Earth Overshoot Day and Our Right to a Healthy Environment

Earth Overshoot Day and Our Right to a Healthy Environment

Earth Overshoot Day and Our Right to a Healthy Environment  
Firemen put out house fire
Criomhthann Morrison
6th of Aug 2022
For anyone interested in sustainability, climate justice, and related topics, Thursday 28th July 2022 marked two notable events – Earth Overshoot Day, and the UN General Assembly passing a resolution recognising the human right to a healthy environment. Simply put, Earth Overshoot Day tells a story of how much we’re overusing our planet. Global Footprint Network looks at what the planet can naturally generate in a year, and then compares that with what human societies are taking from it – and for 2022, July 28th is the day we hit the limit. After this day, we are taking from our reserves for next year, the year after that, and so on. Unfortunately, we have already done this for about five decades – since the 70s at least, and have progressively taken more and more.
Bar chart spanning 1971 to 2022 showing increasing overconsumption of our planet, suggesting we need 1.75 Earths to meet our demands today.
Bar chart spanning 1971 to 2022 showing increasing overconsumption of our planet, suggesting we need 1.75 Earths to meet our demands today. See Past Earth Overshoot Days for the image and more information.

The Earth Overshoot Day website highlights some solutions to help #MoveTheDate, ranging from the individual-level actions to the national- and global-level. These are relatively easy reading for people new to the topic. That said, Overshoot Day has also received criticism on several points. You can find a nice deep dive into the notion of the carbon footprint by Tammy Gan here, which is a large part of the ‘ecological footprint’ used in GFN’s calculations. Prof. Robert C. Richardson wrote a critique on the nitty gritty of the data and methods used by GFN, and GFN later wrote a direct response and a larger Limitations and Criticisms Guidebook.

 

“… readers most likely live in societies designed to overconsume, and have to make choices within these unsustainable systems just to get by.”

For the casual reader, here are two main takeaways: first, while it is important to consider one’s individual impact on the spaces around us, we should also be wary of individualising the problem; readers most likely live in societies designed to overconsume, and have to make choices within these unsustainable systems just to get by. Second, the ‘ecological footprint’ isn’t a perfect measure and doesn’t capture the full scale of indirect and system-level impacts of ecologically-damaging activities. It explicitly doesn’t seek to, rather aiming to give minimum benchmarks for countries and our global humanity to recognise where we are in the story, and what we need to aim for. That said, we can still use these concepts as tools in the larger conversation to help identify the roots of our problems and how we can take meaningful, informed action to address them.

It is also worth noting that Ireland’s Overshoot Day was 21st April. This means Ireland’s worse than the global average, dragging the rest of the planet in the wrong direction – rating ‘very low’ on 4 out of 5 indicators of the 2022 Climate Change Performance Index, and ranking 46 out of 64 countries overall. And in the midst of Ireland’s July heatwave, Ireland’s Climate Change Advisory Council warned that we’re not prepared for the climate now nor what’s coming at us next, soon followed by scathing critiques from multiple sides of the revealed sectoral targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, including not meeting the minimum targets previously set by the current government for 2030.

Alongside Earth Overshoot Day, after recent progress and similar moves across the EU and UN, the UN General Assembly, the main policymaking organ of the UN, passed a resolution recognising the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Like the metrics used to track ecological footprints, this resolution isn’t perfect: it is not legally-binding nor does it set clear standards, among other issues, which make it difficult to keep governments and corporations accountable to it. Nonetheless, it is another major step for meaningful institutional support for grassroots and policy-level work to achieve a just, sustainable and equitable world. We should celebrate it.

 

Image of the votes of all countries of the UN General Assembly to pass a resolution on the human right to a healthy environment. There were 161 votes in favour, 8 abstentions, and 0 votes against the resolution
Image from UN News Tweet. This shows 161 votes in favour, 8 abstentions, and 0 votes against the resolution.

This is just one of loads of other genuinely great achievements happening around the world, and there are lots of ways to hear about the progress being made. Some Instagram pages I use to keep updated on climate issues and opportunities in Ireland to learn more and meet people are @climatealarmclock, @actnow_collective, @climateambassador, @friendsoftheearthireland and @climateloveireland (who STAND had a chat with back in April). You’ll find dedicated ‘good news’ posts and podcasts among these pages and also at @earthlyeducation,@ecoresolution, @futureearth and @intersectionalenvironmentalist. While I’ve linked to every group’s Instagram page, you should check them out on other platforms you use too!

 

Feeling overwhelmed about the climate crisis? Check out our recent article ‘We’re Making Progress: Hope in the Face of Climate Catastrophe’ to learn about how we have already fought for the future.   Featured Photo by Ester Tuttle on Unsplash This article was supported by: STAND Engagement Coordinator Aislin Lavin.

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Meet Treasa Cadogan, United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland

Meet Treasa Cadogan, United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland

Meet Treasa Cadogan, United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland

Protesters Attend March for Refugee Rights
N K Initials for Niamh Kelly

6th of July 2022

Treasa Cadogan is a United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland for 2021-22, and “a very proud Cork person” from Cape Clear Island (with a population of less than 200 people, according to the 2016 Census). The United Nations Youth Delegate Program began in Ireland in 2015 with support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and National Youth Council of Ireland. The goal of the program is to empower young people “to be active global citizens contributing to building a world of justice, equity, and dignity.”

 

Treasa’s Journey to the Role 

Treasa’s journey to becoming a Youth Delegate was an accumulation of previous experiences and undertakings. “Nothing stands alone, nothing stands by itself”, according to Treasa, whose first involvement in community work began at a young age when helping her mother with local family fun days to raise money for charity. Later on, Treasa engaged with more local issues and joined the board of the Cape Clear Island Development Co-Operative. Alongside her growing interest in community work, Treasa became more involved in advocacy when completing a Bachelor’s degree in International Development and Food Policy in University College Cork. Her studies helped to lay the “foundations for becoming a youth delegate” which combined with her local community involvement and learning more about global issues.

A rural upbringing on a small island has surely influenced Treasa’s areas of interest including “rural development, youth participation and getting young people involved”. The limited number of people on Cape Clear impacts on who interacts with who, what everyone talks about, and how often these interactions occur. Treasa notes that intergenerational learning is a huge part of her rural community, and that the benefits of sharing different perspectives (particularly across generations) and learning from each other are integral to local, as well as international, development.

Treasa also has “an interest in food systems and sustainable farming, which, obviously coming from rural area and from a farm, it kind of goes nicely into that kind of climate action that [she] feel[s] like our whole generation is really interested in”. Treasa was awarded the Climate Ambassador Outstanding Achievement Award in 2020 for her work on local climate action in Ireland, and becoming a Youth Delegate has given Treasa the opportunity to see how these local issues are a microcosm of global problems such as climate change.

Since becoming Youth Delegate, Treasa has become more aware of issues beyond Ireland and what is reported in the Irish media. For example, a few weeks after the beginning of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Treasa attended the United Nations Security Council and heard about conflicts in other countries she had not been aware of. Learning about other issues does not subtract from what someone already knows, but as Treasa explains, there is “so much going on and you’re forever learning. I think that’s one thing that I enjoy after leaving college, that I still am continually learning”. The willingness to investigate topics for yourself and openness to gaining new knowledge and understanding are essential to move beyond preconceived ideas about global issues.

Treasa has utilised her role as a United Nation Youth Delegate for Ireland to showcase to others the UN’s impact on their own lives, from the  local to the national level. She highlights “how the UN-level policies influence Irish policy, which I don’t think many people know. They just see it as this big kind of institution that kind of talks every so often” and her role as a Youth Delegate entails “bringing other people along on the journey and hopefully informing other people of what we’re getting up to”. During her time in UCC, Treasa co-founded the UCC Fighting World Hunger branch and she is now involved in the Sustainable Development Goals including Zero Hunger. These initiatives have similar aims but are happening on different levels. Similar to the top-down influence of international organisations and governments on policies, local movements also influence from the bottom-up.

 

Policymakers do notice things like that. The government, TDs and MEPs. They will notice these grassroots initiatives which will hopefully create movement in government level policies and local policies.”

 

For example,the formation of the UCC Fighting Hunger branch by Treasa and other students prompted the UCC Student Union into action. UCC Fighting Hunger highlighted the struggles for some students to access affordable food and in response, the UCC Student Union started a food bank to support students in this situation. Grassroot initiatives can draw the attention of larger organisations and leaders to issues that would benefit from their involvement. Local movements can bring about change to government policy, just as governments decisions have local effects, by emphasising issues that impact both levels. As Treasa phrased it, “it’s kind of that bottom-up or top-down. They have to meet eventually in the middle”.

Treasa has also enjoyed meeting Youth Delegates from other countries and expanding her network far beyond Cape Clear and Ireland. A standout moment for Treasa as a Youth Delegate has been attending the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, during which she also attended the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly. Treasa has also given speeches to the European Parliament about youth participation in rural development. She has organised UN Food Systems Summit Independent Dialogues and spoken at events such as Oxford Real Farming Conference and Girl Up India.

 

“The best thing is to just take the first step…”

 

If Treasa’s work as a Youth Delegate and beyond has inspired any young people to become involved in foreign policy and diplomacy, her advice is that “the best thing is to just take the first step” and to join youth organisations such as Comhairle na nÓg or Foróige (if under eighteen), or college societies. Treasa acknowledges that “it’s always so intimidating”, but “these organisations only want to see you improve and thrive”. The smaller steps will build up over time and individuals can learn from their experiences, so “Take the leap!”

The next steps for Treasa include another few months as a Youth Delegate and contributing to another event in New York. In the longer term, Treasa hopes to go into more humanitarian work. Two previous plans to do this were halted because of Covid-19, but Treasa is adamant about going “out in the field, out on the ground”  as “I never want to be the person who speaks about a development issue, but I’ve never actually experienced it in the country it’s happening”. Whether it is a community project on Cape Clear or international work as a United Nations Youth Delegate, Treasa continues to work to bring about positive changes on the local, national and international levels.

 

If you enjoyed this article, you can also read about STAND Contributor Patricia Gonzáles’ Instagram Live Chat with Diandra Ní Bhuachalla, the other UN Youth Delegate for 2021-22, by following the link. You can also watch the full Live Chat with her on our Instagram page @stand.ie, or directly reach it with this link

This article was supported by: STAND News and Comms Intern Criomhthann Morrison

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Meet Diandra Ní Bhuachalla, United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland

Meet Diandra Ní Bhuachalla, United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland

Meet Diandra Ní Bhuachalla, United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland
Protesters Attend March for Refugee Rights
N K Initials for Niamh Kelly
6th of July 2022

Since 2015, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and NYCI have partnered to provide the opportunity for young Irish people to participate in the UN Youth Delegate Programme. Each year, two UN Youth Delegates are chosen to form part of Ireland’s official delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. The aim of this public diplomacy initiative is to provide a platform for young people from Ireland to be represented at the United Nations, and to facilitate greater engagement with Irish youth on national and foreign policy issues. This is a unique opportunity for those wishing to get involved in developing policies that affect young people. 

We got to speak to one of the UN Youth Delegates currently in this role, Diandra Ní Bhuachalla. Diandra has an open mind towards possibilities and willing attitude to try, which has led her to opportunities such as this position. She decided not to pursue a career in law after graduating with an LLB degree, and rather use her experience with advocacy and lobbying to develop a perfect mix for the position she is in today. In our Activists and Innovators Live Chat series, Diandra shared what she does and how other young people can get involved.

 

Diandra Growing Up

From a young age, Diandra has been interested in global issues and injustice. She first became involved in student activism at age 14, when she joined her secondary school’s student council:

 

“The student council gave me an opportunity to be involved with the organisational process of campaigns such as anti-bullying and recycling. I really enjoyed being involved in the student council which led me to apply for Comhairle na nÓg.”

 

Diandra’s time on the Cork County Comhairle na nÓg was particularly characterized by her lobbying on transport for young people, eventually leading to the introduction of the Leap Card in Cork, with reduced fares for young passengers under the age of 19.  

Her volunteering experience with Comhairle shaped her and sparked an interest in politics. As a matter of fact, Diandra holds a Bachelors of Science in Government. During her college years, she did an internship in the New York State Assembly, which resulted in her becoming more interested in policy-making and the legislative system. Diandra believes she is “bringing political science and law together by studying a masters degree in MSC International Public Policy and Diplomacy.”

Her path to becoming a UN Youth Delegate started in 2015 when she first learned about it, though it was not until last year that she decided to go for it: “I waited until I really felt and believed I was the best person for it” (bold added).

Representing 1.3 Million Young People

For Diandra, being a UN Youth Delegate is a huge responsibility: 

 

“It’s an incredible programme, you need to realise its value before putting yourself forward. There are an estimated 1.3 million young people in Ireland, which seems virtually impossible to be able to represent each and everyone of them but it’s my job to be able to represent as many as possible. As a UN Youth Delegate, you’ve been chosen to represent them locally, nationally and internationally. You have to find a balance between both forms of representation; representing your country, and representing the young people of your country.”

 

Being a UN Youth Delegate is a voluntary role and varies widely day-to-day, from taking calls in different time zones to late nights with stakeholders in another country. Diandra has managed to balance her duties as a UN Youth Delegate with being a full-time masters student through her incredible organizational skills. Additionally, she has been able to focus her career path by making academics her top priority: “I have now realised that to make the biggest impact and to truly help people, I need to specialise.” 

Diandra sits in the centre of the photo with a sign on a table in front of her which reads "Ireland". Behind is a large conference room with rows of tables and desks with other representatives at the 66th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women..
Diandra at the 66th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March 2022.

“My main hope for the future is to have a future.” 

As a young activist, one of Diandra’s main concerns is climate change: “My main hope for the future is to have a future.” As overwhelming as climate change is, she believes that we still have potential to take collective, empathetic action:

 

“Everyday that we allow species to become extinct, have the worst weather recorded, we allow governments to give the fossil fuel companies a free pass, the longer we are putting the future generations in danger. The WE is collective – fast fashion, big contributors, governments and fossil fuel industry. We’re not feeling it like the Global South is; the impact is felt much deeper there, where the greatest proportion of the global youth population resides. We are furthering the divide in gender, education, and inequalities by ignoring climate change.”

By being a UN Youth Delegate, Diandra represents the power of young people, and hopes to be an encouraging figure for people to follow their dreams. In closing our Live Chat, she reminded us that if young people are experiencing problems, or want to take social or political action, she can be contacted through the UN Youth Delegate @unyouthirl social media channels.

 

 

If you want to learn more about Diandra, you can check out our STAND News Live Chat on our Instagram Page @stand.ie linked here, or watch the Live Chat linked here. You can also follow her journey on LinkedIn here.

If you enjoyed this article, you can also read about STAND Contributor Niamh Kelly’s chat with Treasa Cadogan, the other UN Youth Delegate for 2021-22, by following this link.

You can find author Patricia Gonzáles on LinkedIn by following the link.

 

 

Featured image provided by Diandra Ní Bhuachalla.

This article was supported by: STAND News and Comms Intern Criomhthann Morrison

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Hidden in Plain Sight: The Covert Conflict of Interdependence

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Covert Conflict of Interdependence

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Covert Conflict of Interdependence

Refugees Welcome Sticker
Brianna Walsh

25th of May 2022

“I feel like I am about to completely collapse: Totally disheartened, in despair, I cannot eat or sleep”

“There is an atmosphere of fear everywhere” 

“We needed to get out right away”

“They are beating and shooting us. There’s no food, no water. The children are crying, starving. Please.”

 

As the hearts of Europe beat for Ukraine, human voices cry out. Sounds from those most impacted by conflict and forced migration. The opening quote of this article emerges from a village near Kyiv in March 2022, from the pages of a civilian diary, an account of burgeoning war. The second is an aid worker in Myanmar that same year, in an article by The New Humanitarian concerning eight “other” ongoing conflicts. The third, from Amin Nawabi, expresses the requirement to  ‘flee’ Afghanistan during the 1980s Soviet-Afghan war. Finally, the fourth surfaces from Sally Hayden’s new “book of evidence”, My Fourth Time, We Drowned, a 21st century account of migrant suffering across the Mediterranean. 

Our Irish and European response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is welcome. The relaxation of European border controls to welcome Ukrainian refugees along with the concerted Irish effort to provide appropriate, conscious accommodation has been commendable. However, it may prove imprudent to pat ourselves on the back too soon. For all our achievement and praise, international attention must also divert to something of equal salience: what we could have been doing all along. 

In the last year, we’ve observed resources “appear” in mere days to provide thousands with pandemic unemployment payment. Structures once embedded in society, from education to employment, were turned on their head as working-from-home became the “new normal”. Much like policy’s speedy adjustments during the coronavirus, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict highlights a new way of thinking in times of crisis.It would be lovely to say that our world order has changed  in the wake of this pandemic.  A pandemic that demonstrated the unavoidable importance of global interdependence. It would be lovely, but it would be naïve. Vaccine inequity persists. Efforts to collaborate more sustainably are insufficient. At least eight other conflicts continue. And as more and more Ukrainian refugees enter Ireland, those living in an inadequate direct provision system risk even slower processing of their claims for international protection. 

 

So, why the change of heart? Why Ukraine, but not Syria or Afghanistan? Ethiopia, The Sahel, Yemen or Haiti? Why not the climate? Why not those who are already here?

 

 

People on Protest Against War in Ukraine

 

Sharon Mpofu, on behalf of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI), asks “if they can do it for [Ukrainians], why can’t they do it for other migrants?” She speculated that the media’s disparate depiction of Ukrainian refugees perpetuates a euro-centric approach towards asylum seekers; “I think it’s based on what has been portrayed in the media – they are from a European country, [they receive] preferential treatment compared to people of colour from different migrant societies. But [there is] one human race. We need to be treated equally regardless of race, creed, religion…” She shared her frustration at the quick processing and housing of Ukrainian applicants despite similar struggles of those living in direct provision for months now. The effort to “put tools down” and focus on Ukraine, “because its Ukraine.” 

While the physical distance of this conflict from Ireland is certainly worth consideration, it was when asked to share a final message from MASI that Sharon exposed perhaps the deepest roots of these discrepancies:

 

“[We want to] spread the word; we are not bad guys. We want to work with the government and Irish society and build a better future for tomorrow. We are here for protection, not to sponge off the government. If we work, we pay tax. We want to contribute to this country… and integrate properly.”

 

Structural racism in Ireland has become so entrenched, it’s even internalised by those suffering the bulk of its impact. Sharon emphasises migrants’ ironic understanding of Irish policy, expressing the desire to achieve public approval and “earn” a place here, rather than recognising the right that everyone should have to safe asylum. To food, shelter and adequate healthcare. The “right to have rights”, that can only be secured by international mobility and residence.

 

Where does this belief stem from? Why does it only affect people coming from specific countries and crises? The answers may be hidden in plain sight. 

 

Revealing our own implicit biases is hindered most ardently by the obvious; the fact that they are implicit. Implicit biases are the “attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner”. As overt displays of racism become less prevalent, and a robust far-right political movement fails to form in Ireland compared to other European countries, it is easy to mistake our normative opposition to intolerance as evidence of goodwill. That’s not to say blatant discrimination isn’t present, especially for minorities such as the Travelling community. But peeling back layer upon layer of the past lets slip an even darker undercurrent. A harsher, covert truth. 

The origins of the Irish Free State itself lead to a homogeneous, closed, Catholic society, where in the wake of British invasion patriotism triumphed and “the only enemy was outside”. Despite, and because of this history, Ireland shared an equal hand in the suppression of black societies, through charitable, religious missionaries overseas and the use of this “inherent” nationalism to justify xenophobic policies. Western biases also began to dominate Irish media and culture.  Essentially, in our pursuit of independence and establishment on the world stage, our capacity to discriminate was heightened. Our suspicion of outsiders. Our involvement in inequity. A sovereign state, but an active participant in exclusion. 

The “unproblematic” assertion that Ukraine is “closer to home” and therefore, matters more, says it all; this country differentiates without regard and without critical examination of its own preconceptions. It’s a reality that may be harder to accept in the context of our own occupation. But it is reality all the same. By taking a stand against brazen intolerance and sharing a history of colonisation with developing countries, it’s understandable that most Irish people would be offended if dubbed “racist”. But laced within that history are influences we haven’t escaped. Influences that are inherited, absorbed and instilled, whether we like them are not.

 

“The Europeans like our fish, but they don’t like our people”. Dr Rashid Sumaila, Professor and Director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the University of British Columbia. 

 

This reality was only intensified by international economic development. While globalisation liberalised borders in terms of goods and services, states re-asserted their sovereignty in response to this evolution. International laws loosened to allow for easier trade, while migration policies tightened. What was lacking was a corresponding international obligation to secure human rights. Although many nations have prospered economically from this neoliberalism, the share of the wealth, the work and the impact is disproportionate, with the most devastating effects felt by those in developing countries. In essence, border control was framed in financial terms. Resources, companies and capital were let in, while people, and more often than not, black and brown people, were the ones left out. And in a murkier twist, they’re the ones frequently blamed for the inequalities that neoliberal policies generate. Myths of “welfare cheats” and “security threats” emerged during the early 2000s throughout Western media and politics, beginning the long journey that leads today to Sharon Mpofu’s plea; “we are not bad guys.” Asylum seekers are not, in fact, a burden. 

Ironically, it isn’t immigrants who are “draining resources” from the government. It is the Irish State itself, through a policy environment in which asylum seekers were denied the right to work and contribute economically in Ireland until 2018. In which assimilation into Irish society is arduous, for children and adults alike. Through no fault of their own, asylum seekers are placed within a privately funded, profit-making system that has cost the State over €1.3 billion since its inception. An approach that yet again puts the lives of people in the hands of corporations. An approach that many have contended costs the government more than a socially-funded model would. 

And it’s arguably not just domestic policies that contribute to this strain. It has been long documented that the continuous pull of resources by Western countries from developing countries exacerbates the impoverished conditions that drive people to migrate in the first place. In a similar vein, the impact the West has on climate change intensifies the effects of conflict and poverty overseas. Nobody wants to leave their home. But due to these neo-colonialistic tendencies, again tied up in economic greed and a history of prejudice, many don’t have a choice. Proving that no matter how badly States want to protect their sovereign lands from the monetary weight of migrants, the flow of those seeking asylum is not set to cease any time soon. 

Lastly, asylum seekers are not a burden because asylum seekers are people. And people are not goods or services or capital. People are people, experiencing the same challenges, joys and realities that life presents, no matter where they come from. Except for some people, these realities are made infinitely harder based on exactly that; where they come from. One country’s “economic migrant” is another’s “expat”, based solely on their nationality and a refusal to recognise our shared humanity. 

 

And yet:

 

 “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Anne Frank, 1947. 

 

The Ukrainian crisis illuminates deep hypocrisies on an Irish and international scale. But the war, alongside Covid-19 and the climate crisis, also signifies the potential for change. The necessity for change, as even the Western economy faces risk. Potentially another reason behind our increased attention, the Ukrainian-Russian conflict represents another threat to our globalised system, unveiling the fragility of the neoliberal agenda in the same way Brexit, Trump and Covid-19 did. Our capacity to connect is both a blessing and a curse. In the face of international challenges that will continue to affect us all, it is time to reimagine a new way of working together. A system that places people and the planet at the centre, rather than on the sidelines. There are inklings of a shift towards this system. The pledge to abolish direct provision by 2024. A new scheme to regularise long-term undocumented migrants. The mass welcoming of Ukrainian people in itself is indicative of good intention. Of a system where we are independent but aligned on issues that matter to all. Where everyone can prosper, economically, socially and environmentally. Not just Ireland, Europe, Ukraine.  

Everybody. 

 

 

 

Featured Image by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Image in article body by Mathias Reding from Pexels

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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2021 Politics Roundup: The biggest stories in US politics

2021 Politics Roundup: The biggest stories in US politics

2021 Politics Roundup: The biggest stories in US politics

Collage of US news images featuring Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo, a January 6th insurrectionist, and a soldier guarding a tank
Sean Creagh

13th of December 2021

 

2021 was a mesmerising and consequential year in US politics. Here are some of the biggest stories of the year summarised:

 

6th January

After a substantially controversial and polarising election, the United States of America sat on the precipice of total civil disunion and chaos with the streets of Washington boarded up in fears of attacks from protestors.

 

Hordes of disgruntled Trump supporters swarmed the Capitol building with deluded hopes of overturning the election result. The “deplorables” went to the streets to seeking white-washed revenge against the changing face of America and vengeance against a system they felt had long forgotten them.

 

Rioters occupied the building for several hours whilst senators fled for safety in the lower quarters of the Capitol Complex. Pipe bombs were later found but had failed to detonate. One hundred thirty-eight police officers were injured, and five people died.

 

The president failed to take accountability for the insurrection and would later be impeached for a historic second time.

 

20th January

After a successful run for the White House, Joe Biden was inaugurated with a minuscule crowd on Capitol Hill due to Covid-19 related restrictions. 

 

His inauguration speech was solidarity focused but ushered in the themes of what the administration would ultimately represent. Across its 2411 words, the theme of “unity” featured the most. The incoming president would face many tough challenges: China, truth decay, mass unemployment – If Trump were Herbert Hoover, he would have to be Roosevelt.

Biden would immediately become the oldest sitting US president upon inauguration, at the steady age of seventy-eight. Kamala Harris also makes history as the first female Vice President of the United States.

 

February

Texas suffered a major power crisis, due to three severe winter storms sweeping across the state. This led to massive electric grid failure and the White House approving a major disaster declaration for all 254 counties.

 

Texas senator Ted Cruz (Republican) is rebuked by critics for choosing to vacation during this time. He later remarked his trip to Cancun was “obviously a mistake”.

 

March

The House of Representatives gave the green light to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in a 220-212 vote on 4th March. Racial profiling at every level of law enforcement would be prohibited, and any form of chokehold outlawed at the federal level. The qualified immunity for officers’ systems is also overhauled. The bill receives no Republican votes.

 

On 6th March, the Senate voted 50-49 to approve the COVID-19 relief bill: the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The legislation features $1400 stimulus checks for Americans and amounts to a total of $1.9 trillion of government spending – the most ever in US history. Biden signed the act into law on 11th March, and it became an early victory for the administration. The bill, again, received no Republican votes.

 

April

In March, US authorities picked up almost 19,000 unaccompanied children at the southwest border, the highest monthly number on record. This comes following the Biden administration’s rolling back of many Trump-era immigration policies, such as the immediate expulsion of unaccompanied minors.

 

Vice President Harris receives the most flack for the humanitarian crisis, as she had been put in charge of the situation in February. Images circulate on social media of children being dropped from extraordinary heights over the border wall by traffickers and further perpetuate the idea of chaos at the US-Mexico border.

 

June

On June 7th and 8th, Kamala Harris travels to Guatemala and Mexico to help rectify the immigration situation with Presidents Alejandro Giammattei Falla and Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

 

Meanwhile, Joe Biden attends the G7 summit in Cornwall on 8th June. Whilst the conference mostly centred around uniting western Europe against authoritarian regimes such as Russia (following the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny), talks of a global minimum corporation tax also prove constructive. The US applies pressure on countries such as Hungary and Ireland to increase their tax rate to 15% to create a fairer market environment.

 

July

Despite some early successes, the US has begun to trail other countries in vaccine uptake. By July, roughly 50% of the population is fully vaccinated, with growth in numbers slowing week on week. The new “delta” variant also proves problematic for America’s recovery from Covid.

 

The Biden administration pushes several incentives and mandates as a result, such as states providing $100 incentives for jabs and instructing federal workers to show proof of vaccination when coming into offices. Some of these measures prove unpopular and contribute to Biden’s now flagging approval rating.

 

The state of West Virginia also chooses to raffle off hunting rifles to vaccine recipients during this time.

 

August

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces his resignation, effective two weeks later, following a state Attorney General report on his sexual misconduct. His fall from grace is significant considering his rise to mainstream stardom the year previous, during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. His concise and direct press conferences received widespread praise in contrast with the Trump administration’s haphazardness and had some even calling for Cuomo to run for president in 2024. 

 

A year later, Cuomo resigns in disgrace. Democrat Kathy Hochul replaces him as governor.

 

September

On the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, the final US troops withdraw from Afghanistan. However, any sentimentality about the catastrophic event is completely clouded by the disastrous exit, which saw the Taliban recapturing the country within a few days.

 

A military embarrassment witnessed on the global stage; Biden’s poll rating reaches new lows. He received mass condemnation for his handling of the troop removal, with critics comparing the events to Saigon in 1975. Despite twenty years of US occupation, the wheel comes full circle for the region and is left just as unstable as when American troops first landed.

 

Also, this month saw new laws restricting abortion introduced in Texas. These limitations include removing abortion care beyond six weeks of pregnancy (and possibly earlier).

 

October

US coal and fuel prices have reached their highest level since 2009 as inflation continues to plague the rebounding economy. This has been driven by more robust electricity demand and a doubling of natural gas prices in 2021, leading some power generators to switch to fuel. High international prices have also propelled US coal exports.

 

The Department of Energy later announces a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help tackle rising prices.

 

November

World leaders attend the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland. Progress is made in critical areas such as cutting greenhouse emission gases and coal usage, but there is the noticeable absence of crucial superpowers China and Russia. Other global powers Iran and India, also choose not to attend.

 

Photos of Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson asleep at the conference also go viral.

 

December

EU and NATO allies get behind America’s assessment that Russia is preparing for a large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

 

This follows a significant escalation of US-Russia relations which sees the Biden administration directly warning the Kremlin of the ramifications for such an attack.

 

Debates around the consequential Roe v Wade ruling also resurface this month, following signals that the Supreme Court is preparing to overturn it as part of an ongoing legal battle with Mississippi lawmakers.

 

 

Collage was created in Canva by the author

Image Sources for collage (all creative commons): 

Top left, Top right, Bottom right, Bottom left

This article was supported by: STAND Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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US Foreign Policy Shift Cuts Out EU Perspective

US Foreign Policy Shift Cuts Out EU Perspective

US Foreign Policy Shift Cuts Out EU Perspective

Mercator Projection World Map
Charlotte Waldron initials

8th of November 2021

 

Since 1945, the United States has often counted on the European Union as a critical ally. Yet, recently there has been a shift in how the United States approaches its relationship with Europe and with influential European Union leaders like Emmanuel Macron. US President Joe Biden is determined to confront the rising threat of China and the United States Government is seeking new partners in this fight. 

The new US approach to foreign policy can be seen in the US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan despite protestations from their European Union allies. The new US approach was also clear from the formation of the AUKUS agreement,  the Australia- UK- US security pact aimed at confronting growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region. AUKUS was notable because it was formed without any EU member’s involvement. This confirms what European leaders had suspected, that the United States no longer requires the European Union. It is no longer integral to have the EU on side when confronting the critical issues in the 21st century.

For several years, the EU has wanted to position itself as the mediator-in-chief between China and the United States. This strategy is no longer viable. The rise of China has provoked a moment of reckoning for the EU and for the US- EU partnership. The European Union’s position is precarious. How it approaches this issue will determine its future place in international order.

The shift in the American approach to foreign policy was clear from their handling of the US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan. The opinions of European nations on how the withdrawal should take place were cast aside as the United States sought to remove themselves from a war they began, leaving a power vacuum which they knew the Taliban would fill. When dissent was voiced by the Czech President Milos Zeman at a NATO summit in June, where Zeman described the withdrawal plan as “cowardice”, it was disregarded. It seemed Biden was on a one-track train, determined to continue on his ill-fated journey unperturbed.

 

The rise of China has provoked a moment of reckoning for the EU and for the US- EU partnership. The European Union’s position is precarious. How it approaches this issue will determine its future place in international order.

The Biden Administration, hellbent on fulfilling a Biden campaign promise, left untold devastation in their wake. The US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan and the devastation that followed served to break the spell that surrounded Biden in his victory over Trump in the 2020 election. He propelled himself onto the international stage at the G7 summit in June with his ‘America is back’ narrative, aimed at reassuring allies that the Trump isolationist policies were gone. This narrative shattered before our eyes in the withdrawal from Afghanistan.  America is indeed back, but the rules of engagement have changed. 

The announcement of the AUKUS agreement proved what the Afghanistan withdrawal gave early insight into: the United States are redefining their foreign policy emphasis under Biden. The AUKUS agreement means Australia will be provided with US-made nuclear-powered submarines to confront the growing threat of China in the Pacific. In recent years, China has been growing its sea and air capabilities. The present-day threat of China is undeniable, from its land reclamation projects in the South China Sea to its continued aggression towards Taiwan. AUKUS is designed to establish a key strategic alliance with increased military capability, most notably nuclear-powered submarines but also cyber capabilities and underwater technologies all designed to meet the growing Chinese threat.

The AUKUS announcement provoked a strong backlash from France, which had an existing contract with Australia to provide diesel-powered submarines. The Macron meltdown, in which President Macron recalled his diplomats from the US and Australia, was about more than this lucrative submarine deal. The reality that France and other EU countries were excluded from this new Western Alliance to combat China speaks to a shift in the EU’s standing in the world.

As the EU’s foremost military power in the post Brexit era, for France to be left out of a military strategic alliance of this nature is a catastrophic blow to French and European strategic interests.  Macron was forced to confront a new reality. The European Union, while still remaining a critical player, is losing its prominence and is less integral to the US in how they approach global affairs. What AUKUS shows is that the European partnership is not central to US foreign policy going forward. As the US seeks to confront China, partners in Asia are becoming increasingly important.

 

The European Union, while still remaining a critical player, is losing its prominence and is less integral to the US in how they approach global affairs.

 

The dynamics of global affairs are changing. China is the catalyst for this great sea change. How the European Union approaches its relationship with China in the coming years will determine the future of its relationship with the United States.  Over the past decade, with Angela Merkel at the helm of the EU, Europe has increased trade links with China and in 2020 China became the EU’s biggest trading partner, taking over this position from the United States. Merkel herself believed that the EU should be a mediator between the United States and China as they look set to go head-to-head. Yet the views of European leaders are changing and the ending of Merkel’s tenure could see a shift in the approach taken by the EU. In the recent German election and across Europe there are calls for a tougher approach to China. This tougher approach to China will be difficult to impose giving increased levels of trade. It remains to be seen whether there will be the political will to do this.

China will be a great determinant of international order in the coming years. Where the European Union falls on China, as supposed mediator-in-chief or firmly on team USA is yet to be determined. One thing is for certain, the EU’s standing in the world is shifting. The nations of the  EU, while still important partners, are less relevant to Biden as he seeks to confront China. Biden has made it clear with his recent political manoeuvring that the time has come for everyone to pick a side on China. He has also shown he will act with little regard for traditional allies and is unwavering in his quest to achieve America’s strategic aims. European reluctance to engage with the question of how they will approach China has left them vulnerable.  They must define their role in this new international order and act decisively in the coming months and years. Otherwise, they risk having no seat at the table when the cards are dealt and this new international order is determined.

 

Featured photo by Andrew Stutesman on Unsplash

 

This article was supported by: STAND Business and Politics Editor Sean and Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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Inside COP26: USI’s Caoimhe O’Carroll Heads to Glasgow

Inside COP26: USI’s Caoimhe O’Carroll Heads to Glasgow

Inside COP26: USI’s Caoimhe O’Carroll Heads to Glasgow

Panel discussion at COP26
Caoimhe O’Carroll initials

1st of November 2021

Hi there! My name is Caoimhe O’Carroll and I’m attending COP26 on behalf of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) from the 1st to the 6th of November. I’ve never been to a COP so I really don’t know what to expect but I’m really grateful for the opportunity and keen to share my experience! 

So, what is COP? COP stands for the Conference of Parties and refers to the meeting of 197 members of the UN on matters relating to climate change. At these annual conferences, world leaders commit to certain pledges/ambitions in the area of climate action. For example, in Paris 2015 the Parties adopted a legally binding international treaty to limit global warming – aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050. In short, COP is “the room where it happens” when it comes to combating climate change.

 

because USI represents over 374,000 students on the island of Ireland, we believe that we have a real stake in what happens at COP26

Why have I been invited? I work as USI’s VP for the Dublin Region, and because USI represents over 374,000 students on the island of Ireland, we believe that we have a real stake in what happens at COP26. Climate Action may not be at the centre of our mission as an organisation but there’s no doubt that it’s at the centre of our future as young people. 

It’s really exciting to be able to actively participate in the conference this year. We were granted access by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications at short notice but there was no chance we were going to pass it up! COP is a fantastic opportunity to network with like-minded people, to learn more about climate injustice and to spread the message that we need urgent action now to save our planet. 

As a real newbie to the workings of COP, imposter syndrome began to kick in real quick… I am sorely aware that I am no expert on all things environmentalism. I’m no plastic-free, all organic, vegan. However, these concerns soon dissipated in some pre-meetings with colleagues from Friends of the Earth, STAND, Stop Climate Chaos, COP26 Coalition Ireland. They kindly reminded me that you don’t need to be an expert to engage with the COP and the voices of regular civilians are just as important as climate activists.

Heading to the airport!

How am I preparing? With the existential crisis out of the way, I’ve been getting ready to travel abroad for the first time post-pandemic. I found it impossible to pack since becoming so accustomed to life at home in lockdown! I’ve also been busy reading COVID testing requirements, following through with those tests, and recording the results accordingly. The restrictions surrounding COP are very tight and I’m required to do both a PCR test 48 hours before arrival in Glasgow and then daily LFT (Lateral Flow Testing) which is quite a demanding regime!

Packing light!

What will I do while I’m there? I don’t yet have a set schedule when it comes to my time in Glasgow. However, one thing is certain – I’m going to be busy! A lot of the official events have already been booked out but there will be plenty of side events, stalls and protests for me to participate in. I have loose plans to go live on Instagram every evening to discuss each day’s events and bring COP home in any way I can. I’m looking to push myself out of my comfort zone and be open to any opportunities that come my way. 

What are my expectations? So far, I don’t know what to expect! From my own perspective, my ambition is to engage with as many people as possible and to relay all my learnings back to the Irish student population. From a policy perspective, my hope would be that COP26 marks a turning point in climate action and climate policy. It’s key that COP26 brings about progressive and radical change to the global approach on climate change in order to adequately address concerns that our generation have. 

 

Want to learn more about what Caoimhe is up to in Glasgow for COP26? Follow STAND social media accounts for regular updates including an Instagram Live check-in!

 

Make your own contribution to confronting climate change by take the pledge to #RiseUp! Click here to learn more, to take the pledge, and to receive an action pack with 100 ways to make a difference.

 

 

 

Featured photo from UNFCCC

 

This article was supported by: STAND Student Engagement Coordinator Aislin Lavin

 

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Berlin Housing Referendum: How Did it Happen and What’s Next?

Berlin Housing Referendum: How Did it Happen and What’s Next?

Berlin Housing Referendum: How Did it Happen and What’s Next?

german flag in front of parliament building in Berlin
Sibéal Devilly initials

22nd of October 2021

 

The non-binding referendum held in Berlin has sparked hope for the future of renters in more cities than just the German capital. The referendum, which called for the expropriation of giant property landlords (vulture funds) campaigned for throughout the COVID-19 crisis, received enormous support. Receiving a total of 346,000 signatures, campaigners comfortably cleared the threshold of 175,000 needed to secure the referendum being held. The public desire for the referendum comes after Berlin rents have increased 45% in the last five years.

 

In Berlin, where 86% of residents are renters, the prohibitive rent prices, and a failed attempt at rent control have led people to try and make the government change housing policy. While the referendum is non-binding, meaning the government does not have to follow through on the motion, there is now significant public pressure for a policy change. The referendum calls for the property to be bought back by the state and used as public housing from companies that own over 3000 rental properties. The hope is that 240,000 apartments will be returned to state control, since the sale of public housing during an economic downturn in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

 

The inspiration the referendum holds for Berliners and non-Berliners alike is already apparent, even throughout the campaign many people living in other regions of Germany travelled to the capital city to take part in gaining signatures. The 56% of ‘yes’ votes (to 39% ‘no’) in the referendum outnumbers the votes any German party received in their federal election of the same day as the referendum, signaling that this is a motion that crosscuts political persuasion or party lines, an issue which impacts so many residents of Berlin, that party loyalty doesn’t appear to have been a major player in the passing of the motion.

 

The reclaiming of property for public use and provision of publicly owned housing would mark a shift away from market-based solutions to market-created problems

If Yes campaigners and voters are successful, this could mean a significant shift in the growing neoliberal norm of vulture funds and corporate real estate companies running rental markets in large cities throughout the world. The shift would set an EU precedent that has the potential to undermine many of the excuses provided by the government of Ireland when it comes to vulture funds here. The reclaiming of property for public use and provision of publicly owned housing would mark a shift away from market-based solutions to market-created problems such as prohibitive rents and build-to-rent developments in Dublin.

 

The referendum was held with the vote being based around expropriating property held by private companies (vulture funds) which own over 3000 properties. The motion rests on the the government buying back these properties and renting them to the public, in a move to reduce rent profiteering by property giants and re-socialise Berlin housing.

 

What next?

 

Campaigners have already drawn up suggested legislative documentation to back up their success in the referendum, using the same-day federal election to bolster their position as new parties look to create a viable coalition.

 

As for outside Berlin, renters around the world are looking on in hopeful admiration, waiting to see whether the newly elected officials of the region will set a fresh example of housing in the 21st century. In Ireland, where a referendum on the right to housing has been promised by the government, and where the most severe housing crisis, paired with the highest rents are preventing people from moving out of home, or in many cases, attending college, the German grassroots campaign serves as a case study to examine and replicate among ‘Generation Rent’, ‘Generation Locked-Out’ and ‘No Keys No Degrees’ campaigners. The form of the vote by referendum is particularly important in Ireland, where constitutional change is required to tip the scales of favour from protection for landlords, to the provision of housing for the people

 

Featured photo by Ingo Joseph

 

This article was supported by: STAND Business and Politics Editor Sean

 

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Questions on housing: What does art have to do with housing and cities?

Questions on housing: What does art have to do with housing and cities?

Questions on housing: What does art have to do with housing and cities?

Decorative 71 house number

Roisin O’Donnell

7th of October 2021

 

As we analyse the Government’s recent plan to address the housing crisis, this three part series aims to consider what questions are worth asking ourselves surrounding housing, and why.

 

Socially-engaged artist, Kate O’Shea argues that “if we are trying to create another social imaginary and another world, then we need other languages, and we need other spaces”. Some of the most interesting work exploring the impact of the current housing system on people’s lives is being produced by artists. Housing, for artists, is not not merely an area of interest, but a significant barrier to engaging in creative work long-term. Artists such as Kate O’Shea, Seoidín O’Sullivan and Fiona Whelan are creating projects that reflect the desires, hopes, and often devastating deficiencies that characterise people’s experience of living in the housing systems of cities like Dublin, and beyond.

 

Kate O’Shea is currently engaged in an artist’s residency–the Just City Collective–with Common Ground in St. Michael’s Estate in Dublin 8. The work of Common Ground includes connecting artists with the range of established community projects that exist in Dublin 8. The project focuses on ‘spatial justice’ in an area acutely affected by the financialisation of Dublin. Most recently, a four-part online series called ‘Networks of Solidarity’, aimed ‘to strengthen transnational networks of solidarity and deepen awareness of place-based struggles that reverberate from Dublin 8 to Gadigal Country (Sydney, Australia)’. Speaking to Kate, she emphasised that building deep relationships with people and groups in Dublin 8, and beyond, was the most important part of her work and life. Kate’s 2019 project, ‘Art, Activism, Architecture’ included exploration of the ‘The Living Commons’, a model of communal living that ‘moves beyond strictly policy-led integration attempts and instead works with a more natural mode of forming and nurturing long-term relationships between people through a focus on working on commons goals/interests’.

 

 

“Communities–with unique knowledge of their own place–should be leading environmental initiatives

 

Artist Seoidn O’Sullivan, in collaboration with Common Ground and UCD School of Geography created ‘Mapping Green Dublin’, another interesting project that posits that communities–with unique knowledge of their own place–should be leading environmental initiatives. The Community-led greening strategy involves people identifying existing green spaces, trees and spaces of potential intervention. The project’s mapping process, and resulting data, demonstrate the importance of expanding the types of data we draw on when discussing housing and urban space.

 

What Does He Need?’ is a collaboration between artist Fiona Whelan, theatre company Broken Talkers and Rialto Youth Project, exploring the lives of young men living in Dublin city. The public poster project saw responses to the question printed across the city, generated through workshops involving young men and community workers. Short and striking answers: ‘a decent pair of runners’; ‘to hit back’ and ‘hugs everyday’, demonstrate the power and potential of creatively using public space to start conversations.

 

Artists and arts organisations are also raising the issue of access to creative spaces for everyone. We can create housing and other spaces that recognise and engage the creativity that is intrinsic to us all. This creativity is essential to navigating the adaptations necessary to confront the various social, economic and environmental challenges in Ireland.

 

The housing and care of people experiencing and facing homelessness, and the work of organisations such as Community and Tenants Union and Threshold, must be prioritised in plans to improve the housing system. But, let us remember we deserve homes and spaces that meet our needs and allow us to live good lives. Let’s demand a system that enables us to build and shape our own spaces.

 

 

 

This article was supported by: STAND Business and Politics Editor Sean

 

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Questions on housing: Could we be the “architects” of affordable housing?

Questions on housing: Could we be the “architects” of affordable housing?

Questions on housing: Could we be the “architects” of affordable housing?

Architecture diagrams with a pencil
Roisin O'Donnell Initials

Roisin O’Donnell

4th of October 2021

 

As we analyse the Government’s recent plan to address the housing crisis, this three part series aims to consider what questions are worth asking ourselves surrounding housing, and why.

 

What kind of space do you want to live in? Our ability and capacity to shape our spaces is rarely considered a priority in the conversation about the production and supply of social and affordable housing. Housing is generally understood to be something people passively receive, or as the case may be, do not receive.

 

One organisation that is confronting assumptions about how we overcome housing challenges is Self-Organised Architecture (SOA). SOA is a ‘not-for-profit action research think tank’, examining potential of collaborative and cooperative housing in Ireland. SOA’s work is based on the ‘conviction that a house is not just a building, or an asset, it is a home: a place to live’. Community-Led Housing (CHL) encompasses a variety of approaches, including cooperative housing, co-housing and Community Land Trusts (CLTs). Their recent work has been the production of five rich and comprehensive guides to establishing a Community-Led Housing (CLH) infrastructure in Ireland. They define CLH as an ‘empowerment of future residents to meaningfully participate in both the design and long-term management of their homes’.

 

“Co-living brings images of tiny living environments to peoples minds, which is not at all what co-housing or collaborative housing advocates for

 

Speaking with Kim O’Shea of Collaborative Housing Limerick, she emphasised that co-housing is a means of creating homes that enable individuals to live intentionally, communally, and often more sustainably. Interestingly, Kim pointed to co-housing and collaborative housing as a means of living in cities that are becoming increasingly expensive, arguing that: “If people could figure out what they want from their living spaces… and come together to find like-minded people who have similar needs, then they could pool their resources and potentially have enough to buy somewhere in the city centres to live. Of course, this is simplifying the idea, so actually going about it is a bit more complex, and certainly very time consuming”.

 

She identified public perception as one of the barriers to the expansion of collaborative approaches to housing, stating that cohousing “has been incorrectly conflated with the idea of co-living, and brings images of tiny living environments to peoples minds, which is not at all what cohousing or collaborative housing advocates for”. There are now several co-housing and collaborative housing groups across Ireland. The main barriers to their growth include the lack of recognition of Community-Led Housing by state agencies and local authorities, and the lack of access to affordable finance and public land.

 

Nimble Spaces’ Inclusive Neighbourhoods is one example of the potential of Community-Led Housing. Nimble Spaces is a housing project that was initiated in 2012 by Camphill Community–a community of people with intellectual disabilities living in Callan, Kilkenny–in collaboration with Callan Workhouse Union. One of the first and most important phases was the collective exploration of people’s different ideas of home. Lid Architecture practice used games and movement as a means of determining people’s spatial needs. Nimble Spaces is hoping to soon embark on the construction of a mixture of social and cooperative homes. Nimble Spaces’ Rosie Lynch argues for the power and potential of engaging people’s “innate understanding of [their] needs”, emphasising that many people “just maybe haven’t had the resources, the time, the processes, the support, and the space to be able to articulate those needs”.

 

 

 

This article was supported by: STAND Business and Politics Editor Sean

 

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Questions on housing: What does housing mean to us?

Questions on housing: What does housing mean to us?

Questions on housing: What does housing mean to us?

A key ring with a number of keys and a house icon
Roisin O'Donnell Initials

Roisin O’Donnell

28th of September 2021

 

As we analyse the Government’s recent plan to address the housing crisis, this three part series aims to consider what questions are worth asking ourselves surrounding housing, and why.

 

Recent debates highlight the contested nature of approaches to the supply and financing of housing. Significant media and public attention has been given to issues such as the proportion of social, affordable and private housing to be built on public land; the role of the Land Development Agency; the financing of future plans; and what role private-equity funds should play. The supply of housing remains particularly important. Sinn Féin’s Eoin O Broin, asserts that if Sinn Féin got the opportunity to implement their housing plan, it would result in the large-scale building of social and affordable homes on public land. Professor of Economics in Trinity College, PJ Drudy, argues, in the Irish Times, that the new strategy must be ‘underpinned by a new philosophy which provides a central role for the Government…in the supply of housing’. He stresses the critical importance of a shift away from the current reliance on the private rented sector, limiting the role of ‘multinational landlords’ and expansion of a cost-rental model of public housing. The arguments outlined by Eoin O’Broin, PJ Drudy, and other politicians, commentators and activists, are becoming more mainstream, now considered a pragmatic response to an entrenched crisis.

 

Clearly, a coherent and long-term plan for the supply of housing is essential. Still, the highly centralised, top-down approach to the supply of social and affordable housing is often framed as the only alternative to the fragmented, failing and investor-driven existing system. But are there alternative means of producing, organising and owning housing? It is important to highlight the groups, organisations, artists and individuals who are currently imagining and advocating for an exciting variety of ways to build, own and occupy spaces in Ireland.

 

What does housing mean to us? 

What is home? What makes us feel “at home” in certain spaces? Has anyone ever asked you what kind of space you want to live in? Dr. Michael Byrne, a housing academic and activist, believes that establishing answers to these fundamental questions is important. Many people and families now live in the private rented sector long-term. His research highlights the impact of living in the private rented sector on people’s sense of security and control–both critical in creating “a sense of home”–as a result of an inability to physically shape homes, own pets, poor quality spaces and the abuse of power by some landlords.

 

 

“What should social and affordable housing be like if it is to meet people’s different needs? For what kind of person, family and life will it be designed?

 

The private rented sector fails to provide a secure and safe place in which people can flourish. So, what should social and affordable housing be like if it is to meet people’s different needs? For what kind of person, family and life will it be designed? Groups and organisations engage with these kinds of questions, using their answers to plan and construct housing they need and want. Housing, and the solutions we require, can be highly technical; spanning aspects of EU law and the complex structures of finance. The groups, organisations and individuals profiled below demonstrate that we can determine the spaces we live in, including their financing, ownership and management.

 

The question of how to meet people’s various needs also raises the issue of access to non-housing spaces, especially in cities. It’s crucial to interrogate the current narrative around the inevitability of change. The idea that Dublin, and cities in general, have been changed irrevocably by the pandemic has been a recurring theme in the media. But as restrictions ease, the question is also what has stayed the same. Change is not inevitable. The aftermath of the Global Financial Crash and the high levels of vacancy that resulted in Dublin, produced a temporary increase in access to space for ‘non-commercial cultural uses’.

 

But now research reveals how ‘policies introduced to support temporary use have been too weak, and subservient to Dublin City Council’s support of the commercial property market’. The adaptations we have seen in cities over the last year–pedestrianisation, more bike lanes–do not not necessarily reflect a significant shift in policy. If access to public and community spaces is something we believe people living in cities deserve, then the transparency of and access to decision-making at the level of local and regional government remains crucial.

 

Stay tuned for part two and three of this series.

 

 

This article was supported by: STAND Business and Politics Editor Sean

 

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Hong Kong protester convicted in first trial under harsh security law

Hong Kong protester convicted in first trial under harsh security law

Hong Kong protester convicted in first trial under harsh security law

Hong Kong cityscape
Emily Murphy

Emily Murphy

27th of September 2021

 

 

Hong Kong and China are often seen as interchangeable, an extension of one another. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The relationship between the two is deeply complex and involves a variety of political, legal, and economic variations. This difference is rooted in the fallout from the First Opium war. China ceded the island to Britain in the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 as payment for their debts. The former colony was returned to China in 1997, and Beijing began its re-integration attempts. The National security law which was introduced in July 2020 signified a more forceful and legally binding step in the removal of Hong Kong autonomy. As the first trial under this law gets underway, Beijing’s dedication to nationwide unification becomes ever clearer, and the independence of the people of the island slips further into living memory.

 

On the 30th of June 2020 Chinese legislators unanimously passed a new national security law. The law was introduced just weeks after it was first announced, its enactment bypassed Hong Kong local legislature, and the text detailing the logistics of the new law was kept secret both from the public and allegedly from the Hong Kong government until after it was enacted. The law has been criticised for a wide variety of reasons including its application to all individuals. The law asserts jurisdiction over those who are not residents of Hong Kong and those who had never set foot within its borders. This essentially means that regardless of nationality or location anyone on earth can be deemed in violation of the law and be prosecuted if they are in a Chinese jurisdiction.

 

The law itself is incredibly vague, terms like “ subversion”, “ terrorism”, and “conclusion with foreign forces” carry maximum penalties of life imprisonment however the legislation does not expand on what exactly is meant by these terms. Individuals can be arrested for “endangering National Security” which can mean essentially anything. People who have previously been deemed by the Chinese government to be endangering national security include those attending peaceful protests, or criticising the current Chinese government. Amnesty International has documented multiple cases in which journalists, lawyers, and other individuals have been charged with “subversion”. In 2017 Wu Gan was imprisoned for 8 years due to his criticism of the government on the internet.

 

Almost immediately after the law was passed, Chinese authorities began to crack down on peaceful expression. People have been arrested for carrying flags, stickers or banners which display political slogans, or for possessing items that can be deemed to be political slogans. Individuals have been arrested for wearing t-shirts containing song lyrics that could be deemed as endangering national security. As an act of protest after the law was introduced many individuals began silent and peaceful protests in shopping malls and other public areas holding blank pieces of paper. The Chinese government has also begun to associate this with subversion and other crimes under the new national security act.

“Almost immediately after the law was passed, Chinese authorities began to crack down on peaceful expression. People have been arrested for carrying flags, stickers or banners which display political slogans, or for possessing items that can be deemed to be political slogans.

Tong Ying-kit has become the first individual to be charged under the Hong Kong security law. The 24-year old was arrested after he ran his motorbike into a group of police officers whilst carrying a flag with the phrase “Liberate Hong Kong; Revolution of our times”. He was found guilty of “intimidating the public in order to pursue his political agenda”. Despite his defence team arguing for one. He was tried without a jury as the Hong Kong Justice secretary argued that the “jurors’ safety may put it at risk given the city’s sensitive political climate”.

 

 

This article was supported by: STAND Business and Politics Editor Sean

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