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In a moment of great technological innovation, how can we save our natural ecosystems from collapsing? And what part can concerned citizens play to encourage political and business leaders to radically change their climate priorities and actions? These are just some of the questions posed at this month’s TEDxStormont Countdown, a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. Held by webinar due to the Covid-19 pandemic, guests explored how in Northern Ireland and beyond we can establish a safer, cleaner, and fairer future.

Hosted from Belfast by Sinead O’Sullivan, guests including NI Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon and Queen’s University Professor John Barry joined the socially distanced studio. Others, by video link, included President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, the Duke of Cambridge, and former US Vice President Al Gore. According to Gore, we are entering a period of ‘great awakening’ in which many who once refused to take the climate crisis seriously are now beginning to see the error of their ways. …

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(Image source: TEDxStormont)

On Saturday October 10th 2020, TEDxStormont curated Countdown, a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. The focus of this unique webinar was to examine how we can turn innovative ideas into action and establish a safer, cleaner and fairer future for Northern Ireland and beyond.

Even more important given the ongoing health and economic crises that we are handling, Countdown brought together a range of speakers who reminded us that we are all part of the same fragile ecosystem; dependent on nature and one another. …

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Belfast’s iconic buildings have long defined the image of the city & reflect its cultural heritage (Image credit: Pinterest)

“A new destination for Belfast. Bringing together a new way of working, living and shopping in the heart of the city.” Tribeca, a £500 million scheme planned to redevelop part of Belfast city centre, recently received planning approval by local councillors. However, its developers, Castlebrook Investments, would be wise to check the definition of the word “new”.

Nothing about their development is new: not its design, not its concept, not even its name. …

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Aerial photograph of farmland (Fisk, 2018)

In an era of post-truth politics, placing trust in the assertions of government is a hazardous game. A game in which you are all too likely to end up disappointed. Although we have become accustomed to the Conservative government backtracking on their commitments and announcing drastic ‘U-turns’ at the eleventh hour, their inability to embed consistency continues to surprise us. It has created a political sphere where they can get away with almost anything, with no measurement of truth to hold them to account. …

A quote from the author and activist James Baldwin (Crabapple)

As protests demanding racial justice have multiplied since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, the spirit of reckoning has also spread, including within the music industry. One initiative that sought to redress the historical inequities of the music business was the decision to declare Tuesday 2nd of June as a one-day moratorium on business as usual. Alternately known as #TheShowMustBePaused or #BlackoutTuesday, the idea was advanced as a means of identifying with protesters and considering how the music industry could become more accountable to black communities.

As the initiative gained traction over the weekend, companies and organizations, including major record labels such as Columbia, Interscope and Republic Records, announced their participation. Just as quickly, some wondered what participation would mean, and many questioned whether the effort, embraced so quickly by huge corporations, would end up being an empty gesture rather than a sincere effort to counteract a history of exploitation. “I don’t want a pause, I want action,” the rapper Ghostpoet wrote on Twitter. …

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Farming in Northern Ireland faces an uncertain period (Hodge, 2019)

Both lives and livelihoods have been put at risk by Covid-19. The disease has spread at a rapid pace and is no longer a regional or national issue, but a global problem. Thus, it calls for a global response. At this stage we don’t know the full impact of the virus, nor how fast it will retreat. What we do know is that it has already significantly affected both food supply and demand. The outbreak has seen the almost complete loss of the food service and hospitality sectors, as well as increasing price volatility in global markets. This has left farm businesses and processors under increased pressure. Although we risk a looming food crisis, if effective measures are taken to protect the most vulnerable and mitigate the pandemic’s impacts across the food system there is no need for the world to panic. …

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This is a poem based on an article discussing the challenge of confronting self-doubt when working from home.

“are you somebody?
remind me once again, i can’t seem to recall”
well, my friend, let me tell you all

i am alive once more
a sunken ship re-birthed
you are talking to a man who’s got even with life
oh, the power i have found in the dirt

‘though i still wander the desert at times
i always revert to myself, no painted illusion
the brushes are left to soak in the sink
i have found life too good to suppress, far too rich for confusion

so look, here’s your advice
from the one you might think is nobody, not even my own
remember that you are you, and only you

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The challenge of confronting self-doubt

It is easy to get consumed by thoughts on the vastness of time and opportunity. Add in the uncertainty created by a global pandemic, and it can become overwhelming. Like many people, I have begun the transition to working from home until the fog lifts. Home working can be mentally strenuous at the best of times, so I am sure that the foreseeable months will be extremely difficult for a number of people. Truthfully, attempting to function as normal whilst existing in an unprecedented state of uncertainty is far from an easy task.

Not only are we stripped of physical interaction with colleagues and peers, but the merit of our daily work tends to pale into insignificance against the ongoing battle of managing a global outbreak. We can’t help but to question the value of our professional duties and wonder if they are of importance in times like these. For me, will researching the transformative capacity of maritime communities really save the world right now? Probably not. Consequently, the motivation required to keep going can easily be drained and the quality of output restricted. However, reading Nuala O’Faolain’s memoir Are You Somebody?, a conversation on life’s self-discoveries, one thing can make a valuable difference; remembering what it is that makes you somebody. The somebody that you worked to be. …

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(Giorgio, 2019)

in the night i chose to follow​
a make belief with bullet holes​
it taught me to live within sorrow​
and to carry the crease of all i fold ​

​now i’m strung up on noise above us​
watching our empty thoughts of vastness
and i ponder the options you align​ with
like your post in the business of sadness​

​we are only falling in and out​

every summer is a hot taught token​
of a love that never could’ve lasted​
and the winter turns the utter broken​
into axioms that haven’t yet passed us​

​so long, that night​
now i rest, for i long towed your line​
what we need​, i truly believe
is reciprocity​

we are only falling in and out of love
in a time of deep routine...enough!
for there is no ceiling in our garden
nor haven that grows above us.

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Farming in Northern Ireland (Strake, 2017)

Farming in Northern Ireland (NI) has a fundamental influence upon economic, environmental and social matters. Around 75 per cent of our countryside is used for agricultural purposes. This makes farming the largest single production sector; with meat, dairy and eggs accounting for over 80% of its output. Farming turns over around £4.5 billion every year and remains a cornerstone of NI’s economy. It is more than just a job or source of income, however. It is a way of life for a significant proportion of the population. Traditionally, rural communities are extremely close knit, with generations of farming families at the heart of this. Over the last few years, however, volatility in the prices paid to farmers for their produce has caused significant problems for the industry. …


Ben McAteer

Research assistant at Queen's University Belfast

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