Katlyne Armstrong: Anthropology and Development MA programme, Maynooth University

For the past year, I have been studying entanglements of environmental action and justice within the Anthropology and Development MA programme at Maynooth. The course largely comprised taught lectures where we dove into anthropological concepts, theories and research methods in preparation for impending research. Some of the more personally enriching themes studied included “development” and associated elements of colonialism and power; spatial justice and connected works on extractivism, Irish planning, enclosure and the commons; as well as ontology and human-nature relationships. 

The other part of the course - the more compelling albeit gruelling half - entailed a six-month research project, which was nurtured by this education and my continued work with An Taisce. Here, through an anthropological lens, I sunk into Irish boglands as a space at the intersection of and entangled within heritage, planning and resistance. Multidisciplinary approaches are critical to imagining and creating viable, vibrant and just communities; anthropology indeed has a meaningful role to play, equipping us with dynamic local knowledges that speak to big questions.

Moving between An Taisce, community groups, webinars, conferences, and natural landscapes, I conducted ethnographic research through the summer of 2022. The product of this research is interested in the life emerging in response to the ecological crisis, specifically that on Irish bogs. Boglands are not just a space but a living space of resistance in a multitude of forms, as a site for both human and more-than-human resistance as well as a subject encompassing and struggling for life itself. And if we are to move beyond systems of oppression and exploitation we must draw our attention to examples of living alternatively.

Through the development of a hurting heritage framework that sheds a light on legacies of colonialism and turf-cutting on boglands, I support the idea that heritage is a process renegotiated through time. Communities are constantly redefining what is and is not heritage and peatland communities, for example, are fighting to conserve a living heritage, illustrated by way of navigating the planning process and traversing human-bog relationships. In this way, heritage can be a catalyst for environmental action and justice, reflecting our past yet calling for mobility in the present to shape our future. 

The question thus becomes: What do we value and what do we want to pass on to future generations? This is not to say, however, that it is easy to renegotiate and seek to move beyond practices and traditions that bear tremendous emotion as much as it is to illuminate alternatives that we all have a hand in crafting. 

Theresa O'Donoghue: Climate Change: Media, Policy & Society, DCU 

I had seen the Masters in Climate Change when it was first launched. Having a qualification in what I was doing would formally acknowledge my expertise and could open doors to paid employment. Unfortunately I couldn’t do it because it was in Dublin which is a long way from Lisdoonvarna. Then in 2020, thanks to Covid-19 the course went online. There was also a scholarship aimed at experienced climate activists. I applied using material from my blog and was awarded the scholarship. 

I was surprised at how well I did in the policy module. I knew I had wandered into policy in order to compliment the activism but when doing this module I realised how much I knew. I found all of the modules easy enough because of my practical experience except for the physical science. The facts are always changing so I look into the most up to date statistics when I need to know the physical science. I don’t think it’s good practice to memorise it because it changes and that principle didn’t serve me well in that module. 

Being absorbed in academia demonstrated to me the role it plays in shaping policy. That concerns me because academia is mostly populated by those who can afford it. I will do my best to ensure that experience is accepted as much as academia where I can. It validates my passion for public participation. 

I had to change my thesis very late into it so I picked something I was very familiar with. I looked at the role of collaboration in shaping climate policy by exploring if the Peoples Energy Charter had an impact on the national energy policy. It was titled “Collaboration as a tool for effective impact on policy for climate action. A case study of Ireland's Peoples Energy Charter.” It turns out that collaboration had a definite impact influencing policy and I was advised to get the paper published. That’s my next step when I have the time.