National Youth Assembly

On Friday the 15th of November 2019 I was one of the 157 delegates specially selected for the National Youth Assembly on Climate Change. It was the first of its kind in the world! All the delegates were aged between 10-17years of age. We took over the DŠil for the afternoon; at first making speeches in the chambers and then presenting ideas in the Oireachtas Committee Rooms. There were five groups; environment, economy, power, education and food and farming. I was a member of the food and farming group. Every single delegate had to write a 150 word proposal on their own idea for government measures to tackle issues within their group. All 32 members of each group then anonymously received the other proposals. Everyone had to vote for the top six proposals from their group. I was voted as one of the top six from my group and so got to present my idea in the Oireachtas Committee rooms. My idea was to create urban farms in public spaces, particularly social housing, schools and public offices. I had ninety seconds to present my idea and then I had ten minutes of questions and suggestions from the other delegates present. I did a lot of work on my proposal and if anyone would like to see a copy of my work I would be happy to show you. All in all, I think my proposal was very well received but unfortunately didnít make it through to the final 10 proposals that were presented to the government.
          Most of the day was surrounded with a surreal quality. We were only children but it was frightening to see how competent we were when trusted with real power. Another thing I noticed was the complete lack of TDs present, bar a few members of the Green Party. While sixteen year olds were giving impassioned speeches about how embarrassing it was for the government that we were there sitting in their seats, there didnít seem to be one iota of embarrassment coming from the adults themselves. A lot of the passion from the delegates was responded to with a pat on the back, and an Ďarenít you greatí attitude. Some of the more minor things that interested me was how small the DŠil chamber actually is and yet it seems so large and menacing onscreen. It was an incredible honour, and a momentous occasion but it left me with a sour taste in my mouth. There was something disconcerting about seeing so many young people gathered in the government offices with eloquent speeches, articulate proposals and damn good ideas. It was all soÖ easy. The ideas arenít difficult to implement and I question the integrity of the TD who opposes them. Itís in the governments hands now to act.
          The whole day I heard from everywhere, youíll always remember this day. I wonít forget it ever, I know that, but Iíll also remember the feeling of sitting in the small chamber, with the small people, who had big ideas, but are likely to make a small effect. I just felt myself getting smaller and smaller as the task at hand grew exponentially. With air pollution in Sydney rising eleven times above Ďhazardousí levels, with Victoria falls drying to a meager trickle, and all the other climate related tragedies, I felt like I was fighting a battle that I could never win.
          After the proclamation was presented to the Ceann Comhairle, he opened the floor to anyone who wanted to say something. After a few people stood to have their say, a girl at the back raised her hand and holding back tears, she pleaded with everyone in the room to help the less fortunate who will be the worst effected and the least equipped against climate disasters. She suddenly reminded me that the herculean task that we face is our burden to bear, every single person who lives on this earth, not just those in government.
          I stopped thinking I was in the Dail because the TDís hadnít done their jobs, but because we needed to give a voice to people who arenít listened to. The only thing I could do to deter my overwhelming uselessness was to make sure that the ideas that were presented didnít die a sad death.

So Iím trying to share them wherever I can. The youth assembly needs your help. If everyone could please go online and search ĎYouth Assembly Recommendationsí, there should be a button on the RTE website that says ĎI support the Youth Assembly Recommendationsí. Iíve listed all the recommendations below so that you have some idea of what youíre supporting.
          From your corner store to your super market, we call on the house to incentivise and obligate the installation of glass doors on open refrigerators
          For Ireland to ban the importation of fracked gas and invest solely in renewables.
          Implementing measures that will allow that Irish goods be both eco- sustainable and affordable in todaysí Irish Market.
          Implement a tiered Tax on Emissions from large companies including those under capital ETS. This tax must be increased every year while threshold decreases, shifting the burden from individuals to corporations.
          Investment in industrial hemp processing facilities to provide a viable, sustainable and alternative land use for farmers as well as employment in rural Ireland.
          A labelling and pricing system showing the climate impact of food products based on criteria such as impact of packaging and distance travelled.
          Ireland to outlaw acts of ecocide Ė being the widespread and systematic loss of ecosystems, including climate and cultural damage.
          Protect existing forests and make compulsory that at least 10% of all land owned for agricultural uses is dedicated to forestry.
          A targeted nationwide Information campaign to educate the population about the climate crisis regarding the causes, the effects and the solutions.
          Mandatory "Sustainability" education from primary level to the workplace including a new compulsory Junior Cycle & Optional Leaving Certificate subject.
          Iíd like to thank Paul for letting me take up so much space in this Oscailt, and hopefully everyone else who reads this and supports the assembly!

…le NŪ ChonbhuŪ
Dublin Unitarian Church