Introduction to an Environmentalist

I’ve been involved in environmental activism and policy making for over 13yrs now. At the policy level I am a founding member of An Taisce Climate Committee and Transition Ireland and Northern Ireland. I am currently on the steering group for Stop Climate Chaos and involved with their policy and action groups. I represent Feasta on the Environmental Pillar Steering Group and have had various roles representing the environment at county committees in Clare and Laois.

At activist level I have been facilitating transition initiatives and environmental networks for 13years. I’m a cofounder of Futureproof Clare and I recently got involved with Extinction Rebellion at national level.

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.

When I first got involved with the transition process 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.

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 community projects. Some projects succeeded while others did not. I learned a LOT about community development and participation through training and experience. I noticed 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’ve done the courses and it’s really the government that gets in the way.

I progressed from projects to analysing and attempting to shape the policy to support the projects. In 2009 I got involved with the County Development Board 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 anyway. Very often the council staff will sit back and refuse to change until they get direction from central government. Effectively – even if they have all these insightful progressive policies that you worked for hours on submissions to infiltrate they will not act upon them unless they are forced to. Of course they need the resources too.

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 and resourced 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.

My daughter recently rang me out of the blue. She was listening to people talking about this “green wave” and voters wanting action on climate and the environment. She considered how trendy it is now and wanted to thank me for being at it so long, before it became trendy. That was a beautiful experience. It brings tears to my eyes when I think of it. They are tears of happiness at being thanked by one whose future I am fighting for but also tears of inadequacy because there is so much more that must to be done.

The world needs more environmentalists. It needs more people standing up for the future. Stopping the destruction now that will prevent our children having the standard of living we have.  Of the uncertainty around their basic needs to survive. It is that stark yet simple. The world needs care givers. It needs us to care about each other and about our environment. Care enough to restore and regenerate earth to a state where it is worthy of passing on to our children. We need to care enough to be environmentalists and be proud of that fact.

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.

Get in touch with your comments or suggestions:

Theresa O’Donohoe 🙂

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