‘You cannot keep the spring from coming’
Your views on ‘Where to now?’ for Clare and Ireland
As political parties were sitting down to plan for a new government, we asked you to send us your views on what direction Clare and Ireland should take as we emerge from the pandemic. Do we go back to ‘normal’ or take the opportunity for major change? Are there aspects of the lockdown that are worth holding on to?
You sent us inspiring ideas and rousing calls for action. Some clear themes emerged, including calls for a national health service, more remote working, creating resilient communities and more local democracy. The most prevalent issue was our environment, with demands for greater climate action, less Roundup on our roadsides, a biodiversity education campaign and more community-owned wind farms.
There was also calls for a four-day week, more workers’ and tenants’ rights and for music and the arts to be part of our recovery.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to write to us. Below we bring you a selection of the best submissions. We will now pick four of these names out of a hat for the four €50 vouchers for takeaway meals from local restaurants and will announce those soon.
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Going to work is over-rated. Let’s have more remote working. This will help the planet but also the mental and physical health of those who commute.
The five-day week is over-rated. Let’s have the four-day-week as the maximum anybody should be required to do. And the three-day week as the norm. This will mean less unemployment, as the work can be shared around more evenly. And people will be more productive in the fewer days they are working.
The ‘moral hazard’ of giving people money for nothing is over-rated. Let’s have a universal basic income. Let’s at least try it.
Foreign holidays are overrated. Let’s celebrate and encourage holidaying in Ireland. Let’s give up the obsession with Shannon Airport and look for alternative tourism and alternative industries in this region.
Profit is overrated. Let’s remove profit as the deciding factor in whether to keep post offices open. We don’t require parks, libraries or Garda stations to make a profit, so why post offices?
Big business is overrated, for example developer-led renewable energy. Let’s help and support communities to build their own wind farms and solar. In countries such as Denmark and Germany, where most wind farms are owned by the people living near them, wind turbines are popular.
“Natural” gas is overrated. Let’s develop offshore wind off the Clare coast and tidal energy on the Shannon Estuary.
The rights of landlords are over-rated. Let’s have a rent freeze and much stronger rights for tenants.
Neat and tidy is over-rated, at least when it comes to roadside verges. Let’s have less cancer-causing herbicide, more wild flowers, more wild grass, more wild growth, more for pollinators to thrive on.
Capitalism is overrated. Let’s encourage and experiment with more collectives, co-operatives and not-for-profit enterprises.
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I remember while in college studying Sustainable Development, the profound effect the following words had on me: “Living now that does not have a negative effect on the future”. While that was a few years ago, these words have never been more important or pressing.
What if we were to make Ireland a truly sustainable country to live in and travel to, for society, the economy and the environment? The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all UN member states in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.
With such positive advancements and alternatives in energy, agriculture and economics, and the new resurgence of self-sufficiency since the coronavirus put a halt to our gallop, we have had time to re-address how we live our lives, and here’s hoping it will long continue after the phases have been lifted. DIY, gardening, working from home, alternative transport solutions, cleaner air, and even the simplest of things, seed-saving, all becoming the new norm, skills lost and found. I see this as a golden opportunity to tackle the long-bandied-about climate crisis issues we face in Ireland. Beach closures due to raw sewage or fertilisers from the land, water infrastructure not up to speed, I could go on.
Permaculture and regenerative farming are being seen as real alternatives to our monoculture madness and offer simple yet hugely rewarding ways of living off the land. What about bio-digesters that turn excess effluent into energy to power homes and farms? Explore the sustainable harvest of using red seaweeds to reduce methane emissions from cattle by 60%. Restore our once thriving small fishing industry, so it is not taught as a history lesson! Create retrofit house grants, support for more community energy schemes.
As the recent report arc2020.eu, https://www.arc2020.eu/farm-2-fork-a-truly-green-farming-food-and-rural-vision-for-ireland/ advises, farms can be providers of food, fibre, energy, timber, agro-tourism and recreation. This is a real chance to achieve these goals.
Sounds like common sense to me.
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We all need to be able to determine the direction of our own lives. This means also having a say in the things that affect our lives. Everyone needs to have a voice in the conditions of our housing, healthcare, education, and employment. Everyone needs to have a voice in the health of our communities and our relationship with the rest of nature. But, as many of us know, this doesn’t happen on its own.
To have a voice we need power. To build power we need mass movements like Black Lives Matter, as well as Extinction Rebellion, the School Strikes for Climate, and so many others. To exercise power we need organisations such as tenant associations, student unions, and labour unions. To do these things we need to figure out which side we are on and who is there with us.
If I could sit down – socially distanced – with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party, I would share with them this quote from the late Chilean poet and politician Pablo Neruda: “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep the spring from coming.” I would tell them that, in a way, it is in their own interest to listen to the needs of the people.
In the wake of this pandemic, we need an all-Ireland national health service. To prepare for the economic impact of the pandemic, we need to strengthen and extend the rights of workers to collectively bargain. In the midst of a climate emergency, we need to halt all fossil-fuel related projects and rapidly transition to green renewable energy. If they do not listen and respond to these needs, it is in their own interest to get out of the way.
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For the first time in the verges of the roadside in east Clare, I saw an orchid. It was the first time the verges had not been cut in the spring, all because of the Covid crisis. Odd that the travel restrictions imposed for the Covid-19 crisis meant there was some relief for the other crises we face – the climate and biodiversity crises.
The verges are now mostly thriving and full of life. I’ve heard another word used too: “overgrown”. Yet it makes absolutely no difference to the human users of that road to have this mini ecosystem in existence but it makes a whole world of difference to the many flora and fauna who can thrive here without harming or hurting anyone else.
Do people know about the biodiversity emergency before spraying the poisonous chemical glyphosate – widely available in local shops in Ireland – all over the declining pollinators’ food, destroying it? If people knew dandelions were of vital importance to pollinators in decline, would they create the dead orange mess outside their homes?
The point I’m making here is we need to take care of biodiversity generally, from the tiniest of insects to the greatest of oak trees. The first step to taking care of anything is education. Most adults don’t know which trees are native to Ireland or which native flowers rare butterflies living in their area feed on. While some grassroots projects are doing their best to reach the population, there needs to be a government-led educational campaign on the other emergencies we are facing, the climate and biodiversity emergencies. We all received booklets telling us how to wash our hands, sneeze into our arms and dispose of our tissues. Now the country needs booklets about what kinds of trees support biodiversity, which species are endangered and what we can do to bring them back.
And if you’re wondering why biodiversity matters, the answer is very simple. Because we are part of it. We are just one more species, and although we have taken over most of the planet now, we need to realise that if we don’t look after the other species who are now struggling here, we too will struggle and may even become extinct.
So I would ask our elected representatives to please create an emergency campaign around climate and biodiversity, a booklet to every door, restrictions on glyphosate and a lot more to promote a healthy environment for us all to thrive.
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Covid-19 has shown us what communities can do in a crisis as well as how government can trust, respond and support that. Local people played a major part in shaping the national response as teams of people who care passionately about their community jumped into action. They have been working voluntarily for hours on end to make their community safe.
As well as the amazing capacity of our volunteer force, our communities are made up of invaluable front-line workers, innovative teachers, capable students, friendly neighbours, creative entertainers and more, who have all learned to transfer online.
Covid-19 demonstrates how we should act in an emergency. The national health officials deliver the facts every day. The stark reality and required actions were posted to every house and are publicised on every media platform available. People are empowered to understand the gravity of the situation and act accordingly. People are trusted with the information and their capacity to act. The same approach must be adopted for the climate and biodiversity emergencies.
Town councils were abolished in 2014. We need an alternative, with a sustainable development remit, that can co-ordinate emergency response teams. Pandemics are one of many anticipated challenges in the climate and biodiversity emergencies. Being prepared for them is one aspect of the response required. Taking steps to slow them down is another. Local teams are the driving force we need.
We need a national awareness raising campaign telling the truth about the climate and biodiversity emergencies. We need sustainable development and emergency response plans in every single community. We need to build local resilience to ensure our capacity to cope with future shocks.
A government that leads the country on a resilient pathway would be my silver lining. Taking steps now to tell the truth about our predicament, facilitate communities to discuss the challenges and support the actions they decide to take. The policy to support this exists but the political will doesn’t. We need our decision makers to trust the people, trust communities, to shape the national response to the climate and biodiversity emergencies.
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Throughout 25 years as a gigging musician, I have had busy spells and breaks for different reasons but live music was always a constant. As a performer and punter this is the first time that there has been silence.
Some solos artists can perform online from home but if you operate as a full band that may not be an option so all you can do is wait and look forward to a resumption. Another issue is in what capacity live performance can return, as it may not be profitable to feature live music with a very limited audience.
The country is on the first step to reopening but I have not seen a plan to phase the arts back to any sense of normality as yet in any news articles or in any list of phasing for businesses. At the beginning of the year I spoke to a public representative who was looking at the idea of a general Ennis festival covering all aspects of the arts and there was some interest in incorporating Originality Clare and original music into this. Originality Clare is something I set up last year, when I noticed a hole that needed to be filled and had a first night promoting bands performing original music in Ennis.
When we are past this crisis I would like to see talks resume on this and many more matters relating to the way forward for musicians and public representatives, understanding the importance of the contribution of music and arts in general and that it needs to be a step on the road to recovery.
If anybody would like to discuss any points, or any original artists would like to see how we can work together, I can be contacted under Originality Clare on Facebook. I would also like to thank Clare PPN for their ongoing assistance to artists in every form in Clare.
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Abolish the two-tier health system once and for all. Ireland is for those with extra means and always has been. It’s time for us to abolish this inequality and invest in keeping our doctors and nurses. We need to create a new mentality about serving our own people here and reforming ourselves – something that has never happened. Now is the time to foster a progressive patriotism.
Carbon tax on petrol/diesel at the pumps should be poured into improving rail and bus services and help reduce carbon footprint over time. I don’t support a reduction in the herd and don’t support affecting people’s livelihoods or a 7% reduction which will destroy a lot of people’s jobs and farming. I support meaningful measures over time.
Measures to tackle plastic must be taken and more local produce encouraged.
Reform the secondary school system to give every child a more equal opportunity to actually gain something valuable from secondary education. I support a four-year Junior Cert and three-year Leaving Cert, comprising terminal exams but also continual assessment. Creative teaching must be a goal. Languages must be taught better. Irish teaching must be radically reformed. Teaching must be assessed in a meaningful way. The French, German and Finnish systems should be an inspiration on modeling. Music, PE and Drama must be offered to every single child.
Support power-sharing in Northern Ireland. Promote more all-island co-operation and leave border polls for a post-Brexit future.