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The not-so-green emerald isle

Pedro (Peter) Walpole SJ, Director of Research at the Institute of Environmental Science for Social Change in the Philippines, recently visited Ireland with the Jesuit Missions Office. While here, he visited Gardiner Street National School in Dublin along with a number of other schools. In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, he challenges listeners to change the destructive ways they relate to Mother Earth.

Although Dr Walpole accepted that there is a change in consciousness on going ‘green’, he told Pat Coyle that this is not enough. The waste of plastic is a particularly concerning issue for him: “There’s an island in the Pacific Ocean where I live that’s not mapped and it is the size of the State of Texas… this island of floating plastic”. Regarding such issues in Ireland, he says that we need to find the tipping point to change such as when we started to charge for plastic bags and when we banned smoking in public spaces.

The Limerick-born Jesuit refers to concrete steps that can be taken by ordinary people in order to protect the environment: “We’ve got to cut the transport and actually also eat a little less meat. If we could do that and not waste so much food… we could, for the same price, get organic food”. However, the Jesuit has some serious doubts of making such shifts noting that it requires long term vision from politicians who mostly don’t think beyond the next election. He says the neo-liberal political agenda is disastrous for the environment as its sole motivation is profit and the commodification of everything we deem worthwhile.

Fr Walpole looks to the long view: “Can we do something at least for the children, even if not for ourselves and have a vision greater than 3 or 6 years of political life cycle? Look 30 years ahead and make a difference!”

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