Former Director of An Taisce’s Environmental Education Unit awarded honorary degree from TCD
Patricia Oliver, founder and former Director of An Taisce’s Environmental Education Unit was awarded an honorary degree from Trinity College Dublin today.
Ms Oliver, who retired as director in May 2015, has worked with An Taisce and other environmental initiatives for over 40 years.
Speaking to The Green News, Ms Oliver said that receiving the degree was “a great honour” and acknowledged the hard work of schools involved in the Green-Schools programme, one of the main initiatives of the Education Unit.
The unit is also responsible for developing and running some of Ireland’s leading environmental and sustainability programmes, such as the Blue Flag Award for Beaches and Marinas and the National Spring Clean.
“It sounds a bit trite but I do see it as a reflection of the work of the schools really. I’m getting the honour but they’ve done the work,” he said.
“It recognises the value of the project and its development and the fact that it has now moved from primary and secondary schools onto third-level campuses as well.”
Before coming to An Taisce, Ms Oliver worked as a journalist, book editor, and publisher. She was European Editor of The Macmillan Company of New York and co-founder of The Hannon Press.
She moved into a career environmentalism by chance when, because of her writing and editing experience, she was appointed editor of An Taisce’s magazine Life & Environment in 1973.
After this Ms Oliver became increasingly involved as a volunteer with other aspects of An Taisce’s work, going on to serve as Honorary Secretary (1983-1987), Vice Chairperson (1987-1990), and National Chairwoman (1990-1994).
In the latter role, she helped coordinate the European Blue Flag for Beaches Awards in Ireland, which led her to help set up An Taisce’s Environmental Education Unit in 1993, becoming its full-time Director in 2000.
Today, it is arguably the largest and most influential environmental education organisation in Ireland and one of the most successful in the EU.
For Ms Oliver, the success of the Green-Schools programme – in operation across 93 per cent of Irish schools – stands out as one of her proudest achievements.
The Green-Schools initiative was a success from the outset as participating schools quickly began to show demonstrable reductions in their waste production, she said.
Looking towards the future of environmental education in Ireland, Ms Oliver praised young people today and their growing interest in and awareness of environmental issues.
However, she fears that too often their support of these issues does not extend beyond liking and sharing content on social media.
She would like to see young people taking more tangible action to support the environment by making sustainable personal lifestyle choices.
Students and young people in the workplace “are the ones who will be making decisions in the future”, she said, adding that the government needs to be made aware that there is an environmentally aware and proactive electorate out there.
Although Ms Oliver retired as Director of the Education Unit in 2015, she remains involved in An Taisce’s work both as a member of the Education Committee of the unit and the Council.
Ms Oliver also received an honorary doctorates from Maynooth University in 2015.
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