How We Come Together: Arts and Cultural Exchange

How We Come Together: Arts and Cultural Exchange

How We Come Together: Arts and Cultural Exchange

Firemen put out house fire
Criomhthann Morrison
10th of August 2022

In July 2022, I left a heatwave peaking in the high 20°C’s in Dublin for a heatwave peaking in the high 30°C’s in the south of Spain for an Erasmus+ youth exchange. Travelling with my Irish group, we met the other participants from Denmark, Lithuania, and Spain in Caravaca de la Crúz before bussing all together to the small rural town La Almudema where we would spend the coming week in. On top of what we’d explore and learn over the days to come, it just so happened that we arrived at the beginning of a community festival too, so got to enjoy some nights of communal food, music and dancing!

Most people associate the Erasmus programme with spending a semester or two in another European country during third-level studies. In which case, you might think of Erasmus+ as the lesser-known yet equally exciting sibling, aimed at a broader range of people in Europe and partner countries – you could find yourself in a room with students, people taking gap years, people already working in communities and NGOs, of all ages, and so much more. Erasmus+ offers the opportunity to travel to other European countries for shorter or longer periods to gain work experience or training with other Europeans, so you’re also connecting with different cultures, groups and people. This means these exchanges, training, and volunteer programmes can be transformative experiences which inform who you are, how you understand local and global issues faced around the world, and the role you can play in achieving a fair, sustainable, and equitable present and future for all.

Costs for travel and accommodation are typically covered partially or in full, so affordability isn’t nearly as big a barrier as one might expect. As a final note, keep in mind that Erasmus+ opportunities vary widely in topic and format, including sessions which are online, in-person, and hybrid, so if what I describe here isn’t your cup of tea, I still strongly encourage you to check out what else is out there for you!

 

“… I also learned about working with language barriers and being patient and open when other people are outside their comfort zone…”

My first Erasmus+ youth exchange was in the summer of 2017, also my first time in Spain, with the facilitators Diego Romera and Melissa Rivadeneira for the programme Beyond the Skin. They supported a gaggle of Irish, Italians, Danes, Romanians and Spaniards to choreograph a dance piece together about what community and solidarity meant in our lives, studies and work. We spent a week devising, then performed it on the streets of Caravaca de la Crúz. I have never been much of a dancer, so that alone was a stretch for me, but I also learned about working with language barriers and being patient and open when other people are outside their comfort zone, whether that’s when moving their body or speaking outside their native language.

After this, I had totally forgotten about Erasmus+ until late 2021 when I had a chance with Development Perspectives’s programme Change the Story, Change the World to learn about using Theatre of the Oppressed methods to explore challenges faced by groups and communities and co-create ways to take action for social change. This one had several online workshops about sustainable development and storytelling with participants from Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Greece, Romania, Italy, Wales, England and Ireland, before meeting in Gyreum Eco Lodge in Sligo for a few days in April.

 

“… which made the evening all the more special and reminded me of the power in arts and culture to bring people together.”

Alongside learning more about using theatre in our work and performing in The Nest in Sligo town, a highpoint for me was accidentally staying up past 3am one night learning salsa, samba, and other styles from the Italian Adriano (my hips still haven’t fully recovered from all the gyrating). He shared at the end that it was the first time he had taught dance to others outside his native tongue, which made the evening all the more special and reminded me of the power in arts and culture to bring people together. I’m still exploring the impact this experience has had on me and I’m embracing these ideas more readily in my own active global citizenship in creating and making spaces for people to create together.

So with these experiences as a backdrop, of course I jumped at the chance when a friend invited me to join their group and keep exploring theatre and movement in my work while learning from more people’s life experiences and cultures (granted, with a harder limit on what my hips could handle this time).

 

“… workshops digging into our senses of the self and how we interact with the people and world around us through theatre, dance, movement, drawing, and, frankly, just vibing.”

We came together for the Dare to Care youth exchange facilitated by Diego, again, and Veronika Šromová with Escuela de Teatro Terapia Gestalt y Terapias Escénicas (a Spanish organisation, though they often facilitate in English like for this exchange). The week aimed to explore self-awareness and emotional and physical well-being through “body movement, art work and emotional work” using “therapeutic and gestalt theatre techniques.” In other words, each day was filled with workshops digging into our senses of the self and how we interact with the people and world around us through theatre, dance, movement, drawing, and, frankly, just vibing. It’s the sort of thing that’s hard to explain to others who haven’t experienced something similar before, and it’s also the sort of thing that you want to send everyone you care about to as soon as you get home!

While the activities each day were so varied, meaningful, and genuinely fun, what really made the week was sharing the hours and space with people with different cultures, life experiences, and ways of thinking. We shared bedrooms and spent breakfast, lunch, siesta, and evenings together, hanging out and sharing stories. On a related note, I’m going to start lobbying for an Irish Siesta – it’ll tie in well with the extended closing time for Irish nightlife.

 

“It can shed a new – or different – light on how you see your identity with global citizenship or other areas of your life, and how it has formed at different points.”

Describing the week in full would take a few thousand words (and some interpretive dance), so I’ll just note some highlights for me. About midway through the week, we sat on the floor and we drew out our life stories. I’m pretty used to talking about different threads of my life verbally, but there’s something about visualising moments on paper that hits differently – it’s worth trying sometime, even if just doodling along the corners of a page while pretending to listen to someone in front of you. It can shed a new – or different – light on how you see your identity with global citizenship or other areas of your life, and how it has formed at different points. This might lead to some deeper insight into why certain topics or problems are important to you, why you do what you do, and, perhaps with reflection, how you might channel your learning and action moving forward.

I also really enjoyed another activity when we worked in groups devising a 5-10min performance about self-care. I recall watching one group hop around the space with face paint and create a journey of transformation to the cadence of music like ‘I Want To Break Free’ by Queen. If you have ever sensed raw expression from a movie, a book, a play, a poem, a song, or anything else, you might relate to how deeply it can affect you. This was another reminder of the power of art to bridge people and share deep experiences like joy, pain, power, and action, which I hope music and art I make can rouse in people.

 

“These exchanges are among the few occasions I’ve had to see these parts of people…”

The last highlight I’ll share is from the final evening, when we played music and other literature (of course the Irish invoked classics like Saturday Night by Whigfield and GALA’s Freed from Desire). Two participants from Denmark, Laura and Laust, shared the story of the writer Tove Ditlevsen, who had a tumultuous life of substance dependence and trauma, losing her life in the 70s shortly before a musician published some of her poetry as a music album. The pair read Barndommens Gade (“Childhood Street”), reading first in Danish, then translating to English, before playing the corresponding song by Anne Linnet. It can be easy to forget that every group of people have their own histories, ancestries and artists which they carry with them. These exchanges are among the few occasions I’ve had to see these parts of people, and it stays with you when you think about the issues communities face and how we all have a role to play in achieving a fair world for everyone, together.

If you’re interested As far as I can tell, there is no website where all Erasmus+ programmes are promoted, but you can find some opportunities on the SALTO European Training Calendar and the European Youth Portal. Leargas are based in Ireland and facilitate a lot of national and international programmes like this, and through them you or a group you are part of may find more opportunities. Lastly, you can follow and contact organisations which host Erasmus+ training directly, such as those I’ve mentioned in this article. I am also familiar with Ireland-based Broader Horizons Plus who you might also reach out to (the Facebook page is a bit out of date but they’re still active). Overall, I’d recommend casting a wide net, sending some emails, and seeing what bites!

Towards the end of the programme, I caught a few participants for quick videos which we have uploaded to the STAND Instagram and TikTok. Ideas like togetherness, sharing, and personal learning all came up, and you can check them out in the YouTube video “How We Come Together” here.

 

Featured Photo by Jed Villejo on Unsplash This article was supported by: STAND Student Engagement Coordinator Aislin Lavin

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Louie Lyons reflects on the UN security council veto, examining it’s restrictive impact on the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria and the potential for change.

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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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Maybe It’s Time To Invest In Proper Air Conditioning

Maybe It’s Time To Invest In Proper Air Conditioning

Maybe It’s Time to Invest in Proper Air Conditioning
Firemen put out house fire
Niffy Olamiju
27th of July 2022
A heatwave usually refers to temperatures that are higher than the local average for a certain period of time (five days in Ireland). Heatwaves are not a new phenomenon, however, while heatwaves were once limited to once or twice a year, they are now happening more often and becoming more intense. These increasingly severe heatwaves are having a toll on our environments, public health, and infrastructure. To make matters more complicated due to the increased rate of change there is less certainty when planning for extreme weather as the future climate conditions continue to grow more and more unpredictable. To illustrate just how much the occurrence of heatwaves has increased, records from the UK Met Office show that 9 out of 10 of the hottest days in the UK have occurred since 1990. Warmer weather isn’t exclusive to the UK either, although we’re not hitting the same highs as our temperate counterparts Irish summers have become markedly warmer with higher long-term averages being reached all over the country. This includes a new record high in Dublin of 33.3 degrees temperature in Dublin being recorded on the 18th of July which is 8 degrees above the long-term average.

Compared to pre-industrial times, heatwaves have become up to 10 times more likely to occur and 1-3 degrees warmer due to human intervention.

These heatwaves are not just restricted to temperate zones like Ireland and the UK. Europe has seen an early summer with scorching heat resulting in wildfires, deaths, and water shortages as people attempted to cool off. South East Asia has also come out of a deadly heatwave where temperatures rose up to 45 degrees only to be followed by monsoons which caused devastating destruction as dry earth was washed away in landslides, claiming people’s lives and homes. In addition to heat strokes and wildfires, there has also been an increase in the duration and severity of droughts across the world ranging from East Africa to California. Significant loss of human and plant life from wildfires, sunstroke, and drownings are only some of the repercussions of the changing environment. Extreme weather affects every area of life from structural failures (melting tarmac at airports, transport delays etc) to school closures and work disruptions. Findings from an attribution study by the UK Met Study show that the 2018 UK heatwave has been made thirty times more severe due to climate change. Four years on and researchers like Friederike Otto are of the opinion that in the case of heatwaves the role of human induced climate change is so unequivocal that there is no point in running the type of attribution studies needed in the past to confirm this. Compared to pre-industrial times, heatwaves have become up to 10 times more likely to occur and 1-3 degrees warmer due to human intervention. The costs associated with extreme  weather events like heatwaves and heavy rainfall are not fully understood. As a result they are understudied and not taken as seriously as their more expensive counterparts like storms and tropical cyclones.

 

Our move towards renewable energy is being largely influenced by those who profit from fossil fuels the most.

But given the increasing frequency and intensity of heatwaves, it is more important than ever to take note of the human cost of their effects on the environment to put a stop to climate change. Going forward, our summers will be warmer and more extreme. Despite the evidence about the adverse effects of fossil fuels our move toward carbon neutrality has been painstakingly slow especially when our move towards renewable energy is being largely influenced by those who profit from fossil fuels the most. Decisions such as that of the European Commission to classify natural gas as renewable energy this year illustrates how much we are being held back by the fossil fuel industry in the fight against climate change. If meaningful change is to be made in progress towards renewable energy and reducing fossil fuels, it cannot be done with the biggest benefactors’ and perpetrators’ needs at the centre of our decision-making process.

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 Benjamin Elliott on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND News & Comms Intern Penelope Norman.

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Louie Lyons reflects on the UN security council veto, examining it’s restrictive impact on the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria and the potential for change.

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We’re Making Progress: Hope in the Face of Climate Catastrophe

We’re Making Progress: Hope in the Face of Climate Catastrophe

We’re Making Progress: Hope in the Face of Climate Catastrophe

Person holding globe at sunset
Emily Murphy

25th of July 2022

Climate catastrophes, extreme and expanding poverty, and war are regular features in both national and international news in recent years. One could be forgiven for the belief that the planet and its inhabitants are doomed. While we are by no means out of danger, there are enormous victories which should be acknowledged and celebrated.

For most of my life, and for the entirety of others, global warming has been a semi-regular topic in conversations at home, at school, and in general. Despite expert warnings from as early as the 1970s, few were aware of the drastic impact we are having on our world, and the implications both for the climate and for us. Since the mid 00s, there has been a growing movement working towards reducing and reversing climate damage. We have made extraordinary advances in solar and wind technology, and have improved building regulations to be less energy demanding. However, these are not nearly where they need to be yet; Germanys ‘Energiewende’ is a prime example. Germany had impressive plans to entirely phase out fossil fuels; and then they backtracked. Essentially, renewable technology was not advanced enough to replace fossil fuels. The government later announced plans to uplift a forest to access its coal reserves, out of sheer necessity. Energiewende costs €32 billion annually, and unfortunately it did not progress as the German government had hoped. However as an increased number of nuclear reactors across the country are being retired, it seems the nation is getting back on track once again. The potential for sole renewable power is impressive, although we should ensure its reliability before whole transitions, and allow Energiewende to inspire and educate.

The measures we have implemented to reduce our climate impact have not been in vain … we have the potential to heal the damage we have caused.

Ireland is falling short of our climate targets in most categories, and it is very disheartening for those who strive for change. It is important to note that while we should endeavour to meet all agreed-upon measures, governments often make promises to achieve these incredibly impressive targets knowing they will not. The reason for this is rather simple: the higher your target, the harder you push. If we only set our ambitions at what we knew we would achieve, and fell short the outcome would be much worse. By overestimating ourselves we still fall short, but do so having achieved more than we otherwise would. This is nonetheless frustrating for citizens. However, humanity has made enormous strides and should not allow our annoyance to distract from these.

Remember acid rain? It is an umbrella term for precipitation that contains an acidic component, typically sulfuric or nitric. In the 1989s, 1990s and early 2000s it was a commonly discussed issue, and regularly featured in academic text books for all ages. We never hear about acid rain anymore, why? In a nutshell, we fixed it. Before interventions, it was estimated that 4000 lakes in Sweden were acidified (and therefore unable to support life), water systems globally were likewise affected, and the problems were blamed for weakening buildings and support structures. So how did we solve it? We stopped burning coal (for the most part) and installed ’scrubbers’ to clean factory emissions. Additionally, we installed catalyst converters in cars to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. While there are some more recent instances of this occurring, it is under control in Europe and America, and very much a problem of the past. 

Remember that big hole in the ozone layer that was ‘giving everyone cancer’? It’s fixing itself. The ozone layer is a layer of earth’s stratosphere consisting of gases that absorb most of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Ozone holes are formed when heat and sunlight cause a reaction between hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. In 1974 a paper showed that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in spray bottles were depleting the ozone layer. The paper earned Paul Crutzen, Mario Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland a Nobel Prize and led to questions about fixing the invisible hole in the sky. So how did we fix it? As previously mentioned, we reduced nitrogen oxide emissions and drastically reduced our output of CFCs. The ozone hole discovered over Antarctica has almost completely fixed itself. This does not mean that the ozone layer is out of danger, on the contrary there are still ‘mini-holes’ being discovered. It does however mean that the measures we have implemented to reduce our climate impact have not been in vain, and that we have the potential to heal the damage we have caused. It’s clear we can do it.

While we are by no means out of danger, there are enormous victories which should be acknowledged and celebrated.

I am by no means suggesting that we put down our tools and let the planet do the rest from here. The changes mentioned above and a multitude of others required a lot of time and effort, and have received quite a bit of push back from the opposition. But they were achieved. We have a long way to go if we are to see the changes we wish to in the near future, but the next time you get disheartened or wonder “what’s the point?”, think of the good that people like you have done so far, and remember we have not yet done anything to the planet that we cannot help undo.

Featured photo by Unsplash

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

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Global Citizenship in a Changing World – Reflections from the 2022 IDEA Conference

Global Citizenship in a Changing World – Reflections from the 2022 IDEA Conference

Global Citizenship in a Changing World – Reflections from the 2022 IDEA Conference
Protesters Attend March for Refugee Rights
Criomhthann Morrison
8th of July 2022

970 Years and 1 Month

Graduating mid-2020 and working amidst spikes and lockdowns, I have been fortunate to find opportunities to connect with people from across Ireland and the world through various online programmes and groups. While Ireland-based activities have gradually introduced in-person components, it’s no surprise that the annual IDEA Conference in June 2022 was the first in-person conference since the pandemic outbreak for many, including myself. Titled “The Future of Global Citizenship – educating for a changing world,” those attending were invited to look ahead to what global citizenship could look like across every facet of life for all.

The conference opened with the usual ‘long time, no see’ natter, and the facilitator Charo Lanao brought everyone together with groups physically crafting ‘‘living sculptures” of their visions for the present and future, as well as reflections on people’s experiences and backgrounds. A tally counted 970 years and 1 month of collective ‘global citizenship education’ (GCE) knowledge in the room on that one day. So I expected to pick up a thing or two.

Panel Exploring Polarisation and Systems Change

 

 

Biographies for each speaker can be found here on the IDEA website.

 

The opening panel dealt with the structural and systemic problems in our societies, workplaces and governments and how individual actions and lived experiences fit within solutions to address these. Dr Peter T. Coleman, Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University, highlighted how GCE practitioners can consider the polarisations around them and their participants, and the pursuit of ‘positive’ peace and ‘negative’ peace (“the promotion of peacefulness through positive interactions like civility, cooperation and care” peace” versus “the absence of violence, destructive conflict, and war,” bold added).

I found this distinction a helpful example of how even the most seemingly straightforward ideas can contain quite diverse and even incompatible assumptions and expectations, depending on the people ‘in the room’. This awareness of what we bring to the conversations and groups we find ourselves in is always worthwhile, helping us identity and talk through sometimes subtle yet substantial differences in how we understand the problems and worlds around us.

Dr Ebun Joseph, Director of the Institute of Antiracism and Black Studies (IABS), amongst many other qualifications and roles, also emphasised the importance of ‘healthy conversations’ for addressing the sticky behaviours and systems of oppression we haven’t fully shaked off yet (a purposeful choice of words, as opposed to ‘difficult’ conversations, which can prime people to resist, defend, or fight). Using an instance of racist descrimination between colleagues in a workplace as an example, Dr Joseph advises that the whole workplace should be involved in the resolution, not just the people directly involved. When discrimination happens within any context, whether at work, in education, or in public, we need to explore how and why it was enabled in the first place, and then actively change the structures and behaviours which allowed discrimination to happen. 

Most of us can name a dozen angles from which we do not face barriers and discriminatoin in everyday life like other people do, and we all have a responsibility to be part of the movements to rid of prejudice and abuse. Demanding healthy and meaningful conversations from ourselves and the spaces we’re in is one vital step in being part of an equitable, just and sustainable present and future for all.

 

Director of IDEA Frank Geary and Irish Sign Language Interpreter during the Opening Remarks.

 

Panel Exploring Challenges in the GCE Sector

 

 

The second panel gave space for 4 speakers to share their insights on key issues in the GCE sphere and the directions the space is moving in, followed by some questions from attendees. To briefly summarise some really rich sharing:

Ikal Ang’elei, an environmental activist, spoke about the importance for practitioners and activists to always work with and alongside affected communities, citing her experience as Co-Founder and Director of Friends of Lake Turkana, which works for social, economic and environmental justice for the lands and people in the area. It is an easy though grave error for genuinely enthusiastic and well-meaning individuals and groups to get caught up in their visions for their solutions instead of constructing these in partnership with the people impacted. The phrase “Nothing about us without us” springs to mind.

Mamobo Ogoro, an award winning scholar, social entrepreneur, activist and artist, followed by emphasising inclusion and belonging as key elements to reaching these visions GCE practitioners often strive for, naming dialogue as fundamental to her work with her digital media start-up GORM Media and her PhD research with minorities in Ireland. This calls for practitioners to challenge box-ticking exercises of simply getting certain people are ‘in the room’, asking if everyone in the room is fully able participate in conversations and decision-making, and what we need to do on the individual- and system-level to promote this ‘belonging’ for all. 

Dr Audrey Bryan, Associate Professor of Sociology in DCU, then raised critical questions about the individualisation and prescription of GCE in Ireland. She also cautioned the increasing focus on measurable technical skills to the detriment of considering holistically the relationships between individuals, their communities, and the challenges faced across society. Dr Bryan spoke to these ideas and more at the recorded webinar Future Trends in Development Education hosted by IDEA in Dec 2021.

Bobby McCormack, Co-Founder and Director of Development Perspectives, talked about developing the ‘innovation ecosystems’ within the sector and emphasised the opportunities for partnership especially with less obvious colleagues, sharing the example of Development Perspectives working with EirGrid to host community forums to include their voice in several energy projects. This suggests interesting opportunities outside the normal bounds of what organisations consider GCE and their roles in a changing world, offering bridges between areas of life not typically linked, from the energy system to community health to agriculture to far more.

During the Q&A, I found one moment worth noting: one attendee asked for suggestions for teaching useful and abstract tools like systems thinking to children, and another attendee quickly took the microphone to share resources produced by their own organisation for exactly this purpose. While a small interaction, it was hardly minor, and just one reminder from the day of the value of sharing these open spaces with our peers. Someone sitting behind you often has something that will help you, even before you realise you need help.

 

Conference Facilitator Charo Lanao speaking to the 70+ in-person attendees.

 

Panel Exploring Challenges in the GCE Sector

 

 

The second day of the conference ran online with two sets of workshops running parallel, which posed me the challenge of which to sign up for! The first I chose was Ecosystem Restoration and Development Education: Regenerating people and wider nature with Gareth Conlon and Karen Jeffares. I managed to catch the latter half which explored the lands, organisms and food around us, and how as GCE practitioners, mindsets should focus on bringing about positive transformation within communities, not particular solutions per se. Group discussions included reflections on how workshops with schools often implicitly task children with convincing the adults in their lives to make changes and the challenges this entails regarding justice and responsibility. Topics also arising included ‘pedagogy of hope’ and potential routes for collaboration across sectors, for example GCE and farmers.

This session posed important questions about our responsibilities as practitioners to the people and groups we work with, who we engage with in the first place, and why. Our answers can inform how we approach our work and help us to see the groups we work with (and don’t work with) as multifaceted and feeling pressures from various directions. What does this mean for fostering space to communicate, build skills, and perhaps sow seeds for peace – and which kind?

The second workshop I attended was Global Business and Human Rights with Mark Cumming. Business is an area many in GCE spaces are averse to, so the workshop sought to highlight the importance of working for human rights in the business realm, and to equip attendees to do so. We explored power of and accountability within business spaces, the state of affairs in Ireland, and what practitioners and the sector can do now and moving forward to better engage with the private sector. One key point made is the importance of building communities and movements for change, including encouraging people to join communities for their passions, and even trade unions, which the large majority of attendees reported not being part of. 

Early in the final workshop, Cumming referenced the Audre Lorde quote “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” This is a challenge for all GCE practitioners in their work: to what degree does the work we do uphold existing structures and systems despite best intentions, and to what degree does our work truly enable communities to achieve their visions within – dare I say – a changing world? Don’t worry, I don’t have a clean answer either.

 

 Lizzy Noone from WorldWise Global Schools speaking during a Q&A.

 

The Value in Sharing Space

 

 

I didn’t get the chance to attend the other two workshops, Transformative Education in Times of Crises with Tereza Čajková and Aurèle Destrée or War, Peace and the Future of Development Education with Zelalem Sibhat, Dr Gerard McCann, and Dr Gertrude Cotter, though from the titles alone, it’s clear GCE practitioners are working hard to locate their work across the different aspects of global and local challenges communities are facing around the world. That said, judging from my conversations with several speakers and attendees, perhaps people were most excited to simply share space with each other and feel more connected with and part of a larger whole.

What I am most excited about are the coming weeks and months, when the conversations and ideas shared will percolate in my mind and influence my work in obvious and subtle ways, some examples of which already spring to mind. And so what are the next steps for global citizenship and educating in a changing world? Healthy conversations, critical reflection, and collaboration across sectors may not be novel suggestions to some or most, but are nonetheless vital to achieving a present we can stand over.

Feature photo caption: From the left: unnamed, Susie Spratt from An Gáisce, Tahla from Amnesty, unnamed. Contact [email protected] if you feature in this photo and would like to be named.

Featured photos by Méabh Hennelly with permission from IDEA.

Connect with Criomhthann over LinkedIn or Twitter.

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin and STAND News & Comms Intern Penelope Norman.

New From STAND News

Decarbonisation is a political and ecological project: the EU Taxonomy, gas and other barriers to change in Ireland

Decarbonisation is a political and ecological project: the EU Taxonomy, gas and other barriers to change in Ireland

Roisin O’Donnell discusses a recent European Commission proposal involving the categorisation of gas and nuclear energy as sustainable, and shares perspectives on what a transition to clean energy really means for Ireland, Europe, and beyond.

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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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Decarbonisation is a political and ecological project: the EU Taxonomy, gas and other barriers to change in Ireland

Decarbonisation is a political and ecological project: the EU Taxonomy, gas and other barriers to change in Ireland

Roisin O’Donnell discusses a recent European Commission proposal involving the categorisation of gas and nuclear energy as sustainable, and shares perspectives on what a transition to clean energy really means for Ireland, Europe, and beyond.

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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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Decarbonisation is a political and ecological project: the EU Taxonomy, gas and other barriers to change in Ireland

Decarbonisation is a political and ecological project: the EU Taxonomy, gas and other barriers to change in Ireland

Roisin O’Donnell discusses a recent European Commission proposal involving the categorisation of gas and nuclear energy as sustainable, and shares perspectives on what a transition to clean energy really means for Ireland, Europe, and beyond.

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Fairtrade Fortnight 2020: The Way to Sustainable Chocoholism

Fairtrade Fortnight 2020: The Way to Sustainable Chocoholism

Have you ever wondered what our life would be like without chocolate? It is hard to imagine such a scenario when you consider how many of today’s products either consist of or contain the beloved food. For Ireland, this would mean an especially great deal. After all, according to Fairtrade figures, Irish people are the third-largest chocolate consumers in the World. Only surpassed by Austria and Switzerland, the average person in Ireland ate about 17 pounds of chocolate in 2017.

 

While chocolate is generally associated with feeling good, there is a side to it that speaks a different truth. The difficulties that many cocoa farmers have to face to produce our chocolate have been repeatedly called out over the last few decades. Hazardous working conditions, exploitation and oppression, a lack of health care and even child labour define the daily lives of thousands of workers and their families. Even though many people are aware of the problem, it often seems difficult to actually do something about it as an individual.

 

Fairtrade Fortnight, a campaign organised by the Fairtrade Foundation, aims to raise awareness of the conditions in which many people in developing countries work to produce our food. For two weeks each year, hundreds of individuals, companies, and groups across Ireland come together to tell others about farmers’ and workers’ stories. In doing so, they want to demonstrate the positive impact of Fairtrade and hope to encourage people to buy more goods made to Fairtrade standards. This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight’s focus is on – as you might have guessed – chocolate. Particular attention will be paid to the women farmers who supply companies with cocoa, seeing that women often make only little profit from the food they grow compared to men. 

 

The campaign takes place from February 24th to March 8th and features a large number of guest speakers, such as Arjen Boekhold and Nicola Matthews from the Netherlands. Their chocolate company Tony’s Chocolonely pursues the mission to make chocolate completely slave-free and create fair conditions for all cocoa farmers. At the event’s opening night in Dublin, Boekhold spoke amongst other things about inequality in the chocolate industry, pointing out the power of the few multinational companies. “How can we talk about a fair economy or a free economy where you can negotiate prices? We have, one the one hand, two and a half million farmers and they have to negotiate with only two companies” Boekhold explained. The chocolate bar also has a unique design. Divided into parts of different sizes rather than even squares, the composition is meant to reflect the inequality between those who produce the chocolate and those who eventually profit from it. Boekhold stated his belief in Fairtrade saying, “I think Fairtrade is one of the few initiatives which really try to strengthen the position of farmers and make cooperatives work […] At this moment, around 6 to 7% of all cocoa worldwide is sold under Fairtrade terms. So that is a minority. But you see an impact, you see change.”

 

Allison Roberts, founder of the chocolate company Exploding Tree and one of the three bean-to-bar chocolate producers in Ireland, is a speaker at Fairtrade Fortnight as well. Located in Cork, her company handcrafts chocolate bars with 100% Fairtrade cocoa and coconut sugar bought directly from farming cooperatives like Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. Running only a small company, Roberts says she feels freer to experiment with her chocolate and likes to create new flavours that don’t necessarily speak to the mainstream: Salt & Seaweed, Goats’ Milk, Dark Orange or 100% Cocoa are just some of them. And did you know that her company produces the only artisan milk chocolate bar made with Irish milk?  

 

It’s encouraging to see that progress has already been made. According to Fairtrade International, cocoa was the fastest-growing Fairtrade product category in 2017 with revenue rising by 57% in volume, and growth still continuing in 2018. But what is it that makes Fairtrade products so special? Why are they different from others and how does the label work?  

 

Fairtrade can be described as a trading partnership with the objective to promote greater justice in international trade. It serves as a certification scheme that ensures socially and economically fair production standards for goods from developing countries, such as chocolate, coffee, tea, cotton, fruits, sugar and also gold. Since these products are high in demand and consumed all around the world, a key mission is to make their production as sustainable as possible. International fair trade networks like Fairtrade International or World Fair Trade Organization have defined standards regarding workers’ rights, fair labour practices and environmental responsibility that organisations are required to follow in order to be labelled ‘Fairtrade’. 

 

First of all, farmers and workers must be paid a minimum price for their products, which guarantees them a stable income. FLOCERT, the audit and certification body for Fairtrade standards, regularly checks that this is implemented. In such a way, workers are given a safety net as they are protected from exploitation and can use income to save money for the future. Fairtrade farmers and workers also receive the Fairtrade Premium, an additional sum of money that goes to a communal fund of their choice. This fund helps workers improve their social, economic or environmental conditions through investment in things like better infrastructure, their children’s education or drinking water supplies. Another important aspect of Fairtrade is sustainable production, which involves farms and plantations avoiding pesticides and fungicides since these often cause great damage to people, wildlife and natural resources. If it’s impossible to circumvent toxicants, their usage has to be reduced to a minimum and resources like soil and water need to be kept clean. Additionally, all employees who might get in contact with the substances are required to wear protective clothing. But that’s not everything that Fairtrade is invested in. Other important issues that are being dealt with include child labour, climate change and gender inequality.

 

All in all, buying Fairtrade chocolate may not be the solution to every problem in the trading industry but it’s a good place to start and it proves that it’s not hard to make a positive impact, even if it’s small. As one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, Ireland has the chance to go ahead and make sure that Fairtrade products will be even more widespread and consumed in the future.

 

 

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

 

 

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Maasai Women and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Suas intern Maximiliana Eligi Mtenga shares insights from her research on the tension between ensuring protected rights for the Maasai Women and environmental protection of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Covert Conflict of Interdependence

STAND News’ Brianna Walsh shares a thoughtful and informed reflection on the role of implicit bias and historical context on perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland and the EU.

Ethiopia’s forgotten war

More than two million people have fled the region, and there have been at least 10,000 reported deaths with tens of thousands of people are currently seeking refuge in the neighbouring country of Sudan. However, as communications have been almost entirely cut in the region, it is impossible to calculate exact numbers.

Is a diamond anyone’s best friend?

The lack of laws leads not just to well-below-the-poverty-line wages, but also to fatal working conditions, child labour, and the flourishing of public health issues as the sex trade thrives in many diamond mining towns, leading to the spread of HIV and other STI’s.

The rise of antisemitism in Europe

The recent rise in antisemitic acts has at times been linked to Covid-19 restrictions. During periods of turmoil, it seems that anti-Jewish sentiment rises. We need only look to poverty-stricken Germany in the 1920s or to the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century.

Is the EU migrant return policy ethical?

The EU migrant return policy aims to increase return rates of asylum seekers to their country of origin by making border procedures as efficient as possible. Since the increased amount of people fleeing wars in 2015 and seeking refuge in Europe, EU asylum policy has been polarising, with Europe often being dubbed “Fortress Europe” – an impassable fort with watchtowers and border guards prepared to stop at nothing to keep those seeking refuge out.

A small step towards a better tomorrow

A small step towards a better tomorrow

Plastic recycling only makes a small dent in the amount of plastic pollution generated every year. According to Plastic Pollution Organization, 8 million metric tonnes of plastic ends up in our ocean each year. By 2025 the annual ocean pollution of plastic is estimated to be twice what it is now. Currently, 91 percent of plastic is not recycled. As we struggle to recycle some local initiatives have found new uses for old plastic.

Where and how are they experimenting with plastic?
Noord district in Amsterdam, was once an industrial area, which has been repaired and restored as a cultural and art centre of the city. The area has started a project by Wasted an initiative of Cities Foundation, where bags of trash provide residents with necessary coupons for local shops.

What are these coupons/green coins and how do they work?
For people who use a special trash bag, their waste is collected one week and the week after they are rewarded with a pack full of green coins. Through these green coins they get discounts on Yoga classes, beer half price, some free chocolates and a buy one get one free deal on coffee.

What is the impact?
Although a small step, the initiative is having an impact. Since 2015, Wasted has collected more than 16.5 tonnes of plastic rubbish. This project has not only changed the plastic consumption habit of people who signed for this initiative but has also decreased the production of plastic waste.

 

Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash

 

Who wants to be an award winner?

Who wants to be an award winner?

Organisations who have excellence in waste management and recycling practices, have the opportunity to apply for the 2018 Pakman Award. The prize is a national award, recognising changes businesses have made that benefit the environment.

The Pakman Award is free to enter and there are fifteen different categories. The winners from each category are then nominated for the overall award. A final winner will be announced in the Intercontinental Hotel October 25th, 2018.

All the entries for the Pakman Award are submitted using the online procedure. The deadline for receipt of completed application is midnight August 31st, 2018. The prize covers projects that were completed between January 2017 to June 2018.

To learn more about the competition or to apply visit pakman.ie

 

Top photo: Photo by Patricia Valério on Unsplash

The secret life of the plastic bag

The secret life of the plastic bag

Plastic bags are everywhere. They carry our shopping, are light, durable and relatively inexpensive. Worldwide we use between 500 million to a 1 trillion tonnes each year. But have you ever wondered what happens to them before they reach you or after you have thrown them away?

This is the secret life of a plastic bag.

Before
Firstly, a machine called extruder is used to melt polyethylene, the chemical structure that forms most plastics, at 260 °C.  The film is then pushed out and allowed cool before being cut into size and placed on a spindle.  Next a knife is heated to cut the film and seal it into the shape of a bag. Following this, more heat is applied to cut handles out and logos are added. Then it makes its way into a shop, where you can pick it up and use it.

After
When you’re done with that plastic bag what do you do with it? Reuse it? Dump it?

Scientists estimate that since the 1950s only 9 percent of plastic has been recycled. Just 12 percent has been incinerated, while 79 percent of plastic since the 1950s has been thrown into landfill or becomes litter.

Unfortunately, the most common type of plastic bag is not recyclable. Once they make it to a landfill, the majority of bags just sit there as they are not biodegradable.  Plastic bags are very slowly broken down by sunlight, taking anything from 400 to 1000 years. They disintegrate into small pieces called “microplastics”. Both forms of plastic are known to blow away and often end up in the open environment, polluting rivers, seas and woodlands, where they cause damage to wildlife and their natural habitats.

Alternatively, the bags are completely eradicated by burning in an in incinerator. Sweden only sends 1 percent of its waste to landfill, preferring to channel the steam created from incinerating waste into producing electricity. While this method is generally seen as preferable to landfill, incinerating plastics causes an increase in the emission of Co2 into the atmosphere, which contributes to the greenhouse effect that is destroying the ozone layer. As well as this, the slow burning of plastic bags by individuals’ en masse can lead to the release of noxious chemicals like sulfuric dioxide, which cause breathing difficulties for anyone too close by.

So next time you’re heading to the shop, make sure to bring a reusable bag instead of buying a single use plastic one!

The Secret Life of Your Mobile Phone – How is it recycled?

The Secret Life of Your Mobile Phone – How is it recycled?

After buying that new phone, what did you do with your old one? Did you pass it on to another buyer or charity? Or did you recycle it as electronic waste?

This is the secret life of your phone after it is recycled.

Recycle
The need to recycle mobile phones is two-fold. First, phones that end up in landfills create an environmental issue because of toxic chemicals that could potentially leach into groundwater systems and affect local ecosystems. Second, as each phone contains rare and precious metals, discarding them directly is a huge waste of resources.

Up to 80 percent of a mobile phone can be recycled and reused. First, batteries are taken out and sent through a different recycling process than your mobile phone. Because they contain toxic materials such as nickel, cadmium and lithium, special precautions are made to prevent environmental contamination. Afterwards, your phone is shredded, heated and several measures are used to recover and re-use various parts. For example, separate metals recovery is where valuable metals are extracted from mobile parts. This includes gold, silver and platinum to name a few.

Plastic recovery reformulates and remoulds outer body plastic to be reused for other purposes. Other useful parts, such as battery connectors, PCBs (printed circuit boards), ICs (integrated circuits), lenses, microphones and screws, can also be re-purposed through recycling.

Europe
In Europe, the recycling of mobile phones is coordinated according to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, established to promote re-use, recycling and other forms of recovery of electric waste in order to improve environmental performance. The Basel Convention was also signed by 186 parties worldwide to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes. These are all measures taken to promote the recycling of mobile phones.

So next time you buy a new phone, remember to recycle your old one!

 

To read about the life of your phone before you buy it, click here. 

 

Photo by Adrian Clark via Flickr.