Trócaire Director says: “Trump will hurt the world’s poor”

After President Trump was inaugurated, one of his first actions was to delete references to action on climate change from the White House website. He then went on to argue about the numbers attending the inauguration. Meanwhile Éamonn Meehan the Executive Director of Irish charity Trocaire was highlighting in his blog the five ways he claims that the new US President will hurt the world’s poor. They are summarised below.


Éamonn Meehan pictured on right


trocaire-logoÉamonn Meehan sees the appointment of a climate change sceptic – Scott Pruitt – to the key position of head of the Environmental Protection Agency and his hostility towards science and enthusiastic embrace of coal and oil as a “nightmare scenario for anybody who cares about the future of the planet”. He says that Trump has promised to “cancel the Paris Agreement on climate change Agreement”. The deal has been structured in such a way that it “would take four years for any country to back out, but that has not stopped calls from his supporters to follow through on his pledge.”


The Trócaire Executive Director says that the new US President “champions coal production and has stated his desire to reduce regulation and restrictions on mining and fossil fuel production”. Mr Meehan points out that the recent UN Climate Change Conference pointedly stated that “momentum is irreversible” and he says that any attempt by the new US administration to counter this would seriously weaken global progress. “This will have a devastating impact, especially on the developing world, where people are already struggling in the face of worsening drought and extreme weather”


Éamonn Meehan says that before becoming President, Mr Trump promised to “stop sending foreign aid to countries that hate us”. According to Meehan this is “open to huge interpretation, it signals the new US President’s desire to further politicise aid by only funding countries with governments considered friendly to US interests.” About one third of American aid is directed at health programmes, so any reduction would, according to the Trocaire chief, have an immediate impact on progress against disease, particularly in Africa. What Mr Meehan sees as worrying would be if Trump uses aid money as a way to influence domestic policies across Africa and the Middle East. “Given Chinese influence in Africa, this could spark a mini-Cold War across the continent as east and west prop up friendly regimes”


President Obama and Secretary of State, John Kerry, opposed Israel’s ongoing policy of settlement construction. Éamonn Meehan says that Trump “will likely give Benjamin Netanyahu a free pass to annex land and continue this policy” Two days after the inauguration we see settlement construction resuming. Trump’s stated intention to reverse decades of US policy, by moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is seen as ‘worrying” as it “would enflame tensions in the region”.


Last Saturday we saw the huge protest against Trump by over a million women across the US and all over the world. Trump’s election was condemned by equality activists around the world. In India, where women face endemic violence, Éamonn Meehan reports that activists there said that Trump’s victory was devastating because of America’s global leadership role.

It is estimated that one in three women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Given the well-publicised comments by the new American President on the matter, Eamonn Meehan says that Trump’s election is “a huge setback for efforts to protect women around the world.”


Trump’s most publicised plan was his proposal to construct a wall along the Mexican border. The Trócaire Director says that even if this plan never sees fruition, it seems inevitable that he will clamp down on migration. He points out that poor communities in Central America are often hugely reliant on remittances from relatives working in the United States. The casual nature of migration back and forth, he says, has echoes of Irish people’s reliance on the building sites of England in the past. “I have been in villages in Guatemala and Honduras where money from America is the difference between having food and going hungry. Trump’s hostility towards migration will have a devastating impact on these families. Sadly, they are not the only ones bracing themselves for a stormy period ahead.”

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Is there a way to prevent antibiotic resistant bacteria being the death of us?

There has been a lot of controversy recently over the Irish Cancer Society’s new awareness


Dearbhla Lenehan

campaign. Did you know, more people will actually die from bacterial-related illnesses than from common cancers? With increasing emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria this figure will only continue to rise. Dearbhla Lenehan, an Infection Biology PhD student and member of Transition Monaghan explains what antibiotic resistance is and measures we can take to slow down the development of these superbugs.


For a long time the idea of antibiotic resistant bacteria has seemed farfetched or theoretical. When this topic is brought up the response is usually ‘they’ll find another drug or I’m sure something else will work’. Unfortunately, at present, there are no alternatives. In 2015, a bacterium resistant to the ‘last resort’ antibiotic colistin was identified for the first time in China. In 2016 similar findings were found in European countries. Now in 2017 an American woman has died from an infection caused by a superbug resistant to every available antibiotic. Could this be the start of a superbug-killing spree? Unfortunately, antibiotic resistance is increasing and is an issue that affects us all. The main cause of these resistances arises from misuse and overuse of antibiotics.

disk diffusion test.png

This graphic shows the routine antibiotic resistance test scientists use. The yellow lines are bacteria; the white circles are disks that contain different antibiotics. When you see a clear circular zone around these disks, that particular antibiotic is killing the bacteria. However, this bacterium is resistant to 3 of the antibiotics tested, as there is no circular killing zone surrounding three disks.

While, on the one hand, antibiotics save millions of lives, on the other hand, antibiotic resistance has been described as one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. Since 2000, there has been a steady increase in the prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Once easily treatable infections have now become extremely difficult if not impossible to treat; leading to immense discomfort and in some cases can be fatal.


How has this antibiotic resistance come about? Simply – misuse and overuse. Every time you take antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed. Antibiotics put a selective pressure on bacteria and in a bid to survive bacteria can manipulate their genetic material or acquire pieces of DNA that code for the resistance properties from other bacteria. Misusing antibiotics is taking antibiotics for a viral infection like a cold or flu. Antibiotics can only treat bacterial infections and won’t help your flu. Another example of misuse is if you do not finish your full course of medication, or do not take it exactly as directed by your doctor. In this case, not all of your infecting bacteria are killed off and in a bid to survive and re-infect they begin to multiply and can find ways to acquire antibiotic resistance.


Overuse of antibiotics primarily occurs in the farming industry. In Ireland there are strict guidelines regarding the use of antibiotics in farming. However, even with this, a recent report published by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland found that there is still potential for antimicrobial resistance transmission in the food chain. This transmission can occur if we eat meat that’s contaminated with antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, which is more likely in food from animals that received antimicrobial agents. It can also occur when animals treated with antibiotics urinate or defecate. Then traces of these antibiotics enter the soil and bacteria can gain resistance to them. These resistance genes can then be easily passed on to other bacteria and spread.

Bacterial-related illnesses affect the most vulnerable; the young, the old, those receiving chemotherapy and those undergoing organ transplants. Commonly, patients suffering from a completely different disease, sadly end up succumbing to secondary infections. Unfortunately, as more and more bugs gain antibiotic resistance, it’s becoming increasing difficult to help these patients. However, if we act now to inform ourselves about antibiotic use, only take them when we really need them and avoid their overuse, including in farming, we can slow down the emergence of these killer superbugs.

Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, said 72 years ago “the thoughtless person


Alexander Fleming

playing with penicillin treatment is morally responsible for the death of the man who succumbs to infection by penicillin resistance”. Unfortunately, his words are becoming a reality and with the increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistance, we will soon enter a post-antibiotic world.



January noticeboard can be found by clicking here 

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Responsible travel and still having fun!

As January is a time that many people think about and plan holidays, Collette McEntee thought it a good time to look at what’s meant by ecotourism, responsible travel and sustainable tourism. Explaining to friends, who were not familiar with the idea, she described it as “Tourism that leaves as little effect on the environment as possible.” The general reaction was “Never heard of it, but it can only be a good thing”. She now tells us more.


Collette McEntee at the Taj Mahal, India

I have done my fair share of travel with a lot more to do. I have been happy to hop on a plane and be in the air for hours on end until I reach my next venture! India, New York, Paris, Glasgow, Kerry to name but a few of the places that I have had the pleasure to absorb.

However, I can hardly turn in my bed, these days, without harming the planet. It’s tough to keep up and sometimes, to even care. It is increasingly clear that almost everything I do, results in someone/somewhere suffering. Aviation fuel is a damaging contributor to our planet and is not taxed properly and so, by simply sitting on a plane, I am at fault.


It’s not all doom and gloom, though! Responsible travel can be adhered to in many ways and it starts at our own daily practices and lifestyle. Carry your own water bottle to refill, avoid using disposable products and packaging, reuse your towel, shower once a day (if even!) – the list is endless. We tend to go into holiday mode when we are away and forget that it’s the same sky and land that we are sharing. Avoid all-inclusive holidays; most of the time, premade, all-inclusive deals are serving a pastiche of what the place has/used to offer. It does not serve well to the locals or a true experience to the traveller/tourist and just pumps money back into the travel company’s base economy.

If you are travelling a long distance, you can make the trip worthwhile by interacting with the place and filter as much money back into the local economy. Making an effort with the new culture and integrating with the people will get you an authentic experience at an agreeable cost (even free!). Avoid short and/or shopping trips abroad where you will visit the same chain stores that are at home but just a car/bus/ferry journey away. Ferries and coaches have lower CO2 emissions per passenger than most aircraft.

Your visit drips back into environments and economies. When researching, don’t just look at the things to do but who/what trip providers are taking you there and their policies. There is a wealth of good, responsible companies that will pull from the local sphere for the experience they provide. Be vigilant and it will be a win-win for you and the locals.


I have been down the volunteer abroad route. Unfortunately, they are often flawed, devised and driven by money and smart marketing. If you are considering a trip like so, do your research and ask questions – how is the money spent? Is there an actual need for me and my skill set in that locality? You could be replacing local people and/or not needed at all and so, guilt and wasted expense are inevitable.

Responsible travel starts at your own doorstep. As they say, explore your own back garden! Inherently, we seek adventure elsewhere. However, recognise your luck to live on this emerald isle – these fields, lanes, communities, towns, pubs, skies, hills, mountains (and the list goes on) are ours. If the weather is right and/or you are prepared, Irish home-grown festivals are a holiday in themselves. Look further than the popular names and there is an abundance of smaller community driven festivals, only a short journey from your home.


Meeting the locals, experiencing the culture, munching on the local cuisine, learning something new, giving your own hard earned cash to an equally hard earning local business and the list continues. It’s good for the head and heart to enjoy the simple things in life such as exchanging a smile and conversation with another person. Being conscious of the people and place and being conscientiousness are key factors in responsible travel. Whether you are walking along Rossmore Park’s Barn Lake or Thailand’s Ko Phi shoreline, respect and respond positively.

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Barn Lake at Rossmore Park

Another thing to consider, especially in light of the recent rejuvenated fight for the homeless, is the amount of vacant holiday homes in contrast to the amount of homeless on our streets and waiting lists for housing throughout the country. Responsible travel is an all-encompassing term that can stir many varied discussions.

At the end of the day, remember, we are the sum of our behaviours. Actions speak louder than words. Go n-éirí an bothar leat! For more information, see and

A link to January events can be found here

February events can be found here

The Organic Centre’s gardening and food predictions for 2017

After a turbulent 2016 we felt that instead of trying to stare into the ‘sustainability’ crystal ball and coming up with predictions for the year ahead, it was safer to pick an aspect that is reasonably predictable – so we will look at what direction growing and cooking our own food wilhans.jpgl take. It also makes it easier if we consider what an expert in this ‘field’ says.  In the New Year newsletter from the Organic Centre, Manager Hans Wieland says that he had his “ear to the ground” and so he has come up with the following predictions for 2017. 


Hans and Gaby Wieland will be delivering a course on fermented foods on Sunday, 19 February at the Organic Centre

  1. More people will compost, because more people do experience the wonderful effect compost has in growing vegetables. More people also begin to realise how much money can be saved by recycling waste material. And because more people following the no dig method in gardening, compost is all they need. Everybody can do it and with a few recycled pallets a compost box is constructed in minutes.

    2. More people will kill their lawn in favour of planting fruit trees and bushes, a few vegetable beds or a herb patch, because lawns are unproductive, costly and time consuming. (Football pitches for kids are exempt!) The revival of growing potatoes in lazy beds as the best strategy to start a garden from scratch is already underway!

    3. More people will have a polytunnel, not just because undercover gardening is so addictive, but because the beauty of for example harvesting lettuce all year round can’t be measured in money terms only. Although the savings can be substantial it is the flavour, the colour and the taste of home-grown salad leaves that are unbeatable.

    4. With the help of polytunnels more people will grow and harvest all year round and experience the seasons in a very down to earth way.

    5. More people will eat weeds, because they are plants often higher in nutrients than our “ordinary” garden plants, but the real thrill for many gardeners often is to find these undervalued species in the wild thus satisfying our discovery instincts.

    6. More restaurants and cafes will have their own kitchen gardens and kitchen gardeners supplying the enterprising chefs with the freshest vegetables and herbs imaginable and often resulting in simple seasonal dishes of extraordinary flavour.

    7. More people will eat fermented foods as they learn how easy it is to cook, pickle and preserve with the help of micro organisms.


The Organic Centre is located in Rossinver, Co Leitrim. They commence the 2017 course with ‘Starting a Garden from Scratch’ on Saturday, 18 February.  See the full course listing and seed catalogue at Note that Cavan Monaghan ETB will run a course on Plant Identification, Care & Maintenance in Castleblayney  commencing on Wednesday, 1 February, 10am – 1pm (15 weeks). See ‘Latest News’ at For more GIY expertise why not go along to Monaghan GIY events or check out

 Sustainability 2016: the good and bad news

 The bad news on the sustainability front from 2016 seems to have dominated in 2016. We list below some of the highlights of the bad news and the good news.


The Bad News

Climate Change: 2016 was the hottest year on record and this is unwelcome news for people trying to grow food in many parts of the developing world.  Increased migration will be one of the issues that will arise.


Destruction of Nature: In 2016 we have the confirmation that between 1970 and 2020 almost two thirds of the entire world’s wildlife will have gone and the extinction rate is on the increase.


President-Elect Trump: On the political front the environmental policies of the incoming administration in the US are likely to speed up climate instability and nature extinction.


Ireland’s Climate Damaging Emissions: The EPA confirmed that Ireland is unlikely to meet our 2020 EU greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.


The Good News

Paris Climate Agreement Ratified: Most governments from around the world (including the Irish Government) have formally ratified the Paris Agreement. In the Agreement world leaders pledged their support to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius in this century.

Campaigns against Fracking / Fossil Fuels:  In Ireland a Bill to ban fracking passed its first crucial vote in the Dáil.  Thousands of people worldwide campaigned to break free from fossil fuels. This led to the shutting down of major coal-fired power stations in Wales and Germany. The Sioux people at Standing Rock in the US and their allies successfully protested against the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline.  The US government also abandoned its plan for oil and gas drilling in Arctic waters.

Protecting our Oceans: In 2016, more than 20 countries pledged almost €5 billion for ocean conservation and created 40 new marine sanctuaries covering an area of 3.4 million square kms

Global Health Improvements: Among the successes reported by the World Health Organisation was one which stated that since the year 2000, global malaria deaths have declined by 60%.

Events on in January can be found here