Experience has given me a massive insight into how our society operates and how our country is run. The fact that I worked in the civil service for a number of years helps too as does having epilepsy. Being classified as disabled in my teens really shaped my character affording me the privilege of attending a college for disabled people. Society is great at labelling which is symptomatic of and suits, the system.
I began to work collaboratively on sustainable community development when I discovered the Transition Network in 2007. I joined a local transition group and we basically went from turning sustainable development ideas into projects. Some projects succeeded while others did not. I learned a LOT about community development and participation. Realising that many attempts to bring projects to life are blocked by bureaucracy resulting in fatigue and withdrawal by people from participating. Creative, insightful, brilliant people with amazing ideas are beaten down by the system.
I progressed from projects to analysing and attempting to shape the policy to support the projects. In 2009 I got involved with council boards trying to reshape policy to appreciate public participation especially in the transition context. I realised that representative democracy is a joke and that elected officials dependent upon votes are also dependent upon council staff to deliver on their pot hole promises! Therefore they do not rock the boat if they wish to get the jobs done that support their reelection! It’s a vicious cycle.
Turns out changing local policy isn’t enough. Very often the council will sit back and refuse to change until they get direction from central government. Effectively – even if they have all these insightful progressive policies they will not act upon them unless they are forced to. This left me with no choice but to infiltrate national policy! So I became involved with more and more national bodies in order to influence national policy so that local policy can be changed to accommodate the publics participation in our transition to a resilient, more sustainable society.
You can read the process and result of this engagement with national energy policy in my post Changing THE System. It was an amazing rollercoaster and fulfilling experience.
This blog is the manifestation of a promise to publish my experience, analysis, observations, poetry and whatever else pops into my head. I do start out fairly bleakly based on my poetry of 2013 which merely made way for a fresher, more positive 2014. My first, dark, deep post.
So back to labels. When I first got involved with Transition back in 2007, in order to dismiss me politicians and the media started to refer to me as an environmentalist. What is an “environmentalist”? There are lots of definitions thrown up in an online search but very often it is a term used to discredit people who care about the environment, very often implying that they are anti economy or capitalism. It was used to put me in a box and eventually I decided to embrace it! To me an environmentalist is someone who cares and wants to protect their environment for this and future generations. What’s wrong or dismissible about that? Surely that should be everyone? Most people are environmentalists – most people care about their environment.
Disclaimer – this blog is things as I see them. I report on events as I experience them. I write facts as I perceive them, how I understand them, in the context that they impact on my thinking. I do my best to simplify what I learn because I think in basic. If you feel that I misrepresent them please feel free to send me corrections or a guest blog.
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Theresa O’Donohoe 🙂