CHANGE STARTS WITH US – TIME TO STEP UP, EDUCATE & INTEGRATE
Last Saturday, a demonstration in solidarity against racism took place in Monaghan town. On May 25th 2020, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in America. Mr Floyd’s unjust death has led to worldwide conversations and demonstrations about and against racism, while the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement continues to grow and put a spotlight on the extent that Black lives have not mattered. The well-being of the planet and people are interconnected and so, in the context of BLM, it is essential to consider the environment and its interconnection with social justice. Collette McEntee tells us more.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Just a glance at history (Trial of Tears, Zapatista Movement and many more) shows the centuries of colonial upheaval of POC (People of Colour) and their lands in favour of capitalist, often white, interests and endeavours. Ultimately, what white, privileged, Western society causes and contributes towards the climate crisis, will impact POC in the Global South and North first.
Sarra Tekola, BLM activist and scientist, spoke to Mary Robinson and Maeve Higgins on their ‘Mothers of Invention’ podcast about environmentalism and racial injustice. Tekola identifies state racism as not just police violence but also the gentrification of POC; displacing communities thus disrupting their resiliency and depriving them of important infrastructure. Speaking of Phoenix in Arizona, Tekola explains how POC asked for investment in tree planting rather than the proposed investment into the police force. There are more trees in neighbourhoods in North Pheonix (predominantly white) in comparison to South (predominantly black). A study by UC Berkeley, used satellite imagery to find neighbourhoods throughout the U.S. where there are little shade trees and lots of impermeable, heat-absorbing surfaces like pavement, cement, and roofing. POC are more likely to live in these high risk ‘urban heat islands’ exposed to extreme heat waves at the hands of climate change. Trees, and the lack thereof, indicate the historical inequities that contribute and create this form of state violence by not having access to infrastructure and nature to shape safe and nourishing environments.
State racism exists in Ireland. The Direct Provision system (DP) epitomises this, where asylum seekers are consciously separated from the rest of Irish society. The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has described DP as ‘a severe violation of human rights’. Designed as a temporary measure, this year marks 20 years since its establishment. Insufficient space and infrastructure such as safe routes to and from social hubs like towns and recreational spaces with parks and trees, is damaging to mental and physical health.
‘It never ran into our heads that children would grow up without a place to crawl,’ said Human Rights lawyer Noeline Blackwell. No one expected that children’s most formative years would be spent in the system and the long-term implications have been repeatedly flagged but not investigated fully. Further to this, capacity issues within DP have led to accommodation offerings in hotels and B&Bs which offer inadequate restricted access to water and cleaning facilities – a breach of human rights.
By late 2019, approximately 5.1 million people in 95 countries and territories were living in displacement as a result of disasters that happened not only in 2019, but in previous years too (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 2020). Many seeking asylum are fleeing conditions exacerbated by these adverse events and their consequences. However, ultimately, they will not be granted refugee status as there is no international legal framework for climate or economic refugees. Climate refugees do not exist legally.
Intersectionality, a term coined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, considers overlapping identities such as race, gender, and class and how their combination determines discrimination. Activist Leah Thomas explains and describes ‘Intersectional Environmentalism’ as ‘an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalised communities and the Earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities and the Earth to the forefront and does not minimise or silence social inequality’.
Thus, intersectionality is essential for climate justice. POC of the Global South and North will be and are adversely affected by unbearable heat, floods, drought, and famine that will not affect westerners in the same way. POC have been cheated of the resources they need to be resilient to climate change by the economic system that benefits and protects the richest. Migration caused by impacts of climate and ecological emergency is often met by hostile border policies that leave people vulnerable to indefinite detention, danger and/or death.
At Saturday’s demonstration, local activist Laura Hannon called on us, as a community, to integrate; ‘We need to step up and organise more social situations where Monaghan residents mingle together and celebrate each other’s cultures, learning from each other. Local people need to attend these things, befriend people who need a friend, because we are the ones not showing up when it matters’.
Environmental organisations, including Transition Monaghan, need to step up, educate and integrate. Climate justice is social justice. [Demonstration pics by Tyron D. Ross]
Drumlin Nature Watch – by Liam Murtagh
Aspiring to live in harmony with a wily fox and other living things
What are wasps for? This was the question that Chris Packham addressed in an item on the superb BBC Springwatch TV series. Wasps are not liked by many people but, as Chris explained, they are efficient pollinators and are important insect controlling predators.
There are some other species of wildlife such as foxes that have a mixed reputation. Anyone who had their henhouse raided by a fox is not likely to sing the animal’s praises. In the 1970s there was an effort to eradicate foxes. During that time, I recall being given the tongue of a fox to take to the Garda Station and collect the bounty – the monetary reward that was then provided by Government. I also remember the occasional ‘hunt’ when horses and riders followed a large pack of yelping hounds through fields in pursuit of a fox.
Fast forward to last autumn when I had what I believe was a short visit to my polytunnel from an uninvited fox. The claw marks left by the animal who tore a hole in the door (pictured) point to the fox as the one who feasted on my tomatoes. I realised I just had to admire his determination and at the same time hope that he would not return on an annual basis.
EO Wilson uses the term ‘biophilia’ to describe the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life. He proposed the possibility that the deep affiliations humans have with other life forms and nature as a whole are rooted in our biology. This is very evident when it comes to how we relate to our domesticated horses and dogs.
At another level, the way people interact with wild animals has emerged in the current debate about how viruses pass from wildlife to humans. It has put the focus on the capture and poor treatment of wild animals and the trading of them at wet markets in SE Asia . The increasing human encroachment into wildlife habitats in recent years is seen as increasing the likelihood of the viruses in wild animals jumping to humans. On a global level, humans have also caused the destruction of many species during the last two centuries, an era which has come to be known as the Anthropocene, because of the dominance of humans on the environment.
On a more hopeful note, the Australian, Glenn Albrecht has proposed that we seek to move from the Anthropocene to a new era he calls the Symbiocene. He says that it’s an era that will affirm the interconnectedness of life and all living things. Let’s hope his advice is followed.
Insect Asides – by Patrick Gleeson
The Peacock is a beautifully patterned and common butterfly. This is a long-lived, hibernating species so its period of exposure to predators is quite long. As a result it has developed an impressive defence strategy. When at rest its closed wings have a cryptic pattern for camouflage but when opened, the wings show four large eyespots. If disturbed, wing movements exposing the eyespots is accompanied by a slight hissing noise created by rubbing parts of the wings together, which deters predators. The Peacock joins the countless other insect species carrying out the important role of pollination.
The Peacock butterfly is one of the five vanessid species found in Ireland; the Small Tortoiseshell, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, and the Comma butterfly being the others. An important food plant of the vanessid caterpillars is the much derided nettle, so look past the sting and spare a thought for the Peacock and the numerous other invertebrates that rely on this plant. Leave the weeds, leave the nettles and as Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:
“What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”
Staying Connected @ Home
Clár Funding Scheme is open: The aim of Clár is to support the sustainable development of identified Clár areas with the aim of attracting people to live and work there. The funding works in conjunction with other funding programmes and on the basis of locally identified priorities. The measures being funded this year are Support for Schools & Community Safety Measures, Community Recreation Areas and Community Wellbeing Supports. See monaghan.ie for more details.
Town and Village Renewal Scheme: The Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD) has launched the 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme in response to Covid-19. In addition to standard scheme, there is a focus on immediate intervention that can be delivered in short term (before end 2020) to assist town and village adapt to life after Covid-19, aiding economic and social recovery of towns and villages. Contact your local Municipal District coordinators to discuss potential projects for submission at the following contact telephone numbers Ballybay/Clones 047-51018, Carrickmacross/Castleblayney 042-966 1236, Monaghan 047-73777.
Gardening for Biodiversity: Produced by Local Authority Heritage Officers across Ireland, with help from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Heritage Council, this book has been developed to assist you in Biodiversity matters in your garden. See heritagecouncil.ie for more details.
Public Consultations: (1) European Climate Pact, which aims to engage all parts of society in climate action, and hopes to gather views from a broad range of people and organisations across the EU. (2) 2030 Climate Target Plan, which proposes to increase the EU’s current 2030 target of greenhouse gas emission reductions. (3) EU’s New Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, which will explore and identify opportunities to make our society more resilient. See europa.eu for more details.
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“I can’t breathe.”