Pesticides Silencing Nature

MAN’S WAR AGAINST NATURE IS A WAR AGAINST HIMSELF

Prophetic predictions made in 1962 by Rachel Carson about the ecocidal effects of pesticide are sadly being proven by modern science, according to Transition Monaghan’s Dermot McNally. Carson’s book, Silent Spring, documented the adverse environmental effects caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides. At the time of its printing, her book was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, but, owing to public opinion, it brought about numerous policy changes. It was clearly not enough. A recent publication detailing the results of long term research in Japan makes frightening reading.

JAPANESE RESEARCH

Japanese scientists were able to prove a sudden collapse in insect and plankton numbers in lakes after “neonicotinoid pesticides” were used on rice paddies. Smelt and eel populations soon fell dramatically as their direct food source disappeared. Prof Olaf Jensen, at Rutgers University in the US said the work provided “compelling evidence” that the use of such unnatural chemicals are destroying nature, affecting entire food webs. It’s worth noting that similar levels of neonicotinoid pesticides have been found in rivers in the UK and the likelihood is that Ireland’s watercourses are similarly affected.

What makes the Japanese research different is that it’s the first to prove the knock-on effects of  /insecticides on fish. But studies carried out throughout the globe point to similar consequences in other natural environments: the use of poisons has caused die offs in species such as mayflies, dragonflies and snails. Knock on declines are evident in the birds that feed on such insects. Indeed insecticides have been shown to disorientate migratory birds natural cycles that have existed for millennia.

To quote environmentalist and campaigner Matt Shardlow: “Japan has had a tragic experience with nerve-agent insecticides. In the paddy fields, where the air once thrummed with the clatter of billions of dragonfly wings, these insecticides have imposed near silence.”

SILENCING PROTEST

What makes this story even more unbearable is that Rachel Carson, and many other environmentalists were often ostracised from the scientific community for challenging the status quo. However, in developing nations in poorer parts of the world, murder is common to silence the protests of those who seek to restrict profits. Scientific American recently asserted that environmental activists often have higher death rates than soldiers in these poorer countries. The Guardian reported that almost four defenders of nature were murdered a week in 2017.

Here in the “civilised west” the malignant influence of the huge and powerful producers of chemical products is still at play in less overtly violent ways. The neonicotinoid market is valued annually at $3bn, giving these firms massive leverage to fund so called “think tanks” and commission doctored “scientific” reports. A lack of foresight by Governments helped compound the problem: Governments have gradually reduced the funding provided to Universities to carry out independent studies which would have challenged the madness sooner. And so up until now, the lack of genuine independent research was regularly filled by the vested interests, who produced reports to further their own ends: sales and profits, all the while allowing the natural world to suffer.

CHALLENGE AND OBJECT

Even today, Europe is polluted by lobbyists (funded by vested interests) to ensure EU policy remains weak and ineffective in stopping ecocide. Closer to home we can see the results of this calculated brainwashing in creating an agricultural production system heavily reliant on chemical inputs. Our educationalists and in turn our farmers have been sold a pup and are now facing into the thin end of the wedge. Our farmers find themselves as vulnerable commodity producers who starve while creating vast profits for the huge organisations that supply chemically based products. Indeed, ten years ago many farmers and agriculturalists genuinely believed that agricultural production without chemical fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides was impossible. Thankfully organic growers are proving this myth wrong.

What can we do? Challenge and object to the ad-hoc and unnecessary use of herbicides (weed killers), pesticides in our communities, schools and places of work. Many in Ireland have developed an unhealthy obsession with “tidiness” which results in the regular spraying of poisons on roadside verges and even graveyards. It’s time for us all to rethink our approach and push back against ecocide.

ACTION WE CAN TAKE: Mary Reynolds is a reformed Irish landscape designer, author of ‘The Garden Awakening’ and nature activist who started a movement called We Are The Ark. An Ark is a restored, native ecosystem. It’s a thriving patch of native plants and creatures that have been allowed to re-establish themselves in a process of natural restoration. We can make space for and encourage Arks in our own environments, and in this way we can support Nature’s urge to heal herself [www.wearetheark.org].

NOTICEBOARD

YOUTH ASSEMBLY RECOMMENDATIONS ANNOUNCED: “We, the youth of Ireland, call on our elected representatives and on adults to listen. We put forward our Recommendations for action to stop climate breakdown. We are NOT experts. In our Recommendations we offer ideas, but we do NOT have all the answers. It is a starting point for adults and particularly for those elected to protect and progress our society.” (1) put glass doors on open refrigerators; (2) ban the importation of fracked gas and invest in renewables; (3) eco-sustainable and affordable Irish goods; (4) tiered tax on emissions from large companies, shifting the burden from individuals to corporations; (5) investment in industrial hemp processing; (6) labelling and pricing system showing climate impact of food products; (7) outlaw acts of ecocide; (8) protect existing forests and dedicate at least 10% of agricultural land to forestry; (9) nationwide information campaign about the climate crisis; (10) mandatory sustainability education from primary level to the workplace.

Notices with a County Monaghan focus

Transition Monaghan will be hosting a traditional skills workshop by Wild Awake on 7 December. See Transition Monaghan Facebook page for details.

Local Link Bus Services Review: A review of the performance of the Local Link bus services ‘M1 Tydavnet’ and ‘M2 Ballybay’ is currently underway. Community groups are being asked for views on the services to be sent to cm@locallink.ie.

N2 Road Schemes Public Consultation Period Extended: Final date for submissions for the N2 Clontibret to Border Road Scheme is Thurs, 5 December and for the N2 Ardee to Castleblayney Road Scheme it is Thurs, 19  December. Members of the public can contact the project phoneline on 087 340 3786. Documents available at N2MonaghanLouth.ie.

Funding for projects for young people: Leader funding is available for projects that provide new experiences and opportunities for our young people. For details contact Gareth Watters in Monaghan Integrated Development, email gwatters@midl.ie.

Historic Structures Fund 2020 and Built Heritage Investment Scheme 2020: Monaghan County Council is inviting applications for these schemes. Closing date for applications: 31st January. Details at monaghan.ie/news.

Glaslough Tidy Towns Christmas Craft Fair:  Sunday, 24 November, 11am – 5pm in the Oakland Centre, Glaslough.

Busy Bee Ceramics Christmas Decorations (All Ages): Sunday, 24 November, 2-3.30pm, Glaslough. Tel 086 106 0738 or email brenda@busybeeceramics.ie.

Monaghan Farmers Market: Every Friday, 10am – 2pm Church Square, Monaghan.

Other Notices

Armagh Georgian Festival: Wednesday, 27 November to Saturday, 1 December. See visitarmagh.com.

Inspiring Sustainable Tourism: Wednesday, 27 November in Croke Park. Ecotourism Ireland’s  inaugural conference.  See ecotourismireland.ie

System Change for a Just Transition (Seminar & Action Series): The topic of the next event (Mon, 25 November, 7-9pm) will be Energy Democracy. See ‘Activist Trainings’ at  foe.ie for details.

ECO-UNESCO’s Young Environmentalist Awards (YEA) 2020 now open for registration: This is an environmental awards programme that recognises young people who raise awareness and improve the environment. Details at yea.ie.

While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of notices, it is recommended that readers check relevant websites for up-to-date information. A listing is not necessarily an endorsement by Transition Monaghan.

The Transition Network is a movement of communities coming together to re-imagine and re-build our world through a process of creating healthy human culture. The movement has been growing since 2005. It is about communities stepping up to address the big challenges they face by bringing their focus back to “local” and imagining creative solutions together. Transition communities encourage a culture of caring; one focused on connection with self, with others and with nature.

Transition Monaghan is a voluntary community initiative promoting local and global sustainability. See transitionmonaghan.org. Also, on Facebook. Email: transitionmonaghan@gmail.com

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