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!