Climate change: Let’s stop the squabbling and start fixing...

Humans are a co-operative species, and we need to tap into that spirit of collective action to change the world for the better, says Kathriona Devereux
Climate change: Let’s stop the squabbling and start fixing...

James Lovelock and daughter Christine in 1969 collecting air samples in Adrigole on the Beara Peninsula. He died last week at 103

FARMERS vs environmentalists. Cyclists vs drivers. Vegans vs carnivores. Public transport vs private transport.

The reductive conflicts that are constructed around discussions about climate action are not helping create the “all in this together” spirit that is needed for the enormous national and international effort required to halt global warming.

Last week, I heard a well known Cork radio presenter declare that the government was at “war with private transport” during discussions about proposed new bus routes.

A recently-arrived refugee from Ukraine might feel that comparing public policy to encourage active travel and reduce car usage to the armed conflict from which they are fleeing is disrespectful and inflammatory. I certainly did.

This type of unhelpful discourse might be good for ratings or raising the hackles and blood pressure of listeners, but it doesn’t do anything to move the discussion forward constructively.

Yes, it’s frustrating when a government body proposes to drive a load of buses over a local nature reserve, as is proposed by the National Transport Authority’s initial plans for a BusConnect transport corridor bridge over Ballybrack Woods in Douglas, but pitting people against each other is not the way to come up with a solution.

The people who want to protect Mangala also want better public transport and a liveable future for their children, and if we are going to make any progress in building a sustainable transport network, local residents and communities will really need to engage with the authorities who are charged with the responsibility of making one.

As Cork continues to grow and expand, we need to build communities that are not reliant on cars, to reduce emissions but mainly to prevent a traffic-choked city.

The NTA are holding a series of community forums about the proposed BusConnects plans starting in September. Here’s hoping that everyone approaches those meetings with a sense of we are all in this together, because the solutions and decisions made about public transport in Cork in the coming months and years will shape the city for decades.

Humans are a co-operative species. We wouldn’t have built these complex civilizations without working together for shared goals. Unfortunately, our modern societies have been built without regard to the planet on which we depend, hence our need to tap into the spirit of collective action to redesign the places we live, the ways we get about, and the ways we consume.

Goodbye to the Father of the Gaia Theory

One of the people who helped us understand the interconnectedness of life on our planet died last week at the grand age of 103.

James Lovelock was a British scientist and environmentalist and is most famous as the father of the Gaia theory.

Named after the Greek goddess for the Earth, his 1979 book Gaia: A New Look At Life On Earth put forward the idea that living organisms interact with their surroundings on Earth to form a complex self-regulating system that helps maintain the conditions for life on the planet.

I first encountered Lovelock’s writings back in 2008 when I was producing a documentary about nuclear energy and Ireland’s rejection of it as a possible energy source.

In 2004, Lovelock wrote that nuclear energy was the only green solution to the warming planet. He argued that “we have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources” and we needed to reduce fossil fuel usage immediately.

It was shocking to many environmentalists at the time that the father of the Gaia theory would support and encourage the expansion of the nuclear industry, but many green thinkers now also believe that nuclear power plays a very important part in helping us break up with fossil fuels and preventing the worst of climate change.

It’s hard to believe a man as vital and brilliant as Lovelock is no longer with us, but he lives on in his important contributions to this world.

Meteotsunami in Cork

Tsunamis are one of the most destructive of natural events and are powerful reminders of the fragility of life. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami affected 14 countries and killed more than 225,000 people. The Japanese 2011 earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami that killed 20,000 people and caused the Fukushima nuclear accident, leading to the evacuation and relocation of tens of thousands.

These devastating tsunamis were triggered by earthquakes, but I just learned about a milder type of tsunami caused by changes in atmospheric pressure, a meteotsunami. And one struck Cork last month.

In June, people around the coast of Cork witnessed some very strange tidal activities, with reports of the tide going the wrong way and eye-witnesses saying it reminded them of reports of the tide receding in advance of the Japanese tsunami.

Clonakilty native and Maynooth University oceanographer, Gerard McCarthy, has just published a fascinating paper (available to read online) on the phenomenon that occurred on June 18 along the south coast of Ireland.

Marine Institute tidal gauges captured the strange event, which saw water levels drop by 70cm in five minutes, and other observers said the tide went in and out about five times over the course of three hours.

In times past, some mythical reason would have been ascribed to this unusual phenomenon, but McCarthy was able to marry tidal gauge readings with meteorological atmospheric pressure readings to come up with an explanation of this curious event.

Fair play to science!

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