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Fracking Ireland…here it comes.

1 Jun

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Earlier this week we heard the dreaded news that fracking is to go ahead in Ireland. Tamboran is to drill 3 test wells near Belcoo in County Fermanagh starting sometime this month.  This is in Northern Ireland which is under the jurisdiction of the UK government but I’m afraid pollution and destruction of our lands and water do not recognise political boundaries on a solid land mass. Isn’t it a sad situation that we have to fight our governments to try and protect our environment. Surely it is the job of government to protect the people it is meant to be serving rather than kow towing to the will of corporations.

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Our beautiful Ireland is to be offered up on the altar of greed and money and damn the consequences. We must try and defend her otherwise we are complicit in these acts of vandalism.

In the words of Theodore Roosevelt:

“Here is your country. Cherish those natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of it’s beauty, it’s riches or it’s romance.”

It seems we will soon have to try and protect our cherished land.

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The reality of climate change.

13 Apr

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A recent study released by the U.N on the topic of climate change is a most sobering document. Compiled over a period of 5 years by several hundred authors the report warns of rising seas, dwindling food supplies and the prediction that the poorest people in the world who have had virtually nothing  to do with causing global warming  will bear the brunt of the consequences.

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“The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants. That is killing some creatures or stunting their growth. Organic matter locked into frozen Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouses gases that will cause further warming.”

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“Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger.”

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The authors stress that climate change is not some problem far off in the future, it is happening now. We have all experienced changes in the weather in the last few years. Here in Ireland rain has changed from being mostly soft showers to monsoon like downpours. We have seen coastal erosion on an unprecedented scale this past Winter.  Severe winds earlier this year brought down 1% of Ireland’s trees. In a country with only about 11%  tree cover that’s a huge loss.

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The report cites a particular risk that in a hotter climate farmers will not be able to produce enough food to feed the ever increasing needs of our planet.  “When supply falls below demand, somebody doesn’t have enough food,” says Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University climate scientist who was one of the contributors to the report. “When some people don’t have food. you get starvation. Yes. I’m worried.”

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We all have a responsibility to try our best to protect our beautiful planet. We really need to become self sufficient again. Each person with land or access to land has a duty to grow at least a portion of their food. Crops like Potatoes and Brassicas are so easy to grow. Salad crops can even be grown in containers, no land necessary. It pains me to go to the supermarket and see Spring Onions coming from countries like Chile or Kenya. I know people in these countries also have to make a  living but I’m sure they could grow crops to feed their families or sell locally instead of being at the mercy of corporations whose only desire is cheap labour and cheap produce.

Consumerism has to cease. How can we expect to continue to shop, shop, shop while our Planet pays the price. Andy and I rarely go to shopping centres. We buy nearly everything locally and clothes are nearly always secondhand. Even though our country is still in recession one can still get great quality clothing in the secondhand shops. Of course we grow what we can and will increase that each year.  I also think that being vegetarian is a more planet friendly choice. More tree cover would be far better for our country than land being used to grow meat. Animals themselves add to the pollution problem. Slurry runoff has contaminated a lot of Ireland’s waterways. I’ve nothing against animals, I love them and choose not to dine on them, but we have a huge amount of  animals being produced now. Far more than our country actually needs if we were just feeding ourselves. I know there will not be a huge conversion to a non meat diet but even a reduction would help the situation and probably improve people’s health too.

I could go on but I won’t. Most people at this point know the changes they can make to make a difference.

So come on!

Let’s work together to save our beautiful planet. For our own  sakes and for the people who come after us.

Sadness in a place of beauty…

16 Mar

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A few days ago I was on the way to visit a friend when I decided to take a detour by Lough Gara. It was a day of very low cloud which meant everything was very still and quiet.

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It was hard to tell where the sky ended and the water began.

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Apart from an occasional car passing by and a few ducks quacking as they flew away the silence was beautiful. How often do we immerse ourselves in total silence these days. So soothing…

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Seeing a little lane off the car parking area I decided to explore a bit further.

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Soon my little adventure turned into a disturbing discovery. As I walked… an old TV…

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beer bottles and cans littered the lovely Hazel and Birch woodland.

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It saddens me to see our places of beauty ruined like this. Sad that people who are drawn here cannot take away their rubbish. They come for the solitude and beauty and destroy it with remnants of their enjoyment. Thoughtless!

The sad thing about this is that we now have plentiful recycling centres throughout the country. All electrical goods can be recycled free as can glass. Metal and other reusables can be taken to recycling centres where for the small sum of €3.50 one can get rid of a car load.  Sometimes I despair of people…

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Before leaving I walked again by the lakeside just to lift my mood  and reabsorb the positive vibes of the place. Next time I shall bring a bag and take away some of the rubbish.

Save our Planet…plant more Trees.

10 Feb

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The weather is the topic on everyone’s lips at the moment. Since before Christmas we have been battered by Atlantic storms. Another one is building out there…reckoned to strike on Wednesday. This morning we had snow.

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It was pretty for the short time it lasted… soon to be washed away by rain. Then there was a period of sunshine. All the seasons in one day.

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The rain has been so constant this Winter…it wears one down. So hard for farmers and animals not to mind the folks whose homes have been flooded here in Ireland and in England. Visiting Tipperary last week it was amazing to see lakes where they never were. At least the Swans are happy.

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Great article in The Guardian newspaper today about this whole topic. You can read it here  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/13/flooding-public-spending-britain-europe-policies-homes

In the article George Monbiot talks about how European Union agricultural policies are adding to the flooding woes. I presume the same policies apply here in Ireland.

“Water sinks into the soil under trees at 67 times the rate it sinks into the soil under grass. The roots of the trees provide channels down which the water flows deep into the ground.”

I always believed trees were an important part of protecting the land but this is an astonishing fact to contemplate. The message is clear…planting trees helps protect our Planet.

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Further into the article it is revealed that if you are to receive your Single Farm Payment (from European Union), the largest component in farm subsidies, the land has to be free of  “unwanted vegetation.” This includes tree cover.

So…with no trees and shrubs to slow down the rain run off it all flows straight down the hills…probably taking topsoil with it…into the rivers and into the towns and villages causing….yes! you’ve guessed it…flooding.

I’m sure you’ll all agree that it’s crazy to be driving landowners into removing tree cover from land. It leaves the land without shelter for wildlife and farm animals not to mind the damage to the land itself. I think the people in Brussels who devise these policies need some new advisors…preferably ones with some love of the Planet and maybe an interest in Permaculture…as opposed to a love of money. Production is their only goal…and it seems like it’s damn the consequences.

How many Planet’s do you need?

21 Aug

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Apparently yesterday was Earth Overshoot Day, the day when humanity exhausts Nature’s budget for the year. From this day forward, the Planet will be operating under an ecological deficit, using more resources than the Planet  can produce and emitting more carbon dioxide than the Planet can filter out.

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Originally developed by the New Economics Foundation…who I admit I’d never heard of…Earth Overshoot Day has been falling by a few days earlier each year…an indication of ever-increasing patterns of consumption. In 1993 Earth Overshoot Day fell on October 21st. In 2003, it fell on September 22nd.

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For us to continue consuming resources as we are 1.5 Earth’s are needed. The US, China and Qatar are among the worst offenders. If everyone lived like your typical suburban American it would take four Earth’s to support the population. To live a lifestyle like the residents of Qatar 6.5 Earth’s would be required.

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If you go to the site where I got all this info http://www.earthday.org/blog/2013/08/20/earth-overshoot-day-2013 you can calculate your ecological footprint.  I was shocked to find that even though we don’t eat meat or fish…recycle all that we can…grow a lot of our own veg…it would still take 2 planets per year for us to continue as we are. The questions were obviously set for the typical American lifestyle as there was no option for solid fuel heating…no option for alternative energy systems…no option for buying from charity shops or farmer’s markets.  So I don’t really buy the 2 Planets result but still it provided food for thought. I’m sure we could all do more in our everyday lives to ease the pressure on our Planet.  Food for thought indeed…

Go on… do the survey…I dare you.

Monsanto vs. Mother Earth.

10 Aug

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A few nights ago I watched a documentary on TG4…Ireland’s Irish language channel…about the effect Monsanto has had on agriculture in India.  I had read something of this but this programme really spelled out just how evil this company is and has been in it’s attempt to murder India’s agriculture. The main GM crops grown in India are cotton and rice.  Cotton is a very important crop for Indian’s farmers. Actually most of the world’s cotton comes from India. The farmers were promised higher yields and better quality cotton. However…the seed are much more expensive than indigenious varieties and they will not perform without copious amounts of extra pesticides and extra water. Farmers were not told this at the beginning. They end up in a spiral of debt from which they can not escape. Gm cotton growers have 80% more debt. Many thousands of farmers have committed suicide leaving their families in dire straits.

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Of course these are terminator technology seeds so new seed must be purchased every year. Monsanto has bought up many of the Indian seed companies so there is little option left if farmers wish to return to using native seeds. Often the seed packets remain the same except for the little Monsanto logo in the bottom corner. A distinct disadvantage as most of the farmers are illiterate.

The remnants of these crops go on to do further damage to the farmers animals. The straw left over from rice and cotton is fed to animals. There have been many animal deaths after eating this GM straw. It is thought the animals can’t digest this food and it kills the bacteria in the rumen.

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Rice production has also been contaminated by GM seeds. In a country that boasted over 30,000 varieties of rice it is now reduced to around 150 varieties.  Golden Rice was supposed to be the new magic crop that provided Vitamin A which is deficient in the Indian diet. What the growers were not told was that 9kg of rice would have to be eaten daily to get your daily allowance of the vitamin.

There is however some fightback. Vandana Shiva the renowned environmentalist has set up Navdanya…a network of seed keepers and organic growers spread across 17  Indian states.

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Here in Europe we also need to be on our guard. Monsanto have been saying that they are going to withdraw from selling GM seeds in Europe….however….and this is very worrying…Monsanto are now using loopholes in European law to seek patents on common fruits and veg that exist naturally in Nature. It seems Monsanto is no longer content with with manipulating, patenting and selling it’s own GM seeds… it has as it’s goal the ownership of every plant in existence.   Please inform yourself and join over 2 million others in signing this petition:                                                  http://www.avaaz.org/en/monsanto_vs_mother_earth_nm/?bigwYcb&v=26065

Sadly here in Ireland we are not GM free either. GM potatoes are being trailed in Carlow this year and all non-organic animal feeds have a percentage of GM maize…this is not stated on the labels in the supermarket.  Make no mistake every country on the Planet is under assault from this powerful corporation. Sadly our governments are working with them.  In America this is blatantly obvious. The Deputy Commissioner of the FDA…Michael Taylor…is a former vice president of Monsanto. Does’nt seem right to me!!

What can we do? We can let the supermarkets know we do not want produce that has GM residues. Ask them about GM labelling.  Grow as much as we can ourselves from organic seeds. Save the seeds of crops that do well…they will be acclimatised to your area.

Be vigilant…the assault on Mother Earth is ongoing…we must do what we can to help her.

Water, water everywhere…for now.

26 Jul

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After a great stretch of good weather Ireland is back to it’s more usual Summer weather.  Rain showers interspersed with sunny periods. Life is back to normal…gardens are watered from the sky and all is fresh and green again. It did amuse me that after 15 days without rain a drought was declared. In a country with such high rainfall I find that odd. How come we have such low reserves of water?

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I lived the first 10 years of my life living in a house that didn’t have piped water. We had a pump in the yard which supplied all our water. Beautiful clear spring water came from the pump after a few up and downs of the handle. As children it was our job to bring water into the house in buckets.  Most of our neighbours at that time would have been the same so we saw nothing wrong with it. It did however give me a deep appreciation of water. It is something I do not waste. It is a treasure without which life on this planet could not continue.

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Listening to the radio a few days ago Duncan Stewart…eco archicect, environmentalist and broadcaster…presented a few interesting statistics about water:

Ireland imports 4.5 billion cubic metres of bottled water every year. In a land of rivers and springs I find that very strange. Think of all the plastic bottles required. Of course plastic comes from oil so that’s a huge contribution to oil consumption.

70% of Irish food is imported. This has huge implications for water consumption as a lot of food is produced in water stressed regions of the world such as the Middle East and North Africa. Israeli food crops are often produced on settled territories  using water which  rightly belongs to Palestine. An ethical dilemma we must all judge with our buying choices.

A power shower uses 150 litres of water in 5 minutes. No comparison was given with an ordinary shower but I assume the difference would be substantial.

40% of our piped water is lost through leaks in the system. Surely it would make sense to rectify that before looking to other solutions?

There was a lot more in the discussion but those were the main ones that struck me.

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Something which has struck me recently is how the rain in Ireland has changed. From mostly soft light showers it has changed to heavy, monsoon like downpours. Climate change has given us even more rain! For me the irony is what happens to this large amount of water? Of course a certain amount falls on land and bodies of water but rain that falls on buildings is usually directed into the sewerage systems. What a waste! All that lovely water from the sky is immediately contaminated in the sewers. Surely it would make sense to collect this water for use in the public supply systems?

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Two nights ago in Dublin there was torrential rain. Houses and businesses were flooded because the sewer couldn’t cope with the extra water. At present there is a plan to build a huge water reservoir in the Midlands to supply our capital city with water.  There’s also been murmurings about bringing water from the Shannon. Meanwhile untold amounts of water are flowing into the sewers. Surely it would be more cost effective to divert this water into reservoirs or other storage systems.?

We are lucky enough to have our own well supplying the house here in Lurgan. However we also collect water from the roof in a series of barrels at every corner of the house. This water is used to water the garden and polytunnel. Washing up is only done once a day. Dishes are piled neatly and all washed up in one go in the evening.  I hate to see people washing a cup under a running tap. Wasteful!

In the middle of all this water dilemna we have our government debating whether they will allow hydraulic fracking to proceed in Ireland. A process that uses millions of litres of water for every frack.  Not to mention what to do with all the resulting polluted water. Crazy!!

Water is a finite resource…all the water that will ever be is already on the planet.

“I believe water will be the defining crisis of our century, the main vehicle through which climate change will be felt…from droughts, storms, and floods to degrading water quality. We’ll see major conflicts over water; water refugees. We inhabit a water planet, and unless we protect, manage, and restore that resource, the future will be a very different place from the one we imagine today.”

Alexandra Cousteau

“Water is the driving force in nature.” Leonardo da Vinci.

“We never know the worth of water till the well runs dry.” Thomas Fuller.

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