Communicating Climate Change in North Clare

I don’t think anyone could have planned the last few days in Lisdoonvarna in their wildest dreams! It was a climate activists gift. I LOVED it!

Last year the local secondary school, Mary Immaculate, applied to the Young Environmentalist competition with an idea about communicating climate change to North Clare. While the students and their teacher have concerns about our changing climate the wider population doesn’t seem to get it. They wanted to see what they could do about that.

They decided to show people what rising sea level looks like on a 3D map and create a video explaining the facts. Both would be used in a community event to raise awareness and understanding of climate change in the area.

While the teacher and students were beavering away researching, filming, compiling, modelling and more I came in to help with the event. I got bits and pieces of insight to all of the work along the way. Pat Cronin Archeologist was a mine of information on the rising sea levels of the area. Seamus Walsh, head of Climatology and Observations for Met Eireann visited the school to present up to date information about climate change in Ireland. Fr Conor, our local parish priest was buzzing about the pollinator plan. Brendan Dunford of the Burren Programme explained what farmers on the Burren do to work with nature.  Filmmaker and mentor James Sheppard was completely committed to all of this amazing work being on film.

Greta Thunberg had called for the 2nd global strike of #FridaysForFuture to be held on May 24th so they chose that date because she has inspired them so much. The first global #ClimateStrike had been on March 10th where over 10,000 young people took to the streets of Dublin with thousands more across the country. Globally 1.6 million answered the call striking across the world.  When they picked May 24th as a date for the community event we could never have known what would evolve!

We invited Lorna Gold of Trocaire as a guest speaker. She has written a book called Climate Generation with heartfelt commitment as mother and activist to act on climate. She was delighted to be asked and we set about a plan to make the most of her time in Lisdoonvarna. Her book is available online here with proceeds going to Trócaire. Lorna has been involved in supporting the #SchoolStrikes4Climate in Ireland and we just had to incorporate a strike action to coincide. Just had to! 🙂

We found out that May 23rd was to be the final of the Young Environmentalist Awards in Dublin. Their project had made it to the finals! The day before the community event!!

Soon afterwards Seamus Walsh accepted our invitation to attend the community event.

Then a couple of weeks ago we heard that His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf and Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden would be in Lisdoonvarna on May 24th. Sweden – the home of Greta Thunberg. Surely they would like to show solidarity with the young people of the world on a global strike day called for by a 16year old international leader from Sweden!?

How it all panned out to make the most amazing week in the life of a climate activist…..

On Thursday May 23rd the young environmentalists from Mary Immaculate Secondary school and their teachers left at 5.30am for their 17 hour round trip to Dublin.

Fr Conor themed 7pm mass “Our Common Home” and hosted an evening chat afterwards, open to everyone with about 15 staying for tea. It was a lovely intimate chat about the encyclical letter LAUDATO SI’ of Pope Francis on the Care for our Common Home. It was reassuring to see other people in my community taking climate change and environmental destruction so seriously.

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By now we had heard that the students won the Junior Climate Change award. The news was spreading and word was going around the area that everyone should join the celebrations on Friday 24th by marching with the students and attending their event. There was great excitement building.

Friday 24th international #ClimateStrike day arrived and it kicked off with the whole school marching through the village to the event calling for climate action. Lorna was right up there sharing the insight on social media.

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Seamus Walsh arrived with Evelyn Cusack from Met Eireann and a portable weather station!

Everyone sat down for the 15 minute movie created by the students under the watchful eye of the amazingly talented James Sheppard. You can watch their movie containing local stories, coverage of the students work, what to expect in Clare with our changing climate, interviews, presentations and more available here.

Then Lorna spoke followed by Seamus Walsh. Here is Seamus presenting on our communities brand new big screen!

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Then we had a great introduction to the other Mary Immaculate Young Environmentalist project that made the finals. The senior students worked around the clock to turn a concrete yard into a haven of greenery and murals to create a wellbeing space. They completely refurbished a dull grey area into a little haven of colour and nature within the school.  Another amazing project from the students and hard working staff of Mary Immaculate. There’s a good reason I picked Lisdoonvarna as home.

Then we heard of things we can do at home and as a community. I outlined some things I do that are easily replicable and my role as a community transition facilitator. Pat introduced community energy and his trip to Germany. Ruairi O’Conchuir from the water and communities office LAWCO spoke. We had stalls from Clare PPN on policy; Clare County Council Greener Clare; Kulyana Community Combating Climate Change; LAWCO; Lisdoonvarna Biodiversity Group; the Aloe Tree shop in Ennistymon that sells refills and environmentally friendly alternatives; Neil Hawes the local butcher who sells local beef and will use your own container instead of plastic bags; Transition Year Students selling their Bamboo toothbrushes.

The time flew and before we knew it tea was over and the place was empty.

So to the afternoon of May 24th and the invitation to meet the King & Queen of Sweden. After all of that excitement 2 of our students, their teacher and the vice principal met with the Royal couple to show Them the project. As They were introduced They were told how inspired our young people are by Greta Thunberg. This was the top secret icing on the scrumptious cake! Here they are with the 3D model display of sea level rise in North Clare actually telling Their Majesties how inspired they are by the amazing Greta.

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What an absolutely wonderful, memory filled, couple of days it has been in Lisdoonvarna. That’s the opinion of a veteran climate activist anyway!

Don’t forget to watch their movie – here!

Theresa O’Donohoe

May 25th 2019

The project was part funded by Creative Ireland from Clare County Council.IMG_20190520_171527

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