Dear Parents on Planet Earth…

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TO: Parents of Planet Earth

SUBJECT: Climate Strike

Dear fellow parents,

Over the past few weeks we have witnessed an unprecedented rising of our children across the world. They have skipped school on Fridays to protest about climate change, following the example of a Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg. Their example has drawn both praise – especially from scientists – and criticism. For many people their action may seem quite bewildering. Why are they taking such extreme action? Are they being unduly politically influenced? Should we be concerned?

I shared many of these questions until a few years ago I had a rude awakening to the urgency of climate change and what it means for our children. Like these children on the streets, I became anguished by the silence and the fear to face this mammoth challenge facing us all.

Like these children, I have studied the science. Based on that scientific evidence the message was clear: we are out of time. Not “nearly” out of time – but actually out of time. Our planet is already warming fast and the next generation will be in serious trouble. Unless we take radical action and change our ways, we risk bequeathing them an unlivable planet. Surely none of us want that?

This realization, which shook me to my very foundations, led me to give up my full-time job and to focus on waking people up to this stark reality. I wrote a book about my experiences, Climate Generation, with a wish that others could understand what the scientists are telling us. I wanted to share my story with other parents – not as some kind of guilt trip, but as a sincere plea to wake up and take our kids future seriously. I shared my concerns on the Ryan Tubrity Show. 

I also started to look around and see where I could raise my voice for change.  Last December a friend who read my book, Jim, introduced me (on social media) to Greta Thunberg. Together Jim and I started following her. She was striking for climate action. Many school children across Australia, and then the world, were starting to follow her example. Then, in December, Greta made her speech to the UN climate talks in Poland. In one minute she managed to capture the sheer urgency of what the world is facing – and put a call out to everyone to raise their voices by coming out on Fridays.

That following Friday Jim and I decided we would answer her call. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to go on climate strike.  We didn’t think for a minute we were “too old”. As parents who care we wanted to be the answer to that call. For me, with young boys, I felt it only right that I should stand on their behalf. After all, it is my own lifestyle, my inaction and my generation that has caused this mess. Sure, my boys will join when they can, but why should they stand in the cold, miss school and shoulder such a heavy burden? When they can’t, I will.

That was 12 weeks ago. Each week we carry out our #FridaysForFuture strike for climate justice outside the Irish Parliament. Every week our numbers grow: groups of students, teachers, religious, politicians, grandparents, mothers with prams, city workers on lunch break. It is a wonderful eclectic mix of humanity. We greet each other in a spirit of inter-generational embrace. We realise that we need each other. That we are all the climate generation now.

So my call to ALL parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – and everyone else in the young at heart group – is to get behind our young people, especially our youngest humans. They need us now more than ever. There is a golden moment now to show you care and you are sorry for what our generation has done. It doesn’t take much – perhaps one hour each Friday: stand in a public place with your placard. Post on social media and log it on www.fridaysforfuture.org map. And watch it grow. I guarantee you will not be alone for long.

Hope to see you soon at one of our #FridaysForFuture strikes!

Lorna

 

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Taking to the Air Waves with Tubs

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20190130_102732.jpgWhat an exciting week it has been! After last week’s roller coaster, I was ready for anything to happen this week. Little did I expect what has happened! Several people had been saying to me since before Christmas – “you need to get Ryan Tubrity onto this climate change stuff!” Ryan is Ireland’s most famous TV presenter (second only to Graham Norton perhaps). One Climate Generation reader, Don Mullen, wrote a blog and then took it on himself to send Ryan a copy of the book via a close friend before Christmas. I heard nothing back, so I thought it must have gone on the “maybe one day” pile. Nevermind.

Then, last week another reader, Dean, got in touch with me via Linked In. He said he had sent copies of my book into RTE on spec and got a lovely reply from a senior programmer. He suggested I send Ryan a copy of the book myself. So that’s what I did. I wrote a card and sent him the book. The very next day I got the call I had been waiting for – I had a slot for a live radio interview!

It was time to rally the troops. My husband Kev is out of town on business this week, so I needed to make arrangements for the boys to be minded while I made the early morning trek into RTE studios in Dublin. My friend Lisa obliged and I hardly slept a wink the night before with a mix of excitement and nerves. It doesn’t get bigger than this for new authors in Ireland!

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The interview itself was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed every minute. Ryan put me very much at ease and I felt I was able to speak straight from the heart about climate change – and what it means for us all. I even forgot I was on air! There was no jargon, not technical stuff, no finger wagging or pointing. My message was straightforward and simple: the science is very worry now. If we love our children (which we all do), we have to wake up fast. We need to use every ounce of our being to fight for their future now. Each of us have untapped reserves of courage, hope and compassion in us. Now is the time to dig deep, like my own mum did some 40 years ago.

If you want to meet me and get involved, join the growing #FridaysforFuture gang outside the Daíl on Fridays at 1pm. We will be celebrating afterwards with a coffee in the National Gallery. There are loads of other ways to get involved too – check out my tips on what to do at home or in your local parish. 

You can listen to the full interview here.

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A Climate Roller Coaster Week

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It is Friday again and time to pause before I catch the weekly train into Dublin to take up position outside Leinster House. This week has been one of ups and downs when it comes to climate change. For me it has felt a bit like an emotional roller coaster. Here’s what I have taken not of this week in the climate world.

The ongoing weird weather. Everyone is talking about it but surprisingly few are joining the dots yet. In Ireland at least, the winter still has not come. We had a very brief burst of normal cold weather last weekend – but that quickly gave way to the strange mild, dull, damp weather that has endured since before Christmas. What is most striking is the lack of temperature change at night – day and night is hovering around 10 degrees C. The birds, the animals and particularly the plants are confused. I saw beautiful cherry blossom in full bloom and turned brown on the branches yesterday. The grass is now around 10 cm in the garden (and was already cut on the 2nd January). For those like me which an acute sensitivity to the big picture, like rapidly reducing Arctic sea ice, this weirdness is freaking me out.

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(c) http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

Second thing I noted this week is the horrendous heatwave in Australia – and the attempts by our mainstream media to dress it up as a “very hot summer”. Bats have dropped to earth of heat exhaustion, fruit is cooking on trees, and roads across Australia are melting. The heatwave has involved sustained temperatures of over 40 degrees C across the continent for over a week. It is so hot they are actually running out of colours on the map. Yet the image that the media have chosen to use in their coverage? People at a beautiful beach frolicking in the water or cooling in a water fountain. Sure, what’s wrong with that? We could all be doing with a bit of that – especially given our grey skies right now.

On the positive side, I’ve been struck by two stories this week. The first is the Climate Case which is concluding today in the High Court in Dublin. This case has taken the citizen action on climate change in Ireland to a whole new level. Civil society is now well equipped – both in terms of skills, confidence and sheer numbers (16000 people signed up #InMyName) to pose a major challenge to the government. Some of the arguments put forward by the defence council on behalf of the Irish state are just plain mad. One that struck me is the idea that what campaigners are asking for is overly “onerous” for Irish society. I ask myself: and the consequences of climate change on the next generation??? The word “onerous” would be mild to describe what our children will face unless we take this onerous action upon ourselves. We await the outcome – but regardless, the climate movement here has been strengthened as a result. If the state wins, I can guaranteed those 16000 plus their friends will take to the streets. If it loses, we will still ratchet up our action.

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Friends of Irish Environment arrive at court. Photo: greennews.ie

The final story is the children in Brussels – and across the world – finding their voice. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SOUND (you need to turn up the volume). Yesterday 32000 children flooded the streets in Brussels demanding a safe future. That gives me goosebumps. They are joining many thousands more across the world. And this was not their first rally either – before Christmas 12000 protested on Brussels streets. The youth of today are rising up and bringing the “grown-ups” with them. The Irish youth, hopefully, will be next.

On that note. Now – off to Dublin.

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Why we ALL need to join climate strike – not just our children

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2019-01-11 13.10.01

Students from three local schools join the weekly Friday for Future Climate Strike in Dublin

This coming Friday, as every Friday, I will be standing outside Leinster House with my placard as part of the global “FridaysForFuture” Climate Strike started by Greta Thunberg last year. My weekly climate strike started last December quite unexpectedly. For several weeks friends had been sending me links to Greta’s work – saying to me “someone should start that here in Ireland.” My first thought was that “yes, someone should – but they need to be young!” The whole idea of the climate strike is that it is children speaking up for their future. As someone heavily engaged in climate campaigning already I thought I’d leave it to someone else to organise this one.

Then, one Friday I had decided to take a day off. My plan was to go Christmas shopping and to meet a friend for a birthday lunch. As I was heading in on the train to Dublin I was glued to twitter (as usual). I stumbled upon the video of Greta addressing leaders at the climate negotiations in Poland. I watched the two minute video in which she gives the leaders of the world the most cutting dressing down for their inability to act decisively. Her words are both chilling and inspiring.

As I listened, I realised that I had to do something. Greta was calling on us all – young and old – to break with our normality and to stand up for the future. As a mother of two little boys, I suddenly realised that I had to be their voice – at least for now. They are too young to lead a climate strike. They may not be voiceless, but as young children they are not ready to lead. They do not fully comprehend the enormity of the challenges the world is facing – nor should they be burdened with this so young. They needed me, their parent, to be their voice. Christmas shopping could wait.

As if drawn by a magnet, I found myself texting a few friends and making my way to a stationery shop. I bought the biggest cardboard sheet I could find and some markers. From their I went to a coffee shop and wrote my sign. At 1pm I took up position outside parliament – alone. I took a selfie and posted it on twitter. It was the strangest, but most liberating feeling. I simultaneously knew I was exactly where I needed to be – but also wondered if I had lost my marbles. Business as usual needs to stop – and the best way to do that, at least for me, is to create a new normal. Fridays now are about the future and about standing in solidarity with people all over the world calling for urgent and radical climate action.

Within ten minutes my friend and fellow climate activist Jim Scheer from SEAI arrived. Then, within the hour several more came. Some were seasoned climate campaigners who were moved by Greta, saw my tweet and popped down for a bit. Others happened to pass by and stand with us for a while. Our slightly forlorn picture was shared widely on social media – reaching almost 250,000 people. We knew this would grow.

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Jim Scheer, Barry McMullin and other climate strikers on week 1

That was a month ago. Since then, the group has continued to grow week by week. More strikes have started across Ireland. The following week there were twenty of us – including my own two children. We celebrated Christmas by changing the words to well-known Christmas carols and adapting them to our climate message. Last Friday there were thirty five of us, including students from three local schools with their teachers. We all had home-made posters and we chanted climate chants to attract attention. Again, our little protest was shared hundreds of times on social media and our video viewed over 10,000 times last week. There are now plans for a national day of action in primary schools on the 15th February promoted by Flossie Donnelly and a national day of schools climate action on the 15th March.

What has struck me most over the past few weeks is how much I feel connected to others in publicly voicing our climate concern. It is an act of shared hope – and defiance. My climate depression has lifted. Taking that small yet decisive step to get onto the street, to rebel, has generated a deep bond that connects us to each other and our planet. Many people found our small, yet growing group on Twitter or Facebook and just chose to turn up. Others had heard about us through friends and wanted to show support. Whilst we arrived on Kildare Street as complete strangers, from the first greeting we have become friends connected by deep bond. Each week we leave as fellow travellers to spread the word. We share our concerns, our hopes and above all, our wish to be heard. The destination of this adventure is unknown but we want to travel together to build a bright future for us all. Now is the time to stand up and be counted.

You can find us each week outside Leinster House on Kildare Street, Dublin at 1pm. If you can’t be there, be a climate striker wherever you are. All you need is a sign, a phone to post your picture online and above all – a bit of courage. Rest assured, you won’t be alone for long. You can also find the group on Facebook – Climate Strike Ireland.

 

 

 

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Our Climate D-Day Has Come

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What we do (as in you and I) for the next 2 years are critical if our children are to have a fighting chance of a safe future. 

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When a day Christmas Shopping turns into a climate strike

For the last two weeks, the international community has gathered – as they do each year – to agree how to deal with the impending climate catastrophe. The talks this year happened against a world which has darkened considerably since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. In three short years, the political alignment which had made that agreement possible has all but evaporated. President Trump, with his crazy anti-science rhetoric and backing from big oil, has thrown a grenade into the multilateral process. He hasn’t dealt a fatal blow – but lets say the patient is in a serious, unstable condition.

Trump’s behaviour, perhaps most worryingly, provided cover in Poland for other reluctant Paris signatories – Saudi Arabia, Russia, Kuwait – to come out into the open. Their decision to block the conference “welcome” of the recent scientific report on remaining within 1.5 degrees was a highly symbolic and brazen act. It was met with shock and disbelief on the part of most, but allowed others like Brazil to piggy back on the tense political atmosphere to enter the fray as a wrecking ball – delaying agreement on what counts towards emissions reductions and carbon credits. Ultimately, it sewed division and discord at a time when unity was essential.

The talks this year, moreover, were sponsored by the Polish coal industry – despite the fact that we now know that coal is enemy number 1 when it comes to climate change, accounting for almost half of all emissions. To put it in perspective: that’s like Benson and Hedges sponsoring a conference on Lung Cancer. The choking smog from coal hung in the air of Katowice, like a stinging daily reminder of the power of the fossil fuel industry and the madness that annual climate negotiating has become.

Against this backdrop, the rhetoric on the impending emergency – and actual climate emergency – has been dialled up. There is always a sense of urgency at these events – and emotions can run high. This year, however, there was no beating about the bush. Sir David Attenborough talked of immanent breakdown of civilisation, and the talks ended with an utterly heart wrenching plea from 15 year old Greta Thurnberg, who gave the negotiators a dressing down of epochal proportions: “you are not mature enough to say it like it is. Even that you leave to us children.” “I do not care about being popular – I care about climate justice, about a living planet.” These were chilling, cutting words and an indictment on politicians everywhere.

For climate campaigners in Katowice, and those like me following negotiations all around the world, this COP has been a watershed of both despair and hope in a strange way. What little faith people had in governments to respond with due urgency has been shattered. Governments simply are not going to do this for us, for our children and for our planet. This was their last chance saloon and they have blown it. If the stark words of a 15 year old girl and an icon like Sir David Attenborough don’t work, frankly nothing will. The political and economic system is broken – and you can’t fix the world with that broken system.

Realising this is cathartic. It isn’t, of course, about discounting governments and the role they play. Rules matter. But it is about understanding that what is needed now to tackle climate change is not coming. Unless we change the ‘system’ and build a new one on its ruins. System change can seem nebulous – since it implies changing everything everywhere. But it is actually quite straightforward and much of it exists already. It is like building a new house – and choosing to live in a different space. That space is a much nicer one: where we consume far less, live sustainably in our communities, choose to eat less or no meat, fly far less and spend more time nurturing nature and each other. It is a space where we build communities together and stand up bolding for our children’s future and that of other species. It’s a space where we mobilise, organise and inspire each other for urgent change.

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That system change is coming. The question is whether we can accelerate it now. Katowice also showed, through Greta and many others, that a popular rising is well underway. It happens when each and every one of us – from the oldest to the youngest – make bold choices and demonstrate loudly our willingness to change. Then political choices become possible and things can change fast. Most energy now has to be spent in waking up the world – in focusing minds on to the future we are denying our children. The climate movement is becoming more vocal and evidently more disruptive. I expect to find myself on the streets more often next year. In the absence of meaningful political action nationally and internationally, the ball is firmly in the court of ‘we, the people’ to protect human rights and planet for the future. And as Greta rightly says: hope comes when you start to act.

And everyone can act. We can all live lower carbon lives and in doing so shift the debate.  If we did these we would go a long long way to reducing our carbon footprint and raising the bar for more political action. What we do in the next two years is crucial. Time is not standing still. This is our climate D-Day.

5 Key climate actions to take in 2019

  1. Begin to model the low-consumption behaviour we need – from energy efficiency measures, reducing flying, changing eating habits… every emission now counts. If you can’t do everything – pick one thing to focus on. See ecologicalfootprint.org for more ideas.
  2. Get informed and talk about climate change in our communities – and talk about what we individually are doing. If you need a little book to help become informed, read my story – Climate Generation to give you the words and inspiration. See veritas.ie
  3. Get your money out of fossil fuels – and demand that our churches, clubs, universities, societies, countries do likewise. Make a plan to contact your bank and pension advisor to ask about re-investing your money in funds which do not support the fossil fuel industry. gofossilfree.org
  4. Support legal cases to challenge government inaction on climate change. Give a donation to climatecaseireland.ie   
  5. Make this our top political issue for 2019 – and organise to take action. Join the global climate strike movement and make #FridaysforFuture your mantra in 2019. Join the facebook group “Climate Strike Ireland” – or in your own country.

 

 

 

 

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