By Orla Price

On 30 September this year the Free Word Centre held a discussion on the topic ‘Trust and the environment’. The discussion centred on what sources of information we could trust in the face of climate change, and how education, the media, politics and the public perceived threats to the environment. What I found most innovative and indeed engaging about the nature of the discussions was the choice of speakers and the input from the audience. Chairing the discussion was comedian Tiernan Doueib, and the panel included seventeen year old student and activist Claudia Delpero as well as Tony Birch, an Australian novelist. Also, they happened to have me doing a poem.

Often when trying to access debates and discussions on political subjects we are confronted with ‘experts’, academics and politicians who distance us from subjects that affect us constantly. Speaking in languages of their own, these arenas become intimidating, we are made to feel opinions on these matters are ‘left to the experts’ fostering a culture of helplessness at best and complete detachment at worst. By the end of the discussion an audience member pointed out that if the opinions of front line communities that are experiencing the worst of climate change were taken more into account in the media, as well as having their opinions heard by politicians, the public would find it easier to trust the information about climate change and our future, and would then become more engaged with these issues.

Tommy Clark, “Harnessing Nature”

Taking part in this event and also participating in SHAKE! has shown me there are alternative ways to communicate, and that experiential knowledge and telling our stories can have as much –indeed, probably more- impact than passively listening to expert opinions purposely convoluted to distance us from engaging properly with important issues, just in case we pose a threat. 

We’re told Change and flux are a part of nature

So nothing or no one can be sure

No magic calculator

Calculating the sums of the future

No equations to justify pure

So we go round in circles with no end

Inaction, the only theory to defend

Can’t see the destination, this road has too many bends

People are showing us the answers

Others tell us to step back

Say we can’t understand

Palms up, overturned hands

Cash is passed on

They’re passing the blame on

Thinking how long this will go on

And I’m doing my bit

But truth is, I’m getting scared of the news

And truth is, I don’t know what more I can do

Cause I’m following the advice

But the TV’s shouting crisis

Worrying how much time there is

In a society with no off switch

So I’m doing my recycling

But they’re making more packaging

Taking the bus to work

Elsewhere they’re selling mercs

Checking the labels on my food, trying not to import

Climate refugees moving country, trying not to get hurt

Somewhere in the back of my mind,

I’m thinking it wasn’t us that overstepped the line

We’re coming to a point where doing our bits not enough,

There’s got to be someone out there we can trust

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