Mute Swans preening themselves at the water’s edge (left); one of the many apple trees laden with fruit in the old walled orchard at Hope Castle (middle); the downy seed head of a Rosebay Willowherb which has colonised what used to be a sand bunker on the former 9-hole golf course near Hope Castle and Lough Muckno (right).
Daubenton’s Bat detected on survey of Clarebane River
Bats are a vital part of our native wildlife and an excellent indicator of the health of the natural world around us. Pat Merrick of Castleblayney Tidy Towns and Liam Murtagh of Transition Monaghan recently undertook a local survey of one of eleven species of bats in Ireland. Daubenton’s Bat, which is also known as the ‘water bat’ (or ‘ialtóg uisce’ in Irish) was detected at a number of points on the Clarebane River near Castleblayney. Liam now tells us more about this unusual bat and how they were detected.
We are used to bats flying around houses at dusk. The Daubenton’s Bat is not among such bats. You need to go to a river, lake or canal to find it. It is then easily recognised in flight by its low level flight a few centimetres above the surface of the water. It skims like a hovercraft above the water in search of caddisflies, mayflies and midges, and may even scoop prey from the water surface using its big feet. A Daubenton’s Bat can even swim if it makes a mistake and ends up in the water. It roosts in crevices in stone bridges and rocky outcrops. When bats go hunting, they use echolocation which is an ultrasonic sound, which we humans can’t hear. A bat detector facilitates us to eavesdrop on these hunting calls and it also helps us know that they are flying as it can be difficult to see them as darkness fall.
A Daubenton’s Bat in flight over a river
All bats in Ireland are protected species. Bat Conservation Ireland is an all-Ireland charity that promotes the conservation of bats and their habitats. In early July Monaghan Tidy Towns Network in association with Inniskeen Tidy Towns hosted a Daubenton’s Bat workshop in Inniskeen. The workshop was delivered by Dr Tina Aughney of Bat Conservation Ireland and attended by Tidy Towns volunteers. Those attending were briefed on how to conduct a local Daubenton’s Bat survey. A bat detector was supplied to each group of volunteer surveyors. The survey involved walking a 1km stretch of river on two nights in August – once at the start of the month, and once at the end – and stopping every 100m to observe the water for 4 minutes and counting the number of bats which pass low over the water’s surface. The survey can only commence at dusk – at least 40 minutes after sunset.
Bat detecting at the Clarebane River were Pat Merrick (left) and Liam Murtagh (right)
The survey of the Clarebane River involved us surveying a 1km of river downstream of the Water Extraction Works as the river emerges from Lough Muckno and as far as Clarebane Bridge which is near the border with Co Armagh. With the assistance of the bat detector and our torches we saw and heard a number of Daubenton’s Bats flying over the river. They were only present on the stretch of river close to the Water Works and on another stretch near the old stone Clarebane Bridge. We were relieved that we actually found some. The results of this survey are now being collated by Bat Conservation Ireland along with survey results being submitted from other parts of Ireland. The collated results will give a picture of how Daubenton’s Bats are faring nationally. For further information on bats see http://www.batconservationireland.org.
Collecting seed from our Native Trees
Pictured above is John McKeon (on ladder) along with some of 30 participants on Transition Monaghan’s Seed Saving event in Castleblayney on Sunday last. Seeds were collected from a number of our native trees and John then demonstrated ways of storing and sowing the seed.
A celebration and get together for the potato lovers and growers of Co. Monaghan, and surrounding counties, will take place again this year in Carrickmacross. Now in its second year, we are running this event to promote awareness of the humble spud, the Transition Town movement and of course promoting GIY in a fun and friendly competitive way. The final will be on Sunday, 11 September in Deery’s Bar & Lounge, Carrickmacross at 1pm.
Conan Connolly, the co- ordinator of this year’s spud off
is encouraging all local potato growers to enter!
On the day, growers will present their spuds to a panel of five blind – folded judges who will pick a winner based on taste and texture. The potatoes can either be boiled or steamed, and cannot have any added ingredients, including butter or salt. This growing / tasting competition is open to all local schools, community groups, and individual growers. It’s open to any growers who have grown their spuds in Co. Monaghan. It’s a bit of fun, and we really want to encourage a sense of camaraderie among growers and encourage people to take up growing their own veg. No experience is required to grow potatoes. Not only is growing your own food good for local sustainability, there’s no better way to get your food than pick it straight from your garden or allotment, knowing exactly where it has come from and what has (or hasn’t) been added to the soil. What’s more, working in the garden is great for your mental health, with experts saying that working in the soil can help fight against depression and anxiety.
There are loads more hints tips and tricks out there and other growers are only too keen to talk about spuds and hear ways to improve their flavour, texture and yield. Seamus McEnaney from Castleblayney was last year’s champion.
To find out about the rules of the competition go to http://www.transitionmonaghan.org or Transition Monaghan’s Facebook page or alternatively email email@example.com or tel Conan Connolly at 086 0641864. Please get in touch and enter. Entries cost €10 and all proceeds go towards the voluntary efforts of Transition Monaghan.
Dermot’s first step was the ‘Conversion Course’
Despite coming from a non-farming background, Dermot McNally has always had an interest in horticulture and in all things agricultural. With this in mind, he recently completed the Organic Production Principles intensive 25-hour course. It’s a requirement for anyone hoping to avail of the Government supports for organic farming. Here he tells us more about his introduction to farming organically.
Since the children came along, my wife and I have made a special effort to buy fresh locally produced organic food and it would be great to see more of this available in Co Monaghan. I wanted to see whether I could play a part in this local production and this curiosity took me to Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim and to the National Organic Skillsnet training centre for a Conversion Course over two weekends. Our trainer was a South African born farmer based in Leitrim who left us in no doubt of the need to for all involved to check the economic viability and market opportunities for organic production before they get involved.
The course took place over two weekends with classes held on the Friday evening and Saturday mornings. Farm walks are held on the Saturday afternoons and attendance at all sessions is compulsory. The course is QQI/FETAC certified, costs €220 and in my case it was certainly money well spent.
We heard all about the origins and history of organic production and as well as the principles that underpin the organic approach. We learned about interpreting the organic standards (and penalties for breaches) and how to complete an organic conversion plan. Each trainee’s ideas and plans fed into the creation of their own business plan to assess feasibility. A large section was devoted to analysis of soil, soil make up, and enrichment and protection of soil; good soil gives good produce and without this, farming will be difficult.
Any organic product sold in Ireland must by law display a certification symbol or number. Two certifying bodies for Irish organic producers are Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA) and The Organic Trust. IOFGA certifies the organic integrity of foodstuffs, produce, and products for farmers, growers, food processors, wholesalers, traders, and retailers. The Organic Trust Organic certifies professional organic producers, processors and distributors.
IOFGA Certification Symbol The Organic Trust Certification Symbol
So what are the requirements to meet the organic standards? The list of standards is extensive but a selection are as follows: cattle in slated houses must be given more space and access to solid area to lie down upon. Antibiotics can be used in certain circumstances to treat sick livestock under strict conditions (such as longer withdrawal periods). There are maximum and minimum Livestock Units per Hectare permitted (with the minimum being .5 LU/Hec).
As a general rule all chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides are forbidden; however, farmers who are experiencing extreme difficulties (for example due to a widespread outbreak of a particular disease) can apply for a derogation to their Organic Certification body. The derogation is an exemption to the rules and must be sought in advance of implementation and the awarding of that derogation is at the discretion of the certification body. Because organic certification involves a thorough record keeping system to ensure traceability in the supply chain, farmers must plan ahead to purchase farming inputs (especially in the way of livestock, seed etc) to ensure availability when needed.
The aspects of the course which I found most beneficial were the general discussions and the farm walks where we went to see organic farms and speak to the farmer. The walks raised examples of good methodology in practice and all of the trainees were hugely impressed by the quality of the livestock and pastures. Two organic farmers that we met were reasonably self-sustainable – all fertilisers such farmyard manures/slurry and animal feeds were from on-farm sources which increased their margins and reduced their need to travel off farm to make purchases. I would say that a good level of understanding of conventional farming is almost a prerequisite for anyone considering the course and some terminology /techniques were new to me.
To conclude then, organic farming could be summarised by saying that it is agriculture at a level that the land can support without chemical inputs, widespread in conventional farming. There are those who feel that certified organic farming doesn’t go far enough in terms of being fully sustainable but without doubt it’s a huge step in the right. I have still more research to do to decide if it’s the right decision for me but I don’t feel put off by what I learned on the course. NOTS can be contacted on 071 9640688, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This September, a number of Christian churches in Ireland along with Christians in other countries will celebrate the natural world and consider ways to decrease their ecological footprint, in a celebration known as ‘Creation Time’. From 1st of September to the Feast of St Francis on the 4th of October, Christians will explore better ways to relate to the natural world in all areas of their lives, from how they worship, live and work, to their property and finance management, community outreach and contact with the developing world.
Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI) is promoting this initiative in Ireland, which has been running since 2008. ECI is an inter-church grouping that promotes the ecological messages in the practices of Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches as well as the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Ireland. Sr Catherine Brennan, the Catholic representative on the Eco-Congregation Ireland committee has written an article for Intercom Magazine on Creation Time 2016.
Sr Catherine Brennan, Eco-Congregation Ireland
Pope Francis has instituted the 1st September as an annual World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation. The day of prayer, the Pope said, will give individuals and communities an opportunity to implore God’s help in protecting creation and an opportunity to ask forgiveness “for sins committed against the world in which we live.” The Pope said in his statement announcing the day: “As Christians we wish to contribute to resolving the ecological crisis which humanity is presently experiencing. In doing so, we must first rediscover in our own rich spiritual patrimony the deepest motives for our concern for the care of creation.”
The climate and biodiversity crises that are causing and likely to cause considerable loss of human life in many countries is largely driven by actions in the developed countries. Efforts are now needed at all levels in all faiths to focus on the moral dimension of this – the greatest challenge facing humanity. To date the topic has seldom been referred to by local clergy and other representatives of various faith groups in Ireland and other developed countries. Exceptions to this have been the Eco-Congregation grouping, Trocaire (the aid agency supported by the Irish bishops), the Methodist Church and various orders of religious sisters. Some individuals like the Columban priest and author Fr Sean McDonagh who is based in Navan and worked in the Philippines have also been to the fore in highlighting the impact of climate change and the urgent need for a ‘greening’ of the Church.
The Creation Time initiative will, it is hoped, prompt parishes in the various Christian churches to discuss the climate issue and develop some local initiatives. Essentially such initiatives need to be awareness raising and actions on reductions of emissions. They also could address in some small way the climate justice issue of people in the developing world suffering the effects of drought and other severe weather events due to climate change. Issues of hunger and malnutrition in various communities have been highlighted by Trocaire in their recent campaign on ‘The Burning Question’ (on climate justice) and on their ‘Africa Food Crisis Appeal’ as millions of people across eastern and southern Africa are in urgent need of food and water due to the worst drought in decades. Millions of people across east and southern Africa are in urgent need of food and water due to the worst drought in decades.Millions of people across east and southern Africa are in urgent need of food and water due to the worst drought in decades.Millions of people across east and southern Africa are in urgent need of food and water due to the worst drought in decades.
The Clogher Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Group (JPIC) earlier this year launched a proposal for an initiative entitled ‘Clogher Caring for Our Common Home. The focus of the proposal is on putting the message of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, into effect in the Diocese of Clogher through action on awareness raising, church infrastructure and liturgy.
(Transition Monaghan’s Liam Murtagh is also a committee member of Clogher JPIC)
Visions can mobilise communities, countries and global networks to deliver extraordinary outcomes. ‘Visions 2100’ is a book and movement headed by Australian native John O’Brien which urges people from all over the world to think about what kind of world they hope for or envisage by the year 2100. On Monday, 25 July Jennifer Mc Aree, Chrissie Walker and Liam Murtagh of Transition Monaghan attended a ‘Visions 2100’ event at An Taisce’s headquarters in Tailors’ Hall, Dublin. Jennifer elaborates below.
Jennifer Mc Aree
As well as collating material and publishing ‘Visions 2100’ as a book, John O’Brien organised four global events in Singapore, Edinburgh, London and Dublin, to promote and spread the word for his inspiring idea. The book is a compilation of short paragraphs from 80 leading environmental thinkers and influencers from across the globe, including our own Mary Robinson – former Irish President, founder of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice and current United Nations (UN) Special Envoy on Climate Change. Each author was asked to write about what they predict for our planet at the turn of the next century. While many describe a hopeful, positive future where there is greater equality, less focus on materialism, improved living conditions for the world’s impoverished people and a healthier environment, others do not.
Pictured at the Visions 2100 event were, from left, Dr Cara Augustenbourg (Friends of the Earth), John O’ Brien (author of Visions 2100), Phil Kearney (An Taisce) and John Gibbons (environmental journalist)
Irish journalist and environmentalist John Gibbons, who spoke at the Dublin event, painted a somewhat negative picture of what kind of world humans will inhabit in 2100. In just over 80 years’ time, he envisages that if we continue living as we do and exacerbating climate change, there will only be 50 million people left on the planet out of our current population of 7.4 billion – that is one person for every 140 of us living now! John emphasised that we continue to act for the short term, and that in most countries (including Ireland) there has been no longer term vision put in place. Essentially he believes we must urgently move to a low carbon economy, away from fossil fuel reliance and intensive modern agriculture.
Dr. Cara Augustenbourg, scientist and environmental campaigner based at UCD, was a little more optimistic. Like John Gibbons, she focused on agriculture and lamented at our government’s failure to tackle the issue of greenhouse gas emissions from the sector. However she proposed an alternative method to what we have now, giving the example of Cuba and its focus on community food production. There, many people grow vegetables locally and sell their produce at nearby markets – therefore it remains organic, cheap and convenient. In doing this Cubans naturally consume less meat and dairy and so remain healthier, despite being less well off than most other nations in the Western world. She said we can act on the climate issue now. Governments have to lead change, but there must be a system change, where local people power overtakes international corporate power.
Aideen O’Hora, founder of ‘Sustainable Nation’ referred to the poem ‘Epic’ by Monaghan’s own Patrick Kavanagh. It describes how parochial, yet important local views can be. Aideen linked this with the global issue of climate change. Rapidly rising temperatures are causing drought and water shortages in certain nations, so that millions will be displaced and forced to move to safer countries, while millions more will die from starvation and war. These are challenging predictions to face up to, but they are very real and will become more apparent over the coming decades unless action is taken right now.
Finally, barrister and former Minister for Energy Alex White spoke frankly about his struggles in government to make positive changes to Irish energy policy. He acknowledged that a lot of people still need to be persuaded about the imminence of climate change and to do something about it. He described the reluctance of those in power to act as ‘benign procrastination’. He stressed the need for national engagement; that it needs to be continuous, not just sporadic, in order to drive the message on climate change home.
This was a worthwhile event and the speakers painted a future of major challenges that we all need to play our part in addressing. What do you think Monaghan and the world will be like in 2100? Why not write it in less than 200 words and have it featured on the http://www.visions2100 website?
Last week we discussed the impact of greenhouse gas emissions (carbon from burning fossil fuels and methane from cattle). They are causing an increase in global temperatures and we are witnessing the correlating catastrophic results. This week, Transition Monaghan’s Dearbhla Lenehan takes a look at what we in Ireland need to do in tackling the greatest challenge facing us, our children and grandchildren.
Ireland releases 160,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every day! This equates to over 58 million tonnes a year! Our agriculture sector contributes to over one third of these emissions, which is the largest contribution from any sector, followed by energy (22%), transport (19%), industry and commercial (15%), residential (10%) and waste (2%). In Paris last December, Ireland along with 194 other countries signed an agreement to reduce their emissions, ensuring a less than 2°C increase in global temperature by the end of this century. Under an existing EU agreement, Ireland must, by 2020 reduce our carbon emissions by 20% compared to 2005 levels or else face massive fines. If we and other high emitting countries don’t take radical action to cut our emissions, we are passing the death sentence on millions of people living in the developing world, whose suffering will only intensify through extreme droughts and other severe weather events.
Ireland won’t achieve 2020 targets
The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that Ireland won’t reach our 2020 target and realistically will only reduce our emissions by 6-11% rather than 20%. Instead of the sharp reductions we are legally mandated to achieve, transport is set to increase its emissions by up to 16% and agricultural emissions will climb 7% higher than 2014 levels. This will result in massive fines for Ireland of between €600,000 million and €1 billion. Wouldn’t it make more sense to invest this into our transport system, energy efficiency and reducing our agriculture emissions instead?
Can we achieve the 2030 targets?
Following on from our 2020 targets the EU Commission stated that we must further reduce our emissions by 30% compared to 2005 levels by 2030. Seeing as we are already falling well behind in our targets for 2020 it seems inevitable that there will be a continuation of this trend for 2030.
Dr Barry McMullin of DCU says we must reduce our transport emissions by 30%, to do this we need to reduce commuting by non-electric cars occupied by only one person from 5 days to 3.5 days per week. Of course the Government needs to incentivise and promote carpooling, electric cars and using public transport, cycling and walking, but we too must take it upon ourselves to instigate our own change, big or small.
The reduction of cars on our roads would also have a dramatic effect in reducing air pollution around our neighbourhoods, towns and cities. Air pollution is linked to various respiratory diseases such as; emphysema, bronchitis and asthma. According to the World Health Organisation, reducing air pollution can also reduce the risk of strokes, heart disease and lung cancer.
Challenge for Irish agriculture
Globally, the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture is 10-12%, however, here in
Ireland due to our large beef and dairy herds our emissions are over 30%. In Ireland we are proud of our beef and dairy produce. However, it comes at a cost; farmers’ incomes are under pressure and so they are aiming to produce more dairy and beef and therefore, release more emissions.
Nevertheless, there are small changes farmers can make that would drastically reduce their emissions such as; lengthening grazing season, applying slurry in cooler conditions and low sunlight, improving nitrogen efficiency on farms and planting forests. Actions to reduce agricultural emissions are contained in a new report entitled ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’ (see noticeboard for details).
Environmental groups ‘Stop Climate Chaos’ and the ‘Environmental Pillar’ have responded in a another report entitled ‘Not so Green’. They rebut “the often-misleading array of claims made in relation to the supposed climate, social and ecological sustainability of the Irish agri-food sector”. They also challenge the argument that afforestation presents a viable option to offset emissions from agriculture. Greater emphasis they say should be placed on protecting our peatlands than promoting afforestation in areas that are already good carbon sinks and important for biodiversity. However, with Minister Heather Humphreys recently publishing legislation to de-designate 46 raised bogs, allowing these bogs to be cut for turf further shows that the Government is not tackling our emissions and biodiversity crisis.
A Zero Carbon County Monaghan?
All of us in County Monaghan have a role to play in reducing emissions. We could improve insulation levels in our homes and buildings to save energy and money. We could cut back on our driving and flying and use buses more often as well as buying fewer products which had a lot of carbon used in their production and transportation.
Local communities and local authorities such as Monaghan County Council can lead the way in emissions reduction by developing action plans now so as to ensure that we in Monaghan become a zero carbon county before it’s too late.
A new short documentary (30 mins) from Trocaire explores the links between the current drought in Africa and fossil fuel consumption in the West. The film is available on YouTube. For a link to it see http://www.trocaire.org/getinvolved/climate-justice.