Community & Environmental Studies Association of Ireland (CESI)

Tuesday, 11 April 2006

1st Annual Conference on Community Responses

The CESI Conference brought together contributors from the fields of science, sociology and politics with campaign advocates to discuss issues of environmentalism and secularisation, in the context of the patterns of social change which impact upon people's lives in an age of accelerated risk or shifting values. The conference included contributions from Professor Emer Colleran of the Environmental Change Institute who called for greater dialogue between the disciplines engaged with environmental research. Drawing from her experiences during the Mullaghmore dispute, Prof. Colleran emphasised the need for increased cooperation between the sometimes competing layers of the environmental lobby.

Dr. Liam Leonard, NUI Galway, Chairman of the CESI, discussed the significance of environmental advocates in relation to the maintenance of a pluralistic civil society. Brendan Flynn NUI Galway presented an analysis of environmental complaints and responses amongst EU member states, while Brendan Smith looked at the issue of community engagement with local moves towards community empowerment through increased involvement in green issues such as tree planting and river bank cleanups.

The second stream of the conference examined secularisation in both the Irish and international contexts. Vesna Malesevic NUI Galway presented an analysis of the linkages between religious belief and spatial location or demographic age groupings. A study of local mobilisation around secular issues in Galway in the 1970s was presented by Dr. John Cunningham NUI Galway, who included local accounts of student debates from the then UCG as part of his study.

The third stream of the conference welcomed our visiting speakers, who returned to environmental themes. The writer Robert Allen gave us an insight into his latest work Ireland Unbound, where he examines themes of an environmental nature. Dr. Mark Garavan of the GMIT, Castlebar discussed the underlying themes of community and risk in relation to the Shell to Sea campaign, which he is spokesman of. Both visiting speakers allowed the conference to consider certain themes surrounding the issue of community responses to perceived intrusion due to infrastructural projects as Ireland continues on a path of accelerated growth. Ultimately, the debates around issues of community responses to change and risk are at the heart of much of what is occurring in an Ireland moving from traditional to post-modernity.

The CESI conference brought together competing voices for a day, allowing for an extension of these debates which can move from contest to dialogue when minds are focused. The CESI would like to thank all who took part and contributed as speakers or within the subsequent debates. We look forward to next year's event with renewed confidence that this form of academic dialogue which is interdisciplinary while also reaching out to the wider community of activists and writers is a significant step towards a better understanding of community and environmental issues in a changing context, both nationally and globally.

Ends

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