greenzine Vol. 1
TABLE OF CONTENTS p. 3 - Editorial - It’s not easy being green p. 4-5 - micro & macro environmentalism p. 6-7 - history of the electric car p. 8-9 - What’s in a cup? p. 10-11 - Are pets ethical? p. 12-15 - Environmentalism in the simpsons p. 16-17 - puerto rico - climate change & natural disasters p. 18-19 - Princess mononoke - our relationship with nature p. 20-23 - love our nature p. 24-27 - interview with maria of green campus p. 28-29 - five ethical brands you should shop for first p. 30-31 - cosgrave kitchen p. 32-34 - of grave concern
STAFF Edited & Designed by Robert O’Sullivan Contributors - Lauren Mulvihill, Kieren Enright, Maria Kirrane, Cailean Coffey, Xander Cosgrave, Michael Murphy, Robert O’Sullivan, Shauna Burke, Frank Twomey, Daniel Murphy, Aisling Fitzgerald
EDITORIAL IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN Hello and welcome to the first volume of the GreenZine, an independently produced magazine about the environment, climate change, animal rights and basically anything you could consider ‘green’. First of all, I’d like to thank all of the contributors for sending their articles on. Without them then this literally would not be possible, so a massive thanks to all of the writers. Huge thanks also to UCC Greens, Environmental and Animal Welfare Societies for being involved in the behind-the-scenes work of the zine, planning things and sorting any issues out when they came up. A special thanks to the people behind the UCC Express and Motley Magazine, for their guidance and help in the making of this zine, and to the UCC Societies Executive, for being there when we needed them & for believing in this mad idea. It’s not easy being green. Not for Kermit the Frog, and certainly not for people in Ireland. Despite being the Emerald Isle, an island of forty shades of green, we’re simply awful at this whole environment stuff. We rank as the worst in Europe in many different climate change indexes, and have been described as ‘laggards’ in climate by our own Taoiseach in the European Parliament. We have such a beautiful country, from the Wicklow Mountains, to the Cliffs of Moher, to the shores of Lough Swilly to the entirety of Cork - so why don’t we do more to protect it? Climate change, just like time and death, waits for no man, and it will come for us all if we don’t do more. In this zine we have some great articles on a wide range of topics, so there really should be something for everyone. If you want to get involved with the GreenZine, you can do so by emailing UCCGreenZine@Gmail.com, or email any of the aforementioned societies. Kind Regards,
MICRO ENVIRONMENTALISM SMALL WAYS TO HELP THE ENVIRONMENT ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS
Recycle your paper, plastics and cardboard
Cycle to work or college instead of driving
Reduce your food waste
Have at least one meat-less dinner a week
Use keep cups instead of single-use ones
Reuse water bottles & other plastics
MaCRO ENVIRONMENTALISM ACTION YOU CAN DO TO HELP THE ENVIRONMENT ON A LARGE SCALE
Educate your friends & family on the environment Contact your local & national political reps
Get involved in groups or enviro organisations
Plant trees and plants on a regular basis
Donate to environmental organisations & causes
history of the electric car Daniel Murphy For most of you environmentalists reading this, driving your own car at all probably seems like an unideal solution to your transport woes. While buses, trains and bikes are greener ways to get around, sometimes it’s just more practical & appropriate to drive your own car. So what’s the solution to this moral quandary, this catch-22? An electric car of course! Charging ports for electric cars are popping up in every city & town in modern Ireland, and electric cars are a modern solution to a modern problem... right? The first production automobile, one to use an internal combustion engine, is generally considered to be Karl Benz’s Benz Patent-Motorwagen, which was released in 1886. It was a three-wheeled car with a rear-mounted engine. The car ran on Ligroin, a petroleum-based fuel, and received much publicity when Benz’s wife Bertha, whose dowry paid for the invention of the car, took the car (supposedly without her husband’s permission) on a long-distance drive in 1888. She acted as her own mechanic on the drive, and invented many standard features of a car along the way. Between 1886 and 1893 around 25 of the Patent-Motorwagens were built. While we think of electricity, and thus electric vehicles, as a modern concept,
the first viable electric production car was built by Thomas Parker in London in 1884, predating the Benz Patent-Motorwagen by two years. Parker was concerned the effect smoke and pollution was having on London, and was involved with electrifying the London Underground and the trams in Liverpool & Birmingham. Electric cars were most popular at the turn of the century in the UK, France and Germany, with the Flocken Elektrowagen proving popular on the continent. The first (practical) electric car produced in the United States was a six passenger wagon invented by William Morrison in 1891. Electric vehicles didn’t capture the public consciousness in the States until the introduction of A.L. Ryker’s electric tricycles in 1895. Electric vehicles experienced their first ‘golden age’ at the turn of the century, and though this ‘age’ lasted just 20 or so years its importance to the history of automobiles is worth noting. Electric cabs were introduced in London in 1897 and New York in 1899. Electric cars were favoured over their gasoline-fueled competitors because of the lack of smell, vibration and noise associated with petrol cars. Electric cars, for a time, also didn’t have the same difficult start-up mechanism of petrol ones, which required someone to turn a hand-crank to operate. Stumbling blocks for the electric cars
at the time were mainly societal: because of the comparatively easy way to operate them, they were considered cars ‘for women’, which carried an incredibly negative connotation at the time, and as women’s property & employment rights weren’t very strong in the 1910s, sales weren’t great. A lack of power infrastructure hampered their acceptance, but by the mid-1910s most homes in Europe and the States were wired for electricity. Electric cars began to decline by the 1920s, as improved infrastructure meant people wanted to travel further and for longer than electric cars allowed. Discoveries of large petroleum deposits meant the costs for driving petrol cars for longer & further were much lower, and the journeys were generally more convenient. Electric cars were generally limited to travelling at 20mph max, and to travel long distances you would have to have a car with an exchangeable battery. A lot of electric car models were built with ornate carriages, and were aimed at the wealthy upper classes. This cost, combined with the relatively high cost of use & upkeep, limited the marketability of the electric car heading into the 1920s. Several technical upgrades lead to the petrol automobile overtaking the electric car: in 1912 Charles Kettering invented the electric starter, which did away with all that pesky crank-turning. The further development of the muffler (initially invented in 1897 by Hiram Percy Maxim) deafened the noise pollution aspect of the petrol car, and the introduction of mass production of gas-powered cars by Henry Ford cut the price for those cars in half. By the end of the 1920s most manufacturing of electric cars had finished, with the industry virtually disappearing.
For the next few decades electric vehicles all but vanished, only surviving in the form of some forklifts, milk floats and golf carts. There was a revival of interest in electric cars, but only concept cars & limited-run production cars were made. In 1971 the electric car had the distinction of being the first piloted vehicle driven on the moon, as an electric ‘moon buggy’ produced by Boeing and GM’s Delco Electronics was used in the Apollo 15 mission. The 1973 Oil Crisis, which lead to prices for gasoline & petrol rising to astronomical heights (and scarce availability), caused some to think the electric car was a way to avoid being bound to the ever fluctuating fuel reserves, but no real research materialised until the 1990s, a full century after the first production electric cars were invented. Renewed interest in low and no emission vehicles rose in the 90s, but they were still mostly limited to short-distance journeys, so popularity dipped again by the close of the millennium. In 2004 Tesla began production on the Tesla Roadster, which they sold until 2012. The success of Tesla electric cars in America and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV in Japan and in Europe (rebadged) in the 2010s lead to other manufacturers like Ford, GM, Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and more to consider producing partially or fully electric car models. At the beginning of 2018 a chief executive of Toyota Ireland said they predict that sales of hybrid cars will overtake diesel ones by 2020. Electric cars can drive as far and as fast as their petrol counterparts, and with charging stations becoming more common even in Ireland, they are now legitimate alternatives to the gas-guzzling petrol cars we’ve been landed with so far. Let’s hope the golden age lasts longer than 20 years this time, eh?
WHAT’S IN A CUP? MARIA KIRRANE, ucc green campus UCC’s University Wide Module on Sustainability is in full swing again this year. This is the third year that the module has been run, and it continues to gain strength year on year. The module is a great example of how the sustainability agenda is becoming embedded across all functions of our university including our teaching, operational, research and outreach activities. The module explores the multiple dimensions of sustainability, taking an interdisciplinary approach. The speakers challenge us to reflect on our modern lifestyles and the approaches that are being taken thus far in tackling global issues such as environmental degradation and inequality. At one of the recent sessions, the question was posed “what difference can I really make by reusing my coffee cup?”
wants to introduce a levy for customers opting to use a disposable cup. So why are we doing this? Each year we dispose of 200 million coffee cups in Ireland. The majority of these cups are made from a composite of plastic and paper, which is extremely difficult to recycle. What about compostable cups you ask? Compostable cups are an improvement on the plastic lined version but: a) they need to be disposed of properly in order to reap the benefit, and b) they are still a single-use item that has become prolific in our culture today. Best practice when it comes to waste management is always reduction at source. When we look a little closer at the current situation globally around the production, consumption, and disposal of plastic we begin to see why that’s the case.
In September 2017, through the “Love our Library” campaign, UCC Library and Green Campus committee declared war on disposable cups. And we’re not alone. The “Conscious Cup Campaign” have launched a nationwide initiative to pressure cafes into incentivising the use of reusable mugs. The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Denis Naughton,
Over the last six decades 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced, only 9% of which has been recycled. It’s estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. As consumers we have become locked into a system where it’s easier for us to do the more environmentally damaging thing. By now we’ve all seen the photos of a whale washed up on a beach
with plastic straws in its mouth, or the plastic “islands” in the middle of the ocean. We’ve heard the scary statistic that over 70% of fish in the deep sea have ingested plastic. Yes, that’s THE DEEP SEA, over 1800m below the surface. We might not hear so much about the fact that this increasing production of plastic is reliant on oil production, and that plastics’ share of global oil production is likely to increase 3x over the next three decades. We also might not realise that plastic production has a significant carbon footprint, and this in turn is likely to increase exponentially over the coming years. This is a massive environmental issue on a global scale and policy makers need to act sooner rather than later to redesign our current system. But we have a role to play as well. That’s why we are encouraging our campus community to think before reaching for that disposable cup. It’s hoped that by questioning our reliance on the single-use cup we might also begin to wonder; do I really need that plastic straw/ bag/spoon…?
student stops buying one At the recent UCC Climate disposable cup each day Conference, organised of term that’s a conserby the Environmental vative 150 cups a year; Society, Professor Sarif 100 students commit ah Culloty spoke to this to going disposable free very topic in her opening that’s 15,000 fewer cups; address, highlighting the if 1,000 students-... we importance of individucould go on! als feeling empowered to take action. These As a university, we are sentiments are also at a centre of learning and experimentation; we have opportunities to push boundaries, to challenge paradigms, and ultimately to influence broader society. We may make mistakes along the way, we may not please everyone, but as a “living laboratory” we can help others to learn from our experiencthe heart of the United es and shape their own Nations Sustainable Deresponses to these enorvelopment Goals, which mous global challenges. recognise that these So what’s in a cup? Aside ambitious “global goals” from the memory of the require “local action.” It is fossil fuels used to prothrough these collective duce it and the potential individual actions that we to end up in the belly of a can have a real impact whale, there is a symbol and nowhere is this trufor how we as a campus er than on a university can collectively work tocampus. UCC is effecgether to say no to sintively a small city with a gle-use and to pressure population of ca. 25,000 those with the power to people who study, work, change the system to act live, eat, drink and soon our behalf to do so. cialise within our boundOh and of course here ary. The removal of small at UCC there is also the bins from the Boole Li10cent that you will save brary will save us 10,000 when you opt to reuse. plastic bin liners a year. If one caffeine addicted
ARE PETS ETHICAL? MICHAEL MURPHY We sure do love our furry friends in Ireland. According to a study conducted by Pawsitive Living, around 61% of Irish households surveyed owned either a cat or a dog, with a further 91% saying they considered their pets members of the family. But is this love misplaced? Go back a few decades, a few centuries - hell, go back to ancient times - and your faithful companion, curled up in front of the fire, is a wild savage beast. Why are we so special that we think we can just capture, tame and domesticate other animals? Dogs. I love dogs. I’m a dog person, I’ve had dogs all my life. Big dogs, small dogs, puppies, old timers - all sorts of dogs. But what is a dog? A domesticated wolf, really. When I say ‘wolf’ to you, what do you picture? I’m willing to bet you picture an apex predator, a proud pack animal, one of nature’s deadliest hunters. I’m guessing you don’t think of a chihuahua or a corgi. Generations of taming and breeding have changed the role these animals play in society, making them dependent on us for their species’ ultimate survival; if humans were to disappear overnight, I’m not betting on the pomeranian lasting for very long in the wild.
Speaking of breeding, humans have created and cultivated hundreds of different breeds of dogs to fulfill specific functions, whether those are to sniff out truffles, herd sheep, hunt defenseless foxes or just to have a goofy face. Pugs have been so inbred and mangled over time that they can barely breathe properly, same with some bulldogs and pitbulls. If you’re wondering how this process works, professional breeders take two dogs with ‘desirable’ traits and breed them until their puppies have those traits. If you compare photographs of dogs of the same breed from the early 20th century to how they are now, they’re almost entirely unrecognisable. Cats generally escape from breeding problems, and they kind of escape the whole domestication issues as well, as anyone with a cat will attest. You can try to change a cat, or its habits, but through biological developments and a cats unwillingness to take direction (unless it wants to) mean that cats have generally remained the (incredibly cute) hunters they’ve always been. The ethical question on cat ownership is a little bit more complex than with dogs, in that cats being kept as pets has had
some dire consequences for the environment around them. Cats have an issue of overpopulation, in that the amount of feral cats is estimated to be much much higher than it would have been had cats not been considered pets. Though cat populations have steadily fallen since the 1970s, it’s still not very sustainable, especially considering the impact cats have had on other wildlife. The most extreme example of this is the Stephens Island wren, which is considered to be the only species to be made extinct by a single animal: a cat named Tibbles. While not every cat is as genocidal as Tibbles (as much as you know they’d want to be), it highlights the problems of introducing a predatory species like cats into an ecosystem to which they are not native. As people from the West explored and colonised around the world, they brought
their pets with them, which lead to problems in those countries & lands to which colonists imported themselves. While pets, or even animals, aren’t the only invasive species going (the Spanish flu is another example), they certainly haven’t helped things. The eastern grey squirrel, or just grey squirrel for short, is considered an invasive species in Britain and Ireland. It takes advantage of its natural advantage over the native red squirrels, combined with the lack of a natural predator here, to displace and destroy the native species. Grey squirrels were introduced to Ireland by Lord Longford when he brought them to his estate in the 1910s, and if it weren’t for the presence of pine martens in Ireland the grey squirrel would have run roughshod over our native critters.
Ultimately it’s a tough question to answer. While keeping animals as pets does maintain the population levels of those pets, as seen with the grey squirrels (or with Tibbles) it can adversely affect the environment around them. We cannot go back and undo the harm done to various dog breeds, but is it more ethical to let breeds die out just because they’re not naturally occurring? It is not our place to play God, but that is the role mankind keeps bringing upon itself, and with great power comes great responsibility, after all. We love our animals, and they love us. And we can’t atone for the sins of the past, but does that mean we should still be perpetuating them?
ENVIRONMENTALISM in the simpsons Shauna Burke The Simpsons has been on the air since December 1989, and though the quality may have dipped in recent years in the fans’ eyes, the show doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. With a show that’s been on television for that long, it’s no small wonder that the Simpsons have covered pretty much every topic there is to cover - as a 2002 episode of rival animated comedy South Park put it: “Simpsons did it!” Sure enough, amid all the celebrity cameos, Grammy award-winning songs (and jokes about winning Grammys) and steamed hams, the Simpsons ‘did’ the environment, ecology and animal rights several times over their now 29 year history. The show contains general themes of environmentalism, generally surrounding the town’s massive nuclear power plant. This first crops up as a point of contention in the fourth episode of season 2, ‘Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish’. In this episode Bart & Lisa catch a three-eyed fish down river from the nuclear power plant. The governor of [whatever state Springfield is in] moves to fine Mr.Burns for the pollution his plant has cost. Burns runs for governor to make
it easier (and legal) to dump waste from the power plant, but his campaign falls apart (despite having the momentum of a runaway freight train) when he’s forced to eat the three-eyed fish Bart had caught earlier. Despite saying that the fish was perfectly normal, Burns is unable to eat the fish, spitting it out. The effects of nuclear waste and the power plant on the locality’s flora & fauna became a running joke for the show over the years, and Blinky the three-eyed fish himself became a sortof mascot for the show. Mr.Burns got his comeuppance later in the show, losing all his fortune, and being put in a retirement home in Season 8’s ‘The Old Man and the Lisa’. He begs Lisa Simpson to help him, and eventually she relents, but only if he gives up his evil ways. With Lisa he begins to build his life back up, using recycling as a focus. He regains his place in society, and builds the Little Lisa Recycling Plant, out of recycled materials, in her honour. Lisa is honoured by this, but horrified when she discovers that Burns uses the plant to turn old plastic six pack rings into massive nets to catch fish. By the end of the episode Burns sells the plant, and all returns to
normal. Well, not for the hundreds upon thousands of fish who were caught, but you get my point. The show, typically through Mr.Burns, shows that there are ramifications for our actions on the environment around us, even if some of the plots take it to the Nth degree.
Lisa the Vegetarian. Lisa becomes very conscious that the food on her plate was previously a cute critter frolicking through the fields. Her school and her family actively oppose her new vegetarian lifestyle, actually laughing in her face at Homer’s BBBQ (the extra B stands for BYOBB). She acts out, If Burns is the paragon of destroying the pig-onpollution and waste, then a-spit centrepiece of the Lisa is the driving force BBBQ. Having been scoldbehind the green efforts ed and grounded by her of the town. In Whackparents she breaks out of ing Day she speaks out the house and, having a about the annual tradition crisis of confidence, eats where the townsfolk kill a Kwik-E-Mart hot dog. hundreds of snakes on a Apu appears, and tells particular day - whacking her it’s a tofu-dog, and day. Lisa, with the help of introduces her to Paul singer Barry White (did & Linda McCartney, who I mention the celebrigive her a talk on vegety cameos?), saves the tarianism & maintaining lives of the snakes. When her own views without Bart gets an elephant in impeding on the views of the season five episode… others. One caveat for ‘Bart Gets an Elephant’... Paul & Linda to agree Lisa argues that keepto the cameo was that, ing the elephant in their unlike Mr.Burns in earlier back garden is cruel, seasons, Lisa had to stay and eventually gets the a vegetarian. And stay family to donate the anione she has, and that’s mal to a wildlife reserve. how on of the most When Homer tries to sell popular shows on teleStampy (the elephant) to vision has had a vegean ivory dealer, Lisa (and tarian main character Bart) are appalled and for the last 23 years, run away. And when the normalising the concept elephant eventually saves to families around the Homer’s life he relents, world. and allows Stampy to go to the reserve. Lisa’s care Sensing a theme, the for animals was taken to next notable ecological the next level in another episode was the crecleverly-named episode, atively titled ‘Lisa the
Tree Hugger’. Lisa meets Jesse, the leader of environmental protest group Dirt First, at a family trip to Krusty Burger. She joins Dirt First to protect the town’s oldest redwood tree, which is about to be cut down by...The Rich Texan?! Did the writers have any imagination at all?! How did this show last 3 seasons never mind 30?!-...anyway, Lisa camps in the tree, but leaves it one night during a storm. When the tree is struck by lightning everyone fears Lisa has died, leading the Rich Texan to dedicate the forest to Lisa’s memory, building an amuse-
ment park, ‘Lisa Land’, as a tribute. Lisa appears at the site and protect the trees, and Jesse dislodges the redwood that was to be used as a sign for the park. The tree demolishes the Texan’s machines and buildings, and goes on a cross-country tour. The significance of this episode is that, while obviously the Dirt First gang are subjected to being the butt of a few jokes, they aren’t completely ridiculed in the episode. Though perhaps they come off as a bit naive, the environmental activists aren’t just ineffectual flower-power hippies like they are in almost every other American show, or even in other episodes of the Simpsons. Again, The Simpsons uses its platform to legitimise environmental protection efforts. Ecology and environmentalism were consistent themes throughout the run of the show, which lead up to the Simpsons Movie, which was released between seasons 18 and 19 of the show. The central plot of the film is that Lake Springfield has become disgustingly polluted to the point of being acidic. When Homer tips the scale just a little
bit too much by dumping a silo of pig crap in the lake. With the ecosystem reaching dangerous levels, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) seals the town off in a giant bubble. Though the EPA were the primary antagonists of the film, it wasn’t as a crazy group of eco-freaks, but as a conniving governmental agency. The environmental issues are treated as actual problems, though, in typical Simpsons fashion, things just seem to right themselves by the time the credits rolled. The show would go on to cover animal welfare and the environment over the later seasons of the show, but let’s be honest, none of us have watched the episode where Marge nearly has an affair while saving manatees, or when Lisa invented a process for humans to use photosynthesis, or the time Grandpa Simpson became a bullfighter...I made one of those up, and you honestly can’t tell which one is fake, can you? Regardless of quality of the show, it gave an important platform to environmental issues over the years, and though it made jokes about green issues, it also made these issues more accessible to a massive television audience, who may not have heard of them otherwise. Now I’m off to find a recipe for lentil soup...
Episodes to watch
Whacking Day (Season 4, Episode 20)
Bart gets an elephant
lisa the vegetarian (Season 7, Episode 5)
The Old Man and the Lisa
(Season 5, Episode 17)
(Season 8, Episode 21)
Unidos Por Puerto Rico Climate Change & Natural Disasters Frank Twomey Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean, floating just southeast of Florida. It was claimed by Christopher Columbus on behalf of Spain on his second voyage to the New World in 1493, and was a Spanish colony until the end of the American-Spanish War in 1899. Since then it has been owned by the United States, with many Americans being rather unsure of Puerto Ricoâ€™s status within the Union. Officially Puerto Rico is an organised unincorporated territory, which means it is self-governing but the laws of the US Constitution do not necessarily apply. Puerto Ricans are US citizens, but do not get to vote for President, nor do their representatives in Congress get to vote. Puerto Ricans have voted to become a state several times, though the decision is ultimately not theirs to make. Still, many Americans & Puerto Ricans alike consider the island to be a state in all but name. Being an island, Puerto Rico is predictably open to the elements. However, no amount of rainfall could prepare the islanders for what 2017 had in store for PR. In late-August/early-September, Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean hard, affecting much of the islands there. Puerto Rico, despite declaring a state
of emergency and deploying response teams, was badly hit. Waves reached over 30feet tall, and a wind gust of 111mph was recorded on the sub-island of Culebra. Two people died in the rainstorms in the run-up to the storm, and two people died during the hurricane. Homes were completely destroyed in the rural parts of the island, and more than a million of the islandâ€™s (roughly) 3.5m people were left without power. Governor Ricardo RossellĂł declared the islands of Culebra and Vieques to be disaster areas - it was the worst natural disaster in history to ever strike in Puerto Rico. It would hold that record for little over a fortnight. On September 18th, Hurricane Maria struck the island. Unlike with Irma, PR was hit by the full brunt of Maria. Having not yet recovered from the effects of Irma, Puerto Rico was unable to adequately prepare for Maria. By the time it hit Puerto Rico there were sustained winds of 175mph, and pressure of 908mbar, making it the 10th most destructive hurricane in Atlantic history. Some 80,000 Puerto Ricans were still without power before Maria, and the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority was severely in debt before the hurri-
canes (roughly $9.1b in debt), and had filed for bankruptcy. There were also issues with clean drinking water, as much of Puerto Rico’s supplies did not meet US clean drinking water standards. Gusts of up to 113mph were recorded in the capital of San Juan, and there was heavy rainfall on the islands, peaking at 37.9 inches in Caguas. Storm surge and flash flooding trapped hundreds of people, destroying homes. The power grid was completely destroyed by Maria, leaving the 3.4m people without access to electricity, which seriously affected hospitals, banks and other key services. Around 90% of Puerto Rico’s cell phone coverage dropped, meaning many islanders had no way of contacting relatives in the outside world. PR was left devastated by Maria, isolated and without power or much drinking water. Hospitals told some patients that they would be better off going to the mainland US for treatment, if they could - the rapper Pitbull even chartered flights for people in critical condition. Puerto Rico’s standing as an entity less than a state
within Trump’s US meant that it received less help & aid than some mainland states, even though the damage there was significantly lesser than in PR. When the mayor of San Juan drew attention to this in the media, Trump’s government spun it as some sort of paid hit by the Democrats, not the legitimate point it was. And as PR reps
ica has to climate change. Puerto Rico saw two of the worst natural disasters in its entire history in the space of two weeks, and to say it is not linked to climate change is a ridiculous notion. Since the 1970s, hurricanes that reach category 4 and 5 (the strongest, most destructive sort) have roughly doubled in number. NASA predict that global warming could affect storms due to the decreasing difference in temperature between the poles and the equator. This change in temperature is said to drive the increase in amount & strength of the have no vote in Congress, storms & hurricanes in Puerto Rico couldn’t exthe Caribbean & Atlantic. actly stand up for itself in the House. Even today, We should’ve done more some six months after for Puerto Rico, for DomHurricane Maria, Puerto inica and the CaribbeRico hasn’t come close an. We can still do more to recovering. The offifor them by donating to cial death toll for Puerto charities like Unidos Por Rico is around 64, with Puerto Rico, for example. another 60 people missSaving the environment ing, though most experts and combating climate consider that this number change isn’t just about is, sadly, much too low. saving the forests or the Arctic tundra in the fuThe reaction to the cature, it’s about saving tastrophe on Puerto Rico lives in the here and now. from mainland US, espeWe must unite for Puerto cially from the governRico, because no one else ment, was appalling, but will. was endemic of the attitudes that Trump’s Amer-
Princess Mononoke and Our Relationship with Nature Kieran enright When I first stumbled upon Studio Ghibli I was immediately taken aback by the style and tone of its tales. Unlike its Western counterparts, these epics deal with conflicts of ideals, and question the resilience of the human condition. Hayao Miyazaki, the powerhouse behind the studio, intersects his stories with a sense of urgent realism and modernity, the most poignant of which, in my opinion, is Princess Mononoke. Released in 1997, the film places itself in a time of turbulent transition. Existing between thresholds: the natural world and the onslaught of mechanization, the film directly questions man’s impact on the natural world. In this way, Princess Mononoke’s allegorical exploration is timeless. The question of man’s impact on nature, now more than ever, is at the forefront of the political and social debate. The film centers around a war over limited resources, not unlike our current environmental situation. The humans, having mobilized iron in the form of weapons, ignite this conflict by shooting and killing the mountain’s Boar God. Afflicted with the “curse” of the humans, the iron, the God becomes enraged in a demonic form and violently attacks nearby villages. Ashitaka, one of our protagonists, defeats this evil, but he is in turn afflicted with the same curse, and doomed to
death himself. This curse, caused by the iron, a human invention, becomes a representation of mechanization, which is feared to lead to the demise of the natural. On the advice of the village elder, Oracle, Ashitaka heads West in search of the Forest Spirit, who is said to possess a cure. The film establishes itself in a ecosystem where nature and man interact violently, but also an ecosystem of choices and motivations. Throughout the film we meet several main characters who contribute to this complexity. San, or Princess Mononoke, acts as the human representation of nature. Lady Eboshi, the leader of Irontown, an industrialized settlement that has waged war on the forest surrounding it, initially appears as the film’s antagonist. In her quest to continue building for the benefit of her people, she seeks to totally destroy the Forest Spirit (i.e. nature). However, her character is not completely abhorrent. She is portrayed as a kind leader, taking pity on those stricken with Leprosy, and even offering a better life to the women of the town’s brothel. In this way Lady Eboshi, who appears as the foil to nature, is humanized. Thus, Princess Mononoke is not simply a conflict of good and evil. Our sympathies are continuously drawn back and forth. The inhabitants of Iron-
town are hard-working and loyal, while apathetic and mindless at the same time. Likewise, the peaceful and kind images of the natural world are interlaced with portrayals of the violent intentions to seek retribution for human destruction. Thus, the film is an allegory of the struggle between human civilization and the natural world, one where a clear victory is not certain for either side. The dichotomy of this cyclical struggle is exemplified by the Forest Spirits’ contradictory being. They are, at once, both life and death. In one particular scene we see the Forest Spirit cause the accelerated growth of plants by simply setting foot on the foliage, and their subsequent death when its foot is displaced. The ambivalence of the Forest Spirits’ behavior is coherent with the subject matter of the film: co-existence is the key to survival. The relationship of the Forest Spirit and those around them is similar to the relationship man has with ‘Mother Nature’. The intent of the humans to kill this spirit, in order to advance their civilization, is a very egocentric and relatable concept. The humans are willing to destroy this entity in order to ensure their continued livelihood, unbeknownst of the very real and ecolog-
ically destructive implications this act will certainly ensure. When we examine this film in the context of today’s political landscape we see that the message in Mononoke is still relevant today. With the United States withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, Princess Mononoke acts as an vision of a future which awaits us if we continue down our current path of
ignorance. Speaking at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1999, Miyazaki spoke of his intentions of the film:
This scene culminates this idea of human ignorance, which is laid bare throughout the film. Miyazaki uses the moral ambiguity of humans to reveal the complications of living on this planet. As the film comes to its final conflict in the form a violent battle waged between the humans and the natural, images of destruction are intersected by images of the pure. Balance is ultimately restored by the end of the film, echoing the idea of the cyclical relationship between man and nature - after all the chaos, the world returns to its natural state in a troubling way, suggesting that there is ultimately only one outcome to this conflict.
Since its release over 20 years ago Princess Mononoke remains as one of “What did (the children) Miyazaki’s finest mastersee, and what did they pieces. Its message taps encounter in this film? I into the collective anxieties think you’ll have to wait of the 21st century. The for about 10 years for anime classic serves as a them to be able to grow nostalgic meditation on up sufficiently to be able our current relationship to articulate their emotions with the planet, one which about it.” continues to feel more delicate as time goes by. The most poignant line of the film, in my opinion, Will the human race heed is delivered by Moro, the the warnings, or are we Wolf God. He states; doomed by our collective ignorance to be at “The trees cry out as they the mercy of the natural die, but you cannot hear world? them.”
LOVE OUR NATURE
LOVE OUR NATURE
INTERVIEW WITH MARIA KIRRANE UCC GREEN CAMPUS CAILEAN COFFEY While it may not always seem the case, what with Trump and a certain “rocket man” criticising the size of each other’s big red buttons, the environment is by far the most pressing and most important issue of the 21st century. It seems at times that ever since Al Gore released his classic documentary, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, in 2006, environmental issues have been pushed to the fore of political, private and public life across Ireland and the world. In UCC a group was set up in an effort to tackle the environmental issues across campus. The group, UCC Green Campus, has pushed UCC to be ranked among the Top 10 sustainable universities in the world this year. We sat down with Green Campus member Maria Kirrane who, with reusable mug in hand, guided us through the formation and establishment of the group. CAILEAN COFFEY: How did the programme begin, and how did it become involved in the launching of the Green University Flag? Maria Kirrane: The programme began when a bunch of students in 2007 decided that they weren’t happy with the work being done by the Environmental Management Committee. The students had come from Green Flag schools, and they asked themselves “Why aren’t we
doing this here?” So they got in touch with An Taisce, the environmental group that run the Green Flag programme for Ireland, and An Taisce said that if the relevant parties in UCC were willing to work together and run a pilot on campus, that they would support it. And so, we got the Building and Estates team, some academics – we got the President behind it as well. Then An Taisce came down and went through it with us. It took three years – it was 2010 by the time we got the Green Flag, so it was a bit of a hard slog, but we got there! We were the first University in the world to get a Green flag. CC: What was it like trying to figure out how the Green Campus would work? MK: It was great, because people were really open to it. I do think that there’s a culture of leadership in UCC – a culture of leading and starting off these things, a sense of pride if you will! You can definitely use that to your advantage when pitching these things. Going to people and telling them that it works at primary and secondary level, that we have the support of An Taisce, and the knowledge that we would be the first to obtain the Green Flag really got people on board. I think it was really good timing as well, as there were many around the Univer-
sity at the time that knew that something needed to be done, and they were glad that it was the students that were pushing for it to be done. The Green Flag scheme for universities is in 14 countries worldwide now, and we were the first ever!
how far it was going to go. But now, the university has its own Sustainability Officer, which has only been a position since May 2017, and there’s only two universities in Ireland who have that position. We have a Sustainability Strategy as well, which has been signed off at the top levels, and sustainability is a part of the university’s overall strategy as well. Everyone that I talk to, no matter what part of campus or what office it is, know what Green Campus is, and to be honest, it’s a bit of a ‘brand’ around UCC now. It’s recognised, and people trust it – they think “Green Campus, that’s a well-respected thing around UCC” and I’m very proud of that.
CC: Were you involved from the very start yourself? MK: Yes, I was one of the students. I did my undergraduate degree here, as well as my postgraduate degree, so I was around for the three years spent working towards it. I left for a few years doing other work, but now I’m back as Sustainability Officer for the University.
CC: What initiatives are you currently running?
CC: Was there any time in the three years where you thought it wasn’t going to work? MK: We had great support. But there’s always moments where you wonder “Oh god, what are we doing?!” It was all new, but like I said, we had a lot of people behind us. We had really good support from the Students’ Union back then as well. The SU Deputy President at the time created a mandate that the Deputy President would always sit on the Green Campus committee. There were a lot of people working to place it into the structure of the university, and it all came together really well. CC: Are you proud of the progress that you’ve made so far? What are the thing that you are most proud of? MK: Yeah, I’m utterly amazed by it. The thing I’m proudest of is the fact that it has really grown its own legs. From being a student on it, we didn’t really know
MK: The coffee cup ban in the library! [laugh] I work with Buildings and Estates, who work across the different environmental aspects of university life, so there’s an energy manager, and the like. The Energy Manager started this scheme called the “Save or Save” scheme. Thirteen of our buildings in UCC use 87% of the energy, because they’re in constant use, or late night buildings like the library. We’ve done a targeted programme with those buildings; we’ve gone in and tried to see how those buildings work, especially with the library. We got a team together and they took initiatives on board that they knew would work, such as turning off lights in empty rooms. Following on from that, they decided to target library waste as well. I assessed the cleaning contractors and discovered that there were 187 small bins that would be full of coffee cups, half empty, and stuff. These bins couldn’t be recycled, as they were all contaminated with
coffee. Alongside this, there’s an international movement towards not using these non-recyclable cups, so we thought that we would lead by example and declare that all coffee was welcome, but it had to be in a reusable cup within the library. The other side of that was going to KSG, the food contractor for UCC and telling them about the initiative, and asking if they would do a discount, in order to try and give people an incentive to change their behaviour. So we used a bit of both a carrot and a stick, so to speak. The library also stock reusable cups as well, but there’s nothing stopping people going to Penneys and buying a cup for €2! CC: UCC is ranked as being in the top 10 sustainable universities in the world, but what does this mean exactly? MK: It’s a global ranking of environmental performance, with roughly fourteen criteria that you report on. Basically, it means that of the universities in this
ranking, we’re in the top 10. Not every university is involved in it, but there are a lot of U.K. universities and U.S. universities in it who’ve been at this a lot longer than we have, so it’s brilliant that for us to be in the top 10. It’s a ranking, and because it’s global you’re not necessarily comparing like for like. For something like the Green Flag, you’re measured more qualitatively as well as quantitatively, whereas with the ranking it’s only quantitatively. I would say that it’s a very good communication tool, and a very good thing for us to say that we’re doing really well here. There is a lot of data that you have to put into it and there are a lot of people around campus that feed into it. It includes things like the number of events here that environmentally minded societies run, how many courses we have that have an environmental theme, it looks at how much waste we produce, the amount of energy we use and it measures other aspects like that. It’s a fantastic achievement, and it shows
that we’re doing a lot here in UCC. We’ve made massive strides over the last ten years so I don’t think it’s unwarranted that we’re in the top 10. CC: How involved are UCC in investing in renewable energy sources? MK: UCC divested from fossil fuels years ago, we’ve no investments in the fossil fuel industry. The finance committee before Christmas made the decision to sign up to the UN Principles For Responsible Investment, which is a global initiative run by the UN which requires that we report quite extensively on our investments. While they would always have been public anyway, this will mean that we’ll be completely transparent on all our investments and we’ll have to work to ensure that our investments are positive across a range of sustainable criteria, so not just environment but social aspects as well. Again we are the only university in Ireland to sign up to that but there are others in the U.K. and the U.S.. We’d actually be one of the few places in Ireland that have signed up come to think of it. CC: What can students do, apart from using renewable cups, to aid the Green Campus initiative? MK: Come along to meetings, say hello, get in touch, sign up to our mailing list, if there’s something that you want to do then bring it to a meeting and we’ll see about running a campaign around that. It is about students bringing ideas to us and then the people working within that unit implementing that and seeing what we can do, and that’s what Green Campus is all about. It doesn’t mean that your idea will definitely be taken on or
that we’ll run with it but we’ll definitely look at it and see if it’s possible. As a student that’s what I loved about it, you’d go to a meeting and say “I think we should do this” and then they’d always come back and say “We looked into this, we can and we can’t” etc. etc. It’s kind of about being democratic about what campaigns we run and things like that. CC: What would you like to see UCC do or be in five years’ time in relation to Green Campus? MK: I would love to see UCC go disposable-free. I would love if there was no plastic bottles, no straws, those kind of things. You see the list of completely unnecessary uses of plastic and I’d love to have none of those on UCC campus. I’d love to be trialling ways of avoiding plastic or incentivising people to use reusable options so then we could go to government and say “This is possible”. If we do it in UCC then why can’t we do it in Cork city and why can’t we do it across the country? Cork City council brought in the reusable cups so, you know, that’s two big elements, UCC and the City Council, and then you’re asking why can’t Cork County do it , you know? I do think we should be influencing policy, we should be making sure that our students who are going into jobs, be it in companies or in government or wherever they go off to work, that when they get there they are saying “You use disposable cups here, why?” If you’d like to get involved with UCC Green Campus, visit their website at greencampus.ucc.ie.
Five ethical brands you should shop for first Aisling Fitzgerald It can be incredibly hard to shop anywhere and really be sure that what you’re doing is right. “Does this make-up brand test their products on animals?” “Does this retailer make their clothes in sweatshops?” “Does this company use recycled, sustainable materials, both in the goods and in their production?” “Do they make use of child labour?” These are questions you have to ask yourself before doing any kind of shopping these days, and it can be stressful. It’s so easy to buy unethically - it’s usually cheaper, and it’s definitely easier. But is it right? I’ve put together a list of some of my favourite ethical brands to hopefully take some of the stress away (and the cost, where I could!).
them are okay for vegans to use! They have pretty much any kind of toiletry you could want, from shower jellies, to the aforementioned bath bombs, to lip balms to facial masks, and everything in between! They do have some makeup products, though you may have to look on their website for a lot of them. They also support local, national and international charities with their charity pots, and regularly run information campaigns on important causes. Products are reasonably priced depending on how much you want, and can be bought in store and online (lush.com).
KAT VON D BEAUTY
LUSH I think we all know at least a little something about Lush, whether it’s their amazing bath bombs or their (sometimes overly) incredibly enthusiastic staff. But what you mightn’t know unless you’re already a die-hard Lush fan is all of their products are free from testing on animals! More than that, their products are hand-made and use little-to-no preservatives or packaging. All of their products are vegetarian-friendly, and a lot of
Kat Von D Beauty is a line of makeup products produced by famous tattoo artist Kat Von D. They regularly appear in lists like these because they’re a rarity among high-street makeup brands: they’re cruelty-free, have a lot of vegan-friendly products in the line and don’t have astronomical costs. A properly versatile range, Kat Von D should be high on your list if you’re looking for a new eyeshadow palette, or some liquid lipstick. You can buy Kat Von D Beauty products on their website, katvondbeauty.com, or in shops like Debenhams. Prices range from the very reasonable to the reason-
ably expensive, so you should be able to find something for you.
PEOPLE TREE People Tree is a fair trade clothing brand founded in Tokyo, Japan in 1991. People Tree began as a clothing catalogue produced by Safia Minney’s NGO Global Village. Minney said she found it hard to get off the ground as it was essentially the first of its kind. People Tree sell anything from dresses to knitwear to baby wear and jewellery, and have several different styles of activewear and day-to-day clothes. The problem with People Tree is that their products can be quite expensive, especially on a student budget. The upside is massive, though, in that they know exactly where their materials come from, and who makes their clothes, so you can rest easy knowing that all your purchases are fully ethical. You can buy their products directly from them on their website, PeopleTree. co.uk, or you can buy a limited selection of their products from retailers like ASOS.
PATAGONIA Moving away from high-street fashion & makeup brands to something a little more outdoors-y. Patagonia is an American retailer who specialises in sustainable outdoor clothing. Founded in 1973, Patagonia devotes 1% of its total sales, or 10% of its profits, to environmental charities & groups. Like People Tree, Patagonia’s goods skew more to the expensive side, and like Patagonia they have a lot of fair trade goods. You likely won’t be wearing Patagonia-brand clothes on a casual day, but if you’re into hiking, ori-
enteering, surfing, swimming or fishing, then it’s really the only way to go. They also listen to their customers, as they’ve changed their sources for certain materials several times across their history in response to valid complaints. Patagonia product lines can be found in outdoor pursuits shops, and on their website, patagonia.com.
BLUESTOCKINGS I’m going to finish off on a slightly cheekier note, and talk about a lingerie brand you need to know about. Bluestockings are an underwear & lingerie boutique that are committed to ethical manufacturing processes and sustainability. This means they guarantee that their workers have been paid a fair wage, and are not subject to inhumane working conditions. All of the brands they carry are independently owned & self-ran. They aim a lot of their products at LGBTQI people, carrying things like binders for trans people in addition to the odd lacy item. They also have a great range of plus size products and products aimed at people of colour. Prices aren’t unreasonable, when you consider what the same items might cost in a high-street store, and as the goods are sustainable you’re getting what you pay for. You can buy direct from them by going to their website, bluestockingsboutique.com. So there’s just five excellent ethical brands you can try out right now! Even if nothing above sounds good for you, hopefully it gets you thinking about where you shop, and calms any stress you have about buying from ethical & sustainable sources!
COOKING WITH COSGRAVE VEGAN CURRY 4-6 servings, for ‘Normal people’ I don’t judge, I can eat a lot of curry. Prep time, 30 min. Cooking time 45 min+
What you need A knife and board. A pot.
Ingredients 1 tablespoon of Turmeric 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds 1 teaspoon of chilli powder 1 tablespoon of paprika (Or you can just use a few tablespoons of curry powder or paste.) 2 tablespoons of olive oil. 4 medium onions. 5 cloves of garlic. 3 bell peppers. One thumb sized piece of ginger, or a tablespoon of powdered ginger. 2 400 gram cans of chopped tomatoes Salt & Pepper 1 400 gram can of chickpeas. Lentils
Optional extras Fresh coriander Apples Fresh chillies
1) Finely chop your onion, garlic and ginger. If you want to add fresh chillies, chop them up now as well. If you don’t want too much spice, take the seeds out, otherwise, leave them in. Roughly chop your bell peppers. 2) If you’re not using the curry powder or paste, heat up the oil in the pan until it’s almost smoking and toss in your spices, toasting them for a minute, then turn off the heat and add your onions, garlic, ginger and peppers. If you are using curry paste or powder, heat up the oil in the pan and add your veg first, then mix in the curry powder once they’ve started to brown. Keep stirring the veg around to make sure that they get properly coated in the spices. 3) Next add your two cans of tomatoes. Drain the chickpeas off and add them now as well. Stir it occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick and leave it to simmer. If you want to add some sweetness to your curry, you can grate in an apple or two for flavour now. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over it and taste the curry, seasoning it more to your own taste. 4) Your curry should be ready to eat in about 45 minutes, but the longer you can leave it, the better it will be, an hour and a half to two hours is great. If it’s sticking a lot or getting a bit dry, you can just add some water or, if you have some, a little coconut milk. 5) Serve your curry with some rice or naan bread, and sprinkle some fresh coriander over it to make it look a little cooler and taste Legit Fresh.
SALAD Salads: the last great hill to conquer on being able to eat like an actual person, and not someone who gets their carbs in the form of fermented barley. I’m going to give you the vegan version here, but if you don’t want this to be vegan, just eat a block of cheese while you go (though that may not be in keeping with the ‘healthy’ vibe of a salad). The recipe will be split into the basic salad I use and a couple of dressings. If you like croutons that’s cool, but I’m not a big fan.
Serves; If you eat an entire bowl of salad 1) Wash everything that needs washing. no one can judge you because it’s healthy. 2) Quarter your tomatoes. You want them in Even if it’s dripping with dressing. cute little wedges.
What you need
3) Finely chop your basil and sundried tomatoes. (As fine as you can, sundried tomatoes can be a bugger to cut)
A knife and Board. Three forks. (Two of these are for using as tongs) 4) Look at your spinach and rocket. Do the inA big mug/Jug dividual pieces look a bit big to you? Well give A big bowl. em a rough tear with your hands. I don’t like
Ingredients 50g Of rocket. 50g Of Baby Spinach 50g Of Baby Tomatoes. A half dozen sundried tomatoes. Four/Six Leaves of fresh basil.
eating giant pieces of green, and while some people might start complaining about the structure of the salad being damaged, well… fuck ‘em. 5) Toss your rocket and spinach together. Then sort of sprinkle the tomato and basil over the top. Add your dressing.
vegan salad dressing Ingredients 4 tablespoons of olive oil. 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar 1 teaspoon of mustard, (Grainy is best, but that’s usually got honey in it, so the Lidl Dijon is a good shout instead) Juice of half a Lemon Salt & Pepper.
1) Juice your lemon. 2) Add all your ingredients together in a cup or something. Mix. Taste it and add a little salt and pepper to your liking. 3) Drown that salad in it. Or elegantly toss it in it. Whatevs.
Of Grave Concern Lauren Mulvihill Life has a 100% fatality rate. We’ve been trying to get around this fact for a long, long time, and to no avail. Even with earth’s human population standing at its highest point in history, the dead outnumber the living by around fifteen to one. That’s quite a lead, and one we’re unlikely to catch up on any time soon. Death is something that will eventually happen to everyone, and in many ways that makes it one of the most natural things on earth: we’re born, we die, we decompose, and the nutrients in our bodies feed the soil that maintains the next generation. On and on it goes. But modern death has undergone a transformation in the West. Families and friends across cultures have traditionally taken the care of the deceased into their own hands - washing the body, preparing the dead for burial or committal to fire, preparing food their loved one can take with them into the afterlife, and so on. However, as Western societies moved into the 20th and 21st centuries, funerals became increasingly professionalised. This led to families largely relinquishing direct involvement in the care of their deceased to industry professionals, who elected to prepare the bodies of the dead for visitation and, subsequently, burial. As the funeral industry grew internationally, what was considered ‘best practice’
in the care of the dead began to standardise. Among these practices emerged a modern twist on an idea that can be traced at least as far back as Ancient Egypt: embalming. Embalming is a short-term means of preserving the dead by using chemicals to ward off decay. The practice was first introduced to Ireland over fifty years ago, but had been in use in the United States since the American Civil War. Two forms of embalming are commonly used in funeral homes today: arterial and cavity. The former involves removing blood from the body, while the latter drains key organs of gas and fluid. Empty veins or cavities are then filled with a chemical solution, which may include methanol, ethanol, phenol, and water, alongside coloured dyes to simulate a natural skin tone. This is often used in conjunction with makeup artistry to give the deceased a more ‘life-like’ appearance. Approximately half of all bodies in Ireland undergo the embalming process, due in large part to the popularity of open-casket funerals and delayed ceremonies so that relatives living abroad may attend. Embalming’s practical uses are many, clearly, but there’s one chemical among the cocktail employed in the process which is a cause for concern: formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde is a colourless chemical also used in the production of building materials, household products, and industrial disinfectants. Although it is naturally occurring, when air reaches a formaldehyde content of more than 0.1 parts per million (PPM) many people suffer side effects including skin irritation and burning sensations in the eyes and throat. Formaldehyde is also carcinogenic to humans, with sufficient evidence for a causal link between exposure to the substance and nasopharyngeal cancer according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It is perhaps unsurprisingly currently listed by the EPA as being among the top 10% most hazardous chemicals. Due to their high level of exposure to formaldehyde-based embalming solutions, therefore, professional embalmers typically don full-body protection when carrying out their work. It’s not just those who work directly with the deceased who are at risk, however. What comes next - burial or cremation - can have a far wider-reaching impact on the environment at large. Let’s start with burial. It’s inevitable, in this part of the world at least, that some area of land within a given territory is going to be set aside as a resting place for the dead. These areas are often unique in the depth of their religious and philosophical meaning, and are tended to accordingly. In Ireland, bodies have traditionally been buried in graveyards although cremation has become increasingly popular, it was initially criticised by the Catholic Church. However, the methods being used to preserve the dead before burial are negatively affecting such
spaces in the 21st century. The professionalisation - and accompanying mysticisation - of death has led to myths forming regarding the dangers posed by dead bodies to the health of the living, but studies have shown that the vast majority of pollution to areas surrounding cem-
eteries is a result of embalming chemicals entering the soil and atmosphere. The burial of embalmed bodies requires a huge amount of resources in preventing this: in a single year in the US alone, 4,000,000 acres of forest, 115 tonnes of steel, and 2 billion tonnes of concrete are used in the manufacture of caskets and tombs by the $16 billion ‘death care’ industry. Alongside its carcinogenic effects, this is one of the reasons for formaldehyde being considered for banning by the European Union (a move which is heavily resisted by those working in the funeral industry). The ecological destruction of burial spaces is made more concerning by their theological and cultural significance, which necessitates their preservation. Some have suggested cremation as a means of combating this situation, but therein lies another problem. Not only does flame cremation require a huge amount of energy in the form of heat, but the smoke emitted by crematory
machines can itself contain hazardous gases including carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and carcinogens. Another unexpected hazard arises in the form of amalgam dental fillings, which can cause the dispersal of mercury vapour through the air. Vapours then fall as rain, contaminating water. These problems are worsened if the cremation is not direct, i.e. if the body has been embalmed beforehand, as formaldehyde is added to the mix. Though many facilities feature filtration systems, which limit the amount of gases released into the air, this is a very imperfect solution to a fairly serious problem. Now that the negative impacts of embalming and flame cremation are becoming more widely known, though, what possible alternative do we have in preparing and interring our dead? Enter the Order of the Good Death, founded by mortician and YouTube personality Caitlin Doughty in 2011. The rather gothic-sounding Order, and the broader ‘death positive’ movement of which it is a part, aims to transform the way the ‘Western World’ deals with death through discussion, art, innovation, and
scholarship. As part of this mission, Order members hope to create legal changes which will allow all individuals to have a real say in what happens to them upon their death, as well as empowering families and friends to be involved in after-death care if they so choose. In a further effort to rally against what Doughty terms the ‘funeral-industrial complex’, the Order is also a major advocate for natural or ‘eco death’, as described in a 2017 YouTube documentary Eco Death Takeover: Changing the Funeral Industry. Eco death, through practices including alkaline hydrolysis (also known as aquamation or water cremation) and natural burial, aim essentially to make death itself more environmentally friendly. Water cremation sees the corpse placed in a pressurised steel container, without any need for the cardboard or wooden caskets traditionally used in flame cremation. The container is then filled with a mixture comprised of 95% water and 5% potassium hydroxide/sodium hydroxide. When the container is heated to approximately 185 degrees Celsius, this mixture mimics the natural decomposition pro-
cess at a much faster rate. Following two to three hours in the chamber, the body is reduced to soft bone fragments - up to 30% more than those left by flame cremation - which may then be crushed into a dust and returned to the family. Dissolved soft tissue forms a neutralised substance which may be either disposed of safely, or repurposed as a fertiliser. This process uses ⅛ of the energy needed for flame cremation, and creates ¼ of the carbon footprint, with little to no mercury emissions. Moreover, the water used is equivalent to the average used by a living person over a threeday period. The Catholic Church, just as it once opposed flame cremation, rejects aquamation on the grounds that it disrespects the body of the deceased. This, along with the fact that water cremation sounds - frankly - a bit gross, may help to explain why the process is currently unavailable for humans in Ireland. Regardless, it has been lauded as the future of the funeral industry by a number of national and international media outlets and NGOs, and may reach our shores in the near future thanks to the work of death positive activists. In terms of eco-friendly burial there is, of course, always the obvious choice: direct committal to the ground, unembalmed, either wrapped in a biodegradable shroud or basket. Not only is this the ‘greenest’ means of burying the dead, it is the only
means that is inherently beneficial to the environment, allowing the body’s nutrients to seep into the soil unburdened by hazardous chemicals. The decomposition process may occur faster than it would had the body been embalmed, but embalming is simply a process that temporarily wards off the inevitable. Moreover, any pathogens remaining in the corpse are generally killed off quite quickly owing to the body’s position near the surface, meaning that green burial is a safe practice. It has also been legal in Ireland since 2013, with the passing of the Burial Ground
(Amendment) Act. As Caitlin Doughty notes in Eco Death Takeover, “green burial is the ultimate way for a person to give back to the earth that supported them their entire life.” Human beings care for our dead, and we care for the earth on which they once lived. In an effort to attend to one, we have inadvertently neglected the other, and have harmed ourselves in doing so. There is a way of allowing the living to care for and celebrate our dead in a way that helps us come to terms with our own grief, without engaging in chemical processes which harm our environment. Death is what it is: it’s a closing chapter; it’s terribly sad; it’s absolutely inevitable. And it’s high time that we, on a societal level, face that inevitability head on.
Published on Mar 13, 2018