The COP26 conference might be over, but climate change actions must be prioritised on the agenda for every government. Meath Live got in contact with Joseph Collins, a climate activist from County Meath to discuss his thoughts on climate change both locally and globally.
Firstly, we asked Collins how he got into climate activism. “I was seeing all the amazing work young climate activists were doing around the world and was inspired. But I wasn’t really aware of the movement in Ireland at the time (this was in 2019) as there wasn’t much media coverage around it like there is now”.
“I found the FFFDublin page on Instagram and saw a post for a global Friday school strike on March 15th 2019. That was my first ever strike. Seeing the power of the strike, the unity of the people, and the urgency of our situation, it was impossible not to do anything. I knew that ignorance was no longer an option. Soon after, I became a member of FFFDublin and XRYouth Dublin”, Collins replied.
We asked Collins what we can do to combat climate change. “On an individual level, there are so many things we can do to combat climate change. Living a more sustainable lifestyle like cutting down on eating animal products to opting for public transport or walking or cycling instead of driving, even buying second-hand helps. There’s plenty we can do and these little things add up”.
“But it’s also important to not shift the focus from the main problem here. The 100 biggest companies in the world cause 71% of global emissions. So, no matter how many people use bamboo toothbrushes or cycle instead of drive, we’re still in trouble if we don’t tackle the real issue. And that’s capitalism”.
“So, as well as these small lifestyle changes, we also need to be holding those in power accountable. Like I said before, there isn’t much media coverage that’s fair and accurate on this issue. That’s why education is a driving force to hold those in power accountable. The more people that know the truth, the more people there are striking. The bigger the strikes, the more pressure we put on the government and corporations to act”.
“So, joining your local environmental group or county council can get your voice heard. And by using your voice to call for not only climate action but also climate justice, you’ll be making a difference”, Collins expressed.
We then asked Collins, did he think Politicians are doing enough to combat climate change, as our government believes that their climate action plan is the “most green” and “most progressive” climate action plan ever submitted before the State. “Simply put, no. What use are cycle lanes if you’re still extracting gas and oil? What use is planting trees if you’re still funding fossil fuel companies? All that our government has done up until this point is greenwashing. Taoiseach Micheál Martin said at COP26, “Ireland is ready to play its part”. He said the Irish government vows and promises and pledges this and that, but I don’t think he understands that we don’t care about words, words mean nothing to us. We care about action. We need action. When leaders speak at these conferences, they might as well be saying, as Greta Thunberg put it, “Blah, blah, blah””.
Lastly, we asked Collins whether he thinks County Meath has enough climate change initiatives. “Do I think that County Meath is doing good work in terms of climate change initiatives? Yes. But are they doing enough? Not if we want to stay below 1.5°C”.
“From what we’ve seen, Meath, and Ireland in general, aren’t doing enough to dismantle the systems we’ve put in place that got us into this mess. Yes, capitalism. I know it seems like such an unrealistic goal to dismantle and reconstruct this system but we cannot create a better world if we build off the system that’s destroying that very world. We must find an alternative”.
“Capitalism is racist. It’s homophobic. It’s misogynistic. It’s ableist. Placing down solar panels isn’t enough. Climate action isn’t enough. We need climate justice. Climate justice exposes that the climate crisis doesn’t affect different people equally. We’ve seen that those least responsible are the most affected by this crisis. By putting MAPA (Most Affected People and Areas) at the forefront of the conversation, we’ll be able to cut through the greenwashing and get straight to the justice”.
“Not only is capitalism hurting nature, but it’s also hurting us. Meath shouldn’t be focusing on individual change. They should be actively working to dismantle and reconstruct this harmful system”, concluded Collins.