Saturday 5th June, 2021. Tom sending greetings from his home at Ringfort Workshop in Rhode, Offaly.
My name is Tom Roche. I’m an environmental/human-rights activist, craftsman and informal educator. In 1989 I founded Just Forests. I have always believed that many of the problems of developing nations can be solved here in our own country. It often come down to economics – to the matter of how we trade with emerging economies – do we pay them adequately for their goods and services? My approach to human-rights, environmental sustainability and the protection of flora and fauna is very clear – if my livelihood depends on the extraction of natural resources then I have a responsibility to ensure it is not impacting negatively on people or places and the ecosystems that produce them. It’s a values-system I learned while serving my apprenticeship as a carpenter. This values-system was further enhanced from the many slide shows I was exposed to by a local Colomban Missionary priest on his return to Ireland from his missionary work in Fiji in the late 1950’s and again during my time working on a sheep station in Australia in the late 1960’s. As you will see from the timeline below, my work with Just Forests has taken me on a fascinating journey – a journey I could never have imagined in 1989 when I first setup Just Forests.
YEARS EXPERIENCE IN DEVELOPMENT EDUCATION (DE)
PEOPLE HUG 1977 TREES DURING JUST FORESTS' KILLARNEY CELEBRATION OF TREES FESTIVAL
WOOD OF LIFE WORKSHOPS IN 200+ SCHOOLS SINCE 1989
Partly because of Ireland’s low forest cover – we have only 11% of our land covered in trees- we are hugely reliant on imported timber from all corners of the globe – tropical, temperate and boreal. During the 1980’s while running a small furniture-making business in Tullamore, I became acutely aware of the negative impacts illegal-logging was having on the world’s forests and their inhabitants. As a furniture-maker, working mostly in Brazilian mahogany, I felt I had a responsibility to ensure the wood I was using in my work should come from responsible sources. Realizing the significance of the problem I was dealing with I set out to create public awareness and impress upon people the importance of forests to our economic, social and environmental sustainability while emphasising that all our timber needs should come from responsibly-managed forests. This meant that I had to develop personal skills that would empower people to act and solve the problem. So with this in mind I set up Just Forests in September 1989. Being a small organisation, I knew I had to be very focussed and identify specific sectors of Irish society that I could influence and that would in turn adopt my proposal and become part of the solution.
Children in Rhode reading about the role of forests during an outdoor showing of the Wood of Life Exhibition in Tom’s wildlife garden
The Current Crisis
My first development education (DE) initiative was to create a hands-on, graphically illustrative exhibition that I would take all over Ireland – the Wood of Life exhibition told the story of the importance of forests, what’s happening to them and what we need to do to ensure their responsible management.
While I have great belief in the power of Development Education (DE) and the Global Goals to facilitate change, I believe that the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – also called The Global Goals, do not go far enough. We are in the eye of catastrophic change. One MILLION species of animal and plant life are threatened with extinction-due mainly to our life-style. We have ten years to get it right.
We have an obligation and responsibility to hand over a secure, just and sustainable planet to the next generation – it is their ‘RITE OF PASSAGE’ to a more sustainable consumerist ERA. Will you help make it happen?
Tom presents certificates to pupils from St. Cronan’s BNS, Bray, Co. Wicklow. St. Cronan’s took part in the PILOTING of Thinking TREES.
Let’s Talk SDG’s (extract)
One of the weaknesses of the SDGs not addressed in Alston’s report but of a great deal of significance to global educators is the absence of any analysis of the historical origins of current inequalities between the global North and South. As the Irish Development Education Association (IDEA) suggests: development education ‘works to tackle the root causes of injustice and inequality, globally and locally, to create a more just and sustainable future for everyone’. The ‘root causes’ of contemporary inequities between North and South include centuries of colonisation, indentured slavery, the extraction of commodities and precious metals, [timber] and the eradication of indigenous peoples and their cultures, values and lifestyles. As Hickel suggests, ‘the colonies developed Europe’ rather than the current development narrative propagated by the IMF and World Bank of the global North supporting the ‘development’ of the global South.