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Dublin: 21°C Sunday 14 August 2022

From the Garden: 'I worry about the implications of what Greta Thunberg’s saying for the cosy lives we lead'

It is remarkable to watch this young woman speak her truth to power, writes Michael Kelly of Grow It Yourself Ireland.

Michael Kelly Grower

I WORRY FOR Greta Thunberg. Sixteen years old and already one of the most compelling climate activists we’ve ever seen.

She first became aware of climate change at the age of eight, and by age 11 she had become depressed that nothing was being done despite the existential threat to our planet. Her ‘School Strike for Climate’ started as a solitary act of protest at the Swedish parliament to “try and do something good with her life” but has since exploded into a worldwide movement of youth activism. Over 1.4 million students worldwide joined her call to protest in March of this year.

It is remarkable to watch this young woman speak her truth to power. She travelled to Davos by train and lambasted the high-net-worths in attendance for travelling in by private jet. She told them they needed to start acting like their house was on fire, and hoped they would start to feel the fear about climate change that she did.

At the EU parliament, the raw pain and upset was evident as she spoke movingly about the impact of humankind on our planet. In London, she slated the UK for allowing new offshore oil drilling and fracking.

Various politicians have made the mistake of assuming there’s something cute about children protesting about climate change. Condescended by adults and told to study to become a climate change scientist, Greta said there was no point since the science is already proven. And in any case, why study for a life that won’t exist?

For every adult in a position of power who soft-soaps it and says we should do our best, Greta retorts that’s not good enough. You can’t be a little bit more or less sustainable – either you are sustainable or you’re not. Slowly, leaders are realising there is nothing pleasant or even advisable about a photoshoot with Greta.

She has said her Aspergers helps her to see things in black and white, and it is the utter uncompromising nature of her message that marks this out as a watershed moment. Her message? The time for tinkering has passed.

We need to completely remake society to avoid catastrophe. Completely change how we eat, don’t drive, don’t take flights.

For growers, global warming is creating additional uncertainty and cost. With our veg output concentrated in the hands of ever fewer growers, it makes our indigenous food chain very vulnerable indeed in the years ahead.

Shaken from the cosy consensus

Perhaps at this eleventh hour, this is exactly what we need – someone to really tell things as they are. But, these are things that most people in society are not yet ready to hear, and the inevitable backlash is beginning. And so we witness adults taking pops at a 16-year-old girl with autism in traditional and social media – questioning her motives, calling her a ‘millennial crazy’ and a ‘weirdo’.

So, I worry. I worry about the backlash. I worry about the gruelling nature of her round-Europe travel (by train) and endless speech-making. I worry about the pressure for a young woman when tens of thousands of people show up to watch her speak and expect her to offer solutions to the problems we’ve created.

I worry that someone so young should have to carry the responsibilities and the hopes that she’s carrying. I worry that we’re raising her too high on a pedestal, and about her burgeoning celebrity.

Most of all, I worry about the implications of what she’s saying for the cosy lives we lead. I worry about how the future will look for my own children and for their children.

Up to now, I’ve always believed that all we can do is put our own houses in order – to live as sustainably as we can on a personal level.

Now I know that’s not good enough. And so perhaps this – to be finally shaken from the cosy consensus – is an indication that Greta’s black and white protest is starting to have an effect.

The Basics: Sow Parsnips

It’s a great time to sow parsnips, now that the soil has warmed up a little. Dig the bed deeply, break down clods, rake well and add an organic fertiliser (seaweed dust would work great) a week before sowing.

Make a drill 1cm deep – if soil is dry, dampen. Sow three seeds every 15cm in rows 30cm apart and cover it with soil. Germination takes up to three weeks. When seedlings appear, pull out the two weakest ones. This spacing will produce medium-sized roots.

How many to grow? Depends how much you like parsnips..! If you want to eat 3 parsnips a week for the 24 weeks between October and March you will need to grow 72 parsnips. In a standard bed (1.2m wide) you will get three rows of parsnips – if you space the parsnips at 15cm in each row you will get 20 parsnips per meter, so you will need a bed 3.5m long to get 72 parsnips.

Parsnips are ready to rock when the foliage starts to die away in autumn but the flavour improves after first frosts. Leave in soil until ready to eat but lift by February. Lift carefully with a fork.

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Recipe of the Week: Rhubarb and Date Chutney

We’re now into glut territory with rhubarb, so this “glutney” recipe from BBC Good Food will help. It’s great with cheeses and cold meats.


  • 50g fresh root ginger, grated
  • 300ml red wine vinegar
  • 500g eating apples, peeled and finely chopped
  • 200g pitted dates, chopped
  • 200g dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 400g light muscovado sugar
  • 700g rhubarb, sliced into 2cm chunks
  • 500g red onions


Put the onions in a large pan with the ginger and vinegar.

Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 mins.

Add the rest of the ingredients, except the rhubarb, plus 2 tsp salt to the pan and bring to the boil, stirring.

Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 mins until the apples are tender.

Stir in the rhubarb and cook, uncovered, until the chutney is thick and jammy, about 15-20 mins.

Leave the chutney to sit for about 10-15 mins, then spoon into warm, clean jars, and seal. Label the jars when cool.

Keep for at least a month before eating.

About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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