Community action begins with two people: one willing to offer help, and the other willing to ask for it, says Holly Hughes …
When I first began researching this month’s column, I was giddy – a bit drunk, actually – on the big things happening in small places around Ireland. I delighted to read about the solar-powered Eco Showboat, a boat that traverses the country using science and art to spark conversations around climate breakdown and I was ecstatic to discover that my hometown of Clonakilty will be the first Irish town to go off-grid with a solar farm that will be 100 per cent community-owned, power the entire municipality and save 1.75m kg of carbon emissions from the atmosphere in the process. Inhabitants of the groundbreaking ecovillage in Cloughjordan, Tipperary (pictured above) work towards self-sufficiency and carbon neutrality and boldly embody what a low-carbon society can look like. From Valentia Island to the Aran Islands, Claremorris to Kerry, other renewable energy cooperatives – started and sustained by passionate communities – are going from strength to strength, demonstrating the power (quite literally) that can be harnessed when we work together.
Community action works for many reasons. Not only is there power and strength in numbers, there is solace. When corporations, governments and conservative media bully us into feeling that we, the individuals, aren’t just responsible for causing this crisis, we are responsible for fixing it too, there is so much comfort and hope to be found in community.
There is also accountability. Research has shown humans become the best version of themselves when feeling scrutinised – they give more money to charity, work harder, act kinder. And so, in the spirit of this issue being about village, we thought about ways to harness community potential for potent, positive, soul-filling climate action. You don’t need to move to an eco-village, you don’t need to get planning permission for a solar farm, you don’t need to radicalise thousands of people. You just need to find a climate-positive pursuit that reflects your interests and share it with friends and neighbours who will join in and help. Here are a few ideas for community climate action.
Research has shown humans become the best version of themselves when feeling scrutinised – they give more money to charity, work harder, act kinder.
Join or establish a community garden. With Community Gardens Ireland, you can not only find a community garden near you, you have free and immediate access to all the resources, advice, and support you might need to set up your own. CGI is a national organisation that for over ten years has been linking and sharing knowledge and information to support and promote community gardens all over the island. www.cgiireland.org.
Pocket Forests is an initiative by Catherine Cleary and Ashe Conrad-Jones, committed to planting biodiverse forests in small, urban areas. They work with community centres, GAA clubs, public spaces, fire stations, and schools to create tiny native forests. They’ve already planted over 1,500 native trees and shrubs with small community groups and have plans to help towns and cities all over the country establish their own pocket forests. www.pocketforests.ie.
TREES PLEASE AND GUERRILLA GARDENING There are several iterations around the country, like Trees Please in Cork who are planting as many native Irish trees as possible around the city. Let’s not forget guerrilla gardening – the act of growing plants or flowers on abandoned, derelict, or uncared-for sites, as well as, for the truly adventurous, private property. Find Trees Please Cork on FaceBook. Get radical with your gardening and inspire neighbours, colleagues, friends, local businesses to join in. Transform an unused office rooftop into a biodiversity oasis, a space to retreat to during a stressful working day. Turn your town’s roundabout into a wildflower paradise or woodland shrubbery. Magic a fallow patch of grass outside school gates into a thriving ecosystem.
RECHARGE WITH RENEWABLE ENERGY!
What excites me most about renewable energy alternatives – particularly green energy co-operatives and residential solar power – is that they are contagious. One of the central aims of Clonakilty’s groundbreaking solar farm is to pave the way for other communities to follow suit. Co-operatives like Comharchumann Fuinnimh Oileáin Árainn Teo openly share their learning to encourage people in and outside of their communities to find renewable alternatives, while Energy Co-ops Ireland is a consultancy supporting communities to find and develop energy solutions. Availing of an SEAI grant and fitting your home with solar panels might be an individual action but it carries far greater social consequences. Studies have shown that installing solar photovoltaic panels on your roof significantly increases solar energy uptake among your neighbours. Think of it like keeping up with the Joneses but for environmental good. So, even if your town or village isn’t quite ready for a renewable energy co-op, your street or neighbourhood just might be. Never forget that every decision holds the power to influence the people around you.
If all of these ideas sound outlandish to you, or you don’t see them in your local area, don’t forget to ask for them! Ask Google, your TD, your Tidy Towns committee, your neighbours, the hippy woman from the health food shop. We think that just because something doesn’t exist, then it shouldn’t, that there’s a reason it doesn’t. However, the truth might be that it’s because you haven’t asked for it yet. Or, as my therapist likes to tell me, after my lengthy ruminations on my love life, maybe you’ve just been asking the WRONG PEOPLE (the capitalisation is hers). So, if you have an idea for collective climate action – however small or simple – and don’t see it around you, then ask others to help you create it. Yes, big ideas are happening in small places in Ireland. But don’t forget, community action begins with two people: one willing to offer help, and the other willing to ask for it. I believe that within us, we hold both people. I ask you to embrace both and, in so doing, you will find yourself embracing the people and community around you. It takes a village. But your village needs you.
Sign up to our MAILING LIST now for a roundup of the latest fashion, beauty, interiors and entertaining news from THE GLOSS MAGAZINE’s daily dispatches.