At the beginning of September, a 15-year-old girl in Sweden went on strike from school. In the run up to the Swedish election, she sat on the steps of parliament every day during school hours for three weeks.
She did this, not because she didn’t like her new teacher or enjoy her studies, but because of what she had come to know and accept. That if we are to continue on our current path, we will alter the world’s climate in a way that will be catastrophic for us all. The very place that enables us to live out our hopes and dreams is, right now, facing its biggest threat - us. Armed with this knowledge and a sense of moral responsibility, Greta Thunberg started a movement. After the initial three weeks, she has returned to school for four days a week but continues to sit each Friday outside the Swedish parliament, demanding that her government takes actions consistent with the Paris agreement. It hasn’t taken long for people to take notice either; she has now spoken at rallies in Brussels, The Hague, has thousands of followers on Twitter and has sparked the inspiring hashtag #FridaysforFuture.
The IPCC report
According to Climate Action Tracker, the current policies in 32 countries (where EU member states are taken as one) are not sufficient to deliver the pledges made in Paris. The urgent need to act is backed up by yet another landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); which states that unprecedented changes are needed to keep the temperature rise between 1.5C and 2C. I had been feeling quite down reading this news. However, since I started following Greta, I am returning to a state of hope. If we listen to our children’s’ voices and take the necessary steps, we can get back on track.
Bringing climate action home to Ireland
I recently brought my two girls Matilda (11yrs) and Róisín (9yrs) to a climate conversations event in Carrick-on-Shannon. The event, hosted by the Sisters of Mercy, was uplifting. Around 200 (well informed) people came together to discuss the big issues and get to grips with what is needed to be done. I was delighted to speak about what we are doing at SEAI to promote sustainable energy and to highlight the challenges we face.
The mere presence of my two girls in the front row changed the nature of many of the conversations that day. I detected an enhanced sense of responsibility from the adults in the room. Having young people involved in conversations and decision-making that impacts their future is essential, in my opinion. Try telling an 11-year-old that we have a potentially catastrophic problem which we know how to fix, but that we are not going to. There is no ‘because’ or ‘economy this’ or ‘politics that’ or ‘it’s not straight forward’ that sufficiently answers their ‘why not?’.
It’s going to take a huge shift in thinking to make the changes necessary. It’s going to take changes to the very foundation of our economic system, our lifestyles and our political processes. And these changes will need to be supported by governments the world over.
Becoming personally empowered to take climate action
My own mood lately has depended to a large extent on what I read about climate change. So how do I empower myself? How do I get connected to a belief where I too can make a difference to this global issue?
There is plenty to do. If you are feeling in anyway disempowered, take a leaf out of Greta’s book and take action. You don’t need to start your own movement, but you do need to move. Consider the following shortlist as a starter to the huge menu of actions you can take to reduce your climate impact. Who knows where it might lead?
Become an energy citizen
- Increase your own awareness of the issues. The book ‘Climate Generation’ by Lorna Gold is an excellent read for young and old, and inspired this blog. I find Twitter a great place to keep up with the conversation too.
- Talk to the young people in your life about climate change and what we need to do. It’s their future and they should be empowered to influence it. Consider bringing them to climate and sustainability events in your area. Savings our planet is a wonderful project to share with young people!
In your community
- Join a Sustainable Energy Community – we’re better at solving big problems together. Birdhill community in Co Tipperary are one of 200 community groups who have joined SEAI’s community network.
- Tell your local political representatives how important climate action is to you and your family.Talk to them about it next time they knock on your door.
In a world first, the Irish Government recently sold off its investments in fossil fuels. You can do that too. This one takes a bit of research to find out if your bank or pension fund invests in fossil fuels – and if they do, check out options to shift your money. There is some very useful information on how to take action here.
There are many ways to make your home more energy efficient and comfortable.
- Try out some of our energy saving tips and you will soon notice lower energy bills!
- Choose an energy supplier committed to supplying high levels of renewable energy. It’s easier to switch than ever
- Consider improving the insulation in your home - your attic, walls and windows. We provide home grants to help with the costs of the upgrade. Check out Fiona’s short video that shows the transformation of an old cottage to a modern warm comfortable home with support from SEAI.
How you travel (or get around)
- Cycle or walk to work. City bike schemes becoming very popular. Sign up and give them a go.
- Use public transport if you can. Or try car sharing. Lots of new companies offering this facility. Check out Go Car for more information.
- Switch to driving electric. With grants and VRT relief of up to €10,000 for EV drivers, more and more people are opting for electric cars. Check out our website for more details on grants and how to book a test drive.
Follow Jim on Twitter @jimmerz50