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“This conference encouraged and deepened an understanding of climate action and inter-generational justice. It provided an opportunity for young people and adults to share their perspectives, to find inspiration to become agents of change, and to provide steps towards personal and community action. The conference featured speakers and dialogue from across generations”. ~ Brian O’Toole, Director of Presentation Sisters Inter-provincial Justice Desk for Ireland and England

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:

“Our Current Reality” is that we consume, extract and dump far too much and that we give nothing back. He called for a personal change and urged that there is still time and hope.  His ultimately positive tone was the perfect starting point of welcome for all.

Dr. Tracey Skillington (UCC ) gave some very interesting insights into climate activism and the law.

Dr Skillington articulated the notion that up to this the legal system is concerned with a victim and a perpetrator who live in the same time period, but that this is not necessarily the case when it comes to the detail of the Climate Cases being taken around the world. If it is assumed that previous generations (knowingly or unknowingly) exacerbated the conditions that gave rise to the felt climate change that we are witnessing today (and that victims today are only but the tip of the iceberg) we can expect even more victims into the future.

Dr. Lorna Gold of Trócaire in her presentation said:

“We must engage as if our lives depended upon it, and a necessary strong inter-generational bond must be forged, maintained and grown. We must allow individual action to become collective action”.

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.

Three generations of one family (Phyllis Power, Rachel Power, Caroline Jacob-Power) described their climate awareness journey and how they each had made personal conversions. They described their new vegan diet, their holidays without flying, retro-fitting their homes, reusing, reducing, recycling and re-purposing.

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 (Social Justice Ireland) spoke of the “Just Transition” that is necessary as we embark together on an inter-generational journey that is key to addressing and shaping our future as we begin to address the most pressing existential crisis that faces us all. All of the crises mentioned have a solution that can be found in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ireland’s progress of the SDGs are measured annually by Social Justice Ireland.

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:

  1. Get informed
  2. Make the small changes as they can have a big impact.
  3. Get involved
  4. Advocate
Margaret Desmond, Senior Manager of Climate Services for the Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland (EPA) spoke of the need to have a National Dialogue on Climate Action. She explained how the recently launched Climate Action Plan links to the work of the EPA, and how it applies locally in fora such as the Public Participation Networks (PPNs).

“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