Letter published in the Irish Independent, 17 February 2022:
Mary Robinson was right when she urged senators to play a stronger role in ensuring climate change does not remain “a minority issue” (‘Senators must speak out, says Robinson,’ Irish Independent, February 16).
Despite overwhelming evidence of the impact that our changing climate is already having on communities all over the planet, research from the Economic and Social Research Institute and Environmental Protection Agency shows that people underestimate how much other people care.
People also tend to feel that they cannot express their concerns unless they are an expert on the issue.
As a result, many are reluctant to discuss their concerns in public. Yet there is ample evidence that people in Ireland do recognise the extent of the crisis, and acknowledge our responsibility to act. What is missing is not the awareness of the problem, but meaningful indications of what ordinary people can do to make a difference.
The important word here is “meaningful”: Calls for “system change” are simply too big for people to relate to, and calls to make micro-level changes, such as shorter showers, run the risk of either diminishing the issue or diminishing the power of the individual.
We have the knowledge and we have the data. What we need now is the practical support for people and communities all over the country, as they seek to translate their concerns into lasting behavioural change – support that Ireland’s environmental and community organisations can provide.
Global Action Plan