Monday 21 October 2019

Going green: 'We need to change our laws, not just our light bulbs’ - Friends of the Earth director Oisin Coughlan

Greener Living: As part of our special on easy ways to tread softly on the planet, Friends of the Earth director Oisin Coughlan shares his expertise

Oisin Coughlan
Oisin Coughlan

The longer I've campaigned for adequate action to contain climate change, the more clear it has become that it requires fundamental "system change" - in our energy, transport, building and food systems, and indeed to our economic model based on ever-increasing consumption; and not simply individual lifestyle choices.

While my job for the last 15 years has been focused on building a climate movement powerful enough to persuade policy-makers to make the big decisions to put our whole society on the path to zero pollution, I have also tried to make changes in my own life. As much to test what needs to be made easier for people as for any direct impact on emissions or demonstration effect.

I haven't been able to afford a deep retrofit of my 1920s house yet. But we did insulate the attic, dry-line the walls and put in lovely double-glazed windows. It's definitely warmer and cosier. We have solar panels that heat our water and we switched to a 100% renewable electricity supplier, and almost all our light bulbs are LEDs. I haven't flown long haul for pleasure since 1999 and my last flight of any kind was in 2015. I eat a lot less red meat than I did 20 years ago but I'm not vegetarian. I'm lucky that I can commute by bicycle, but our family car is a Citroen Picasso diesel. I hope to leapfrog to fully electric next time.

I'm often asked by people "what can I do as an individual?" My first answer is simple: talk to your TDs. The transition to zero pollution requires massive policy change to make it possible for everyone.

My second answer is: don't just be an individual. Get involved in one of the many groups, local or national, that are taking collective action to tackle climate change. We need to change our laws, not just our light bulbs.

Oisin’s three ways to go green

1 Get personal

Do something to reduce your own footprint whether it’s flying less or eating less red meat.

2 Get angry

Talk to your TDs and tell them it’s an emergency — our house is on fire — and they need to act like it.

3 Get involved

Join a local or national group campaigning on climate change. We need everybody, and being part of a group combats climate anxiety. As Greta Thunberg says, “once you act, hope is everywhere”.

Irish Independent

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