Origins of UCD's Sustainability Action Day
The image of a solitary 16 year old Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, protesting in the rain with a sign “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (School Strike for Climate). The scene from David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 BBC Series, of a mother pilot whale grieving over the still birth of her calf, poisoned by the polluted waters of the oceans. Climate change causing massive floods, capturing the news headlines and creating devastating damage to food supplies and harvests in Africa, putting millions of people in fear of famine and destitution. These vivid and emotional pictures have moved the world. Pictures that shouldn’t happen, and pictures that wouldn’t happen if we lived in a more sustainable world.
We can be despondent and overwhelmed by despair, and resign ourselves to doing nothing in a hopeless cause to change matters, but news of each of these episodes has had a counter-effect. Around the world, people are asking Why are these things happening and deciding What to do to eliminate them. Just look at the student demonstrations, not only at the traditional third-level sector, but even at primary and secondary school levels. These pictures ironically are encouraging action, not despair and have captured the Zeitgeist of our era. The solitary action of Greta Thunberg has motivated students and the general public globally, into a mass movement demanding political and environmental action for a better world, for all.
We are possibly the last humans in human civilisation that can decide, and effectively change and control the course of our consumption, and the manner in which we treat our environment, so that we have a future. Many estimate that the next decade is our last window of opportunity to create a world where all life; plant, animal and human can co-exist. We owe it to our children and future generations to make such a world; we are the Earth’s custodians not its owners. As the United Nations Brundtland report stated, Sustainability meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future to meet its needs.
In the last few years, many of the students I met in my Enterprise and Innovation module in the School of Computer Science at UCD, asked if they could put into practice any of the theory and knowledge that they had learnt from the course. At first, it was difficult to think up problems that would challenge them and be manageable over a semester. The problems would have to inspire creativity, and develop their soft skills covering areas of group co-operation and communication, and achieve tangible goals with limited resources and time. It seemed impossible to keep “Thinking up” new problems that possess all these properties.
Then, suddenly there was one of those epiphany moments. The mistake was “Thinking up” problems. Why do that ? Sure isn’t there enough problems, real ones, big and small, out there in our neighbourhoods, cities and towns just begging for solutions. Why create problems. There’s enough of them? Let’s create solutions, just look for the problems. Furthermore, we don’t have to look very far if Sustainability is our search criteria. Thus in 2018, a new module was launched Enviro Tech Bootcamp to enable students, from all backgrounds and disciplines to work on groups projects, which would investigate various sustainability issues and create proposals that would resolve them. The only core condition was that information technology (an app, a program, use of social media etc) must be a key component of the solution. Additionally, where possible and relevant, the campus would also be used as a “Living Lab”.
In this its first year of operation, the Enviro Tech Bootcamp projects have covered an eclectic range of themes; sustainable fashion, on-line charity volunteering, on-line campus recycling and reusable bottle vending. Details on these and others will be on this website shortly.
The final student project that emanated from the module was the idea and organisation of a UCD Sustainability Action Day itself. The main objectives of the event are;
Educate and raise awareness of the global challenges and issues for a more sustainable world.
Publicise the current actions and successes that have been achieved in the SDGs, at a local, national and international level.
Engage, direct and encourage the academic and student community to channel their creativity and enthusiasm into actions and initiatives that generate behavioural, economic and social change that promote a more sustainable world.
The commitment and creativity of the students for this event, like the other projects has been incredible. Furthermore, the reaction and support from the administrative and academic staff and students in UCD has been very enthusiastic and enlightening. Without their support we wouldn’t have such a large range of fascinating lectures on a broad spectrum of sustainability topics for the event. The response from individuals, companies and organisations outside of UCD has been equally amazing and they will participating by delivering talks and being in attendance at stands and exhibits on the day.
To all a big thank you, for making the UCD Sustainability Action Day happen. Between now and 17th April the website will be updated with a list and schedule of the all the presentations and talks. The profile of the speakers and their topics will also be publicised shortly on this website. The page banner above reveals some of the themes of the talks.
A logo-list of some of Ireland’s cutting-edge technology companies, and innovative local community groups and organisations that are participating is also detailed on the website.
We are also delighted that Eanna ni Lamnha, Vice-president of the Tree Council and RTE broadcaster and Mary Reynolds, Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medallist and “Reformed landscape designer” are on our list of guest speakers, together with other presenters with fascinating developments and insights.
Audi have gratefully agreed to have their new all electric e-TRON car on display beside another success story, UCD’s student formula-e car, that will be participating in the European Grand Prix at Sliverstone.
From Ethiopia, members of Wolaita Sodo University will discuss the effects of climate change and technology in their country.
Finally, to get this event of the ground has needed the financial support of the College of Science, and a team effort with tenacity and vision. Truly worthy of mention are team members: Deirdre Lane(Shamrockspring), Abhay Vadher and students Lama Alsmmahi, Nitin Barthwal, Victoria Brunton, William Costello, Ahmed Kabbarah, Neeti Jain, Nipun Jain, Jeevan MH, Meg O’ Doherty, Jie Peng, Colm Rayleigh, Swathi Vijayasekaran and Tom Walsh.
The event is free and open to all. The venue is the Science Hub, Belfield, UCD and runs from 11 am to 5:30 on 17th April.
My hope is that the Day will further facilitate and encourage the creative interaction of students, research groups and commercial interests in Ireland and abroad, to collectively pursue and find solutions for a sustainable future. If you have any ideas or suggestion please submit them to
In the meantime, please register for the event (alternatively you can do it at the event) and encourage others to come as well, to make it a big success.
Assoc. Prof. Damian Dalton
UCD Sustainability Action Day Director
School of Computer Science
UCD Sustainability Action Day Co-Director
Deirdre Lane, ShamrockSpring,
UCD Sustainability Day Action Day External, Affairs
Students: Lama Alsmmahi, Nitin Barthwal, Victoria Brunton, WIlliam Costello, Ahmed Kabbarah, Neeti Jain, Jeevan MH, Meg O' Docherty, Jie Peng, Colm Rayleigh, Swathi Vijayasekaran and Tom Walsh.