Trevor Laffan: We all care for planet, so why can’t I take this man seriously?

In his weekly column Trevor Laffan says we should hand the planet over to future generations just as we found it - but instead we are hell bent on destroying it
Trevor Laffan: We all care for planet, so why can’t I take this man seriously?

GREEN LEADER: Minister for Transport, Climate, Environment and Communications Eamon Ryan.

EAMON Ryan, our Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, has a new plan to save Planet Earth. He wants to do away with cheap flights to holiday destinations to cut down on harmful emissions.

He says he is working with his European partners to ensure cheap flights won’t be easily accessible in the future.

Mr Ryan says this will help Ireland reach zero carbon emissions by 2050, but it also means families will pay more for their breaks in the sun. That’s unlikely to win him any bonus points in the popularity stakes, but it’s not the first time he’s gone against the grain.

The Minister previously suggested that people living in rural Ireland should start car-sharing to reduce our carbon footprint. He also wanted wolves to be reintroduced into Ireland 250 years after they became extinct, because they should have a place in the country’s environment and would contribute positively to the ecosystem and the State’s national habitat.

Mr Ryan has raised a few eyebrows on other occasions too. While making a speech on racism, he used the very word he shouldn’t, and then, at a time a year ago when the nation was facing into the Covid-19 crisis, he said in the Dáil that he wanted us to grow our own salads in window boxes on south-facing windowsills so we could be self-sufficient.

Minister Ryan also has plans for Dublin. He wants a city where a good education and skilled work will be available for those who seek it, where people can afford to rent or buy a house, where access to an efficient and reliable public transport system is guaranteed, and where cycling and walking are also a viable and healthy option for people getting in and out of the city centre.

That sounds fantastic, but what politicians want for Dublin is of little interest to me down here in Cork.

I live in Cobh, and as far as politicians are concerned, it’s the forgotten land. The condition of the roads, broadband, hospitals, garda stations and post-offices generally across rural Ireland suggests that our future is as precarious as that of the dodo bird.

The health of the planet is a serious issue. Young people in particular are getting more animated about the subject, with Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage activist on climate change, leading the charge. It’s their future we’re talking about, so they have every right to be concerned.

That’s music to the ears of the Green Party and their supporters, but it’s not going down well with everyone. Well, me anyway, because it’s giving their leader, Eamon Ryan a platform.

I’ve never met him, and he comes across as a genuine character, but I can’t take him seriously, and that’s a pity because I would like to be supportive.

There’s no doubt the planet is in trouble and something needs to change. According to the World Wildlife Fund, African elephant populations have declined, more than 100,000 orangutans have been lost, the whale shark population has fallen by more than 50%, and black and white rhinos are down by 63%. Polar bear numbers are projected to decline by 30% in 39 years’ time.

We’re destroying their natural habitat by looting the forests for timber. We’re killing elephants and rhinos for their ivory, killing sharks for their fins and other animals for trophies. And we’re filling the oceans with plastic, with disastrous implications for animal and plant life.

A dead whale washed up in eastern Indonesia and it had a large amount of waste in its stomach, including flip-flops, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, a nylon sack, 115 drinking cups and 1,000 pieces of assorted plastic.

I was fortunate some years ago when I got to visit the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I spent a day diving from a boat and snorkelling among the coral and the fish. Fish of all shapes, size and colour swam around me and at times they rubbed against me as they passed by. The water was absolutely crystal clear, and I never saw such a display of colour, it was spectacular.

Now it’s in danger of disappearing. We are facing a huge challenge, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The world’s leading scientists are telling us that we have only about ten years to prevent the Earth heating up and if we don’t get our act together, we are going to be in serious trouble.

If the temperature increases by as little as a half a degree, the world will be at greater risk from drought, floods, and extreme heat. Not only will that have a negative impact on hundreds of millions of people, but it will also severely damage the coral and the Arctic.

You would think that, with all the knowledge we have about how the planet lives, breathes, and provides for us, we would show greater interest in protecting it. We should hand it over to future generations the way we found it, but instead we’re hell bent on destroying it.

I won’t ever be a member of the Green Party. I don’t believe we should all go around barefoot, wearing clothes made from grass and eating raw vegetables, but I do think it is time we took a serious look at what we are leaving behind us. We can do better.

We produce nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year, half of which is for single use. More than eight million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans annually and much of it ends up being consumed by the creatures living there.

All the experts agree that climate change is occurring earlier and more rapidly than expected and we are being told we have 12 years to limit a climate change catastrophe. We can’t afford to fail because the stakes are too high, but I still can’t take Eamon Ryan seriously.

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