As I came out of studio last Saturday - after presenting my final show on RTE Radio - the handful of Saturday morning programme staff scattered around the office gave me a humbling round of applause. It was a lovely gesture from brilliant people. Among them were Brendan O’Connor and his team.
By Sunday afternoon, I felt like I should return the compliment to them. On Saturday, Brendan had a most enlightening interview with Bono, and then on Sunday he had a refreshing half hour interview with Greta Thunberg.
When the interview ended, Brendan read out a text from a listener who said he was turning it off. That listener really missed out. Such narrow-mindedness and confirmation bias in this world is a major contributor to much of our ills.
It was one of the most interesting and insightful interviews I have heard with the young Swedish environmentalist. I would challenge those of you who employ a confirmation bias approach to life to listen back. In the climate and biodiversity discussion, we need to listen rather than mute, block, sneer and cancel.
Greta Thunberg has become the face of climate activism and, in her early years, came across as angry. And she is. But this interview allowed for her to coherently explain what has driven her to devote her life to climate activism. She spoke sense and was calm and practical in what she had to say. She spoke about her autism and how that is a feature of her drive.
Diversity of opinion is what makes the world go ‘round
In my time on Countrywide, I have placed the issue of environmental damage and biodiversity loss as a result of agricultural negligence at the heart of our programmes. It drew ire from some farmers and climate sceptics from time to time. And on the other side, there were those who fume about why agriculture and farming should be given any platform at all.
Somewhere in the middle, there is a room for everybody to work together to address the challenges and opportunities for farming and the environment. ?I am always heartened to hear consensus between equally committed farmers and environmentalists about the roadmap forward. I was pleased that a great man such as Tom Arnold acknowledged this on my final show.
Greta Thunberg says that she is neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but rather realistic. Nowhere in the radio interview did I deduce that she was attempting to ram anything down our throat. Instead she gave me pause for thought. It was therefore disappointing to hear the comments from listeners who had made up their mind about her before listening to her. It is a worrying feature of modern life; where people are compartmentalised to suit a narrative without a will to engage.
Farmers who are worried about the future direction of their business need to be open to what Greta Thunberg has to say. Likewise, those keen to demonise agriculture need to be open to what farmers have to say in the round. It’s time to stop the one-upmanship bickering.
This has been a week of lasts for me. Last programme, last recorded interview, last edit, last day in RTE. And now this is my last column for Irish Country Living as I leap into another world. Diversity of opinion is what makes the world go ‘round. I am fully aware that for each column enjoyed, there were others which infuriated. It is just a reflection of the free world, where healthy debate should be encouraged rather than smothered.
It is why everyone should listen to Greta Thunberg rather than switching her off. We can all form our own opinions after. It has been an absolute honour and privilege to write for this wonderful newspaper for the past 10 years or so. Life goes on.