Nature and rewilding
Many would say that the most influential environmental photograph ever was taken on December 24, 1968, during the first crewed orbit of the moon, Apollo 8.
Showing the earth rising over the moon’s horizon, and popularly called ‘Earthrise’, it galvanised environmental awareness and was one of the main inspirations for the creation of the very first Earth Day, which took place just 18 months later.
On that day, 20 million people made it clear by their peaceful demonstrations that they were very much in favour of environmental reforms. Even now, many astronauts return from their space missions concerned about our planet home. Our tiny, fragile planet with its delicate band of atmosphere that holds all the cornucopia of life within.
More recently, at the aged of 14 and just four-feet tall, school student Greta Thunberg staged her School Strike for the Climate outside the Swedish Parliament in August 2018, sparking a surge in climate-crisis awareness globally and the #FridaysForFuture mass movement.
Prompted by heatwaves and wildfires in Sweden, she could not understand why everyone knew about the impending climate crisis but no one seemed to be doing anything effective about it. I also see this sense of urgency whenever I meet members of Extinction Rebellion Mayo.
Often called the Greta Effect, Thunberg’s message continues to spread. A global school strike on March 15, 2019, gathered more than 1 million strikers in 125 countries. September 20, 2019, was most likely the largest climate strike in world history with 4 million protestors, many of them school children.
Wanting to make sure that something happened on that day in Westport, and not hearing of any other plans, a new group – Coastal Communities for Action – met up for the first time in the Sheebeen that evening. The group was cofounded by Eve Menezes Cunningham, Zoe Davis and myself Pat ‘Surf and Turf’ Fahy.
It only seemed right that we should try to activate people of voting age, and where better than among the coastal communities that will be first to experience the detrimental effects of climate change. The motivating message is that governments can do much to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming to a manageable 1.5 Celsius – if they so choose.
Creating awareness is part of our reason for being. Coastal communities of Clew Bay from Louisburgh to Murrisk, Westport to Newport – communities that have long come together under separate banners like Save Bertrá Strand and Clean Coasts groups – were once passing strangers, now they can unite in a common goal.
The climate crisis is happening to all of us, and experts agree the most effective responses to it are collective. Acting together helps us feel less powerless. Finding out that you are not alone in this thinking and talking about it to other like-minded people is a really powerful thing.
Of course, if you want change, then be the change, but it’s more important to talk about it. Starting the conversation to raise awareness with others makes it real. Coastal Communities for Climate Action meets at the Octagon, Westport, every Friday from 1pm to 2pm as part of the ongoing #FridaysForFuture action. Hope to see you there soon.
For more information, see the Coastal Communities for Climate Action page on Facebook.
Pat Fahy is Biodiversity Officer with Westport Tidy Towns.