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Noel Buckley from Presentation Secondary School, Clonmel shared the experience of being present with students at the Cork Inter-generational Climate Conference in early November (2019). Noel referred to the students whom he accompanied to Cork as being active in the Green Schools initiative. 

Mr Noel Buckely with students from Presentation Clonmel who attended the Cork Inter-generational Climate Conference on November 13th 2019.

As the students were unable to be present themselves due to exams, Noel had asked them what they would like him to say about their experience of the Inter-generational Conference.  The first impression that they shared was that they hadn’t realised that so many people cared enough to act. This has not been their experience. In terms of gaining information on the Climate Crisis it was also clear from what they said, that young people don’t engage with television these days.

Noel shared his belief that there is too much focus on consumerism and profit, and that this is the system into which the students are being educated. Another key takeaway from talking to the students was that blaming another generation for the current state of our climate is utterly counterproductive and mitigates against healthy inclusive progressive solutions. Lorna Gold had spoken directly to all who attended the Cork conference.  The students from Presentation Clonmel were most impressed by her story, her enthusiasm and her message of hope that is designed to include all who were listening to her. (See Climate Generation – Lorna Gold )

They strongly feel that there needs to be a grassroots response that can drive change, and that makes a difference. Noel commented that there are already advanced plans to run a ‘Fridays for Future’ march in Clonmel on November 29th with “System Change not Climate Change” being the anthem for all.

Sharing an ‘inter-generational experience

Noel mentioned that when they all arrived at the Cork Inter-generational Climate Conference the first move by the organisers was to separate attendees into different groups, “a good move”. Noel explained.  At Noel’s table was an 83 year old Sister in the mix of about 9 or 10 at the table. On the face of it the students at the table would be forgiven if they glossed over the odd contribution as there was a lot to take on board. However, when this Sister spoke, she brought to the conversation her experience in Africa working in Tropical Medicines for 20 years. She spoke of her involvement with the efforts that began on what we now know to be the “Great Green Wall”,  as a means of halting desertification. This illustrated the strength of the inter-generational approach and such was the conversation of this 83 year old that she became the esteemed elder at their table, the “cool” Sister.

The students were also learning that there needs to be a refocusing of the lens on power, equality and justice.

Changes can be small and can come from humble beginnings

Noel gave the example of an action in his school around the the exorbitant number plastic bottles that arrive into the school daily. There needed to be a change. So he estimated the number of plastic bottles that would be used over a period of school time, and gathered them all together, and at a prayer service at St. Patrick’s Well in Clonmel he put them all in a net and threw them onto the lake to show the effect of so much plastic in a place of beauty. The sheer size of what could be seen, was enough for all to get the message, and so now plastic bottle usage is banned in the school. He also flagged two potential reactions to all this Climate Crisis information:

  • a danger of a narrative of despair overwhelming all, adding to a sense of powerlessness.
  • people thinking, “I care about all this in my head, but it doesn’t affect me enough to make a lifestyle change”.

He spoke about the need to normalise the necessary behaviours that prompt change, and of there being a very definite felt need for actions and not words.  Armed with facts and knowledge we can take reasoned and reasonable action that will bring about change.

Creating the narrative of hope

Noel concluded by saying that we need to create the narrative of hope, reminding those in the room of the fact that it is they who carry the precious memory of sustainability. They all grew up in a time when nothing was wasted. This could be their gift to the inter-generational network.  He also spoke about the importance of questioning ‘the statistics’ as we have also been urged to do by President Higgins, when he spoke at the Inter-generational Conference. Knowledge can empower, as action takes courage.

However, he said, change will happen when we disrupt the system and that there is a known formula (that has been proven all over the world again and again) to bring about effective change it is: “When 2% – 3 % of the people of a nation come out in protest, change happens”.

This Justice Day ended positively with the introduction of the NEP Sustainable Living Resource Booklet  Sustainable Living Booklet – NEP Justice Day 2019  and with everyone feeling energised and hopeful having benefited from the information content and shared discussion.

Now to action!

Note:  The material for this article was edited from copy shared by Brian O’Toole, Director  of  Presentation Sisters Justice Desk for Ireland and England.  See section on our website  HERE





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