Wednesday 22 January 2020

Derek takes on role of Climate Ambassador

Aughrim man to promote action at local level

Derek McAllister
Derek McAllister

Eimear Dodd

Wicklow man Derek McAllister has been selected as a Climate Ambassador for 2020.

The Aughrim native, who runs the Wicklow Weather and Met alert pages on social media, said he is looking forward to taking on the role to promote climate action at a local level.

Speaking to this newspaper, Derek said: 'The role is to work from a local and county position to highlight what's going on in local areas on climate awareness, climate change and what's happening around the county and further afield on a national basis. I suppose the idea is to bring it back home, rather than looking at it from a global point of view.'

Co-ordinated by An Taisce, the Climate Ambassador programme aims to promote positive climate action within a local context, with an emphasis on education and communication. Derek will meet with An Taisce's Climate Action Officers in February to learn more about the work of Ireland's Climate Ambassador.

'I don't want to foresee what they're going to ask us to do but I know education is a big part, as well as getting out and talking to people at a local level. I'd hope to be in schools in the course of the next six to 12 months and maybe try to get a bit of debate on local radio and in the local press. I'd like to try to bring it home that what we're reading in the international and national news, the change is also very much happening at a local level.

'We just don't see it because it's so subtle. From a day-to-day point of view, we don't see those changes but when you look at climate data, it is happening, From the point of view of biodiversity and wildlife, those changes are happening in Co Wicklow.'

The erosion of the coastline is one of the signs of climate change that is visible in the county, according to Derek.

'The Irish Sea is a well-protected sea in terms of its position. It's not a storm dominated ocean like the Atlantic side but there's as much coastal erosion happening on the east coast as there is on the west coast,' Derek said.

Derek points out that education can encourage people to make individual changes that collectively will make a difference.

'I want to talk to An Taisce as well. You don't want to be putting fear into people about climate change. I think if you're an advocate and through proper education, people will change their minds in terms of better protecting from the home out. They might ask, "do I need to burn coal? Can I not buy smokeless coal even though I'm in an area where I can burn smoky coal? What is the cost to change my car from a diesel to even a hybrid?"

'I have a diesel car myself at the moment and up until now I couldn't afford to buy electric. However, I'm hoping at some point over the next 12 months to at least look at a hybrid vehicle. Anything each of us can do makes a little bit more of a change.'

Derek, who has run the weather page Wicklow Weather since 2011, continued: 'I think for young children growing up, that whether people believe climate change or not, the least we can give people is clean air and clean oceans and if we can't do that, there's something wrong.

'I'm very interested in what's happening globally, but I haven't really been seeing it from a local level from politicians and councillors. It's all talk, but I'm actually not seeing much movement at the county level. I know the county council has brought in some changes and plans, but I haven't seen any action. I'm more than willing to support them in any changes and plans they put in place [in my role as Climate Ambassador].'

Derek points out that action is vital because 'we're running out of time'.

'I'm in my mid-40s, so I won't see it. My children might, but their grandchildren definitely will see the consequences, both direct and indirect, of the change in our climate. They will see it, whether it's climate refugees arriving into Europe, a change in our river systems or agriculture. They're going to see the consequences of not putting out a fire when you had the chance to do so.

'I think if everyone can do a little bit, that's not changing up their whole life. If everyone could start those small initial steps - a little more recycling, don't use your car for certain trips to the shop, if you don't need it. I know it's easier said than done for most people.

'For me, it'll be a learning experience and very much at a local level starting out. Trying to get people better educated on how to recycle better, get into local primary schools and explain what's happening, rather than scare kids and adults. I want to ask "what can we do that will be really enjoyable to change our habits?"

'I believe there's a lot of blackness and fear around climate change. We've read about climate anxiety and some kids are genuinely afraid of the future. There's no need for that. I believe children need to be better educated and they can make the changes themselves.

Kids feel very strongly about the environment and they are well-educated about it. They feel very passionately about it and it's great to see.'

Wicklow People