July 2016 eZine
Guided Nature Walk, St John's Point, "Donegal's Burren"
Guide is Ralph Sheppard. Meet at 11 a.m. Meeting Point:The beach just before the cattle grid (about 8 km from the turn-off west of Dunkineely). Duration. c. 3 hours. Bring a packed lunch and beverage.
Landscape: St John’s Point is a long narrow peninsula that reaches into Donegal Bay and offers panoramic views of the Donegal Bay coastline from Killybegs to Bundoran, Slieve League to Benbulbin, and inland to the Blue Stack Mountains.
“Donegal’s Burren” Our walk will be on the southern end of the peninsula. By sticking to the roads, many visitors to the area bypass the hidden Burren-like area of limestone pavement, fens and grassland.
Habitats There are many habitats within the area, and we will visit sheltered calcareous fens, warm south-facing rocky outcrops, and areas of scrub – all with a rich and attractive flora and fauna.
But our primary focus will be on the areas of species-rich limestone pavement. This is a rare habitat in Ireland and particularly so in the north-west. The associated dry calcareous grassland is of high quality and in places rich in orchid species.
This area forms part of St. John's Point SAC (SAC SITE IE0000191). It is one of the recommended sites in “The Butterflies of Co. Donegal” Bob Aldwell & Frank Smyth, Ashfield Press (2015).
Guided Nature Walk. The Hatchery, Glenties. "The Life in the River"
Event is courtesy of Inland Fisheries Ireland. Guide; Owen Kelly and other Inland Fisheries Ireland staff. Theme: The life in the river. The event will include electro-fishing ( to enable fish counting) as well as examination under a microscope of insect life of the river bed. Wear outdoor clothing and footwear.. Suitable for all age groups. Wheelchair access.
Guided Walk Rathmullan Beach & Wood
Meet 7.30 p.m.
“From Sea Shore to Woodland” Guide: Aengus Kennedy This walk will follow a route from the “Flight of the Earls” sculpture, through the beach, the high tide line, the seashore, the sand dunes, the dunes being colonised by shrubs and the adjacent woodland. Discussion will include Rathmullan landscape in the 1600's, change in beach structure, tidal movements, high tide line foraging, dune formation and change over time, dune stabilisation & colonisation by shrubs, trees and other plants,adjoining woodland.
Guided Nature Walk: Sheskinmore, Portnoo, Donegal
This event is in association with Birdwatch Ireland. Guide: Ralph Sheppard
A leisurely guided walk through this network of wetland, reedbed, machair and dunes and will include the dry heath at Carrickalaghah. Duration: Approx 4 hours. Bring a packed lunch and beverage. Suitable for all age groups. Outdoor clothong and footwear. No dogs please.
Visit to Tullynally Castle
Visit to Tullynally Castle, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath at 1.00 pm. Bringt your own picnic. Cost: €12 per person for entry to, and guided tour of, House and Gardens.
Annual Bat Meeting
10th Annual Bat Meeting - especially for children
Wednesday 24th August
Heritage Week event starting 7.30 pm Walk to follow
The Inn at Dromoland, Dromoland Castle, 9.pm
Cabra Schoolchildren Visit Booterstown Nature Reserve
On Sunday the 28th of August at 3pm schoolchildren from Cabra will visit Booterstown Nature Reserve.
This Heritage Day will encompass a range of bird and ecology walks and talks.
Boyne Navigation Open Day
Boyne Navigation Branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland Open Day at the Sealock, Oldbridge. All are welcome. Boat trips available.
An Taisce welcomes new Department of Climate Change
An Taisce welcomes the establishment of the new department of Climate Change, Communications and Natural Resources. “Climate change has been the Cinderella issue in Irish politics for the last five years."
The recent passing of Ireland’s first ever Climate Change Act should have been a cause of celebration, but the Act is woefully weak on targets while being long on aspirations for the distant future.
An Taisce earnestly hopes that today’s elevation of climate to being central to a new government department, headed by Denis Naughten TD, may mean this critical issue may at last receive the ongoing political attention it so desperately requires.
We note that among Minister Naughten’s areas of concern are the flooding of the Shannon, as well as the cutting of peat in the midlands. Bringing climate change under the remit of a new minister whose own constituents are already bearing the brunt of extreme weather events fuelled by climate change should be seen as an opportunity for real engagement, according to An Taisce’s climate change spokesman, John Gibbons.
“The fact that the damaged peat bogs in the midlands further contributed to last winter’s severe flooding event in the Shannon basin, means we need to look at issues like our energy policy, planning for extreme weather events and longer term adaptation and mitigation strategies through a single lens."
As an opposition deputy, Denis Naughten has spoken in favour of Bord na Mona and the ESB extending the life of three uneconomic and highly polluting peat-burning power plants which are being propped up by subsidies to the tune of well over €100 million a year, while also hugely contributing to Ireland’s spiralling greenhouse gas emissions.
We hope that, as minister with national responsibility for climate change, deputy Naughten will revisit this position, and be open to alternate policies that protect local jobs, improve regional air quality and offer a stepping stone away from 19th century industries involving burning non-renewable dirty fuels to create energy and improve the health, lives and future well-being of the Irish public.
“The new department of Climate Change, Communications and Natural Resources can be a vital and overdue first step towards truly joined-up thinking on these critical topics”, Gibbons added.
There is, according to An Taisce, a long list of urgent steps the incoming government needs to consider around climate change. One of these is to ring-fence a budget to run a clear, consistent campaign across traditional and new media to properly inform the Irish public on the scale of the threat posed by climate change, as well as the many economic and social benefits that can flow from a greener, more energy-efficient and independent future.
The well-publicised outburst by deputy Danny Healy-Rea earlier this week is a timely reminder on how much work remains to be done by the incoming government to ensure the public debate on climate change focuses on the very real challenges and solutions that exist, rather than foolishly denying the basic scientific facts.
An Taisce wishes the new administration every success and look forward to engaging constructively with minister Naughten and his officials in the fledgling climate change department.
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee Tel: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
Reflections on the ‘Programme for Partnership Government’
In the run up to the last election, Charles Stanley Smith, a leading member of An Taisce wrote an Environmentalist’s view of the requirements of a new Government, which would be included in their Programme for Government [Note 1].
The key message was that the Government must understand that we cannot hope to achieve a sufficient level of prosperity, if we continue to degrade our environment. A healthy environment is the foundation on which a prosperous and democratic society is built. Looking forward to the next century the greatest challenges we face are the global environmental crises of climate change, biodiversity loss (the complicated interlinked ‘nature’ that supports all our lives) and unsustainable resource use. The scale and urgency of these challenges require a green revolution and this must be clearly be prioritised in the Programme for Government.
Does the new ‘Programme for a Partnership Government’ (PfG) meet any of these requirements?
I’m afraid that I cannot see any evidence in the Programme for Government that our elected leaders have grasped the seriousness of the man made environmental crises we face. In order to prevent a ‘dystopian future’ all Government decisions must be aligned with the best scientific advice and commensurate with the scale and urgency of the threats we face.
The PfG states they will change ‘Irish environmental policy’ to chart the course towards a low carbon future.
This is a wonderful aim to have but at no stage does the PfG show an understanding of the absolute need to change all policies to achieve complete decarbonisation by 2050 within a very limited total carbon budget, which has to mean hitting the emission brakes hard, starting now.
Despite many well-meaning warnings over the last 30 years, globally we have achieved only a huge increase in annual emissions and carbon intensity improvements have stalled over the past decade as the rich world, with it’s higher environmental standards, has happily consumed goods produced by much dirtier energy systems. Only now in China, the life threatening air pollution caused by coal plants and serious concerns about climate change have caused a rethink in energy policy. The Paris Agreement was a great ‘political’ success, but with global temperatures already 1.35°C above pre-industrial, the PfG needs to tell us how our INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) is going to help the world achieve ‘targets’ of avoiding temperature increases of 1.5°C or worse, 2.0°C. What is our, Ireland, Europe, The World’s, total carbon budget - the finite amount of carbon which can be emitted while staying within the agreed temperature threshold - for the next 34 years? Unless we agree that we are not on any pathway to success.
The section on ‘Addressing long-term Challenges’ (p 20) has merits but Climate Change is no longer a distant threat. It is a current issue which is destabilizing governments, undermining development and driving greater disparity between the rich and the poor. Climate action is a moral imperative and a social necessity for this government and our generation.
The section on Climate Change (p 121-130) talks of Ireland becoming a global leader at a time when the EPA has once again reported that we are going to miss our agreed EU 2020 climate targets by a large margin and that “Current and planned policies and measures are not sufficient to meet the 2020 target”. Further they say “New obligations for Ireland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the years 2021-2030 are being negotiated at EU level in 2016. The further away Ireland is from the 20% reduction target in 2020, the more difficult the compliance challenges in the following decade are likely to become”. The EPA also report that our ETS sector CO₂ is also increasing [Notes 2 & 3]. Major changes in direction for Ireland’s economic and societal focus are needed now.
Missing our EU 2020 emissions and renewables targets is likely to lead to hundreds of millions in EU fines. But, far more challenging, in order to give the next generations some chance, we need to decarbonise by 2050, that means starting real cuts now on a carbon budget-limited pathway that reaches zero around 2050. Missing the EU 2020 targets puts us far off track for a 2050 decarbonisation target.
The EPA predict that “Transport emissions are projected to show strong growth over the period to 2020 with a 10 - 16% increase on 2014 levels” [Note 2]. The PfG’s ‘Climate Change’ section calls for a ‘cost effective policy platform for reducing emissions and increasing energy efficiency across all transport modes’, however the sections on the European Ten-T Transport funding (p44), Road Investment (p44) and Regional Airports (p46) run totally counter to that aim, though they are talking of the Western Rail Corridor, its chances are poor in the face of the envisaged road expansion.
There is also a call for new measures to ‘incentivise and upgrade older goods vehicles’ but no call for Europe to introduce measures to ensure the better CO₂ performance of European trucks. They also need to show real support for rural transport (page 50) and fund the existing national transport co-ordination units to provide integrated services in their areas.
The other sectors in our EU2020 targets are “Home Heating”, there is good work being undertaken and proposed in retrofitting but the annual targets for the number of houses retrofitted needs to be at least 100,000 to make the necessary impact. There seems to be little understanding of the very large job potential in retrofitting that number of houses per annum and the possibilities of eliminating fuel poverty, without having to grant aid fossil fuels. In the Climate Section on ‘Built Environment’ they refer to the role of energy efficiency but under Planning Reform (Page 28) they state they ‘will conduct a review of nationwide building standards’, I trust that this will not involve in a drop in their energy standards, especially as Michael Bennet in Wexford has shown you can build and sell Passive Houses at commercial costs [Note 4]
Agriculture is the other major reason that we will miss our 2020 targets and that is mainly from methane (CH₄) and nitrous oxide, extremely potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) produced by our expanding dairy and beef herds. Global temperatures are directly related to the amounts of GHGs in our atmosphere, which are now at a record high and continuing to rise. Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) as a result of us burning fossil fuels for heating, transport and electricity generation has the biggest effect. Once emitted CO₂ steadily accumulates in the atmosphere causing global warming that is irreversible on human timescales. Methane is reckoned to be between 25 and 80 times more efficient at trapping heat than CO₂ and cattle and other ruminants emit large amounts of Methane. Methane does not remain in the atmosphere for as long as CO₂ but the flow of emissions must be reduced rapidly in order to provide an environment for the next generations to have a chance of some form of ‘well ordered’ future, the GHGs that we put into the atmosphere right now are critical.
Agriculture is a provider of jobs and exports, but remember that the EPA state “For the period 2014-2020, agriculture emissions are projected to increase by 6 - 7%.” [Note 2]. Ireland is a net importer of ‘Food Calories’ (we are not ‘feeding the world’) and of large amounts of fertilizer. As well as the direct GHG effects, agriculture, water and waste-water treatment and fertilizer production all rely heavily on energy. The Programme for Government is heavily reliant on ‘sustainability audit systems’ that measure the ‘on farm’ sustainability without counting up total national emissions of pollutants. Even with those in place, we are going to miss our 2020 targets.
The PfG is calling for more afforestation as a means of providing a ‘carbon sink value’ – this is a poorly thought out strategy that will drive the collapse of biodiversity in our uplands. What’s more the ‘marginal’ land which is targeted for afforestation is in many cases a greater carbon sink than the plantations that will replace it. In order to facilitate the ongoing expansion of the dairy sector our uplands and the communities and wildlife that live there will be replaced with lifeless blocks of sitka spruce. This approach runs counter to our legal obligations to halt biodiversity loss and is made all the more ridiculous by the fact that the emissions released from the ongoing destruction of our bogs will cancel out any potential carbon sink accrued in forestry. There is also the competition for land use between food production, forestry and biomass.
Further, any biomass needs to be utilised based on strictly observed sustainability criteriaand preferably locally produced. The EU though is falsely counting all biomass for energy as carbon-neutral when using whole trees for pellets means that it can take 40 to 100 years for new trees to recapture the carbon lost by burning it. The UK’s conversion of its Drax power station to biomass is using unsustainable biomass, especially from clearing forests in the south-eastern USA. The plans to import biomass to Ireland for energy are similarly compromised by unsustainability and even locally grown biomass must meet strict sustainability criteria if used for energy.
The commitment to Anaerobic Digestion (Biogas) is good as this does have the potential for energy production and waste utilisation.
The PfG ignores has again side stepped the peat problem. Parish politics has once again trumped the long term national interest as we seem set to continue to ignore and worse subsidise the destruction of our bogs. Ireland’s bogs are among the rarest habitats in the country and our greatest ‘carbon sink’. The Government's plan to allow their annihilation is probably the clearest indication of where priorities lie and how seriously we really take issues like biodiversity loss and climate change.
Part of the plan to deal with flooding must address the issue on a catchment scale and that will involve the cross societal cooperation. Farmers will be the key stakeholders in any approach to effective flood management. The rewetting of Bord na Móna bogs offers the opportunity to restore highly degraded landscapes while also redirecting flood water away from communities. The role of the ESB and Bord na Móna in the management of the Shannon system in particular needs to be reassessed.
I welcome the actions for Farmers in Restricted Areas(page 114): “Some farmers are working in challenging conditions in mountainous or disadvantaged areas. These farmers will be supported by a new Government and will be given priority access to agri-environment schemes like GLAS. A number of Locally Led Agri-Environment Schemes (LLAES), which will target habitats such as the hen harrier, pearl mussel, Burren, along with other locally led schemes which address specific environmental concerns, will be rolled out, supporting farmers operating in restricted areas.” However these measures do not go far enough to readdress years of government neglect. The government must consider increasing ANC payments, removing the cap on GLAS and stepping in to guarantee that gap years in agri-environmental schemes do not recur.
I welcome the PfG’s call for a ‘National Dialogue on Climate Change’ because in the run up to the last election there was no mention of Climate Change in the debate. The explanation by politicians, was nobody on the doorstep talked to us about Climate Change therefore it must not be important. Maybe they should have gone to the Primary Schools, where as part of the 1916 Centenary celebration, primary and post-primary schools were invited to write a Proclamation for a New Generation. 970 schools uploaded their reinvention of the emerging state’s blueprint to scoil.ie, providing us with an extraordinary insight into the values, ideals and hopes of the children of 2016. An Taisce's Climate Change Office analysed these. Equality, Environment & Climate Change, Education, Health and Homelessness are by far the most pronounced, recurring themes. The subject of environment and climate change is exemplary in showing the disparity between the attitudes of children and the actions of Ireland. [Note 5]
There are areas of hope for development and rural development. “we want to attract people back into main streets and town centres” (page 27) using regeneration schemes, extending the living city initiatives and taxing vacant sites. Though, I believe that Site Value Tax is a fairer way of dealing with vacant sites, Commercial Rates and Household Property Tax.
Urban sprawl and communities without proper planned services cause excessive car usage and difficulties in providing proper transport services. I hope that statements like these means that the Government will fight urban sprawl and truly plan for integrated walkable communities (page 28) “We will promote higher urban densities in terms of housing design, particularly in public transport corridors, through a new National Planning Framework to replace the National Spatial Strategy, to be finalised by the first quarter of 2017.” (Year 1 Action)
There is much talk through the document of ‘Community Consultation’ though little of Community Participation. The last Government introduced the ‘Public Participation Networks’, which having gone through a rocky start are beginning to provide a means of ‘Public Participation’. However there is still a considerable requirement for capacity building of community groups, especially if they are to be ‘consulted with’ at every turn.
There are sections ensuring that Irish SMEs can get fully involved in Government procurement, but no mention of the idea of the Government pushing ‘Green’ procurement and looking at environmental costs in the selection process.
Finally, the belief that we can continue to achieve indefinite economic growth on a finite planet has no basis in reality. We must recognise the finite and fragile nature of our planet and adjust our policies to reflect this. Only by shifting to a sustainable development strategy can we lay the foundations for a just and prosperous society for current and future generations. This will obviously not be easy but it is clear that the best way to achieve this green revolution is to work in partnership with the international community. Abiding to our legally binding obligation to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss would be a good place to start. Maybe the Government should study ‘Laudato Si’, the Pope’s encyclical, which outlines causes and remedies for these crises.
Charles Stanley-Smith Dromineer
- An Taisce - Some Environmental thoughts for the 2016 General Election http://www.antaisce.org/articles/some-environmental-thoughts-for-the-2016-general-election
- EPA – Ireland projected to miss its EU greenhouse gas emission reduction targets http://epa.ie/newsandevents/news/pressreleases2016/name,59044,en.html
- EPA - Greenhouse gas emissions from Ireland’s ETS sector increased in 2015, EPA reports http://epa.ie/newsandevents/news/name,59180,en.html
- €170k Wexford passive semis launch – with free heat & hot water https://passivehouseplus.ie/news/projects/low-cost-wexford-passive-scheme-launches-with-free-heat-hot-water
- An Taisce - Children ask for climate action...Will we deliver? http://www.antaisce.org/articles/children-ask-for-climate-actionwill-we-deliver
Memorable Day Out on Gortleka Property
On Sunday the 5th of May, in the run up to National Biodiversity Week, the Clare Local Association hosted a fantastic walk on the Gorleka property in the Burren.
Graced with fantastic weather, the group followed a newly opened path around the site, taking in the unique geological features, as well as rare and endemic plant species which inhabit the limestone pavement. Assisted by the immensely knowledgeable Harry Jeuken, an organic farmer and conservationist, and Clare LA secretary Anny Wise, An Taisce's Natural Environment Officer, Fintan Kelly gave a fascinating talk on the development of this site.
Many thanks to all who attended.
Booterstown Marsh Spring Clean - Muddy but Much Cleaner
Our treasure trove of nature, Booterstown Marsh underwent its annual Spring Clean last month. For a suburban marsh we were glad to see there had been no major fly tipping or dumping which has blighted this treasure trove of nature in the past. Nevertheless, an afternoon at the job and with a troupe of nearly 20 volunteers we gave the marsh a good tidy up. Between the clean-ups in October and April some 50 bags of rubbish were removed from the marsh, protecting the many birds that live there from harm and improving its appearance. Many thanks to all volunteers who came out and got stuck in. It was a fantastic event followed by enjoyable chat over a nice and deserved cup of tea.
If there was one thing in particular that was very noticeable on the day it was the extraordinary amount of plastic in the scumline on the reserve - where debris from the sea gathers with the flow and ebb of the tide. From plastic bottles, straws and cottonbuds right down to microplastics, amongst the natural dead vegetation there were literally thousands of bits of plastic - too much to remove in one day, though valiantly, we did try. These bits and pieces which enter our oceans via storm drains, toilets, windblow and from ships have a devastating effect on marine life. Birds like fulmar and albatross starve with bellies full of plastic, while we ourselves can ingest and 'bioaccumulate' plastic in our bodies by eating fish. An Taisce's Clean Coasts team is dedicated to fighting this massive issue which undermines Ireland's seas, beaches and nature.
Update on AGM date and Summer 2016 Magazine
An Taisce had planned to hold it's 2016 AGM in June. We are now going to put it back a bit to make sure that we have finalised 2015 Financial Statements to publish with the agenda. We will be in touch in a few weeks to confirm an AGM date for later in the summer.
In the meantime you might like a preview of the Summer 2016 An Taisce Magazine with a cover article from Ireland's President Michael D Higgins. https://issuu.com/ashvillemedia/docs/an_taisce_magazine_2016_online?e=12657295/35174604
An Taisce submission Re: Draft Environmental Requirements for Afforestation (2016)
An Taisce made the following submission as part of the public consultation on the Environmental Requirements for Afforestation.
Our comments were made in response to the following documents: (1) Document: ‘Environmental Requirements for Afforestation’ and (2) Policy change: To remove the application level limit of 20% on GPC1 type land (3) Land Availability for Afforestation - Exploring opportunities for expanding Ireland’s forest resource.
In our submission we highlighted the impact of Irish forestry under the headings of Biodiversity, Water, Landscape and Archaeology. We expressed our concern over the environmental impact of the proposed expansion of the national forest estate from a current national land cover of 10.7% to the targeted level of 18% by 2046. Given that afforestation will predominantly occur in areas of marginal land which harbor traditional extensive High Nature Value farming systems and associated semi-natural habitats An Taisce highlighted the inevitable negative impact that forestry will have on habitats and species associated with High Nature Value farming. The proposed expansion of the forestry sector will drive biodiversity loss and is not aligned with our legal obligations to protect habitats and species under the Habitats and Birds Directive or the obligation to prevent the deterioration/loss of High Status Sites under the Water Framework Directive. In particular we highlighted our concerns about the negative impact of forestry on species such as Hen Harrier and the Freshwater Pearl Mussel and on peatlands, rough grasslands and high status rivers.
We made recommendations in relation to current forestry practices.
An Taisce screen Racing Extinction as part of Biodiversity Week 2016
An Taisce organised a free screening of the Academy Award nominated documentary 'Racing Extinction (2015)' on the 05/18/2016 as part of National Biodiversity Week. The documentary highlighted the ongoing global biodiversity crisis which is currently unfolding. Scientists predict we may lose half the species on the planet by the end of the century. They believe we have entered the sixth major extinction event in Earth's history. Number five took out the dinosaurs. This era is called the Anthropocene, or 'Age of Man', because the evidence shows that humanity has sparked this catastrophic loss. The documentary follows a team of undercover activists trying to do their best to prevent the extinction of species and highlight the ongoing man-made mass extinction and its main drivers. The documentary highlighted many issues which An Taisce actively work on such as biodiversity loss, climate change and the role that consumers play in driving both.
The documentary was screened in Filmbase, Curved Street, Temple Bar, Dublin. As one of the themes of the film was the role of diet and consumer choices in driving over fishing, climate change and biodiversity loss we took the opportunity to highlight the environmental virtues of a meat free diet. Free catering was provided by Cornucopia, Dublin with a completely vegan menu.
We had a great response to the event and we struggled to meet the demand for tickets. We had to upgrade the event twice ultimately to a capacity of 100 people. We were delighted with the turnout for the event and were glad to see such a powerful response to the emotive issues raised in the film.
National College of Ireland and An Taisce team up to facilitate Natural Environment learning for Inner City Children
On the 27th of May, Alannah Ní Cheallaigh-Mhuirí of An Taisce facilitated a pilot outdoor education workshop with children from ELI’s Doodle Den after-school programme, at Morehampton Grove Wildlife Sanctuary.
“Natural places are singularly engaging, stimulating, life-enhancing environments where children can reach new depths of understanding about themselves, their abilities and their relationship with the world around them.” Tim Gill, a leading commentator on childhood. [Note 1]
In 2012 the UK’s National Trust published Natural Childhood [Note 2], a report by Stephen Moss, which examines the phenomenon known as ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ and gathers current thinking on establishing a connection between children and the natural environment. The benefits of developing a healthy relationship with nature at a young age are manifold and fall broadly into four categories: health, education, communities and environment.
Health benefits include a decreased risk of childhood obesity, improved physical fitness, improved mental health and even longevity. In one study, “exposure to nature improved symptoms of ADHD in children threefold compared with staying indoors. [Note 3] Exposure to the natural environment can reduce stress and aggressive behaviour in all children, and give them a greater sense of self-worth. [Note 4] Even short term ‘doses’ of nature can make a marked impact on mental health – indeed, as little as five minutes of ‘green exercise’ can improve mood and self-esteem by a significant margin.” [Note 5] From an educational perspective, child psychologist Aric Sigman concluded that “children exposed to nature scored higher on concentration and self-discipline; improved their awareness, reasoning and observational skills; did better in reading, writing, maths, science and social studies; were better at working in teams; and showed improved behaviour overall.” [Note 6]
The positive impacts of exposure to a natural environment can be far reaching, for communities, wider society and the environment. “Studies have shown that even in cases where the only variable is the view of green space from a window, incidences of crime are reduced by as much as 50%.” [Note 7] Of particular relevance in terms of An Taisce’s work is that “only adults who experience nature as children are likely to be motivated to protect the environment”.
Dr William Bird of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds commented that “The critical age of influence appears to be before 12 years. Before this age contact with nature in all its forms, but in particular wild nature, appears to strongly influence a positive behaviour towards the environment.” [Note 8]
Researchers from the UCD School of Geography, with the four Dublin local authorities and the Office of Public Works, mapped the trees across Dublin city and found that there is huge disparity in tree canopy [Note 9]. Residents of Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, are up to 20 times more likely to have a tree on their street than those living in Dublin’s north inner city. How can we expect children who have grown up in a nature-poor landscape to care for it at all in later life? Shouldn’t all children have the opportunity to experience nature?
Alannah Ní Cheallaigh-Mhuirí explained, “Undoubtedly the earlier in life a relationship with nature can be fostered the better; for the sake of communities, the environment and especially the children themselves, for whom the many benefits mentioned must add up to a greatly enhanced quality of life. That’s why I designed this workshop - to allow a group of children aged 5-6 years old from the North inner city, to experience and learn about wildlife while at the same time tying in the language and literacy skills central to NCI's Early Learning Initiative 'Doodle Den' program*".
This An Taisce property is exemplary in demonstrating how nature can flourish in the city if allowed even a small space to do so. Alannah Ní Cheallaigh-Mhuirí continued “‘The Grove’ is otherworldly in a way; once you step through the gate you are immersed in green light and the scent of wild garlic. For children it is like The Secret Garden. These inner city children took to being ‘nature explorers’ like ducks to water, learning to differentiate between trees and exploring for creatures in the pond while being respectful and considerate about their impact.”
The property is first and foremost a space for wildlife, so consideration was given to the size of the group and the potential impact of the workshop on the space. Note that such workshops will not be a regular occurrence in the Grove in order to avoid negative impacts for wildlife, but that this pilot could be replicated in other green spaces around the country. Alannah Ní Cheallaigh-Mhuirí concluded, “This workshop offered a brief, but I believe, valuable experience for all involved. Early Years Education offers the scope to develop an ecologically-grounded, more healthy and fulfilled society from the bottom up.”
Andrew Dineen, a progressive thinker in early years education who works with the children, believes that "moving towards an emergent, place based, ecologically focused, framework for early years' development is the next necessary step in the development of early childhood education and care in Ireland".
*The Early Learning Initiative (ELI) at the National College of Ireland (NCI) was developed to address the problem of educational underachievement in marginalised communities.
- Gill, T. (2009) Now for free-range childhood, in Guardian, 2nd April 2009. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/apr/02/children-safety
- Faber Taylor, A. et al (2001) Coping with ADD: The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings. Environment and Behaviour. 33 (Jan 2001) pp. 54–77.
- Various studies, quoted in Bird, William (2007) Natural Thinking. RSPB pp. 12–13.
- Thompson Coon, J., Boddy, K., Stein, K., Whear, R., Barton, J. and Depledge, M.H. (2011) Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review. Environmental science & technology, 45(5), pp.1761-1772.
- Sigman, A. (2007) Agricultural Literacy: Giving concrete children food for thought. http://www.face-online.org.uk/resources/news/Agricultural%20Literacy.pdf
- Kuo F.E. and Sullivan W.C. (2001) Environment and Crime in the inner City. Does vegetation reduce crime?
- http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/naturalthinking_tcm9-161856.pdf, p.55.
Can Denis Naughten avoid being ‘Minister of Greenwash and Carbon Extraction’?
A week ago, Denis Naughten was to be the Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources, the new name at least suggesting that the new Government intends to take climate change seriously., But the new Government somehow thought omitting ‘Environment’ from any and all departments was a good idea, at least until a protest petition, led by NGOs including An Taisce and Friends of the Earth, rapidly gained over 10,000 signatures.
In a speedy and appropriate response Minister Naughten announced the new ministry title would be the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment”. Who wants to be Minister for Climate Change? Charles Stanley-Smith, An Taisce’s spokesperson says:
“We welcome a politics able to reverse poor decisions. Strong environmental and climate change policies are critical to our future societal and economic well-being. Minister Naughten could achieve meaningful climate action first within his own Department by ensuring that the Natural Resources division, would rapidly ramp down fossil fuel exploration plans.”
On Tuesday, speaking at a launch event for the Local Authority Climate Change Adaptation Strategy Guidelines, Minister Naughten said that “climate change is THE global challenge of our generation”.
On Wednesday, a press release announced “Minister Naughten calls for practical, people-centred approach to climate action” and quoted him as saying:
“Only by bringing people with us – not just with the scientific evidence, not just with the policy, but with practical pathways that have people at its centre – can we move this agenda towards a decarbonised future.”
By Thursday though, as one of the first actions from within this new Climate Action & Environment department, Minister of State for Natural Resources, Seán Kyne T.D., awarded eleven companies with petroleum exploration licenses giving rights to drill in Irish Atlantic waters. Kyne is quoted as saying, “At a time of very low oil prices, the strong interest in the Round is very positive”.
And on Friday, Minister Naughten launched an Engineers Ireland report saying “the over-dependence on fossil fuels challenges all of us to work together to find a balanced and sustainable energy mix”. Bizarrely, the report calls for cuts in transport emissions while including a call for rapid completion of the proposed new runway for Dublin Airport that will inevitably result in increased aviation emissions, Climate action cannot mean making a few minor emissions savings in one area while continuing to build high carbon infrastructure, and spending cost savings from ‘efficiency’ on yet more emissions. No. We need a plan that adds up.
Minister Naughten is right that people need to be informed and included in climate decision-making to achieve a pathway to a decarbonised future. But he also must know that urgent, tough political decisions are needed to divert from business-as-usual, high emissions from energy and agriculture, and instead move to a rapid transition to zero carbon energy and low impact food production and diets.
Burning peat and coal for electricity – or, even worse, using first-generation biofuels and most biomass – are simply unacceptable given Ireland’s Paris Agreement signature to ensure science- and equity-aligned climate action. Further fossil fuel exploration, fracking and new runways for more aviation are similarly entirely contrary to any credible claim of ‘climate action’.
Charles Stanley-Smith, speaking for An Taisce, said:
"To achieve climate action Denis Naughten will need to show the kind of leadership that past Ministers have shown in enabling the smoking ban, taxing litter-causing plastic bags and banning bituminous coal. All of these seemed unachievable and not politically feasible until a Minister showed courage, leadership and a commitment to environmental well-being."
The question now for Minister Naughten is: Are the fine words, name-changes and supposed ambition of the last week just yet more vested interest-driven government rhetoric aiming to divert media and public attention from business-as-usual policies. Or, does he have the political qualities – within Cabinet, in his Department and with the public – to begin the very rapid societal changes now needed to achieve urgent, substantial and sustained reductions in Ireland’s climate pollutant emissions. The choice is hypocrisy or achievement, with results judged simply enough by the real and projected trajectory of reported total annual emissions.
Climate action in Ireland is long overdue, but it is possible with collective action involving us all. Some leadership would make a change. Maybe, just maybe, Denis Naughten is up to the job.
Biodiversity in the Medieval City of Kilkenny
The Biodiversity event organised by the Kilkenny Association of An Taisce took place on Sunday 22nd May. Over 20 attendees were introduced to the local history of the medieval city of Kilkenny in the context of the River Nore on which it is built. The walk, guided by Pat Durkin, was a unique opportunity to learn about the rich biodiversity to be found right in the heart of Kilkenny and of the ecological relationships at play among the species inhabiting the Nore Valley.
A number of different habitats were explored on the day as the walk progressed from meadows to alluvial woodland and on to newly planted woodland. Participants were spoiled by the visual delights of flowering vetches, meadow buttercup and ribworth plantain in the meadows, while the alluvial woodland boasted numerous white willow, crack willow osier, complemented by oak, hornbeam and others in the upper storey. It was great to see while hawthorn and blackthorn growing to full height in the mid-storey with a luxurious herbaceous layer of grasses, sedges and cleavers to be found in the understorey, along with a rich mix of flowers, such as Lady's smock, violets and oxeye daisy.
Among the flowers which support such a diverse range of invertebrates, the group observed carder bee (Bombus pascuorum), the buff tailed bumble bee (Bombus terrestris), the seven-spotted ladybird and male and female orange-tip butterflies. The Park is also superb for ornithology and despite the bad weather we did spot kingfisher, swift and buzzard about the site. The songs of many birds were heard including blackcap, willow warbler, wren, chiffchaff, blackbird, robin, chaffinch, blue tit, long-tailed tit and coal tit. Many of the birds were seen on the river side trees. The tits delighted us by nesting in at least three overhead lamposts and making frequent feeding trips. Larger rooks and magpies searched the mowed verges of the river bank and meadow for grubs. Pat guided the identification of bird song by playing ‘bird voices’ to help us isolate the individual songs of local birds.
Participants were encouraged to incorporate some native species in their gardens, such as the small trees hawthorn, rowan, buddleia and guelder rose, low growing herbaceous plants at the margins of vegetable beds like speedwell and taller herbaceous plants like the vetches and a few nettles at the base of hedges. If there is space for a small area of wildflower meadow it could include a few dandelions, lady’s smock, vetches and speedwell. Reduced frequency of lawn moving allows time for many wildflowers to bloom but unless they are allowed to reseed they may die out in time.
The weather was very challenging on the day and those who endured were treated to a memorable exploration of the nature to be found on the doorstep of Kilkenny City.
Money to burn? Or 3,000 sustainable jobs for the Midlands
In yesterday's Irish Examiner, Bord na Mona claimed "that 1,443 jobs could be lost if power plant shuts". http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/claim-that-1443-jobs-could-be-lost-if-power-plant-shuts-403373.html
An Taisce rebutted this in their Press Release of 22nd November 2015 - below:
Does being ‘pro-environment’, mean being ‘anti-jobs’? Absolutely not, says An Taisce. Much of the coverage following the recent High Court decision overturning planning permission for the continued use of Edenderry power station has focused on the risk to the jobs of the workers in the facility, and understandable concern about the impact this might have on the local economy.
The Irish public will pay approximately €120 million [Note 1] in the next 12 months in order to keep three woefully unprofitable and pollution-intensive peat burning plants open. These three plants employ around 500 people. Therefore, the average annual subsidy paid in order to keep each worker on the payroll is in the region of €240,000.
Are there alternate ways of spending this €120 million annual peat subsidy that would support lots of sustainable jobs, reduce pollution and improve the health of our citizens, especially the vulnerable under-fives and elderly?
An Taisce believes the answer, overwhelmingly, is: yes. Retrofitting creates an average 26 jobs per €1 million spent (direct, indirect and induced) [Note 2]. If redirected, the peat PSO subsidy could therefore create and support around 3,120 jobs. We propose ring-fencing the revenue currently being paid via the peat PSO to the Midland counties; this way, more than six new jobs could be created in a regional retrofitting scheme for every one job lost with the closure of these peat plants.
The multiplier effect of over 3,000 new secure, sustainable salaries would mean a timely boost for local towns and villages right across the Midlands.
Nationally, more than a million homes are badly insulated, leading to huge heating bills for residents and local air pollution – while increasing Ireland’s dependence on highly polluting fossil fuels.
The average cost of retrofitting a typical Irish home to Near-Zero Energy [Note 3] Building is €25,000. The payback period to the householder is 15 years (with no subsidies) and 7.5 years (with 50% subsidies). The €120 million annual peat subsidy, apart from creating over 3,000 jobs, would lead to some 4,800 homes being retrofitted annually.
Instead of another ‘lost decade’ of overpaying to burn peat, over the next 10 years, almost 50,000 houses in the Midlands could be retrofitted to make cosier, healthier homes with dramatically reduced energy requirements. This means burning fewer solid or liquid fuels, which represents a significant reduction in our energy imports bill, which currently runs to over €6 billion a year.
That’s why we feel having to opt for either job creation or environmental responsibility is a false choice. As the ‘Greenprint’ report [Note 4] published by the IIEA pointed out, it is cheaper to save energy than to buy it. Despite this, “improving energy end-use efficiency remains… the least visible, least understood and most neglected way to provide energy services.”
For further information, please call:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee Tel: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
Note 1 http://www.publicpolicy.ie/pso-levy-an-update/
Note 2 Estimate supplied by the Tipperary Energy Agency
Note 3 http://www.nzeb-opendoors.ie
Note 4 http://www.iiea.com/publications/jobs-growth-and-reduced-energy-costs-greenprint-for-a-national-energy-efficiency-retrofit-programme
Dublin City Quay office permission has major adverse impact on historic church and highlights multiple planning failures
The 2015 decision by An Bord Pleanála decision to grant permission for a 9 storey office development will have a major adverse impact on Dublin’s City Quay Church, a Protected Structure [Picture 1], located on the Liffey Quays Conservation Area.
The permission was granted to Targeted Investment Opportunities PLC (with the support of NAMA) in March 2016 following appeal by An Taisce arguing that the development was oversized.
The Board inspector Jane Dennehy recommended omission of the seventh, eighth and ninth stories on the western side of the scheme, to protect the setting off the Church. [Note 1]
However, the Boards decision granted permission for a nine storey wall abutting the Church, with a Direction from Bord Member Michael Leahy striking out the inspectors recommendation on the three storey reduction. [Note 2]
This decision raises a serious policy implementation question on An Bord Pleanálas consideration of Protected Structure legislation and in the quality of its decision-making, particularly in the giving of reasons and considerations.
In May 2016 development commenced without a range of preliminary conditions on construction management being complied with, including protection of the Church, on which An Taisce has complained to Dublin City Council.
This case highlights multiple planning failures by Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanála, in protecting the historic Church of the City Quay community.
This case also confirms the wider policy failure in the protection of Dublins historic city centre and the setting of historic buildings in a range of decisions by Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanala including Molesworth Street.
Ian Lumley, Heritage Officer, An Taisce. Tel: +353 1 454 1786
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
An Taisce condemns renewed sale of three Beit Collection paintings in July 7th auction at Christies in London
The publication of the catalogue for the 7th July 2016 Christie’s Old Masters London Auction includes three Alfred Beit Foundation paintings, which were withdrawn from the 2015 London auction following a successful An Taisce legal challenge against the Export Licence obtained by Christies last year.
The three paintings up for renewed sale are:
LOT 9 RUBENS VENUS AND JUPITER 1.6-2.3 Million Euro
LOT 38 GUARDI, ST MARKS SQUARE VENICE 200,000-320,000 Euro
LOT 39 GUARDI, VIEW WITH DOGES PALACE 200,000-320,000 Euro
After the withdrawal from the 2015 auction, there was widespread welcome that the Alfred Beit Foundation (ABF) sold the Teniers, Van Ostade and Rubens Bearded Man under the Section 1003 tax relief purchase scheme with the support of three private donors. These became part of the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland.
This has demonstrated the capacity of the ABF to attract major philanthropy, which now been undermined by the renewed placing of these paintings for auction. It is also damaging to the wider promotion of philanthropy in Ireland, a point raised by the Royal Irish Academy in response to the auction proposed last year.
Instead of sending art for export, An Taisce considers that the appropriate policy of the ABF should be to seek further philanthropic support within Ireland and internationally, for the endowment of Russborough, and for maintaining the Beit Collection paintings in Ireland.
An Taisce is requesting that the paintings be withdrawn from auction as the export licence obtained by Christies in 2015 has been declared ultra vires, and that alternative options to secure both Russborough and the Beit Collection be pursued.
Notes: Link to Christies catalogue as follows: http://www.christies.com/salelanding/index.aspx?intSaleID=26004
An Taisce’s submission calls on Donald Trump to make Doonbeg Golf Course Great
Today, An Taisce made their submission to Clare County Council in respect of a planning application by TIGL Ireland Enterprises Ltd for permission for a development comprising coastal erosion management works at and adjacent to Carrowmore Dunes, White Strand, Doughmore Bay and Trump International Golf Links and Hotel, Doonbeg. [Note 1].
White Strand Beach and the Carrowmore Dunes are a stunning part of the Clare coastline which has drawn surfers and holiday goes to the region for decades. For generations the dunes near Doonbeg have protected the land behind them from coastal flooding at no expense to the taxpayer. They have provided a recreational space for tourists and locals alike, and support globally threatened wildlife. All of this however is under threat as the Donald Trump owned Trump International Golf Links seek to build monstrous coastal protection works which will destroy the sand dunes and blight one of the most stunning stretches of coast in the country.
The Carrowmore Dunes (Doonbeg) are a protected habitat providing a safe haven for some of the rarest habitats and wildlife in Ireland. Across Europe, it is estimated that 85% of sand dune ecosystems are under threat [Note 2]. The sand dunes are now in a perilous position as the life is being squeezed out of them on one side by the inappropriate design of the adjoining golf course and its management, and on the other side by the proposed construction of coastal protection works which would lock the dunes in place and starve them of the sand which is vital for the ongoing survival. Trump International Golf Links have put forward that coastal erosion is the greatest threat to the dunes and that their coastal protection works will ultimately save the dunes and protect the golf course and farmland inland. This is completely false as the sand dunes have adapted and shifted in response to erosion for millennia. Dunes are naturally dynamic systems and will retreat and advance in response to erosion. The dunes are currently being prevented from retreating by the inappropriately sited and designed golf course which should be realigned to allow the dunes to respond to rising sea levels.
In Ireland and elsewhere coastal squeeze caused by developments, such as inappropriately designed Golf courses are one of the greatest threats to sand dune habitats. Likewise coastal protection works such as those proposed by Trump International Golf Links Ltd are accepted as another of the greatest threats to sand dune habitats. This is recognised by Ireland’s National Parks and Wildlife Service who have repeatedly stated that “physical obstruction”, i.e. coastal protection works, are their greatest concern for the conservation of the site [Note 3]. This development is completely unnecessary. There is a growing list of countries internationally who have embraced sustainable coastal protection solutions and worked with sand dunes to provide sustainable and cost effective coastal protection. Internationally the Netherlands would be considered as one of the nations with the most to fear from coastal erosion and also one of the countries with the longest history of engineered coastal protection works. Yet in the Netherlands, the Dutch are protecting and restoring sand dunes because it is in fact more cost effective and better at protecting the coast than hard coastal protection works [Note 3 & Note 4].
In the Netherlands there is recognition that coastal dunes are important, multifunctional landscapes. They harbour many rare species, of both flora and fauna, protect the hinterland from flooding, provide society with drinking water and serve as recreational space [Note 5]. In countries like the Netherlands where the appreciation of the multifaceted value of Sand Dune ecosystems is growing the issue of dune stabilization is being tackled and sand dunes are being actively restored [Note 5].
Fintan Kelly, An Taisce’s Natural Heritage Officer stated
“The solution being put forward by Trump International Golf Links Ltd is in our opinion inappropriate, completely unsustainable and outdated. The conservation of sand dunes in the Netherlands, USA and UK have proven themselves to be more cost effective than hard coastal protection works and are supplying valued biodiversity and ecosystem services to local communities”.
“Given the vast sums of money Donald Trump is claiming he will invest in Doonbeg Golf Course it is clearly within his means to reconsider the design and make Doonbeg great. A holistic approach to the management of our coastline must be taken if they are to remain resilient to climate change.”
- An Taisce’s submission https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEX1dWemhjdmJFQjg/view?usp=sharing
- Heslenfeld, P., Jungerius, P. D. & Klijn, J. A. (2004) European policy for coastal dunes. In Coastal Dunes 1 Ecology and Conservation, Martinez ML, Psuty NP (eds).. Ecological Studies 171, Springer-Verlag: Berlin, p. 335–351.
- National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) (2014b) Carrowmore Dunes SAC Conservation Objectives Supporting Document: Marine Habitats, [online] available: http://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/002250%20Carrowmore%20Dunes%20SAC%20Marine%20Supporting%20Doc%20V1.pdf
- Arens, S. M. & Geelen, L. H. W. T. (2006) Dune landscape rejuvenation by intended destabilisation in the amsterdam water supply dunes. Journal of Coastal Research, pp. 22: 1094-1107.
- Arens, S. M. et al. (2013) Dynamic dune management, integrating objectives of nature development and coastal safety: examples from the Netherlands. Geomorphology, pp. 199, 205-213.
- Arens, S. M., Slings, Q. L., Geelen, L. H. W. T. & Van der Hagen, H. G. J. M. (2007) Implications of environmental change for dune mobility in The Netherlands. s.l., s.n.
Building Up the Bog: A Overview of the Successful ‘Keep it in the Bog’ Event
This past weekend, Alannah Ní Cheallaigh - Mhuirí (An Taisce - Climate Intern), in association with An Taisce and the Irish Peatland Conservation Council, put on the Keep it in the Bog! Event to great success. On Sunday, volunteers came together to help block up drains in a part of Girley Bogs in Kells, County Meath. The turn out was double as expected, and 42 volunteers of various ages came out to get mucky and help restore the bog.
Despite the rainy atmosphere, the volunteers’ upbeat attitude prevailed at the event sponsored by a Patagonia environmental grant. The aim of the event was to help restore the high water table natural to Girley Bog; to prevent CO2 emissions from it and to encourage more of Girley Bog to become an active carbon sink again.
A healthy bog is 98% water. When the water table drops because of draining, plants and animals native to bog habitats cannot survive and the peat exposed to the air becomes an emitter of CO2. Healthy bogs add to the overall health of the greater environment. According to a strong body of evidence provided by the EPA, healthy bogs remove carbon dioxide from the air and traps it in the water-soaked peat as carbon. The drain-blocking efforts made during the event hosted on Sunday, June 19th helped to make the bog ‘active’ again, thus causing it to act as a Carbon sink.
While great strides were made in the preservation of this particular bog, An Taisce Climate and Energy Intern and Project Manager of Keep it in the Bog, Alannah Ní Cheallaigh - Mhuirí indicated that the bog was not the only thing impacted that day. She came up with the idea to put on this event a few months ago after becoming impassioned by seeing many different sides to the story surrounding the circumstances facing modern bogs. She was tired of waiting for politicians and legislature, and wanted to help make a change herself, starting with her local area.
Ní Cheallaigh – Mhuirí stated:
*“I wanted this to be an educational opportunity as well as a positive action for the preservation of the bog. Many people learn best by doing. This event perhaps expanded people’s understanding of bogs, but they decide how this understanding informs their own choices in the future.” *
She noted that the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘climate action’ have negative connotations for many people:
“Being afraid or feeling guilty are natural reactions, but they inhibit us from responding best to an issue like this. I wanted to create an opportunity for people to be part of a climate action where they achieved something and left feeling empowered to achieve more.”
While the grant from Patagonia covered the practical conservation done by the rewetting of the bog, Alannah made sure to tie in education with the event’s overall work.
This educational outreach came from two different sources. The first being the involvement of St. Brigid’s National School, Cortown. Local primary school children came out to help survey the bog before and after the action to see the ecological differences between a drained and rewetted parts of the bog. After seeing these differences first hand, some of the students then returned the day of the event to help rewet the bog.
The second source of educational outreach came from the large amount of local people who came to the event. Alannah claims that perhaps the biggest impact made that day came from the involvement of the local community, as over half the volunteers lived within close proximity of the bog. For many of the participants, this was their first experience associating bogs with climate change. While it can be hard to changes people’s traditional perspective of associating bogs with fuel or employment alone, Alannah hoped that through allowing people to experience the bogs for themselves, they would be able to gain a new appreciation for their ecological importance. The goal was to allow different people and communities to see what protection efforts we were pursuing, and then bring that information home with them to help spread it even farther.
When asked about what her future hopes were for members of An Taisce and other volunteers and participants of our programs, Alannah stressed the importance of maintaining community engagement as a priority:
“Climate change is an issue which could be extremely divisive if we allow it, but if we look ahead only a little we can find the common ground that will allow us to work in our different ways for the benefit of all. For instance, ‘active’ bogs also help attenuate floods and are a great recreational resource. The Girley bog Meitheal exemplify how working together can create a much loved local amenity with immense ecological and climate value. I hope that other communities may feel inspired to create climate action appropriate to their local area.”
Alannah and An Taisce want to thank the following people for contributing to the success of the Keep it in the Bog! Event:
• Patagonia – for the sponsorship provided through their environmental grant scheme
• Irish Peatland Conservation Council – for their support as well as their excellent demonstration of creating dams the day of the event.
• Ben Malone – for his invaluable assistance in the surveying and implementation of the event.
• Causey Farm – for their support, the use of their hall and the lovely scones!
Updates on Food, Agriculture and Climate Change
An Taisce's Natural Environment Office and Climate Change Committee continue to produce reports on the interaction between Food, Agriculture and Climate Change:
- Feeding the World Sustainably? - An Analysis of Irish and EU Food Nutrition Trade Balances http://www.antaisce.org/publications/feeding-the-world-sustainably-an-analysis-of-irish-and-eu-food-nutrition-trade-balances
- Ireland’s Agricultural Sector’s Role in Food Security in the Wake of Climate Change http://www.antaisce.org/publications/ireland%E2%80%99s-agricultural-sector%E2%80%99s-role-in-food-security-in-the-wake-of-climate-change
- An Taisce submission Re: Draft Environmental Requirements for Afforestation (2016) http://www.antaisce.org/articles/an-taisce-submission-re-draft-environmental-requirements-for-afforestation-2016
Combating Light Pollution: A Look at the Success of the Mayo International Dark Sky Park
In our world today, a majority of our light shines back at us. This is a scientific fact, as increasing light pollution has made it so more than 1/3 of the planet's population can no longer visibly see the Milky Way galaxy in our night-time skies [Note 1]. By letting our excess of artificial light cloud our skies, we have, in effect, created our own little bubble in which our human-centered world is the only world and nothing else matters.
Except, here is the problem; everything else matters.
Lord Martin Rees, astronomer royal, said that “The night sky is the most universally-shared part of our environment.” Plants, animals, humans, even other stars and galaxies. We all share and rely on the night-time sky. Yet, through increased use of artificial light, we break those ties.
What is light pollution?
Light pollution comes in two different forms. Astronomical light pollution occurs when our ability to view the night sky is diminished due to atmospheric scattering of artificial lights. Ecological light pollution occurs when the alteration of light patterns has a detrimental effect on flora, fauna, and human health [Note 3]. The effects can be seen across the board. It has been estimated that 60% of Europeans and 80% of North Americans no longer can view the Milky Way due to light pollution, whereas places like Singapore and Kuwait have 100% diminished viewing capabilities [Note 4].
Other detrimental effects include changes in the circadian rhythms in healthy adults. The human body relies on changes in light to help calibrate its internal 'clock.' The increased brightness has also affected many insects, who rely on light for mating purposes, as well as prey species that use darkness as cover. Whether we choose to see it or not, everything is slowly changing due to the increases in light pollution.
For a recent example light pollution caused changes, take a look at a study, published on June 29th, 2016, on light pollution and its effects on several species of deciduous trees around the UK. Scientists conducted research over a 13 year period, from 1999 to 2011, looking specifically for effects of photoperiod on four types of deciduous trees: European sycamore, European beech, Pendinculate oak and European ash. Using night satellite images to quantify the amount of artificial light, the study looked at the change in bud bursts for each of the trees. Three of the four species had negative effects due to light pollution. The most dramatically affected was the European ash, a typically late blooming tree, for which the difference between bud bursts of trees in the darkest rural areas and the brightest urban areas was 7 days [Note 5]. The artificial light had caused the ash tree to bloom a full week early.
In the report, the researchers claim; “the results highlight, for the first time, to our knowledge, at a national scale, a relationship between the amount of artificial night-time light and date of budburst in deciduous trees.” They have also hypothesized that smaller plants growing below the level of the street lights are more likely to be affected.
So, what can we do to stop this rapid change?
There is no denying the benefits of artificial lighting, such as illuminating hazardous areas or making it safer to drive during night-time hours [Note 6]. The key is marrying the benefits with less polluting strategies. For example, a large amount of light pollution arises due to streetlamp illumination. Most street lights now operate with a Cobrahead model which emits 6% of its light upwards. By transitioning to a Helios model, a cut-off street light which emits only 1% of its light upwards, we could foreseeably cut artificial light emissions in certain regions where implemented [Note 7]
Another way to help stop light pollution is to protect areas where dark skies remain unpolluted. An excellent example of this is the Ballycroy National Park and Wild Nephin which is also known as the Mayo International Dark Sky Park. The Mayo International Dark Sky Park has achieved the incredible gold-tier classification, which is only awarded to the most exceptional dark skies and stunning nightscapes. The defensibility of this nightscape is enhanced by its proximity to the Atlantic coast, which allows for more limited influences of light. The area, which spans 15,000 hectares, or 110 sqaure kilometers, is especially important because it contains one of the largest remaining blanket bog habitat in Western Europe [Note 8].
The application for dark sky status was project managed by Georgia MacMillan, resident in Newport Co. Mayo.
MacMillan has her honours degree in Outdoor Education from Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, and given her interest in the ceiling of starry skies visible in the west of Ireland, she started researching the impact of light pollution when preparing her dissertation for her degree. As part of her dissertation, she put together a case study of a potential dark sky in County Mayo, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Success of the Mayo International Dark Sky Park
When asked about how the steering group was able to get Dark Sky recognition for the Ballycroy National Park and Wild Nephin, she will tell you that it started from small beginnings. She will tell you about the arduous submission process for getting approval as a Dark Sky park, for which the application is 150 pages long. She will tell you about the letters of support the park received upon its application to be considered a Dark Sky Park, which An Taisce, along with other organizations, contributed to. And she will tell you it wouldn't have come together without the support of the local community and the national park.
And it is truly impressive how much the local community has embraced the new Dark Sky status. The community has since come together to create a citizen scientist project, as well as to send letters of support of Dark Sky initiatives to council members. Two local astronomy groups have also been formed since the designation of the park, one located in Ballycroy and one in Newport. The national park has also agreed to help foster the program and keep the area protected from future risks of light pollution.
All of this development really excites MacMillan. “Light pollution is a pollution that people aren't really aware of,” she states. Her hope is that through community involvement, more people will gain an awareness of light pollution and its detrimental effects.
For example, when speaking of educating the public, MacMillan talks of helping raise communities' awareness of their individual contributions to light pollution along with community wide contributions such as street lights. One of the ways she suggests people cut back on their light pollution is through reconsidering how security lighting is used.
“People have a tendency to over-light their homes, causing glare and often hiding what they intend to reveal,” she says. Strategies such as thinking critically on what in your home needs to be lit versus what you want to be lit as well as changing lightbulbs in favour of those with lower wattages are only some of the suggestions she makes for those hoping to help lower their light pollution.
As for the Mayo International Dark Sky Park, it is revelling in its precious darkness. In order for the park to have Dark Sky status, the park is required to have at least 4 educational outreach events per year. MacMillan happily reports that the Mayo International Dark Sky Park will have at least 10 outreach events this year thanks to events put on by both the community and events hosted by the national park.
Along with outreach programmes, the park has also seen an influx of astro-photographers, many of whom are based in Mayo. The park hopes to increase its astro-tourism in the future. There are plans in place for a Dark Sky festival to be hosted at the Mayo International Dark Sky Park this coming October.
The Mayo International Dark Sky Park is incredible for a plethora of reasons, but perhaps the most important is the fact that it helps marry land and night heritage together in one of the most spectacular of settings. With the newly designated Mayo International Dark Sky Park, it seems we might finally be heading in the right direction when tackling light pollution.
Note 1: Davis, Nicola. "Milky Way No Longer Visible to One Third of Humanity, Light Pollution Atlas Shows." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 10 June 2016. Web. 29 June 2016.
2. Katz, Yali, and Noam Levin. "Quantifying Urban Light Pollution — A Comparison between Field
Measurements and EROS-B Imagery." Remote Sensing of Environment 177 (2016): 65-77. Web. 3. Davis, Nicola. “Milkey Way No Longer Visable to One Third of Humanity, Light Pollution Atlas Shows.” 4. Richard H. ffrench-Constant,Robin Somers-Yeates,Jonathan Bennie,Theodoros Economou, David Hodgson, Adrian Spalding, Peter K. McGregor. Proc. R. Soc. B 2016 283 20160813; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0813. Published 29 June 2016. Web. 5. Bradley, Tomas. “Protecting the Night Sky on the Urban Fringe of Dublin.” 6. Aubé, Martin, and Johanne Roby. "Sky Brightness Levels before and After the Creation of the FirstInternational Dark Sky Reserve, Mont-Mégantic Observatory, Québec, Canada."Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer139 (2014): 52-63. Web. 7. “First International Dark Sky Park in Irealand Recieves Accreditation” http://darksky.org/ Web.
News of the AGM and Chair
An Taisce had planned to hold its 2016 AGM in June. We are now going to put it back a bit to make sure that we have finalised 2015 Financial Statements to publish with the agenda. Given that July/August are traditional holiday months, we are targeting Saturday 10th September for the AGM. The official notice of time and date for the AGM, the Financial Statements, Agenda, Nomination Forms for Council, proxy-form and Magazine will be posted out to you in later this month.
In the meantime, you might like a preview of the Summer 2016 An Taisce Magazine with a cover article from Ireland's President Michael D Higgins. https://issuu.com/ashvillemedia/docs/an_taisce_magazine_2016_online?e=12657295/35174604
Meanwhile, John Harnett tendered his resignation as chair and from the board at the end of May.
At subsequent board and council meetings, he was thanked for the sterling work that he did for An Taisce. John’s resignation has raised a number of issues which the board and council are working to resolve and they will report to the AGM on their resolution.
The council meeting of June 11th decided to appoint Charles Stanley-Smith to the position of chair on a temporary/rotating basis until the next council meeting - where it would reconsider the position of chair.
Charles Stanley-Smith, a former chair of An Taisce, has stated that he will happily work with the board, council and staff to ensure that An Taisce continues to do its best work in these difficult times for Environmental NGOs. Charles states that this situation is to get us to the AGM and in the meanwhile to let us look for a new chair to take us forward from the AGM. He has no ambition to stand as chair after the AGM - he's done it once and has the T-shirt.
Being chair is an important but challenging position and the council decided to create a Nominations Committee which would look for a new chair and new Board members in general, to present to the council in the normal way. It should be clear that council members in general still retain the right to nominate and second officers of An Taisce and people for the board. Current members of the board would attend only as required and not be full members of the Nominations Committee.
Judy Osborne has agreed to chair this Nominations Committee and asks that you contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have suggestions for new Board Members or even Chairperson.
Previously chairmen, each bringing their own skills, have come from diverse backgrounds: business, academia, heritage, the environment, NGOs,etc. Any links into these sectors could identify potential new supporters and any suggestions will be treated discreetly.
There has been much talk of the 'Governance' of charities in recent days. An Taisce supports the five principles of the 'Governance Code' and signed up last year and is working through the process to complete the code. An Taisce is a type C organisation. More details can be found at www.governancecode.ie
With Best Regards
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