As it becomes more and more apparent that Covid-19 will be with us for the foreseeable, one of the challenges we face is simply thinking past the virus. It is tempting to allow everything else to be set aside in favour of managing the pandemic. But the issues that were present prior to its emergence are still with us and there is a danger in overlooking that. Perhaps this is most important to remember when it comes to the environment and climate change. At Trinity, the Environmental Society is one group that is working to ensure that positive environmental progress remains a priority at the college and at the forefront of student concerns. Trinity News interviewed Katie Smirnova, the society’s current Chairperson, to discuss the work that the society does and its plans for the upcoming year.
“While Trinity’s Green Campus Committee is more involved in forming college environmental policies and ensuring sustainable campus development, the Environmental Society focuses on student participation and awareness.”
Since its founding, the society has continued to promote student engagement with environmental action. Smirnova explains that while Trinity’s Green Campus Committee is more involved in forming college environmental policies and ensuring sustainable campus development, the Environmental Society focuses on student participation and awareness. Last year, this included involvement in campaigns such as Fossil Free TCD, Stop Climate Chaos, and, of course, the School Strike for Climate movement. Through talks and panel discussions, the society informs and educates Trinity students while also organising practical communal action such as beach clean-ups.
“Climate action, as Smirnova puts it, doesn’t necessarily have to include protesting; “it’s what you can do in the supermarket”.”
According to Smirnova, the society hopes to raise awareness about how the environment impacts, and is intertwined with, all aspects of life. “In previous years a lot of what we did was intersectional with feminism and food and fashion. I think the Enviro Society is largely a kind of avenue for creating links between the environment and those other groups, because environmental action has typically been viewed as activism, but it’s so much more than that, and I think it’s important that the Enviro Society creates links to every part of your life.” The society aims to change the perception of environmental action from something dramatic and singular to something that intersects with every movement and every sphere of activity. Climate action, as Smirnova puts it, doesn’t necessarily have to include protesting; “it’s what you can do in the supermarket”.
“A large part of their focus this year will be on climate inequality; a pattern in which climate change primarily affects developing countries and poorer regions first.”
Like all societies, the Environmental Society must move online this year. Smirnova expects that participation at virtual events and talks may be lower than participation in previous years, but is still hopeful for what they have planned. A large part of their focus this year will be on climate inequality, a pattern in which climate change primarily affects developing countries and poorer regions first. This will begin with the STAND festival this month, focused on the theme of climate migration. The festival, organised by STAND.ie, comprises a series of online events that intend to raise awareness about the growing number of climate change refugees. The Environmental Society will continue with this topic into Green Week in February. Smirnova hopes to have representatives from direct provision centres speak about their experiences with climate migration, along with representatives from Ireland who have had to leave their homes due to coastal erosion in order to illustrate that climate migration is something that affects all parts of the world including Ireland.
When it comes to the intersection between Covid-19 and environmental issues, Smirnova is interested in the link between the biodiversity crisis and cases of emerging viruses — something that not many people are aware of. She hopes to organise webinars on this subject during the year. The Environmental Society will also be looking into more micro level issues such as waste management in regards to hygiene practices. The society plans to run a craft workshop on how to make reusable masks and will be encouraging compostable or recyclable cleaning materials rather than wipes that are single-use and non-biodegradable.
Speaking of her hopes for the society during this unusual academic year, Smirnova is pleased that “there’s been a lot of interest…and [she hopes] that keeps going and people do keep joining in”. Indeed, we all have a responsibility to join in when it comes to climate action, be that through educating yourself, making changes to your lifestyle or getting involved in larger campaigns. Although it can be hard to know how or where to get involved, the Environmental Society at Trinity is certainly a place to start.