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This year’s Learning Hub has looked at many different topics through film, poetry, reading, writing and other creative learning tools. Different media has allowed us to explore and learn about climate and social justice issues affecting people locally and globally. We’ve loved hearing from our special guest speakers but also hearing from our amazing learners, who have sent us music, drawings and fascinating articles about earth, energy, eco-anxiety, and activism.
Read on to access recordings from our webinars - along with read and watch lists and other resources to faciliate deeper exploration of the topics we covered.
In February 2022 we explored different ways of “Speaking the Predicament” with Hanna Bingel-Jones and Caitríona Ní Dhúill from the Department of German at University College Cork. We explored how film-makers reflect on the environmental crisis in ways that create deeper and more complex ecological awareness. Documentaries can both horrify people about the reality of the climate crisis and motivate them to take positive action to address it. Indeed, for some people, documentaries are what catalyzed their journey into climate action in the first place. We showed clips of films by award-winning Austrian film-maker Nikolaus Geyrhalter, looking at how his films Homo sapiens and Earth use visual language, silence and sound to create an absorbing, atmospheric reflection on how humans impact the planet.
Participants engaged in a rich discussion about what these films evoked. We discussed the value of using film as an emotional tool as well as an activation tool. Some of the viewers were saddened by what they saw and unsure of how to take action. This prompted us to incorporate action opportunities into our next learning hub meeting on this topic (see below). You can take a look at Geyrhalter’s films here or watch our Learning Hub discussion here.
Our next workshop on “Speaking the Predicament” helped us process our thoughts on the ecological crisis into ideas and actions using contemporary poetry and graphic art. We explored how language and images can open up new forms of ecological consciousness and mobilise activists. Along with Hanna Bingel-Jones and Caitríona Ní Dhúill from UCC, we were joined by poet Seán Hewitt and the Klimakollektiv, a collective working for system change through education, creating alternative structures, debate and action.
Seán Hewitt teaches Modern British & Irish Literature at Trinity College Dublin and is a poetry critic for the Irish Times. Seán’s beautiful poetry readings not only helped us contemplate our connections or disconnections with nature, but also how these reflect our relationships with fellow humans. This workshop inspired participants to share their own ecopoetry as a creative outlet to inspire climate action.
We also looked at a fantastic example of visual storytelling for environmental movement building from activist Alex Wernke from Klimakollektiv. Activists and artists joined forces to collect stories and depict old sagas about Hambach Forest in western Germany and villages destroyed by mining, as well as voices from the global South and resistance against coal. These stories were then translated into some artistic motifs which Alex looked through and interpreted with participants. It was interesting to see how poetry and graphic design affected our participants in different ways. Some were inspired to see poetry as a safe space beyond gender and power dynamics. Others were struck by the German activist using the nexus of art and activism and found motivation to combine these practices in their own lives.
You can learn more about Speaking the Predicament through film, poetry, and design by checking out our read and watch list for these workshops.To listen to ecopoetry and be inspired by artivism, watch back this Learning Hub event here.
In March we turned our focus to the increasingly pressing issue of energy prices and households struggling to pay their bills. We looked at a recent report co-authored by Friends of the Earth Europe that found that for every 1% increase in energy efficiency targets through solutions like retrofitting, 7 million people can be lifted out of energy poverty. Over the last few months we’ve seen a rising need for energy use at home, rising energy costs, and questions around energy security, so this is an issue affecting a huge number of households across Ireland and worldwide. Although energy poverty is widespread, it does not affect everyone equally.
We learnt about the impacts of energy prices from Issy Petrie, research and policy officer with St Vincent de Paul, Bulelani Mfaco from the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, Bryce Goodall of Living Rent, Scotland, and Clare O’Connor from Friends of the Earth. They explored how high energy costs negatively impact communities and looked at how solutions to energy poverty can empower people and help address the climate crisis. Participants learnt about a huge range of issues from expert speakers.
Our read and watch list provided extra resources which participants used to continue their learning and discussion around this topic. Many joined us later in the month for an interactive Energy Café to openly discuss our experiences and insights around energy issues. You can watch the recording of our Energy Poverty webinar here.
We noticed that many of our learners felt overwhelmed by some of the issues raised during this Learning Hub series. This prompted us to examine how we can best navigate climate anxiety - with a webinar and workshop on this topic.
We explored themes from the book Warmth: Coming of Age at the End of Our World by climate activist and author, Daniel Sherrell. Warmth is a climate memoir about Daniel’s life - with therapeutic reflections from his experience as a divestment campaigner in Brown University and a lead organizer in the campaign that got New York state to pass a climate law. We were delighted to be joined by Daniel himself for our webinar to explore climate anxiety and practices that can be used to help navigate it. This webinar was facilitated by activist Áine O’Gorman who read from Warmth and introduced us to Daniel, psychologist Eoin Galavan and youth activist Aiyana Helder.
Participants appreciated the honesty of our speakers during this webinar which helped them feel that they were not alone in their fears. This webinar and follow up workshop connected shared concerns. It inspired many people to speak more openly about their concern about the climate crisis while also giving themselves permission to take a break when they needed it. We practiced how to maintain this balance by exploring the complexities of self care in our follow up discussion after the webinar.
You can learn more about navigating climate anxiety by checking out our read and watch list or by watching the webinar recording here.
After learning and reflecting on a variety of climate justice issues in this series, we looked at how far we should go to bring about necessary climate action by exploring the book How to Blow Up A Pipeline with author Andreas Malm. Malm has been called “one of the most original thinkers on the subject” by Naomi Klein. The book and webinar looked at the militant tactics of the women’s suffrage movement and questioned why Ireland today doesn’t see such action. Professor Louise Ryan joined us to give an insight into how Irish women got the vote. We brought these questions into a modern Irish context with journalist and campaigner William Hederman and socialist climate activist Zac Lumley who told us about their experiences with direct action for climate justice.
We tackled the tough question of what level of action is needed to inspire a mass movement for system change such as general strikes, political campaigning and property sabotage. This provocative topic spurred insightful debate not only in our panel discussion but also in the participant chat which raised a number of other topics to explore such as socialist revolutions, boycotting, defining violence, intergenerational action, the rights of nature, water charge protests and diverse action opportunities.
We’ve compiled a read and watch list to help people reflect on the question “how far should we go to address climate breakdown” and explore Malm’s book which you can check out here. And you can watch the full webinar back here.
It is thanks to Irish Aid that we are able to fund this Learning Hub as part of our Global Citizenship Education programme. The views expressed in these events are those of the speakers and not necessarily those of Irish Aid.
Our Speaking the Predicament workshops took place in collaboration with University College Cork were supported by the Irish Research Council.
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