The first Green Forum in Maynooth was held on 2nd March 2022 from 19:30 - 21:00 in Room SEO 001, New School of Education Building, Maynooth University. It was a very exciting kick-off with a broad range of community members attending: residents, members of community groups; academics, representatives of business; local representatives and students.
The Forum started with an overview of the background to the start of the Green Forum in Celbridge & Leixlip and key outputs in terms of scalable actions across the county. The meeting then turned to focus on group discussions around a vision for the future of Maynooth, as well as current gaps in achieving that vision. The session also looked at the channels of influence and resources that can be pursued to overcome these gaps and achieve a shared vision of Maynooth. The evening ended with a spotlight on a project Community Map developed by MapHatters.ie in Celbridge developed with members of the Celbridge Green Forum.
The following ideas emerged from the group discussions:
The future of Maynooth is seen as a place that, includes among other characteristics:
- Is safe with a strong community.
- Grows food.
- Has fewer cars and great public transport. It is easy to move around.
- Has strong connections with university learning + research.
- Is rich in nature.
- Has low carbon lighting (LEO)
- Has a community centre to act as a hub ~ information centre on sustainability topics.
- Promotes deuse/ zero waste/ sustainable lifestyle.
- Has native tree planting from seed as standard policy. Is party to implementing a regional/ biodiversity plan.
- Offers repair shops/ library of things.
- Provides for safe cycling + an accessible car free town centre where people are less dependent on cars.
- Has active community education / reaching out to different groups e.g. collaborating between residents associations/ university / tidy towns
Following from the discussion of vision, the Forum then turned to identify key gaps to achieving this vision:
- A linkage group is needed in the community.
- We need meaningful participation.
- Currently there is disempowerment of the community.
- No transparency in decisions.
- Poor communication.
- No community centre.
- Capitalism - our economic model is not oriented to sustainability.
- We need stronger regulations around biodiversity in planning policies.
- Money is required – e.g. for retrofit, infrastructure.
- Change is left to volunteers – who have a lack of time.
- There is a fear of change.
- Lack of orbital roads + parking. We need a 2nd exit off the motorway.
- More dialogue is needed.
- We need a physical space for coming together around climate and environmental issues.
- There is gap in comprehending the urgency of the need for change.
- Embarrassment + trust.
- We need a biodiversity officer in KCC.
The following channels were identified as ways of pursuing information, action, policy change, mobilisation, funding, awareness, influence and resources for overcoming the gaps and finding new opportunities for achieving a shared climate positive Maynooth and strong community:
- Networks – Interactions + partners. Networking allows for connecting around common goals, the sharing of information and skills, as well as information on resources and opportunities for accessing these resources. Connecting with others helps to bring momentum and critical mass and learning for achieving bigger outcomes than we could achieve alone.
- Enforcement. This is really important for ensuring that environmental laws are upheld. The enforcement department in Kildare County Council should be stronger and more resources allocated to it.
- Media & Communications. The media and communication channels are powerful tools for raising awareness, ensuring fact-based and civil social discourse on the ambitious and difficult actions we need to take, and mobilising action.
- Green Forum is a channel for connecting people in the community around shared goals, and to deliberate on proposed actions including with those affected.
- Funding streams: Funding is key for driving retrofitting programme and the major infrastructural work in the town such as cycling, EV charging etc. Community funding is also required to power social change aspects. Funding channels should be pursued
- Council (roads + planning + biodiversity). The Council is a powerful channel in that it has the legislative authority to make high impact policy and planning changes as well as engage with the environmental and heritage departments on local environmental needs and ambitions.
- CPD + LAP. The County Development Plan and Local Area Plans are very powerful tools for establishing environmental and climate policies for guiding development in county over the coming 6 years. The current development plan closes for submissions on the 24th May at 4pm.
- Community council: Maynooth's Community Council is an important channel for connecting and leading out on key actions and a strong shared vision.
- Information & Data: Information is critical for change, where we are now, where we need to get to and how. We have a rich resource of information and expertise in the University. We also have a rich base of knowledge and expertise in the community. We need to use and promote citizen-science more strongly for informing and driving actions towards our vision.
- Expertise & ideas: Initiatives and funding that inspire innovation is key to driving momentum and new ways of looking at the gaps and challenges, as well as new visions of the future.
The discussions on vision, gaps and channels gave an initial framework for everyone to develop ideas and shape actions for change to be followed up in subsequent Forum meetings.
Spotlight on Community Project - Celbridge Green Forum
At the end of the meeting, a spotlight turned to Stephen Fitzpatrick who presented an overview of the Celbridge Community map showing community facilities and gaps developed by the MapHatters.ie in Celbridge. Community members got involved in developing the map through the Celbridge Green Forum. For more information on community mapping email the group at email@example.com