Letter to the Editor: Climate plans show little compassion for the elderly

The result of the recent behaviour and attitudes poll showed a considerable slump in Fine Gael’s rating in comparison to other parties such as the Greens whose support has risen by five points. Significantly they responded to this state of affairs by publishing a number of proposals regarding climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions.

Given the timing of these proposals, one has to question the sincerity of our politicians. The next general election is of paramount importance after all, even though Fine Gael may also have been galvanised into action by the urgings of enthusiastic and vocal young people.

While it goes without saying that tackling the challenges posed by climate change is a matter of mankind’s survival on this planet perhaps a more common sense approach is needed. The proposals, as presented, seem somewhat uncompromising, and, if implemented, will show little compassion for the elderly who are already greatly unsettled by the Housing Minister’s wish to move them out of their cherished residences and communities in order to solve the ongoing homelessness crisis.

When discussing transport, Green Party TD Eamon Ryan suggested citizens should walk, cycle, or use public transport. This proposal needs to be mitigated to take into account the old, disabled, or arthritic. Such a negative attitude to the use of private transport fails to consider adequately the pleasure that many of these people derive from outings in the vehicles of family members or friends.

Their delight is heightened by being dropped and collected from the relevant location as determined by their mobility and weather conditions. On the other hand, Eamon Ryan could perhaps lobby for harsher penalties or even incarceration of selfish cyclists who completely disregard the rules of the road.

While rushing through red lights is unacceptable, the practice of whizzing along pedestrian footpaths regardless of walkers is an even more dangerous practice. One shudders to think of the type of injury or fatality that could be caused by such outrageous behaviour.

The implementation of other features of these climate change proposals, such as reducing dependency on fossil fuels, could also be expensive and disruptive for the elderly. Many of these people may not be able to afford additional taxes on oil or gas. Home retrofits, which can be very expensive in the short term, are scarcely justifiable in the case of those whose life

expectancy is considerably shorter. These vulnerable people should be offered 100% grants as warranted. Any nation which disregards the comfort and well-being of its elderly citizens cannot be regarded as a genuine democracy. Many of them feel threatened and frightened by constant climate change media coverage and proposals.

The elderly are not, in fact, habitually producing high levels of carbon emissions. Interestingly, their somewhat moderate carbon footprint is in sharp contrast to the footprint of other groups. For instance, one could question the commitment of high flying politicians who invariably use extremely large cars as well as frequently travelling to far-flung locations on relative unimportant fact-finding trips or meetings.

Perhaps these politicians should downsize their vehicles and engage in more on-line research or video conferencing with their foreign associates.

Consequently, it seems timely to re-examine some, if not all, of the government’s proposals on climate change. Many of their alarming kneejerk responses seem unworkable in their present form. Such officials are often super-efficient on rhetoric but far less commendable whenever a common sense approach is required.

Many of their unreasonable suggestions should be modified. Our hospitals are already unable to cope with patient numbers. One shudders to consider the possible influx of freezing, elderly patients or cyclists injured on dangerous, icy roads during the harsh winter months.

Indeed most people need their stoves or open fires lest severe storms trigger power cuts. The human activities and lifestyles of those who reside in today’s world must be afforded due consideration as well as the welfare of future generations.

Margaret Humphreys


Co Cork

This reader's opinion was originally published in the letters page of the Irish Examiner print edition on 29 June 2019.

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