LAST year, during one of the hottest summers ever recorded, Wren Alice Ind gave birth to her daughter, Lola.
The heatwave, heralded as an example of global warming, left Lola with breathing problems, and led to the teenage mum wondering what sort of future lay ahead for herself and her newborn child.
It is just one of the reasons why Wren, aged 18, is heavily involved in the Cork Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement. She is protesting on the street not just for her own generation, but for the next one as well.
“I was 17 when I fell pregnant, and I just knew I wanted to keep her,” says Wren.
“The summer was unnaturally hot for this country, and I just worried for her future and all the other children before her.”
Wren and her partner, George Taylor, live in a tiny house in Lismore village in Co. Waterford, but spend a lot of time in Cork and are saving up to move to Cork city eventually.
As I enter their hallway, an ominous sign greets their guests — ‘The End is Nigh’. George, a graphic artist, and Wren made the poster as part of their XR protests.
Their hallway leads straight to a small room covered with framed pictures of their adored and adorable Lola, and the floor is carpeted with the little girl’s toys.
While bringing up Lola, Wren watched her peers’ climate revolt, inspired by a pioneering, teenage climate activist in Sweden called Greta Thunberg.
Greta refuses to go to school on Fridays. Instead, she sits outside the Swedish Parliament to highlight the futility of education under the looming threat of a climate disaster that might rob children of a future.
In Cork, 16-year-old Saoi O’Connor and her friends, sit outside Cork City Council every Friday, rain or shine, to reiterate Greta’s message to Irish politicians.
Wren, spurred on by some demonstrations of concern and compassion, decided to fight for the future of her child by spearheading the adult movement of XR in Cork.
“I feel like I’m fighting for her future and everyone else’s future including my own. It is a strange feeling to see people my age fighting for their future,” she says.
“But all I can think about really is Lola’s future, but even if she wasn’t here, I would definitely be still out there.”
Last month, Wren organised a protest in which hundreds of climate activists brought the city’s traffic to a standstill by staging a ‘die-in’. Around 200 XR supporters symbolically lay down on Oliver Plunkett Street to depict the looming possibility of species extinction, in the absence of meaningful action to curtail climate change.
The XR is a global civil disobedience movement whose focal aim is to draw the public and Government’s attention to climate change and biodiversity decline.
Wren gave her first public speech at the rebel city’s XR event.
“It was quite nerve-wracking,” she admits. “I had prepared a long speech before, and I had written it down on two pages, but I lost it, and Lola was quite upset just before the protest, so I was very flustered.”
She felt like she should be honest with the assembled crowd: “It is my first time doing something like this, so I’m quite nervous,” she admitted, to be greeted with reassuring applause.
Wren and her partner think that Cork’s open-minded spirit affords opportunities for climate activism.
“I decided to organise the Extinction Rebellion protest in Cork because I think it’s a more free-thinking county and city than locally around here,” she says.
“And I’m very passionate about Cork; I go up there quite a lot. There was already a closed Facebook group for (XR in Cork), so I sought to initiate conversation because no-one was taking charge.”
Wren and other young climate activists’ efforts recently led to the Dáil’s declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency, making Ireland the second country in the world to officially recognise the precarious state of our future.
Applauding Wren’s initiative, Saoi O’Connor suggests that having a baby should fuel activists’ fight for the planet.
“If I had a child, I imagine my perspective would be quite different, I would have been active more so probably,” she says.
“Trying to protect someone else would probably add more meaning to what you’re doing.”
Wren’s partner, 25-year-old George, says climate change is “the most talked about”, ignored issue of our age.
“We really need a drastic shift rather than these little things here and there.” he added.
“The world’s not going to necessarily end in my lifetime. But it’s going to be a hell of a lot worse by the time I’m old and by the time [my daughter] is my age.”
Wren and George have recently decided to go vegetarian for the sake of the planet and their daughter’s future.
The young mother has also organised another XR protest for May 24, where the group’s campaigners will be joining Cork’s schoolchildren’s rally on the day.
For more information see https://www.facebook.com/XRCork/.