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Caring for our common home

Eamon Ryan TD, Leader of The Green Party, was one of the keynote speakers at a meeting of Irish Jesuits and lay collaborators in Milltown Park on Friday 10 June. In his address which formed part of the Province Assembly themed ‘Caring for Our Common Home’, Eamon referred to meetings of ‘The Climate Gathering’ which he has been involved in that bring together diverse groups of people from political, business, scientific and cultural backgrounds to address the climate challenge. When you think about the climate “you have to think in geological timeframes,” he said.

“We’re shifting from the period of 10,000 years of stable climate, to man and woman affecting nature in a fundamental way,” he added, explaining then how all the truths built up over the years “mightn’t necessarily resonate or hold true in a different geological space”.

“We are in a very interesting space politically at the moment,” Eamon said. Stating that he is comfortable with new politics, he said he “would love to see it work for two or three years to see can we do things slightly differently in a more ecological connected way”. There isn’t a sense of political ambition in our political system about climate. It does not exist, we are not leading, because “we haven’t inspired our people with a sense that it’s possible. He doesn’t blame the political system; they’re “reflecting what’s out there in the public”. Commenting on his involvement in the negotiations for the Programme for Government, he said that “there was no commensurate leap we’re prepared to make that you would think the signs would justify”. The signs are radical, he remarked, explaining that what was agreed at the 2015 Climate Conference in Paris “requires a transformation of everything – our energy system, food system, transport system –  and we’re not even thinking about it, we’re nowhere near doing it”.

In the Programme for Government “there was an acknowledgement that the public administration system in Ireland has lost connection with the people”. There was a recognition that we need to engage with people differently, that “we need to do consultation in a very open way with people – with media, political system and the public service”. He argued that there was a need to engage the Irish public in considering the big issues such as “how we get to a single-tier health system, how we provide pensions for people, and how we manage climate”.

According to Eamon, there is an opportunity to engage people in a new way, “where we stop telling them what to do, where we ask them for help”. We have to admit uncertainty: we don’t have all the solutions. “Sometimes we have to step back and think,” he commented, “to reflect before we act.”

Eamon is presently exploring “if we could do something around community development and climate as an engagement, using a collaborative model including all political parties, the Irish Environmental Network, and An Taisce”. He wondered if it would be practical “to put what Laudato Si recognises into real effect – that poverty eradication and tackling climate are completely connected… that rather than a disempowering form of poverty eradication, we empower local communities to improve their local environment to improve their health, to walk, to cycle, to eat better, to have enterprise in a way that improves their mental health”. ‘Care for our home’ shouldn’t belong to any side, left or right, according to Eamon. It has to be connected to people’s home, and it must belong to everyone.