A Time of Opportunity: Reflections from Féile Bríde 2016

Imogen Gunner and Hajjime play during Afri's 2016 Féile Bríde.
Imogen Gunner and Hajjime play during Afri’s 2016 Féile Bríde.

“I became a vegetarian and I started using ‘Ecosia’ as my search engine”, was how Keziah Keenan O’Shea, one of the youngest ever speakers at Féile Bríde described her response to becoming aware of the urgent threat posed by climate change. Keziah was one of two students from Mount Temple School, with which Afri had worked in advance of the Paris Climate Change Conference in order to send a  message to world leaders on young people’s concerns about the welfare of our planet.

Short film by RoJ

The other student was Ruairí Atack, who spoke about the link between climate change and militarisation – an often missed link in public discourse.  Ruairí spoke about the” incredible levels” of military spending – $1747 billion worth in 2014.  The military impact of this was shown in a recent report in the Guardian newspaper stating that: “The Iraq war was responsible for 141m tonnes of carbon releases in its first four years… On an annual basis, this was more than the emissions from 139 countries in this period, or about the same as putting an extra 25m cars on to US roads for a year.”

Keziah and Ruairi were among an impressive line-up of speakers which included Friends of the Earth Director, Oisin Coghlan, and Professor Emeritus of Economics at TCD, Alan Matthews.  Oisin outlined a number of issues that Friends of the Earth are pursuing as a priority, such as achieving a ban on fracking in Ireland; putting in place a payment for solar electricity so households and communities can get paid for the power they feed into the grid and making a plan to stop burning peat for electricity by 2020 and coal well before 2025.  Alan Matthews said that Ireland would be better off, financially and environmentally, by getting out of beef farming and transferring land over to forestry instead.

Alan Matthews speaking about forestry and farming. Photo: Oisin Coghlan, Twitter
Alan Matthews speaking about forestry and farming. Photo: Oisin Coghlan, Twitter

Speaking from the floor, Paula Byrne of Wind Aware Ireland highlighted  the damaging role of Moneypoint Power Station and the potential of converting it to biomass, which she claimed would meet Ireland’s 2020 target in ‘one go’.  She claimed that wind energy is not as efficient at reducing greenhouse gas emissions as commonly believed. She also said that the current approach of industrial scale wind farms, imposed on communities without their consent is not the way to go.

An oak tree was planted in memory of Afri’s great friend and supporter Roisín Mhic Aogáin in the grounds of Solas Bhride at lunch time – a tribute to a remarkably kind, caring and inspirational person.

The afternoon featured ten groups and individuals who are taking practical steps to tackle climate change. This session included speakers representing Solas Bhríde; Baltinglass Community Garden; Cloughjordan Eco-Village; Cabragh Wetlands; Dublin Cycling Campaign; Irish Seedsavers Association and Trócaire as well as a speaker on vegetarianism and the benefit of using solar panels – even in Ireland.

“Live your way into new kinds of thinking” was a message from this session and indeed from this year’s Féile Bride and the wonderful music of Imogen Gunner and her friend Hajime as well as RoJ Whelan provided an inspiring soundtrack to the day’s activities.

By Joe Murray

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