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UCC Express - The Environment

One of my favourite places in Cork is the Marina, from the Pairc all the way down to Blackrock village. The serenity it offers to those who pound the cracked concrete there is second to none. It’s one of few places left in the city where you could imagine that you are in the countryside; the sounds of the lapping water and the wind that gushes up the river embankment and through the trees offer as soothing a melody as the crashing of waves against West Cork rocks. As you approach Blackrock, a fleeting glance across the river offers a stark contrast to this serenity, as consumerism and the pursuit of economic growth shows us its duller and more ugly side. Cargo comes and goes. Containers are lifted on and off of ships, as the sound of steel on steel fills the port, all the while the smell of diesel filling your nostrils. To those who regularly row up the river Lee, a glance from port to starboard side show two different worlds, on one side all of mans creations and desires, on the other, our creators. 

Since the dawn of industrialisation, the chase of economic growth has preceded everything else, most notably the protection and future of our only home. Our planet has no hospitable neighbours where humanity can take refuge if needs be, there is no plan B, no Noahs ark. Yet as each decade passes we destroy our home in more and more elaborate ways. We have now reached levels where this damage is deemed irreparable by scientists. Increasing carbon emissions, melting polar caps, polluted water sources, smog filled cities and country ditches speckled with the colour of discarded litter. All of these are natural products of human disregard for nature and nation state governments’ pursuit of short-sighted economic growth. Pre packaged convenience is seen as a marvel, a development for contemporary humanity, while millions of tonnes of it’s offspring create black-spots of plastic pollution in our oceans.

Many things upset and frustrate me, but the disrespect humanity displays to our beautiful planet is number one on my list. Every day we are greeted with news stories of triumph and despair. People debate the morality of same sex marriage, the fairness of water charges, the result of the weekends sports showdowns. Much of the time I get involved in these debates, only too willing to throw my weight behind my formulated opinion or local team. But some days I despair and wonder about the overall relevance of these debates. If we continue to be oblivious to the damage we are doing and don’t realise that we urgently need to stem the expansion of human population, same sex marriage debates and arguments about the weekend’s sport’s results will be nothing but utter irrelevance. The scary reality in 2015 is that this time is much closer than anyone will even begin to contemplate. 

But surely there is hope? There is always hope. But hope requires more than a vision. Hope requires action. There is no doubt that awareness of environmental issues and population growth is on the rise, yet action seems sparse. The EU has many flaws, but one of its redeeming qualities is its insistence that European nation states adhere to strict environmental practices and laws. But this is where our contrasting interests collide once more. As much as we pay lip service to the environment, its destruction still isn’t taken seriously, most notably by our very own government. Just last October, as EU leaders met to discuss climate change, Enda Kenny, illustrating a seemingly new found bravado, was adamant to point out that he was seeking extra carbon allowances for Ireland. When the leader of your own country can’t even take climate change seriously, hope becomes a rare commodity. 

We have to make up our minds! Are we going to continue purposely being oblivious to the effects the growth in industry, human population and economies are having on our home or are we going to embrace the challenge that protecting our environment holds? The human race is resilient. One of our core instincts is self preservation and that’s why I have hope for the future of our planet, but this hope requires an increased awareness on a micro as well as a macro level. If we, as individuals, continue to play ignorant and see our environments preservation as someone else's responsibility, we are going nowhere and fast. Every bit of waste we produce has to go somewhere, every increase in population stretches finite resources more and more, every ounce of carbon from our exhausts heats the planet that extra bit. Action is required now. If ignorance is embraced for any longer, in years to come, we will still have rivers like the Lee to row in, but it won’t be against a current of water we fight.

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