How can we think differently about global challenges facing Ireland?

A student forum held at University College Dublin at the weekend looked at how people can ‘think big’ on global challenges facing Ireland and the wider world.

The forum, Thinking Big, was organised by a group of UCD undergraduate students, and its aim was to encourage people to think differently about how they can help to shape a better future.

There were talks, panel discussions and workshops, with 19 expert speakers from the academic, business and public sector communities taking part.

During the event, they discussed issues such as climate change, energy sustainability, European Union integration, food security and the pensions crisis.

Dr Brendan Halligan, Chairman of the Institute of International and European Affairs, gave a talk titled How to Save the Planet: A Zero Carbon Society by 2050. “If we fail to create a carbon free society by 2050 there’ll be catastrophic climate change, with global temperatures possibly rising by 4 degrees or more,” he warned.

In order to prevent that happening we’ll have to revolutionise most of what we do now, such as transportation and power generation, and the way we use resources.

Professor Ben Tonra, head of UCD School of Politics and International Relations, said that Ireland faces enormous challenges in its membership of the European Union. He said that the decisive question for people is whether they wish to see Ireland’s engagement at the core of the European project to continue, and, if so, on what basis.

Dr David Meredith, a Senior Research Officer with Teagasc, spoke about people living in ‘accessible rural areas’, and how it is likely that Ireland will be faced with the challenge of managing decline in other parts of the country. He also spoke about the long-term viability of rural areas.

The closing address at the forum was given by Eamon Ryan, Leader of the Green Party. Eoin Flaherty, a UCD Economics and History undergraduate student and the co-ordinator of Thinking Big said: “To help to solve any challenge you need to be prepared to face what potentially lies and you need to understand more about the challenge.”

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