Constructive Conversations on Sustainability in Dublin & Belfast

Transition Monaghan members Liam Murtagh and  Mícheál Callaghan recently attended the final event in the ‘Climate Conversations’ in Dublin. Michéal also attended a weekend of open air ‘Civic Conversations’ on sustainability as part of Belfast’s Open Source Festival. The Dublin event focused on how we need to respond to the challenge of climate change while the Belfast event looked at practical local responses that develop community resilience to deal with future challenges.  

Liam Murtagh (left) and Míchéal Callaghan (right) of Transition Monaghan pictured at the recent  ‘Climate Conversations’ event  in  the Abbey Theatre, Dublin

Liam Murtagh (left) and Míchéal Callaghan (right) of Transition Monaghan pictured at the recent  ‘Climate Conversations’ event  in  the Abbey Theatre, Dublin

The Climate Conversations series was organised by the ‘Climate Gathering’ Group working with Christian Aid, IBEC,  Irish Congress of Trade Unions, The Environmental Pillar and Trócaire. The theme was ‘bringing people together for a new understanding on climate change’. The final event was held recently in The Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

What was really interesting about the series of events was the fact that that people from very different walks of life gave their perspectives and suggestions. These included artists, business people, trade unionists, PR people and many others.  Throughout the series there was criticism of the economic model that has brought us to where we are and a realisation that many people and organisations deny or avoid the issue of climate change. The later echoes the theme of the recent book by George Marshall, ‘Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change’.

At the final event the presenters ranged from  Mark Patrick Hederman, the Abbot   of Glenstall to Tommy Tiernan, the comedian. The Abbot highlighted the urgency of our predicament:  “Dear people, the whole wide world is now placed in our hands. It is a hand grenade with the pin out, and the time bomb of the 21st century is ticking away. Tick, Tick, Tick.” Tommy Tiernan reminded us that it not just a problem that is external to ourselves;  “Having a Minister for the Environment makes as much sense as having a Minister for Reality. We are nature. The thing we are trying to fix is ourselves.” Teresa O’Donoghue of Transition Ireland focused on the need for the issue to be addressed by all groups in society,  saying;  “We need to get out and act in our communities.”  This perspective was echoed by Ryan Meade, the Director of Climate Gathering in his concluding remarks; “There is no alternative to collaboration; self-righteousness will not work, individual virtue will not work. Collaboration is the only thing that will work.”

The International Community will meet in Paris in December (for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) to reach an agreement on tackling the climate crisis. The sense of the outcome of the Climate Conversations series in Dublin was that this conversation needs to be happening at all levels – from Government down to communities and among individuals both in advance of the Paris conference and afterwards. For recorded webcasts of the climate conversations see http://www.climategathering.org.

 Civic Conversations as Belfast’s Open Source Festival

Belfast city centre’s Lower Garfield Street was the setting for the recent free, open air ‘civic conversations’, which took place around a long table and under a canopy. The annual ‘Open Source’ event, which was part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, saw people discuss a variety of issues (a mixture of serious and light hearted) and partake in workshops and demonstrations aimed at all age groups. As well as conversations and workshops on sustainability themes such as growing your own food, permaculture, local currencies and community energy production, there was also an art workshop for children and circus performers. The aim was to bring people of all backgrounds together and engage on important issues facing Belfast into the future, with the hope that it would inspire action at grassroots level to build better communities.

One discussion was whether the public should have access to the same kind of data and information that is available to governments. There was also a discussion co – hosted by Co – Operative Alternatives and Northern Ireland Community Energy (NICE). NICE is currently working with charities and community organisations to develop solar panels on the roofs of their premises. Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland, who were one of the event organisers are working on engaging people on imagining a more sustainable and prosperous future for Belfast.  To take a look at the full list of events and discussion that took place at the Open Source Festival visit www.opensourceni.com/programme.

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