Can COVID-19 bring a cycling revolution to Ireland?

Can COVID-19 bring a cycling revolution to Ireland?

ENVIRONMENT

Can COVID-19 bring a cycling revolution to Ireland?

cycling in Dublin city
Elizabeth Quinn

Elizabeth Quinn

4th November 2020

Covid-19 has prompted us to re-think our systems of travel. In particular, it has encouraged many people to lose a few extra wheels and take to a saddle, handlebars and peddles instead. Many cities around the world have put in place temporary and permanent measures to encourage people to cycle during this time. The question remains – will these measures be enough to lead to a future where people see cycling as a viable and efficient way to travel?

 

I moved to Sweden in September 2019 to begin my master’s studies. In all of my introduction meetings and meetings with other students, I was given one piece of consistent advice – get a bike. Biking is a way of life here and one I have adapted. My friend and I, who also moved to the Netherlands recently, had a conversation about how we loved the freedom we had with our bikes. We can safely cycle anywhere we want because of the infrastructure for biking which exists where we live. I cycled in 2015 in Dublin and cannot say that I felt the same. Lacking infrastructure, Dublin created a sense of insecurity in me.

 

With Covid-19, the thought of a lot of people in confined spaces on public transport is not ideal. Social distancing on public transport is next to impossible, especially in highly populated cities. Countries worldwide have had to re-think how to promote travel and keep everyone safe. 37 out of 94 biggest EU cities announced cycling measures in response to Covid-19, providing a chance to redesign our cities for the future.

 

Milan is one of Europe’s most populated cities and has been hit hard by Covid-19. The city has begun schemes to reallocate street space for cyclists and pedestrians. There are 35km of new cycle paths and cyclist numbers on Milan’s main shopping street have risen from 1,000 cyclist pre-Covid-19 to 7,000 now. Generally, 55% of people who live in Milan use public transport to get to work, but the average commute is less than 4km which makes the switch from public transport to cycling a realistic potential for many. The government is also supporting those who wish to cycle and have pledged up to €500 to citizens who want to buy a new bike.

 

“37 out of 94 biggest EU cities announced cycling measures in response to Covid-19, providing a chance to redesign our cities for the future.”

Paris has also been leading the way in investing in cycling. €20 million euro has been ring-fenced for cycling since the start of the pandemic and uptake has increased. The French government is giving people €50 subsidies towards bike repairs and offering free cycling lessons for the general public. The number of people learning to cycle with these courses has increased from 150 people to over 300 people during the pandemic.

 

The Irish Cycling Advocacy Network which was set up with the goal of cycling becoming a normal part of everyday life in Ireland has been a force for change. They believe that Covid-19 is prompting us to reimagine our lives and our systems and rethink the way in which we commute. There have been record sales of bikes reported. The Irish government has responded in some ways to this uptake in cycling but more needs to be done for it to remain a sustainable alternative to public transport.

 

Some suggestions of what the Irish government should do are included in the Irish Cycling Advocacy networks pre-budget submission. Recommendations include allocating 10% of the transport capital expenditure (€360 million) annual budget on cycling projects, increasing subsidies for e-bikes and expansion of the bike to work scheme to be more inclusive to focus on low earners, students and unwaged. Institutional changes are also highlighted as needed in order to create a system which respects and encourages cycling. Legislative changes are also needed such as 30km/ph becoming the default speed limit in built-up areas and cycling promotion, especially among marginalised groups. Focusing not only on measures which should be taken but also institutional and legislative change which will provide the best long-term results for cycling encouragement.

 

The government have allocated the suggested amount of 360 million on walking and cycling projects in the Budget 2021. The government will support cycling projects in main cities, increased funding in greenways and the roll-out of the safe routes to school programmes. Greenways are traffic-free paths which are predominantly in rural areas. The Minister for Transport stated that a greenway must also link to urban areas efficiently in order for them to be used not only by tourists but also by the local population. This makes sense in order to have the best long-term results. The budget seems to take the suggestions of the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network seriously.

 

The change to cycling that COVID-19 has prompted has been long fought for. Cycling is having a moment. In order for this moment to be a lasting one political leadership is needed. Many schemes set up have been temporary. We must actively engage with politicians to keep the political will alive to invest in cycling not only now but also in the future.

 

Featured photo by IrishCycle.com

 
 

 

Climate Migration: Effects of COVID-19 Lockdown Measures

Climate Migration: Effects of COVID-19 Lockdown Measures

OPINION 

Climate Migration: Effects of COVID-19 lockdown measures

climate migration and covid-19
lydia howard Chevalier

Lydia Howard Chevalier

6th October 2020

Unfortunate, though it may be, the initially positive reactions of eco-activists after the introduction of strict lockdown measures may have been premature. Online reports of crystal-clear water running through the canals of Venice and visible starry skies in China proved to be the glimmer of hope we were all desperately searching for in the midst of these unprecedented times. That sense of hope was short-lived, however, and data soon emerged showing that although levels of carbon emissions declined somewhat thanks to lockdown measures, this was merely a temporary slowdown – and environmental damage from the burning of fossil fuels is continuing, unabated. Indeed, pandemic safety measures, such as the wearing of PPE, is contributing even further waste – non-recyclable face masks and gloves can be found discarded carelessly on our streets and in our landfills. Whilst our attention has been almost exclusively focused on COVID-19 during these past few months, we must not forget that nothing on our planet exists in a vacuum – climate change is inextricably linked with public health as well as with migration.

 

In 2019 alone, extreme weather events displaced 24 million people within their own countries – an alarmingly high number, serving as a stark reminder that we must not ignore the seriousness of the issue. Climate change is likely to result in even more frequent and intense weather events in the future, which will inevitably lead to a dramatic shift in the demographics of our planet. The displacement of large numbers of people is a high-risk scenario, particularly during a global pandemic – how can migrants obey stay-at-home orders when their homes have been destroyed by hurricanes, bush fires and major floods? Can we reasonably expect social distancing in cramped refugee camps or frequent handwashing in places where soapy water is often unavailable due to damage to infrastructure? Consider the example of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti; survivors in crowded camps were often forced to drink water that had been contaminated by flooded rivers and latrines, resulting in a serious cholera outbreak, killing many of those who already displaced. If we wish to suppress the spread of COVID-19, we must also simultaneously address climate change.

 

Hurricane Matthew: Haiti storm
Hurricane Matthew: Haiti storm

Hurricane Matthew: the impact on housing in Corail and Jeremie, Haiti (BBC, 2016)

Migration due to environmental change is not a new concept; however, the levels of climate migration have increased dramatically in recent years. According to the Migration Data Portal, in 2019 alone, nearly 2,000 disasters triggered 24.9 million new internal displacements, the highest number since 2012. These were mostly the result of tropical storms and monsoon rains in South Asia and East Asia and Pacific. While it is difficult to measure exactly how many have fled their homes as a direct result of climate change, it is categorised as a “threat amplifier”: something which exacerbates an existing situation, such as conflict or competition over scarce resources. Those who are forced to flee their homes as a direct result of sudden-onset weather changes face a complex legal situation when attempting to access assistance or seek asylum; the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) currently refuses these migrants refugee status, designating them merely as “environmental migrants” and leaving them out in the cold without legal protection.

 

Unlike the measures introduced to tackle the pandemic, there is no organised effort to monitor the migrant population, and the UN lacks the resources to address their needs. The Sustainable Development Goals mention climate action and the urgent need to address it; however, the refusal of the US to adopt the Global Compact and its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement are not very encouraging signs of a commitment to future action. The Global Compact on Migration represents a unique opportunity for the international community to understand the climatic drivers of migration as well as the impact of migration on the environment, while the Paris Agreement aims to strengthen the global response to climate change by setting out goals involving carbon-emission mitigation, new technologies and the reinforcing of countries’ adaptive abilities in the face of severe weather events.

 

How a situation is perceived is critical when planning an effective response. Too much doom-and-gloom on the news can lead to “crisis fatigue” – a phenomenon many are already familiar with, watching the ever-rising death toll on television every night. This can lead to a sense of hopelessness, which is only amplified when the population also views extreme weather events as “acts of God” over which they feel no sense of control. Utilising a crisis-narrative inhibits effective action, as crises are typically short-term, unexpected events of which we could have had no prior knowledge or indeed, any level of preparedness. This can be applied to both COVID-19, which proved to be the “Disease X” public health experts have warned us about for many years, as well as climate change, the effects of which we have long been aware of. We cannot keep burying our heads in the sand when faced with mounting evidence of the effects of both of these threats.

 

COVID-19 and climate change pose immediate and long-term challenges to our well-being and everyday survival; the New York Times estimates that in South Asia alone, the living conditions of 800 million people could dramatically diminish due to climate change. Therefore, both must be addressed with an equal amount of urgency, long-term planning and multilateral cooperation. One significant difference must be acknowledged, however: flattening the curve of climate change will take many years, as opposed to mere weeks, and will require effective, pre-emptive intervention. International organisations such as the UN should specifically target the most vulnerable populations when planning to provide assistance and support, as it is often the countries with the lowest adaptive capacities who suffer disproportionately from the effects of flooding, droughts and desertification.

 

“The lockdown measures we have all recently been subjected to has offered us a brief insight into the impact on human wellbeing of restrictions on mobility.”

The idea that closed borders represents safety while open borders bring chaos and danger is a flawed and dangerous one that right-wing populists across the developed world have capitalised on throughout both the 2015 refugee crisis and the current pandemic. The lockdown measures we have all recently been subjected to has offered us a brief insight into the impact on human wellbeing of restrictions on mobility – a mere snapshot of what it is like for those fleeing parts of the world rendered uninhabitable by the devastating effects of climate change. Whilst all public health experts recommend travel and border restrictions as a necessary part of the pandemic response, they emphasise that this must be done on a test-and-trace basis, instead of an all-encompassing blanket ban. Such measures could lead people to fear “outsiders” or “foreigners” as potential sources of infection, a fear which could translate into a long-term policy if we are not careful. We need to remember the opportunities and benefits of welcoming migrants into our communities: many societies are experiencing a demographic decline and ageing populations – a fresh injection of migrant workers can provide a significant boost to local economies, a much-needed necessity in many post-COVID nations. The irony seemed lost on U.K. politicians recently when many applauded and expressed gratitude to the NHS for saving lives throughout the pandemic, despite the fact that many of its healthcare workers are migrants living in a nation whose Home Office is fighting to maintain policies that promote a “hostile environment” for such workers in order to deter any future influx.

 

And so, we have arrived at our current situation, through a combination of denial, ignorance (politically motivated or otherwise) and a preference for short-term gain, all whilst ignoring the true long-term pain. This myopic attitude must change if we are to ensure the survival and quality of life of the inhabitants of this Earth. We cannot simply relocate the problem, irresponsibly dispose of our waste in developing nations, and perpetuate an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. The evidence is clear: the developed world may be more capable (but perhaps not always willing) to prepare for and manage the effects of extreme weather events, while many in underdeveloped nations lack this capacity. Yet as true as it is that we will all suffer through our own inaction, this conversely means that we will surely all benefit through positive, coordinated action.

 

To learn more about ‘Climate Migration’ check out STAND’s online student festival taking place between the 12th – 24th of October 2020. To register for online workshops, creative events and panel discussions, click here!

 

 

 

Featured photo by Wallpaper Flare

 
 

 

#SecondHandSeptember: A Sustainable Fashion Story with @Traashion

#SecondHandSeptember: A Sustainable Fashion Story with @Traashion

VIDEO

#SecondHandSeptember: A Sustainable Fashion Story with @Traashion

sustainable fashion - second hand september
ARIANNA STEWART - stand news

Anastasiya Sytnyk

17th September 2020

#SecondHandSeptember: 10 Sustainable Fashion Labels You Should Get Behind

#SecondHandSeptember: 10 Sustainable Fashion Labels You Should Get Behind

ENVIRONMENT

#SecondHandSeptember: 10 Sustainable Fashion Labels You Should Get Behind

sustainable fashion brands second-hand september
anastasiya stand news

Anastasiya Sytnyk

16th September 2020

 

Consumers are slowly beginning to change their clothing from fast fashion items to ones from sustainable brands. Instead of buying cheap clothing at the cost of someone else’s unfair treatment and pay, we’re becoming more and more likely to pay a little extra for our clothing to ensure it had been produced ethically and with as little environmental impact as possible. Many sustainable fashion labels are devoted to noble causes and also donate a lot of their income to charities and organisations that actually fight for change and equality. Here are 10 sustainable labels that you should get behind and why! 

  

1. Able 

Able are determined in their ethics which provide clothing Artisian-made in Peru and fight for fair labour practices, B corp. They believe that in order to end poverty you must create economic opportunities so that people, specifically women, can provide for themselves. This brand sells lovely items like denim, shoes, bags and jewellery. Their items are made by women from all over the world who are paid fairly and come from all walks of life. 

 Some of my favourites:

 

2. Tentree 

Tentree is another great sustainable brand whose ethics are that their products are ethically made and organic, B corp and Eco-friendly which gives back to the environment. The people behind Tentree feel a strong sense of responsibility to preserve and protect the world we live in. Each time an item is purchased a tree is planted. The motto of the company is “buy one, plant ten”, they believe you don’t have to be a hardcore environmentalist to make a difference. The brand has planted over 42 million trees around the world! 

Some of my favourites:

 

3. Boden

Boden, another great label who are passionate about ethical trading, fair wages, giving back and recyclable packaging (which is very important in a time where brands overpackage their stuff). Boden is a British brand which was founded more than 25 years ago and is renowned for being both ethical and expansive.

Some of my favourites:

 

4. Kotn 

Kotn is one of my personal favourites because of their soft and breathable Egyptian cotton. The bran works directly with farmers by paying fair prices for cotton and assisting supplies in making the switch to organic. Their ethics are simply, B corp, safe and fair labour standards for all. 

Some of my favourites:

 

5. Thought Clothing 

Thought Clothing create eco-friendly clothing from organic ingredients which include cotton, bamboo and hemp. This is another UK brand which ships worldwide and is dedicated to being sustainable. 

Some of my favourites:

 

6. Ref Jeans 

Ref jeans is an amazing eco-friendly Tencel, practices, organic cotton brand which launched in 2017 making affordable denim available to all. The thing about Ref Jeans is that they use only a third of the water used by other denim companies! 

Some of my favourites:

 

7. Girlfriend Collective 

This site is brilliant for real and honest photoshoot images advertising their recycled materials in all sizes. No photoshop or retouching their models which makes them very much fashion-forward and inclusive with sizes that come from XXS to 6XL. Their ethics are simple, inclusive sizing, ethical working conditions and fair wages to all. Unlike other brands that manufacture in Vietnam, the workers at these factories are provided with safe working conditions and fair wages as well as standard working hours.  

Some of my favourites:

 

8. Cuyana  

This label follows the motto “fewer, better things”. They believe you don’t need to buy a lot of things that don’t last and better to buy one or two things that are good quality. The brand chooses manufacturers that are close to raw materials so there is less travelling and sourcing items.  

Some of my favourites:

 

9. Amour Vert 

This brand is very much about minimising their waste by making small quantities of clothing in the US with a focus on sustainable options for materials, like organic cotton. The company plants trees every time a t-shirt is purchased with over 220,000 trees planted for far. There is an option to donate 1 dollar extra on top of your order to plant a tree. 

Some of my favourites:

 

10. Everlane  

Everlane is one of the brands that have nothing to hide. They show its markup proves as well as how each garment is created showing the factories and the conditions it is in. Although they may not be super environmentally focused it is still important that they are completely transparent with their customers, unlike certain fast fashion brands. 

Some of my favourites:

 

 

Featured photo by @charlotablunarova

 
 

 

Friendship SPO: ‘Nothing will happen if voices from the field aren’t put on a plateau’

Friendship SPO: ‘Nothing will happen if voices from the field aren’t put on a plateau’

An Interview with Runa Khan, Founder & Executive Director of Friendship SPO

‘Nothing will happen if voices from the field aren’t put on a plateau’

Young Greens outside the Dáil

Runa Khan, Founder & Executive Director of Friendship SPO talked to us ahead of this year’s STAND Student Festival about climate migration and Friendship’s work in empowering at-risk communities who face environmental and human rights issues.

She emphasised the impact that climate change is having on the people of Bangladesh, and the importance of bringing the voices of these climate-affected communities to the fore so that everyone might be inspired to take climate action.

To learn more about the amazing work that Friendship SPO carries out in Bangladesh, follow the links below.

To learn more about the STAND Student Festival, click here.

 

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PPE: “The Protector and the Polluter”

PPE: “The Protector and the Polluter”

Environment

PPE: “The Protector and the Polluter”

discarded facemask

24th August 2020

 

Masks and gloves play a vital role in protecting the public against contracting Covid-19. The growing concern regarding PPE is its role in creating waste and damaging our environment. It’s become common practice for customers to throw away their masks and gloves on the ground outside shops instead of disposing of them in a bin.

PPE littering in Massachusetts got to a point where littering was made illegal and fines can reach up to 5,500 dollars. PPE is created to protect us, not create more environmental and health problems.

As well as littering, there is the problem of PPE equipment being put in recycling bins instead of placing them in a bag and putting them into the waste bin. Workers in private waste management companies encounter used PPE equipment daily. Although the employees use PPE themselves their health is still at risk due to the increasing numbers of used/reused PPE they handle.

The longer the pandemic lasts the worse the pollution in the ocean will become. A marine biologist in the United Kingdom, Emily Stevenson established the Beach Guardian Project with her father. They collect plastic and all sorts of rubbish that has ended up in the ocean. In one hour of litter picking at the beginning of August she found 171 pieces of PPE in the ocean, a significant increase in the amount of litter she found before the pandemic and the beginning of the pandemic.

Although Stevenson and the volunteers at the Beach Guardian Project have discovered a lot of PPE and disposed of it correctly and safely there still might be PPE polluting the seabed. Single use plastics can remain on the seabed for hundreds of years polluting everything around it. According to Stevenson’s research, if each person in the UK uses a single use face mask daily 66,000 tonnes of PPE equipment would be accumulated.

 

“If each person in the UK uses a single use face mask daily 66,000 tonnes of PPE equipment would be accumulated”

 

It’s not just the oceans that have been polluted, it’s the rivers too. Researchers who work at the University of London stated that the River Thames has been polluted by plastic which threatens wildlife and the health of people living in the area. They explained that pollution has worsened because there has been an increase in the disposal of single use plastics like cleaning products, masks and gloves.

Litter has built up along footpaths and roads in Ireland and across the globe due to people dumping face masks. Used face masks and used gloves have washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Laurent Lombard, the founder of Operation Clean Sea described it as “a swim with Covid-19” and “swimming in a table of microplastics.” It’s a harsh truth but it is the reality of pollution that we are facing in our world because of our own actions. Journalist Clodagh Finn, in her article in the Irish Examiner published on the 8th of August cleverly describes plastic as both a “polluter and a protector”.

Single use plastic PPE has been a popular and controversial topic of conversation in Ireland among politicians and the public. Grace O’Sullivan, a member of the Green Party and a Member of the European Parliament said there needs to be more awareness and education on how to safely dispose of single use face masks.

Refusal to use reusable or recyclable face masks can be a contributing factor to climate change because there has been an increase in the use of oil and energy to produce and manufacture single use plastic face masks. Awareness of the dangers and disadvantages of single use plastic face masks is not enough, action must be taken to create and support sustainable plastic face masks. Maybe when each party involved in producing and purchasing single use plastic face masks are fully     aware of the disadvantages and dangers of them, they will create and support sustainable plastic and other recyclable materials. 

It’s difficult to consider every important issue at any time of the year, let alone in the midst of a global pandemic. But just like the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis will not improve unless each and every person takes active steps to reduce their consumption of single use plastics. Some quick and simple things we can do are: educate ourselves on the most sustainable pieces of PPE equipment we can use, share this information with others and dispose of single use.

 

 

Featured photo by Pxfuel