Over the last 18-24 months we have all become increasingly familiar with the 17 sustainable development goals, set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly.
Across our own group in Geashill we had some knowledge but certainly needed more, particularly as these goals are now becoming more and more embedded into our work (and into the application form for this year!). We quickly realised that as a group we really hadn’t fully connected these goals with our existing actions to understand what we were already doing and how we could use them guide our planning for this and future years.
But to take a step back, which is what we had to do! The 17 sustainable development goals were adopted by all United Nations members states in 2015 as a universal set of actions to help combat poverty, protect the planet and improve our world for future generations.
It’s a big statement, and sometimes it can be hard to translate statements like that into something that we can understand. So, we started to do some digging. These Sustainable Development Goals or SDG’s were in fact were an evolution from an earlier set of goals called Millennium Development Goals implemented in the year 2000. What we know is that these earlier MDGS did result in lots of positive actions and change, particularly in areas like free primary education in developing countries and in combatting HIV/AIDs and other preventable diseases.
Knowing that was encouraging as it felt like these goals were building on existing work done and that there was a clear link between the creation of goals and actual actions on the ground. That motivated us as a group to start looking at lists of things that we as a group and as a community could do next.
As a group we took some time to sit (over Zoom) and look back over our project and planning lists and started looking at where our current or future projects aligned with SDG’s and discovered we were doing more than we realised.
For example, our last 3-year plan included a goal to stop using shop bought compost and move to using only soil from our compost bins. (not an easy task, as anyone who has picked tomato plants out of their hanging baskets will know!) That one action can be seen to impact Goal 12, Responsible Consumption, as the production of peat is not viable long-term, produces greenhouse gases and results in loss of biodiversity. It also impacts Goal 12 – Climate action and could be seen to impact Goal 2 – Zero hunger, particularly if the compost is used in community gardens which are springing up all around our country.
Biodiversity has been a huge part of our work in Geashill and again so many of those projects can be seen to impact Goals 1,2, 12, 13 & 15. By eliminating the use of pesticides we are impacting our land and our atmosphere, by growing more plants for pollinating insects we are providing them with a habitat to survive and thrive and they can in turn pollinate crops to feed our animals and provide food for humans, and the list can go on and on!.
For us is quickly became obvious that the problem was not about finding projects to align to goals, we feel we are on the right track and if anything, we are getting more and more ideas for projects aligned to these SDG’s. The challenge was to change our mindset. It is easy to look at an individual project and think “how can one compost heap help with Zero hunger globally”. Once we started making our lists and looking back at all we had done and all we have planned we could start to see that lots of small actions when you add them all together do have an impact. And we are just one community. If you add all those communities together then Ireland is doing more than it thinks, and that gives us motivation to take on bigger projects, to ensure our voice is heard and to look at some of the goals that we are maybe not currently tackling and take on projects that will impact them.
Don’t be afraid to look around and outside of your own group the wider community also. Are other groups or individuals doing work that you can support? For example, is someone looking to build a co-working hub in your community which could impact Goal 8 - Good jobs and Economic Growth, and can you lend your support to this project? Are you talking to your local representatives and local authorities about roads that need repairing or the need for broadband in your community which impacts Goal 9 Innovation and Infrastructure?
Former president and UN High Commissioner Mary Robinson when speaking about the Sustainable Development Goals said that “Feeling ‘This is too big for me’ is no use to anybody”. We agree. Goal 17, Partnership for the Goals is something that we feel is incredibly important. Over the last 12 months we have seen groups in our community working more closely than ever before. We hope that this can continue long past Covid 19 and help us create and carry out even more ambitious projects to meet sustainable development goals into the future.