Climate action at local level makes a real impact

In the midst of confusion and fear over the environment, there are grounds for hope

Victory Luke addressing the global IEA conference on energy efficiency in the Mansion House, Dublin. Photograph: Karl Hussey

Victory Luke addressing the global IEA conference on energy efficiency in the Mansion House, Dublin. Photograph: Karl Hussey

 

It is 2019. Our oceans are polluted and so is our air, we have more plastic than we know what to do with, and our planet is burning. Is this really the 21st century?

I am the oldest in my family and I have three younger siblings who often talk to me about what they want to do when they grow up. But I feel worried and I feel scared. Why? Because I don’t know for certain that the world they see today will be the world they grow up in.

There have been times in human history that have frightened us to the bone. Days where nuclear warheads and impending war was a far more egregious threat to humankind. However, to us younger generations, Gen-Z and millennials, climate change takes hold of us in the same kind of horrifying way.

Climate change could be irreversible by the year 2030, according to a study done by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Greenhouse gases are at an all-time high, causing rising temperatures, which in turn causes the mass migration and mass extinction of plants and animals.

As a young person growing up with all this happening around me, what frustrates me most is knowing that we could have tackled this problem years ago. However, we paid no heed. We belittled, shamed and undermined researchers and scientists who spoke about this issue. We called it a myth, a make-believe problem. Now, we’re scrambling to fix the problem, desperately trying to beat the clock, racing against time.

Action

As I have learned over this past year, the key to reversing the devastating aspects of climate change is action. While it’s better late than never, and although it seems like a painstakingly slow process, changes are being made and action is being taken. The Government recently released its climate action plan, which sets out almost 200 actions that will make Ireland a cleaner, greener, more energy efficient place to grow up in.

The plan calls on us to change how we live, how we heat our homes, how we travel, how we generate power and how we manage our waste. It may seem like a daunting task but actually there are already so many people, communities and businesses that have already stepped up to the challenge.

In my community the platform for action was built through partnership. On a practical level a partnership with Microsoft, SEAI and SSE Airtricity allowed my school to instal solar panels and change every light fixture to LED bulbs. I also had the opportunity to lead a team of students in a project to educate our community on the benefits of energy efficiency and the importance of living sustainably.

If we manage to tackle global warming, to reverse it, how amazing would that be?

Little did we know the ripple effect our project would have on the community. At the beginning we thought we’d just be teaching the students, planting a small seed, but really we were building a web, one that connected the whole community and joined forces in hope of a greener and a brighter future.

In my opinion, there is so much being done and there are many people taking action, showing leadership, initiative and imagination. At the end of the day there’s only so much we on the ground can do, but our actions, even the small ones, mean so much in the long run. Personally, I’m glad to see the Government shaping legislation and regulations that force action, that will push businesses, homeowners, communities and each and every one of us to make changes and invest in our own future.

Global conference

So, while yes, the issue of climate change and its devastating impacts aren’t anything new, I think a new attitude towards it is certainly emerging. Being asked to speak at the International Energy Agency’s fourth annual Global Conference on Energy Efficiency really demonstrated that. It showed me that, as a young person, the adults in charge were willing to hear my opinion – to hear what I thought and what my worries are.

The people in charge, in positions where it matters, want to do something, they want to make a difference. That was really important to me. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that things are changing and harder again to believe that these changes are making an impact. But they are and they will.

If we manage to tackle global warming, to reverse it, how amazing would that be? How monumental a mark would that be on human history? This is a fight unlike any other in history. For once, we’re not fighting against each other, for once we are actually fighting for each other. For our right to live and for our right to a future.

And that, even in the midst of all this confusion, fear and horrifying dismay, is a very, very hopeful thought.

Victory Luke is a 16-year-old student at Collinstown Park Community College, Clondalkin, in Dublin

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