The Inter-generational Climate Justice Conference – 13th Nov 2019
“There is a growing realisation that because of climate change the coming generations will inherit a world that is impoverished and perhaps even unliveable. This conference is intended to encourage and deepen an understanding of climate action and inter-generational justice. It provides an opportunity for young people and adults to share their perspectives, to find inspiration to become agents of change, and provide steps towards personal and community action. The conference will be highly interactive, with brief formal inputs from speakers, followed by structured dialogue across generations”. (see Conference Website HERE)
“Climate change is the most pressing issue facing us all as a global community”. – President Michael D Higgins, at Inter-generational Climate Justice.
The “rich world” has caused most of the greenhouse gas emissions and needs a major change, but has capability to do this and decarbonise, according to President Michael D. Higgins, who addressed the Cork Conference. In his opening comments the President thanked the organising committee and welcomed the young and not-so-young delegates who were present to learn more about what he called “the greatest contemporary challenge facing us as inhabitants of this planet in peril”.
President Higgins also congratulated those who organised and backed the event including the Social and Health Education Project, the Cork Education and Training Board, the Sisters of Our Lady Apostles, the Society of African Missions, the Eco-Congregation of St Anne’s and Blackpool Parish, Cork Healthy Cities, and Trócaire.
“Let me be very clear about the challenge we face: climate change is the most pressing issue facing us all as a global community. This year, Ireland became the second country in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency, recognising the critical nature and scale of the challenge facing us all,” said the President.
“Climate disruption is a global issue, a national issue, and a local issue for which the window of opportunity to act is closing worryingly fast.” He went on to say that we are “at the precipice of a global ecological catastrophe”.
The conference focused on inter-generational aspects of climate change and climate justice, based on the premise that all generations are partners caring for and using the earth and that the present generation must pass on the earth and its resources in at least as good condition as it received them.
Many pupils and teachers were present from city and county schools to share ideas on climate justice in a context in which climate change means future generations may well inherit a world that is impoverished, perhaps even unliveable. (See Catholic Ireland article HERE)
Brian O’Toole attended the conference along with Presentation Sisters from the North East and South West Provinces. See link to his report on the Justice Desk Noticeboard HERE
The first speaker invited to address the conference was Patrick McGrath, (a Transition Year Student from Coláiste an Chroí Naofa, Carrignavar) who very quickly got to the point of his input:
Dr. Tracey Skillington (UCC ) gave some very interesting insights into climate activism and the law.
Dr. Lorna Gold of Trócaire in her presentation said:
She reminded delegates that those who are opposed to change are very wealthy and very powerful but that they are in fact very few, while acknowledging the progress that has been made in one year.
They had joined the Wilton Justice and Peace Group in Cork and have worked with them to house one Syrian Family. This made them acutely aware of the work it takes to house just one family. The message for us all is that we can expect far more people to flee their homes because of Climate Change and that we must be ready.
Fr. Seán Healy spoke of a series of crises that are thriving in our society – crises in Housing, Health, Education, Transport and Employment. He cited the difficulties that impinge on our rural development and he helped those present to see potential solutions, the plans and the way forward together. In response to the question “What can I do?” Fr. Seán outlined a number of things that we can all do:
- Get informed
- Make the small changes as they can have a big impact.
- Get involved
“The final activity before lunch was an ECO UNESCO workshop where we were asked to “Build a New System” together by considering what systems we would like to see in an ideal world by 2050. We were told to dream, design, describe and draw together. Each table was graced with a facilitator who moved us along gently. The time flew. We spoke, we drew, we laughed, we questioned, we listened, we wrote, we thought, we contributed and then laughed a little more. We forgot the age difference. (Was there one?) We just got on with the work. We spoke about social media and it’s uses and abuses, and we articulated worries going forward. We learned about each other and then our work was collected, our actions put up, our views displayed (and all this before lunch)”. ~ Brian O’Toole, Director of Presentation Sisters Inter-provincial Justice Desk
President Michael D. Higgins has made action on climate change one of the key themes of his Presidency. You can listen to his full speech at the Cork Conference HERE on Sound Cloud (Audio)
President Higgins reminded those present of the often clichéd phrase “we have all being living beyond our means”. He said, we have not all being living beyond our means, the poor haven’t got the means. We must be careful not to ask the poor to do with less, to give up more as we make the Inter-generational Just Transition. “The starting point is human need”.
“What does sufficient mean?”
Towards the end of his address he spoke warmly when he said “I wish you all a beautiful life and I wish you success as you wish everyone else a beautiful life.” He told the room “I am only interested in being with with people who are emancipators, like those gathered together in this room”.
- Address to the UN General Assembly (2019)
- “Taking Responsibility for Climate Change” (2015)
- ‘The Power of Ideas for Climate – Making a New Beginning’ (2015)
- Remarks at Hunger-Nutrition-Climate Justice Conference (2015)
Professor Peadar Kirby (Professor Emeritus of International Politics and Public Policy in the University of Limerick) was the respondent after the President departed.
Prof. Kirby quoted St. Hildegard of Bingen in relation to believing in oneself: : “You understand so little of what is around you because you do not use what is within you.” And as if to further encourage our belief in ourselves he quoted Murray Bookchin (an American social theorist, author, orator, historian, and political philosopher, and a pioneer in the ecology movement) when he said, “If we do not do the impossible we shall be faced with the unthinkable.” Professor Kirby also reminded those present that this is a struggle we have together and that we can learn much from Laudato Si, as we go forward together.
The ‘wrap up’ gave thanks to all present for this really wonderful day – hopefully the first of many such days.
(Note: the detail of the presentations on the day in the News Article above are thanks to Brian O’Toole – (see link to full report at the front of the article). Other information sources are acknowledged in links throughout the text).