History is my passion and, in particular, how we can draw lessons from it, whether we do or don't. I taught for years before moving to Mexico in 2015. I was there for three years, teaching history and global awareness to middle school kids, which would be our Junior Cycle.
I met my wife, Fatima, there and we made a move down to the Puerto Vallarta rainforest. We were looking for a life away from the over-consumption in the north, but saw more there in the shape of the jungle being cut up by development, and indigenous children playing in the dirt while Europeans and Americans were at the beach. That inequality is hard to see and then to hold on to your soul if you don't feel like doing something about it.
Fatima and I came back to Ireland in 2018 and, last year, I took part in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals advocate training programme, run by a Dundalk NGO, Development Perspectives.
I was concerned about the interaction between lifestyle and exploitation, and I needed to learn ways to articulate what I was seeing. I was connecting the dots, but not articulating it. I wanted to become part of the solution and bring more people to the table as change makers.
Mexico gave me that motivation to try to show the reality of how connected everyone is and how it is possible to make change through politicians, by using our vote or not voting, or even just through the purchase of products.
The idea I had when I signed up for the advocate training programme was creating packaging that would outline the true ecological, social and economic history of the product within.
Lots of corporations are aware of social responsibility now, so what you'll see is a big corporation sponsoring a basketball team in a slum, and they will advertise that and it may distract from their bigger impact.
Money is moving into impact investing, but not at the scale and the speed we need. In terms of climate and inequality, we're facing a fast-moving disaster.
My idea was to create score sheets for corporations based on their net impact. They would rate the life cycle of a product from the raw materials mined or extracted, right through to production and supply chain and sale of a product.
As the training went on, I started to realise how many human-rights defenders or people tackling corporations get dragged into legal battles that get so complicated that they end up burnt out.
I don't have a team of lawyers, or the knowledge or manpower to do the score sheets in a fair and thorough and just way.
Instead, I started doing an investigative podcast, The Distant Voices Project, with Dr Michael Hogan, a historian and author. We look at how different issues are reported and then let the listener decide what they think.
It's aimed at teens and young adults, and we hope it creates critical listening skills and enables them to take action based on that.
Instead of us giving a score sheet on a corporation's behaviour, we give the listener three sources examining that behaviour and its net impact and the listener - or learner - can score that corporation.
The advocate training programme helped me to put together my ideas. It got me funding for an animation, put me in touch with people doing podcasts and it was a launchpad for me to start an MSc in Sustainable Development at UCD.
It was great, too, to feel that you're not a crazy lone voice. You can feel like people are too busy to care about this kind of stuff, so it was great to discover people working in the same vein. It made me believe in the idea of stubborn optimism.
There are things we can do to bring change: small, practical steps that everyone can do.