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Week 12 is over. Our lectures are over. The module Sustainable Development is over. We studied this module over 12 weeks, 12 weeks of a broad range of topics. At the start of each week many of us students wondered what some of the topics had to do with Sustainable Development or even with our Energy Degree. We quickly and repeatedly learned that no matter what topic was being looked at it affected and will continue to affect us and the world we live in. Each topic is connected and each topic connects to our lives and to Energy. I started with questions and I now have even more questions Each topic raised questions, anything I thought I knew is now open to question and it seems to me there are no right or wrong answers, but there are questions that need asking and thinking about. This questioning I found good because I was forced to think about the many sides to every topic and to challenge answers- my own and others. There is a lot to wonder about.

Questioning leads to thinking about taking action. The one thing I am sure of, at the end of these twelve weeks, is that we all depend on each other and on the one planet- earth! The earth’s resources are finite and we each have a responsibility to care of this planet which sustains us. We are waking up to realise that we can do a much better job of caring for each other and for planet earth.

There is hope – Building Sustainable Communities. “Sustainable communities are communities planned, built, or modified to promote sustainable living”- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable communities (17-4-11). Sustainable Communities start out through the action of one or two individuals. The ripples from these actions spread out like the ripples from a stone thrown into a pond and others liking what they see happening start to ask questions and follow the example.

For me a sustainable community is Cloughjordan. I went expecting to find a village set in the past. I came back hopeful and surprised- modern homes, pooled resources that make use of the best of modern technology and ideas. It is a living village that seems to bring together all that is good from the past, present and is looking to the future. As we went through the weeks I was constantly reminded of Cloughjordon Village as it seems to me that they have managed to create this sustainable community that everyone else now wants. The ripples from Cloughjordan are spreading to the local community and beyond with the Community farm.

In lectures this week we talked a lot about who should be blamed for all the damage that has been done. I believe that too much time has been wasted blaming and discussing how serious or not the problem is. Living in a sustainable way brings benefits to all- it is a win, win way of living. I believe now is the time to do something to try to solve the problems we are living with. There has been enough blaming. I believe that the need to build sustainable communities comes from within each one of us.

When a few individuals come together and take action we have the beginnings of a sustainable community where people realize we all depend on each other and on a common planet-earth!

Sustainable development can actually be divided into 4 areas represented by North, South, East and West. North represents natural world, South is social, East is environment and West is who decides what happens and why? Together this makes a whole way of thinking about sustainability.

A lot of what we do we do because we are influenced by media, corporate business, government policies and our want of more and more money. When we look at the happiness index it does not follow that richer nations are happier nations but I did find out that each one of us have the same basic needs. These needs are best met in strong, sustainable communities.

Awareness of the driving force behind our actions can help us assess why we act in certain ways and also help us to question the need for our action and inaction. Awareness can also help us come to realise the effect our way of living has on others- peak oil, climate change, hunger, food miles, pollution, global warming …….

We are consuming resources at an unacceptable pace and facing a global population that is heading for nine billion by 2040, so we must change or face a crisis that we will not be able to fix within decades. Leading Australian environmentalist Tim Flannery speaking in the Irish Times recently said “I am not saying that we haven’t got an enormous job ahead of us, but you would have to say that we are slowly starting to make headway with some of the biggest challenges that are facing humanity….. but if you look back 10 years I think you will see that there has been some enduring progress made.” http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/magazine/2011/0402/1224293326182.html (21-4-11)

Flannery mentions the Montreal Protocol of September 1987 which saw nations coming together to ban CFC gases that had been in use in refrigerators and deodorants for decades and were eating a hole in the ozone layer. This protocol was very successful but was helped by the use of colourful images on Telly showing the ozone hole growing larger every year over the Antarctic. Climate change is harder to identify and CO2 is an invisible gas. This success however is a good example of the ability of people to instigate change.

Lucy Trench writing in the Irish Times on Saturday 19th March ’11 reminds us that when Michelle Obama digs up the lawn of The White House for a garden she is giving a very powerful message. “The first lady tackles present-day concerns about obesity, healthy eating and food sourcing…. would define the identity of their new country.” http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2011/0319/1224292565679.html (21-4-11) Michelle Obama also involves local children in her gardening project, images of which are broadcast across the world, giving a very powerful message. “ “My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.” “ http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/20/dining/20garden.html

Our planet is ill and we need to act together to do something about it before it is terminal.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi.

I really enjoyed this module as we learned about a broad range of topic. I believe all that we have learned will help us with our Energy course but also in our own lives. We have been given the knowledge to help lead the way to a more sustainable Ireland.

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