It’s a grey day in the Burren and the birds are busy flittering around the pond in our Hares Corner. Great success was celebrated recently as over 7,000 trees were planted around Clare to make more space for nature; mini habitats to support wildlife in the Hares Corner project. Throughout Ireland work to restore habitats, hedgerows and wildlife corridors continues in the hope of addressing the biodiversity emergency our land use practices have caused. We have ravaged our natural environment only to realise that we are entirely dependent upon its thriving.
If the loud voices get their way every inch of land will be fought over to grow animal feed or biofuel in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Producers of neither will care much about the Hares Corner in their pursuit of profit. They will decimate every nook and cranny that nature has retreated to. Nor will they bring food security to the people of Ireland. As it stands 80% of the food consumed in Ireland is imported.
The myth that Ireland feeds the world must be busted. Ireland produces food with increasingly expensive inputs including chemical fertilizers and animal feed. This produce is sold on to those who can afford it and the profits do not always reach the farmer who put in most of the work and capital. With a looming global recession and famine in parts of the world it is questionable whether there will be an export market for Irelands meat and dairy. It’s even questionable whether people in Ireland will afford Irish produce. Perhaps it is time to pause and rethink.
What about animal welfare? The EU has been discussing proposals to freeze pigmeat because there is no market for it and this would be the solution that would allow business as usual. Will they add this year’s produce to the freezers if global supply remains stalled? How does that make sense? We also have thousands of dairy calves nobody wants. We have millions of livestock facing a famine yet we continue determined to pursue business as usual.
Instead of deciding whether we grow food, feed or fuel, is it time to consider how we can grow a sustainable mix of all three that can support our own population of people and animals as well as a sustainable export market? What if the true stewards of the land, those working with nature, were supported in regenerating the natural environment and producing food sustainably? Perhaps when the next crisis comes we won’t be left wondering how we will afford artificial fertiliser, petrol, winter fodder, feed, diesel and the rest. It will all be part of the natural cycle adapted to and in tune with our own local environment.
Do we really need all that biofuel? Where are all these “warmer homes” we’ve been working on for years? What about public transport? As I watch the flittering birds I dream of the day when we will have a public transport system that actually works for rural Ireland. I imagine it will be all I’ve ever wanted; regular, powered renewably, replace the need for commuting, affordable and capable of dodging the flying pigs.
Theresa O’Donohoe March 2022