President Higgins calls for higher education to equip students to deal with “crisis” of climate change

President’s speech focuses on environmentalism at USI’s 60th anniversary celebrations

President Michael D Higgins has called for students to be “equipped for the crisis we are in” during the “struggle to mitigate climate change” in a speech addressed to student organisations.

The President made the statement at a garden party held in Áras an Uactaráin to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and the 75th anniversary of Macra na Feirme, a youth organisation for people from rural Ireland.

Higgins said that speaking “as a former teacher at Third Level”, he would like to see students “have access to a curriculum and teaching that is interdisciplinary, that in the social sciences is pluralist, that they be equipped for the crisis we are in, rather than being limited to preparation for what is narrowly useful in the short term but insufficient for life”.

The President praised both USI and Macra na Feirme for “contributing so profoundly to the promotion of the active participation of young people in society, thus helping to transform, not only their communities but often their own lives and the manner in which they view the world”.

The President’s speech focused largely on climate change, describing it as “the greatest existential threat facing humankind”, adding that he is “so very heartened to see the activism of young people in this domain of public policy; how so many of you have been leading the way and seized the urgency and seriousness of the challenged much faster than older generations”.

Speaking to the assembled delegates from the USI and Macra na Feirme, he said: “It is you who can achieve the ethical globalisation that we so urgently need, the move to an ecological-social model of political economy that acknowledges the finite nature of the Earth’s natural resources.”

The President’s message was warmly received by the USI’s president Síona Cahill, who told Trinity News that she welcomed President’s challenge “to work with urgency towards a more sustainable present and future”. 

USI is the national representative body for students in Ireland. Their national council is made up of representatives from affiliated students’ unions around Ireland, including Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU).

The garden party was the final in a series of parties held by the President and his wife Sabina Higgins at the Áras in recent weeks, with each party representing one of the President’s “themes” which he wishes to highlight. The theme of this garden party was “Participation and Transformation”.

Other events in the series saw people who work in women’s shelters, those who have done work to support refugees and asylum-seekers, and people involved in TV and film production receive invitations to Áras an Uachtaráin.

Finn Purdy

Finn Purdy is the current Deputy Editor of Trinity News. He is a Junior Sophister English Studies student, and a former News Editor and Assistant News Editor.