The Love and Courage podcast features interviews with inspirational people who are making a real difference in the world today. Guests are typically people passionate about social justice, and who have demonstrated courage and conviction in their lives. Ruairí McKiernan is a multi award winning Irish social innovator, campaigner, writer and public speaker. He is the founder of the pioneering SpunOut youth organization, and helped set-up the Uplift and the A Lust For Life non-profits. In 2012 the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins appointed Ruairí to the Council of State, a constitutional advisory body whose members include all former leaders of the country. Ruairí is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Fulbright fellowship, and he contributes regularly to the media on youth, health, community and social justice issues.
John Seed - Legendary 78 year old Australian environmental activist
John Seed is a 78-year-old world-renowned Australian environmental educator, author, activist, artist and filmmaker. A recipient of the Australian government’s Order of Australia medal, John is the founder and director of the Rainforest Information Centre and, since 1979, has been involved in 100s of campaigns and education initiatives that have protected remaining rainforests and helped humanity rethink our relationship with nature.
John and his family first came to Australia as Jewish refugees who experienced incredible hardship and devastating loss during the Nazi occupation of Hungary. They went on to create a new life in Australia, where John’s mother, Judy Cassab, went on to become one of Australia’s most celebrated painters. John also has an artistic flair, and he and his mother had an exhibition together during the final years of Judy’s life.
John has had a fascinating and adventurous path in life.
After a short career in computing with IBM, John joined the hippy trail, travelling overland through Afghanistan and onto India, where he studied meditation before arriving back in Australia and co-founding an intentional community in Bundjalung Country, and the Northern Rivers ‘rainbow region’ of Northern NSW at Bodhi farm, which still exists to this day.
It was here that John found his true calling, or it found him. As you’re about to hear, at the time, outside of Indigenous culture, there was little respect or appreciation for the value of rainforests, and they were being destroyed at an alarming rate. John joined locals in blockading the site at Terania Creek and said the experience at the time was as if nature was speaking to him. The protesters succeeded, and John went on to found the Rainforest Information Centre, a pioneering global organisation that has been instrumental in rainforest protection and conversation throughout Latin America, Cambodia, India, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the South Pacific. His work also helped initiate the creation of the US Rainforest Action Network.
John has written and lectured extensively on the concept of deep ecology. With Joanna Macy, Pat Fleming and Professor Arne Naess, he wrote "Thinking Like a Mountain - Towards a Council of All Beings" which has been translated into 12 languages including Korean and Tibetan.
In 1987 he co-produced a television documentary, "EARTH FIRST!" for Australian national television about the struggle for the rainforests. In 2003 he spearheaded RIC's endangered species campaign and made the film "On The Brink" with David Attenborough, David Suzuki, Olivia Newton-John and Jack Thompson. You can find that via the Rainforest Information Centre online, as well as lots of other great videos, including one of John in conversation with Ram Dass in 1992.
In 2021 – after an arduous and prolonged struggle with life-threatening cancer, John got back in the saddle and jumped straight into action. Some of his campaigning at this time helped lead to Ecuador's Constitutional Court ruling that mining in the Los Cedros Protected Forest is a violation of the constitutional rights of nature and is therefore prohibited in the forest. This has created an important national and worldwide precedent.
More recently, John was involved in the Rising Tide blockade of coal ships leaving the world's Largest Coal Port in Newcastle, NSW. 3000 protesters gathered, and John was one of over 100 people in Kayaks arrested as part of a collective stand against Australia’s continued investment in fossil fuels.
I should add that John is also an accomplished songwriter and has produced 5 albums of environmental songs, as well as numerous other environmental films.
Rev Tim Costello - Renowned Australian Humanitarian
Tim Costello is one of Australia's most well-known and respected community leaders. In recent times he was voted one of Australia’s 100 national living treasures. A recipient of Victorian of the Year and Victoria's Australian of the Year accolades, as well as an Officer of the Order of Australia, he is an influential leader on a range of social issues, including the huge harm caused by the scourge of gambling in Australia.
Tim is a previous longtime CEO of World Vision Australia and has helped lead the response to some of the greatest humanitarian disasters of recent times, including the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. A former Lawyer, Tim is a man with many hats. He’s the Director of Ethical Voice, Executive Director of Micah Australia, Chair of the Community Council of Australia, Senior Fellow for the Centre for Public Christianity, and Chief Advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform. He is also the Chief Advocate of the Thriving Communities Partnership and Patron of the National Youth Commission. He’s also the author of several books, including his excellent memoir, A Lot with a Little, which I highly recommend. I particularly enjoyed the section of that book that describes Tim and his wife Merridie’s journey in building a congregation at St Kilda Baptist Church and an accompanying drop-in centre and outreach program. It was from here that Tim’s advocacy grew and he later went on to become the Mayor of St Kilda, where he developed a reputation as an outspoken social and political voice for change, a voice that is very much a voice of love and courage.
Don O'Leary - Director of Cork Life Centre
This episode features a conversation with Cork man Don O'Leary. Don is the Director of the Cork Life Centre, which is a voluntary organization established over 20 years ago to offer an alternative learning environment to young people aged 12-18 who have not thrived or coped in a mainstream educational setting.
I have visited the centre as a guest speaker in the past and witnessed first-hand the loving and creative environment in which young people can flourish. The centre has struggled to receive state support and recognition and the first few minutes of the podcast include some updates and insights from Don concerning the battle to stay open in recent months despite the centre winning widespread acclaim, and being the feature of a major TV documentary, among other accolades, which has included Don receiving an honorary doctorate from University College Cork.
There's lots more in this conversation including Don's reflections on a lifetime of youth and community work and social activism, his thoughts on the recent tribute concert for him by folk music legend and previous podcast guest Christy Moore, and lots on his critiques of social, economic and education inequalities.
Don also shares openly about his experience of living with a terminal illness and how he has responded to that challenge with great grace, strength and dignity.
There's so much we didn't get to talk about including his overland visit to Ukraine as part of an Irish community fundraising and war relief effort. At the heart of the conversation is a passionate appeal for greater care, support, love and investment in children and young people, especially those that are on the margins.
Wallis Bird - Musician and Songwriter
Wallis Bird is one of my favourite artists and perhaps my favourite all-time performer. Originally from Wexford Ireland, Wallis has been based in Berlin Germany for over a decade. She has 7 albums to her name including her latest called Hands, which is in many ways is a celebration of uniqueness and difference. The origin story goes back to when Wallis was 18 months old 5 of her fingers were severed in a lawnmower accident. 4 were sown back on meaning she ended up losing one and from then on was forced to do things differently to many people, including how she learned to play the guitar. And for anyone that has seen her play, she truly is a force of nature.
Michael Barron - Human Rights Activist, Founding Director of BelongTo (LGBTI+ org)
My guest in this episode I Michael Barron. Michael is a well-known Irish human rights activist originally from rural Co Kilkenny where he grew up as a young gay man dancing to Madonna while many of the other boys focused on hurling and sports. He shares some fascinating stories and insights from that time in his life and his coming of age in Dublin and New York.
Michael is currently working as the Executive Director of the Rowan Trust, which is an important independent foundation that funds important social movements, campaigns and initiatives. Since the 1990s Michael has worked with communities pushed to the margins - as a front-line youth and community worker, an executive director of a number of national organisations, a researcher, a grantmaker and a campaigner. As well as being an activist, hes also a great thinker and a bit of a scholar – he has a PhD in the social sciences and he tells me he’s also working on a book.
I first met Michael when he was working as the founder and Executive Director of the BeLonG To, a pioneering LGBTI+ organisation that does amazing work with young people in Ireland. Michael went on to play a leading role in the Marriage Equality referendum he also headed up a campaign to remove the so-called Catholic baptism barrier from Irish public schools in 2018 - both major milestones in our recent history. As you’ll hear now, Michael doesn't shy away from taking on important issues such as the separation of church and state, Trans rights, and the rise of the far right. We also reflect a lot in this on our shared experiences of working in the non-profit sector, some of the trials and tribulations, and the importance of authenticity, creativity, and self-care.
Eugene O'Brien - Playwright, Screenwriter, Former Actor
Eugene O'Brien is a playwright, screenwriter, and former actor originally from County Offaly in the Irish midlands. He has written for the stage, screen and radio. His work includes the critically acclaimed TV drama Pure Mule, winner of five IFTA Awards, and which, according to the Irish Times, ‘spectacularly raised the bar for Irish TV drama’. The show was inspired by his play Eden, which debuted at the Abbey Theatre and has since played the West End and Off-Broadway. At the time of recording, Eugene is on the cusp of a creative wave with a new play called Heaven, a film called Tarrac, and a new book, his first novel, which is called Going Back. Eugene is someone hugely dedicated to his craft and to the role of the artist in exploring ideas and understanding in society and we cover this and so much more in this conversation.
As if we didn’t already love Christy Moore, this confirms he’s the man I thought him to be. And he reminds me not to give up on the craziness of the 21st century, that it is people, like our host, who gives us hope through ‘Love and Courage.’ Time for me to go pick up all the plastic lining my roadside... because that does take love and courage.
Great content! Keep shedding love and light
I look forward to listening to all of the podcast and to share them with my network in the US
We need more podcasts like this and people like Ruairí in the world!
Been a subscriber and patron of this podcast from the beginning. I really admire the work Ruairí does and what he stands for, and with this podcast he brings heaps of love and courage into the world. I dare you to listen to it and not feel hopeful and inspired. Thanks Ruairí for everything you do.