In Crumlin, Residents Brainstorm Community Responses to Climate Change

Crumlin residents are still working out how they’re going to spend the money.

The neighbourhood has been granted more than €200,000 to run a climate-change project, one of 14 projects selected under the national government’s Creative Climate Action Fund.

The money is to encourage behavioural change in the local area, Ray Yeates, city arts officer for Dublin City Council, which is managing the project.

The project, Creative Climate Action Crumlin, has had more than 250 sign-ups so far, says Trevor Clowry, chairperson of Crumlin Community Clean-Up.

They’ve held three meetings with those who signed up, to gather their ideas on what to do with the funds, he said.

“We were basically gathering ideas, and getting a sense of what people thought might work in the area,” he said on Friday.

“They don’t want to just raise awareness, they want to change people’s behaviour,” he says.

Trying to Decide

The aim of the Creative Climate Action fund is tosupport creative projects that highlight the impact climate change is having on the environment, society and economy.

The money comes from the departments of culture and of environment, through the Creative Ireland Programme and the Climate Action Fund.

Projects have to be done by December 2022. In Crumlin, exactly what they’ll do is yet to be decided by the local community, says Clowry. It’ll be led by artist and scientist Niamh Shaw, and Dublin City Council.

Yeates says this is all part of a trial. “To see, can there be a climate change fund at the implementation of the local authorities?”

For the community, the project could be a way to gain leverage for more funding for bigger projects, he said. “Be it government capital funding, be it retrofitting.”

Locals in meetings have had loads of ideas, says Yeates.

“People could de-concrete their driveways, people could start to green and wild the green spaces,” he says, “because they have some green spaces but they could make them more ecologically healthy.”

Some people are also keen to organise events to teach about climate change, he says. “For people to fully understand, in a simpler way, the science and the opportunity for their own behaviour change.”

“Because there are quite a few people who think there’s nothing that we can do because it’s too big and too difficult,” he says.

Clowry says he’d like the project to be something that bonds the community together and creates positive momentum.

He’d like to see the community of Crumlin coming closer together through finding a solution together, he says.

“I think part of the fun about this project is not knowing what is going to be, and whether it’s going to work,” he says.

Yeates says he thinks of Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno, who created a solar-powered balloon exhibition. “Are we going to do, think of something big like that?”

Once the project is over, they’ll evaluate how it went, he says. “Have you actually achieved behaviour change? And awareness is a big part of behaviour change.”

Has the local GAA club stopped giving plastic bottles to people and given everybody a keep cup for water? says Yeates. “And so on. Has this actually happened? And have we measured that? It’s results.”

The scale of the project could be bigger than water bottles though, he says. “It could be everything from the scale of the balloon project to water bottles.”

The Limits of Individual Action

Seán McCabe, executive manager at think tank TASC’s Climate Justice Centre, says he sees value in funding community projects like this one, but cautions that individual action is just one element.

McCabe is part of a similar scheme in Phibsboro called the People’s Transition, which will shortly be coming to an end.

From that scheme, he learned that the focus should stay on the collective, rather than what one individual can do, he says.

Talk of behaviour change worries him, he says. “It really shifts the focus away from who’s actually responsible, which is the large corporations and inaction on the part of governments around the world.”

Instead, communities should be empowered with solutions to help them profit from a climate transition, he says.

“There’s potential for income for the community or there’s potential for better-quality homes or lower electricity and heating bills,” he says.

The best place to start that is by talking within the community, he says, which is a good place for the Creative Climate Action Crumlin to be at.

“That’s exactly how we should be approaching the climate crisis, bringing the community together for conversations about what the community needs and wants, and then you try to understand, well how do we address those needs and wants through climate action?” she says.

“System change is about collaborating as communities. It’s not about individuals killing themselves trying to reduce their own individual footprint,” he says.

Branching Wide

Yeates says people of different backgrounds have been joining the calls so far. “People of differing education and differing backgrounds, differing abilities and different experience.”

He’s keen to approach people that might not have come to the consultation so far. “Either they’re older, or did they feel, ‘No, I’m not going to a Dublin City Council thing’?”

At the moment, organisers have found people from parent-teacher meetings, the men’s shed and community groups. Other groups are the next stage, he says.

With the People’s Transition in Phibsboro, McCabe says he found that trying to understand who is in the community, and mapping it, was labour intensive.

“Sometimes we’re not really aware fully of everyone who’s in our community,” he says, “We maybe know certain sections of the community.”

You have to meet people where they’re at. Making sure events are the right time of day for single mothers for example, he says.

“Can they attend the meetings that you organised or should you be designing meetings to work to their schedule?” says McCabe.

Communities shouldn’t be preached to either about what is good for them, he says. “People’s needs and priorities are very serious to them. And that should be first and foremost.”

Some people in the community may be preoccupied by the challenges of the day-to-day, and not have time for the future due to immediate challenges around money or basic needs.

Some may think communities may know what the solutions are. But people aren’t normally asked to detail the nuances of what they need in other areas, like designing a rail network when they need a transport route.

“We need people to tell us what they need, where they need to go. And then it’s up to the people designing climate action to build a means of getting there,” he says.

“But it shouldn’t be the other way round. It shouldn’t be us telling the community where to go and try to make them,” he says.

Clowry says the Crumlin plans are fluid at the moment. “We have to be confident that by not knowing what we’re doing and not knowing what’s going to come out, that this is the best way to do it.”

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Claudia Dalby: Claudia Dalby is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. She's especially interested in stories about the southside, transport, and kids in the city. Get in touch at [email protected]

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