STANDING TOGETHER In September 2019, the Global Day of Action on Climate Change saw 4 million protestors take to the streets. The event was marked by a solidarity protest at the Octagon, Westport, organised by local artist Pauline Garavan, who is pictured speaking to the gathered crowd. Pic: Conor McKeown
Nature and rewilding
September 25 was Global Climate Strike Day, a continuation of the Fridays for Future climate protests. Restrictions across much of the world inevitably led to a reduction in the number of protests, and to some outside observers it might seem like a loss of momentum. However, I could detect no such thing when I joined the socially distanced protest by Extinction Rebellion on the Mall in Castlebar.
On that day, we joined 3,500 other locations around the world calling for greater urgency in the fight against climate change. The date also marked Greta Thunberg’s 110th week of Friday for Future protests, which started in August 2018. That’s a long time for anyone, never mind the young climate activist. But Greta and others are driven by an eco-anxiety that stems from a certain knowledge that not enough action is being taken by our political leaders to avert the appalling future that is the climate crisis, or any global temperature rise above 1.5 Celsius.
Eco-anxiety is the feeling that often arises when someone begins to properly understand what climate change really is. They’ve let a life-changing picture of the future into their hearts and consciousness, and there’s a feeling of shock and despair. Young people feel a sense of anger, of being powerless and overwhelmed, and thoughts of a dystopian future can be constant. For their own peace of mind, it is then important that they get together with others who are doing something about it. A seemingly small step, but also a very mature step I might add.
‘Are they right to be anxious?’, you may ask. They most certainly are, but they should never have been put in this position.
It’s easier to understand this despair when a young student climate activist like Theo Cullen-Mouze from Clare Island explains it: “Like many young people, I harbour fear and uncertainty regarding my future and have definitely witnessed climate breakdown unfolding over my short life. This has only strengthened my resolve to effect change. School climate strikers had no choice but to grow up fast.”
Given the scale of the challenge and the fact that the clock is ticking on our time to act, there is no such thing as doing too much or a sense of urgency that’s too great. This is an existential emergency, and we must start treating it as such. As fast as possible is the only rule that matters.
Not everyone is anxious about climate change of course. Adults have better coping mechanisms, the sharp lessons of experience learned down through the years. Our young climate activists, their minds are preoccupied with a climate-ravaged future, where the worst will happen. Why? Because as long as they’ve lived, my generation has given them only glimmers of hope, only for those hopes to be dashed.
As we get older we can live in both worlds, the dystopian one of climate breakdown and then put that away for a while to wonder how we’ll spend the evening. Our own climate action group, Coastal Communities for Climate Action, was always full of the joy when getting together for Fridays for Future at The Octagon in Westport. We asked nothing of the people we met and were always pleasantly surprised at the support we received week after week.
Compared to last year, I do see signs of hope. Our politicians are more open to listening. The major industrial countries of the world are ramping up their commitments. Coal use is dropping faster than expected; renewables have never been cheaper or more efficient; and there are hints from multiple sources that in the next few years a revolutionary new type of battery (an all-solid-state battery, or ASSB) is going to make renewable energy a win-win for a better future.
I wish you all the hope that I’m feeling right now about the direction in which we are all going. It’s time to wind down now. We deserve a break after the year we’ve had.
Pat Fahy is Biodiversity Officer with Westport Tidy Towns.