Beth Doherty: Fighting for a better future
Irish climate activist Beth Doherty at a climate change protest in Dublin recently. Photo by Kayle Crosson/Green News Paper straws and shorter showers are just some of the little changes many of us have made to make our planet a better place, but Beth Doherty has been working tirelessly to bring light to a rapidly worsening issue.
Beth Doherty is a 19-year-old climate activist originally from Dublin. Now studying Law at the University of Cambridge, Beth’s journey with climate activism is just beginning. For Beth, the attraction towards tackling the climate crisis began with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2018 report, which stated that we are “nearing a critical point of no return” and that a fundamental change must be made by 2030.
“It’s a deadline that is fast approaching, between this, and learning more about how the climate crisis is already impacting people around the world, it made me begin to explore how we can create change, which in turn drew me towards the fast-growing movement,” said Beth.
Beth’s activism is one that has her on the front line and determined to be on the street fighting for a better Ireland and a healthy planet: “I first began organising within the climate movement in February 2019 as part of the school strikes movement in Dublin.”
“Fridays For Future” is a youth led movement which originated in 2015 due climate activist Greta Thunberg and other activists protesting outside Swedish parliament every school day for three weeks against the lack of action towards climate change, and it is a movement which Beth has been a part of for the last four years.
“My involvement with “Fridays For Future Ireland” consisted primarily of organising strikes, discussing demands and strategy, and working with the other young people to create an effective movement alongside other climate groups and communities across Ireland and the world,” she said.
“What really stood out to me was the power of people coming together and the importance of building a community of activists that can lean on and learn from one another. I was particularly struck by the strike on 20th September 2019, which brought out 20,000 people to the streets, and the level of engagement we received from young people who are realising that our current model of society is not sustainable,” Beth continued.
Though difficult to pinpoint what the most pressing climate issue at the moment is, Beth believes one of the biggest climate issues we are facing now is climate justice.
“We need climate action that moves away from a simple focus on numbers and graphs, and instead recognises the systemic and interconnected nature of the climate crisis,” says Beth.
“By tackling the underlying inequalities and societal issues that are contributing to the climate crisis, such as the continued prioritisation of short-term economic gain via fossil fuels rather than long-term sustainability, we can take effective climate action and truly create a just transition,” she explained.
There is no denying that the general public has become increasingly aware of climate change and the climate issues the world is facing: warmer summers and winter weather which is more unruly than usual is not something we can ignore. So, if we are aware of it, is there anything we can do?
“So much of society is dependent on fossil fuels, and because so few people in power are willing to put forward real systemic change, I think many people may find it difficult to see how we as a society can address the issue, because the unfortunate truth is that individual action alone is not enough,” said Beth.
But don’t get disheartened, though the actions of one individual alone may feel like it is not enough, Beth does have some advice on what we as a collective society can do: “you don't have to be perfect, no one is, everyone is still learning. Be willing to learn and to get involved. Find a local group or get together with others that care about the issue. Think about what you want your community to look like, and how we can get there, and get started.”
While many may look at Beth Doherty, along with other young activists and praise the youth of today for striving for a better tomorrow, there are still some who believe that opposing views gives them the right to attack and troll. Online hate targeted at young people attending climate strikes for supposed “hypocrisy” for eating meat and using plastic fails to address “the systemic nature of the climate crisis and the importance of climate justice,” said Beth.
For Beth, it was misogyny that was at the root of a lot of the online trolling she faced: “I received some comments calling me things along the lines of a little girl and a brat, which just weren't faced by my male counterparts.”
However, Beth acknowledges that her privilege protects her from the realities many other activists face: “this was also my experience as a white person from the Global North, and I think it's important to note how this can be much more extreme for activists of colour, trans-activists, activists from the Global South, and other marginalised voices, which is something we all need to work collectively to address.”
The rise of young people getting involved in activism within the last few decades has allowed younger generations to feel heard and seen, but more often than not, it is the voices of those within the Global South which are continually ignored, said Beth: “it’s important to note the intersectionality aspect of how the voices of those most impacted by the climate crisis, in particular people in the Global South, are ignored and how important it is that these voices are being actively listened to.”
Continuing “freedom of protest is something under threat across the world right now, and we need to ensure that activists across the world are heard, have a safe platform, and in particular that policies uplift the voices of those most impacted by the issues in question.”
So, when is the time to get involved? According to Beth, that time is now “we need as many people as possible to get involved, to build community, and to push for better—and that the climate crisis is not something down the line, it's happening right here and right now.”