A Snowball’s Chance in Rome: Climate Change Scientists Are All Agog at Cold Snap

‘The North Pole is warmer than much of Europe right now.’ That was a Tweet on Sunday (25.02.18) from lead climate scientist at Berkeley Earth, Robert Rohde. The big chill or ‘Beast from the East’ that has prompted warnings across the United Kingdom and Ireland is responsible for a deluge of colourful descriptions as climate scientists compete with headline writers to come to terms with the ‘wacky’, ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatic’ weather patterns in the Arctic. So what’s behind the drop … Read more

Two Irelands, One Planet: Thinking Like an Eco-System Can Help Bind New Executive

While the North continues to languish as one of Western Europe’s ecological backwaters a gap has begun to open up with the Republic of Ireland when it comes to policy innovation. Two recent developments may prove to be tipping points in legislating for climate justice and environmental rights in Dublin. The most recent came just last week in the Oireachtas with the successful passage to Committee Stage of an opposition-sponsored initiative, the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) Climate Emergency Measures … Read more

Local Environmental & Planning Governance Under Scrutiny (Somewhat)

On the heels of another damning report on failures relating to compliance with environmental and planning rules, Northern Ireland will be subject to international scrutiny December under the aegis of the authoritative United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) Aarhus Convention. The Convention – named after the Danish city where it was adopted in 1998 – grants citizens rights and imposes on Parties (including the UK) and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to environmental … Read more

“The Laws of Nature Need Not Apply Here” – Ophelia is a sign of things to come

  The Northern Ireland administration’s late and confused hurricane warning to school children and young people parallels local political attitudes to climate change. By failing to take climate change seriously even when the evidence is hitting us in the face we are disregarding the rights of our children and young people. The late, confused and inefficient warning on Sunday evening to students and parents is like a metaphor for the slow, confused and ineffective response that government has made here … Read more

Environmental Governance Failure in Northern Ireland: High Time to Turn Over a New Leaf

By Ciara Brennan, Ray Purdy and Peter Hjerp Recent scandals including the RHI debacle and the discovery of illegal dumping on a massive scale (most notably at the Mobuoy Road ‘super-dump’) have catapulted Northern Ireland’s environmental governance failures into the public eye. The divergence from what can be considered ‘good’ environmental governance is clear and the environmental, economic and socio-political consequences of these failures cannot be overestimated. Protecting the environment is not a one-way cost and there has been very little … Read more

Cloughjordan Ecovillage – Another World is Possible for Belfast

Lessons for Belfast Urban Regeneration at Féile an Phobail 2017 By Peadar Kirby & Peter Doran While Ireland was living through the most severe economic collapse of its history since independence, a group of pioneering people were sowing the seeds of a new society through founding the ecovillage of Cloughjordan in County Tipperary. Seeking to model sustainable living for the 21st century, the ecovillagers conceived their project during the boom years of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger in the late 1990s and … Read more

Who is Donald Trump?

[Donald John, or Dòmnall Iain is one of the most common names on the Isle of Lewis, the birthplace of Donald Trump’s ancestors. It translates, from the Latin and Norse roots, as dom and val, as The Ruler of the World] In a wide-ranging interview, the writer, activist and ecologist, Alastair McIntosh, has raised an intriguing possibility that US President Donald Trump’s personality and behaviour can be traced back to traumatic 19th century clearances and evictions in southern and western … Read more

Does mindfulness have a role in cultivating reconciliation and ‘ethical remembering’?

When the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh addressed over one hundred politicians and representatives of civil society in the Senate Chamber at Parliament Buildings in April 2012, the celebrated Vietnamese Zen practitioner, poet, peace activist and writer brought with him a profound sense of identification and empathy. He also brought a proposal or invitation to consider introducing the practice of mindfulness and deep listening to our engagement with ourselves and others, in the course of building a culture of compassion and … Read more

Cavalier attitude to EC State Aid decision on RHI could save the day

The comedy of errors that is the Northern Ireland Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme may be about to take yet another strange twist. And at last there may be some good news for the tax payer. Earlier this week when I tweeted an alert to the EC’s decision on State Aid (SA.34140 (2012/N) for the Northern Ireland scheme I drew attention to one of the key paragraphs (Section 2.5 para 25) that sets out in very clear terms that: “Only “useful heat” … Read more

Local Environmentalists Celebrate Activism to Mark International Human Rights Day

An emergent network of environmentalists gathered at the Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast Saturday to mark International Human Rights Day. Four stories of activist achievement, focused on the human right to safe drinking water, were shared by activists engaged in campaigns to: “Save Our Sperrins” (SOS) from plans by the Canadian Gold-mining company, Dalradian Resources, for a 1000m deep mine, cyanide processing plant, huge waste dump, tailings ponds, electricity substation, telecommunications mast and associated works, beside the village of Greencastle … Read more

Towards a politics of emergence: Can wellbeing shift the political conversation?

The Carnegie United Kingdom Trust (CUKT) convened a high-level Conference at the Girdwood Community Hub in Belfast Wednesday to take stock of the Trust’s joint work with QUB School of Law on advancing the case for a wellbeing outcomes framework in the Programme for Government. A feature of the conversation at the packed venue was the blend of local and global themes and speakers. We heard from Rolf Alter, Director for Public Governance and Territorial Development at the influential inter-governmental think-tank, … Read more

Collusion – When The State Is The Lie

In his book, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, the veteran war correspondent and former divinity student Chris Hedges warned us that: ‘States at war silence their own authentic and humane culture. When this destruction is well advanced they find the lack of critical and moral restraint useful in the campaign to exterminate the culture of their opponents. By destroying authentic culture – that which allows us to question and examine ourselves and our society – the state erodes the … Read more

The UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit

Where does the Climate Change Summit sit in the context of a Post-2015 Climate Agreement? When the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, took to the streets of New York with 300,000 climate change demonstrators – in parallel with one hundred protest actions around the world – he was signalling a decisive new phase in the world’s movement towards a post-2015 agreement. This analysis will show how the Secretary-General’s actions on the streets of a global city –  one … Read more

Belfast’s Festival of Fools: No laughing matter at the ‘Dome of Delight’?

Earlier this year, organisers at Belfast’s award winning Festival of Fools received news from Belfast City Council’s Tourism, Culture and Arts Unit that they were to be excluded from multi-annual funding. In addition, their annual allocation was reduced from £11,000 (2012) to £6000 (2013). The Festival’s funding from the City Council’s Community Festivals Fund remains unchanged. There’s a memorable scene in one of my favourite films, Anthony Manghella’s Truly Madly Deeply (1990). One of the main characters, Nina, is being drawn … Read more

Northern Ireland’s Fourth Estate has a vital role in upholding quality of economic debate

By Peter Doran with Andrew Charles   Given the nature of our regional democratic institutions, notably the lack of a formal opposition, the role of the fourth estate – or the press in its various electronic and paper forms – in driving critical and informed debate is of particular importance in this part of the world. The role of the fourth estate is normally associated with keeping our formal democratic institutions in check, by providing a relatively accessible and transparent … Read more

Rio 20 Years On – The UN Conference on Sustainable Development 2012

The results of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development here in Rio de Janeiro said more about the state of geopolitics than any advance in sustainability. About fifty thousand people gathered for one of the most participatory global summits in history…but to what avail? Non Governmental Organisations, led by Greenpeace, have been quick to dismiss the event as failure of epic proportions. The political centrepiece of the negotiations is a fifty-page list of non-binding reaffirmations of undertakings – many with origins … Read more

Who is Thich Nhat Hanh?

On the morning of Tuesday 17th April 2012 Parliament Buildings will receive a remarkable visitor. The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Master, poet, scholar, peace activist and renowned teacher of mindful living, will deliver an address on ‘Peace building’ to an invited audience of MLAs and others engaged in supporting the peace process here. After his talk, Nhat Hanh will lead one of his walking meditations on Prince of Wales Avenue. The Zen monk’s visit to Belfast comes at the … Read more

A Bloody Sunday March will proceed

The strains of the protest song ‘We shall overcome’ shall ring out over Derry on Sunday 29th of January at the conclusion of a march to mark the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. The march has been organised in the face of a disputed decision last year by the Bloody Sunday Committee and a majority of the campaigning families to declare that the 2011 march would be the last, given the ‘vindication’ of their campaign in the findings of the … Read more

Countdown to revelations about planning practices

Today is the deadline for responses to a Friends of the Earth online survey that has attracted over four hundred submissions on local planning practices. Responses from across society and the professions, including a number of revelations from within the developer-planner nexus, promise to make for uncomfortable reading for those charged with the protection of our natural and built environments. Here, the Director of Friends of the Earth, James Orr talks about some of the findings. From the stories about one new … Read more

Agnew’s achievement in North Down

Steven Agnew’s achievement in North Down is a much more significant breakthrough for the Greens than even Brian Wilson’s election in 2007. For the first time the Greens have mustered a vote in a regional election entirely under their own steam, whereas Wilson was able to draw on a significant personal vote garnered as an independent candidate. There’s also a sense that Agnew will bring a strong and coherent Green Party voice to the Assembly, buoyed by likely victories in … Read more