fracking in so many ways and now we can describe to the world how the campaign was successful, with a complete ban on fracking in Ireland signed into law in July 2017.”

McLoughlin was invited to speak by Rev Debbra Gill, who is moderating the event. Rev Gill represents United Religions Initiative on the Mining Working Group, a coalition of NGOs that advocates at the United Nations for human and environmental rights as related to extractive
industries.

Dr. Aedin McLoughlin, GEAI spokeperson

“Fracking is only one of the global extractive industries that are laying waste to places where people live, polluting their air, their water and their health,” concluded McLoughlin. “Mining for precious metals or rare elements also has a long history of polluted air, rivers and lakes, and devastated and exploited communities. We in Ireland can give examples of how rural women achieved roles of leadership in our campaign against fracking; hopefully, this will contribute to empowering others around the world to insist on their rights to clean air and water and a safe environment.”

Climate Change “not a priority for the North and Western Regional Assembly”

Our recent submission to the NWRA concerning their Regional Spatial Strategy, has been hard-hitting concerning the report’s lack of emphasis of Climate Change and the urgency of responding to it.

Once again, serious climate change commitments are lacking at regional as well as national levels. Climate change is real and is happening right now and every delay or reticence in adopting further policies to cope with it will result in huge economic and financial losses for the Irish economy. Moreover, there seems to be a lack of clear vision regarding the concept of “sustainability” throughout the whole Strategy as neither indications nor goals and targets are provided on how to achieve it.

Ireland North and Western Region (Ph. NWRA issue paper)

We at GEAI were responding to a Public Consultation on the new Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) launched by the Northern and Western Regional Assembly in December 2017. The RSES Strategy aims at “reaching a shared understanding about regional economic development processes […] and promoting innovative, competitive and a productive region”. In our view, the document fails in this aim as it fails to recognise the fact that Climate change is a serious threat to Ireland’s North and Western Region and adaptation is an immediate requirement.

Its view is that “the transition (to a low carbon economy) will require a cultural step change in the approach to Green Energy Development”. However, it does not include a roadmap to such cultural change and, indeed, relegates climate action to just one section of the report.

What is not realised is that this transition includes a big opportunity now to unlock the renewable energy potential of the Northern and Western Region. We propose a vision of the Region becoming a self-sustaining macro-generator of electricity, producing a significant proportion of the nation’s total need for power. This can only happen through community energy ownership and Government support for microgeneration. As a first step towards achieving this vision, it is vital that Government initiates immediately a scheme for fair feed-in tariffs for all electricity generation from 50 watts to 6 megawatts.

Awareness raising is key to undertaking such a cultural change. We therefore suggest to create and implement a Climate Change & Renewable Energy Awareness Programme to boost behavioural change.

Read our full submission

Want to fight climate change? Stop wasting food!

Food, along with drinkable water, is the basis of humankind evolution and survival. Thus, with 7.6 billion people currently living on the planet, projected to increase to 9.8 billion by 2050, we simply cannot afford to waste food. So why is roughly one third of the of the food produced in the world for human consumption (ca. 1.3 billion tonnes) lost or wasted? (FAO). And how does food waste impact on climate change? Awareness of the links between these topics is low, in part because the media have failed to appropriately expose our shameful behavioural habits when it comes to food waste.

Logically, the bigger the population gets, the more food supply is needed. Since the development of agricultural practices (ca. 10.000-12.000 years ago) our food habits and needs have evolved and dramatically increased. In fact, historically, the wealth of a nation has always been measured with how much food surplus that country has been able to secure. Nowadays statistics show that wealthier countries have between 150 and 200% surplus of the food that is actually needed to feed their population.

Poster – Just eat it. A food waste story

Last week, the GEAI volunteers attended a showing of the film-documentary “Just Eat It – A Food Waste Story”. This humorous film was produced by Canadian filmmaking couple Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer, who took on a six-month experiment of eating only discarded food. The purpose of this documentary is to expose the environmental crisis being boosted by North America’s (and the western world’s) wasteful eating habits. What this documentary shows is just a tiny fraction of this issue of global-scale magnitude.

It is shocking to witness the unimaginable amount of thrown-away food they find looking into stores’ dumpers and markets – vegetables and fruits being discarded on the mere basis of their aesthetic appearance and other foods that would be perfectly edible according to health and safety standards but are unsellable as they do not “attract” the consumer.
The film highlights how there is a misconception around the term “expiration date” printed on most products. People think that the date refers to the good conditions of the product and after that it is not safe or advisable to eat it anymore. This is not correct as the expiry date is simply an indication of freshness used by producers; a product is perfectly edible after the expiration date.

With field trips and interviews, Grant and Jenny shed light on the dynamics of waste along the whole food supply chain. The documentary contains valuable insights from experts on the matter such as the journalist and author Jonathan Bloom; the award-winning author and Feedback campaign founder Tristam Stuart; and the US National Resource Defence Council’s food/agriculture scientist Dana Ganders.

Tonns of food being thrown in a landfill (Ph. Gits4u.com)

Food production and distribution processes have enormous implications when it comes to climate change. Tonnes of food wasted go directly into landfills, releasing huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere, greenhouse gas with a far greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide. And this is just at the end of a product’s life cycle. All the food supply chain’s components, such as producers, manufacturers, distribution centres and retailers are jointly responsible in contributing to greenhouse emissions and our changing climate.

 A very powerful statement is made in the film: “we are contributing to climate change from our own kitchens”. And it is true. We simply have too much food, and we do not need it so we waste it. Halting food waste is a crucial part of the fight against climate change and something about which each one of us can take responsibility.

The Environmental Protection Agency is implementing a national campaign on this issue – StopFoodWaste.ie

This hilarious docu-film with a tremendously serious message is highly recommended to everyone!

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