By Aidan Ring - 12 April 2018
We all need a break from saving the world.
This lodge was to the activists what the planet is to the species. For me, it served as a microcosmic metaphor for the Earth floating around the cosmos, a shelter, a sanctuary for all of us representing the human race. We were able to get a respite from the slings and arrows of everything out there. It’s somewhere we can all feel we belong and be surrounded by those who get what we’re about. We were among those who know us and with whom we could communicate in a meaningful way; I find these people, and the sheer volume of what we accomplished this weekend, deeply inspiring.
Indeed, inspiration was present in abundance; at negligible cost to the planet, we produced a lot of output. Within three days, we planted over 50 seeds in Gyreum’s vegetable garden, wrote and performed 5 plays, played over three hours worth of Werewolf, conducted about 60 hours worth of environmental workshops and generated a seemingly infinite number of actionable action points. We also watched and discussed an eco-film, went on a glorious hike, heard the activism story of every single participant present, consumed no fewer than ten delicious vegan meals (thanks to Gyreum’s wonderful staff) and had a cracking session! (slang for party which lasts a wee while). It really was a beautiful experience to be a part of and a necessary one, for we came away from it totally rejuvenated.
Just as all people have the power to give other people strength, or failing that, at least a purpose, so we activists give each other both a purpose and strength to pursue it. Just as the human race gazes out into the abyss, trying to figure out how we got here and where we’re going, so the activists gazed out from their eco-lodge into civilisation as we know it and try to make sense of it, trying to figure out how we’ve gotten ourselves into such a situation and, more importantly, what we can do to make things better for ourselves and everyone else.
But this kind of work is thankless and to do it can be disheartening when you’re confronted with such a great universe of opacity and resistance based on a business-as-usual mentality… so, every so often, we need to replenish our strength. Since our efforts have, thus far, received relatively little encouragement or meaningful help from the outside, we have to band together and do these retreats to build this strength from within the movement. And it works! Like the planet it is sworn to protect, the fire of activism needs no external fuel, it’s entirely self-sustaining; we have everything we need right here if we use our resources prudently. And one of the most powerful yet simple resources which we give each other is kindness. This kindness took the form of written compliments; basically, everyone gets an envelope with their name on it stuck to the wall and everyone else who wants to participate is able to drop in a post-it with a compliment on it for that person.
(above - Martina at the 'Kindness Wall')
I find there to be nothing more exhilarating and effective in stoking the activismic fire and preparing yourself to strike out against those toxic forces of pollution and destruction than to spend a few days holed up in a safe space with people who like and respect you reminding you why we’re fighting this beautiful, possibly futile, but always worthwhile, war. It is a respite for the mind, the body and the soul. And for eco-activists, this tactic is, possibly, the most important of all of our tactics. We need our strength and so we have to grow it ourselves. As we do, we also grow that other rare species of plant which is the environmental movement. In Ireland, it’s still akin to a small plant on a windowsill but with enough strength and all of the nourishment we can give it, we hope to see it flourish and grow to full maturity… and to live for a very long time.
Aidan has been involved in YFoE since the Summer of 2017 and has represented YFoEI both at a local and an international level. His passion lies in environmental psychology and he uses his knowledge of this relatively new discipline to find unique ways to frame and spread our message. He is a lover of nature and you will probably find his material reflects this!