What on Earth Can We Do for Earth Day 2016?

Tomorrow (Friday, 22 April) is Earth Day. It was first celebrated in 1970 and is now Earth earth dayDay is marked in almost 200 countries with events to demonstrate support for environmental protection and conservation. To coincide with Earth Day, the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change is scheduled to be signed tomorrow by the United States, China, and some 120 other countries. This signing satisfies a key requirement for the entry into force of the historic climate protection treaty.  One of events to mark Earth Day in Ireland will be an afternoon seminar in UCD on ‘Flooding and Climate Change’.

Earth Day comes at a time when nature is bursting forth in the northern hemisphere, while in the southern hemisphere Earth Day comes at harvest time. In Ireland our spring is a bit late this year, in spite of the fact that climate change has meant much higher than average monthly temperatures worldwide so far this year. Nevertheless the primroses have now eventually appeared to brighten our hedgerows, the aroma of wild garlic pervades our woodland, the swallows have returned to check out our barns and the tadpoles are swimming in our ponds.


Planting trees has been selected as the major international theme of Earth Day this year – The aim is to start on the first phase of planting 7.8 billion trees worldwide by 2020. Trees store carbon and worldwide, many more trees need to be planted to help slow the increasing pace of climate change.  Here in Ireland, a lot more land could be used to grow trees.

Those who don’t own land but have a garden could do a bit of tree planting this weekend. It is generally better to plant native trees such as oak or birch as opposed to non- native ones but account needs to be taken of the ultimate size of the tree and also if the soil is suitable for that tree.  Of course you could plant trees that have other benefits such as those that produce edible fruit (apple, plum etc.) or nut trees such as hazel. Bare-rooted trees are suitable for planting if they have not yet burst bud. Saplings that have been in pots for a year are also suitable for planting now.


Apart from tree planting there are many other activities that one could do in support of Earth Day.  Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Walk, cycle or take public transport instead of the travelling by car.
  • Help out with a local clean up, e.g. with a Tidy Towns Spring Clean effort.
  • Sow some vegetable seeds in your garden and then be able to enjoy eating your own vegetables – that have with no food miles – later this year.
  • Set up and use a compost bin in your back garden.
  • Decide to save energy by improving insulation levels in your home and look up the improved grants available under the Better Energy Homes scheme at http://www.seai.ie.
  • Become a citizen scientist on wildlife / biodiversity in County Monaghan. See http://www.biodiversityireland.ie or http://www.biology.ie.
  • Eat less meat
  • Stop using disposable plastic
  • Shop locally and if possible by local or Irish made produce
  • Donate to a charity that is helping those most in need around the world, e.g. by responding to the Equador Earthquake Appeal or the Migration Crisis Appeal by the Irish Red Cross (www.redcross.ie) or to the appeal by Concern to help with emergency food supplies in drought stricken Ethiopia and Malawi (www.concern.net)
  • Join an environmental organisation – preferably one that is campaigning on issues such as climate change and sustainability. See the list of member organisations of the Irish Environmental Network at http://www.ien.ie or come along to a meeting of Transition Monaghan. For details email transitionmonaghan@gmail.com.


For more information on Earth Day see http://www.earthday.org

Events on at end of April and in May can be found here

Woodland League Call for a Native ‘Treevolution’

“Must we wait another 100 years for native forest restoration” is the question posed by the lobby group, Woodland League. Making a serious commitment to restore our native forests as a living legacy for future generations would, according to Andrew St Leger of the League, be a fitting way to honour the men and women of 1916.

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Andrew St Leger of the Woodland League

The Woodland League, a not-for-profit Non-Governmental Organisation is drawing attention to the state of our forests in 2016. According to the League, forests are a most precious and valuable natural resource and in Ireland this great asset was stripped by the Crown from the 1500’s and much neglected since 1922 by successive Irish governments.

The League notes that in 2016 only 0.002% of our land area consists of ancient woodlands, and goes on to say that these ancient woodlands are “without management plans to conserve and protect them”.  Ireland has the lowest tree cover in the EU at 11%, and with only 1.25% native species, the least natural forest cover. Most of the forest estate is made up of “exotic conifers, of industrial tree farms reliant on hazardous chemicals to grow and heavy machines for clear-felling.”

Andrew  St Leger reminds us that in relation to Coillte forestry, the McCarthy Report of 2011  stated, “Its forest estate is very fragmented, consisting of 6,500 separate properties of which about half are considered commercial, one quarter potentially commercial with investment and one quarter have no commercial value”.

Numerous studies have shown the negative impacts of this forestry model on water and soil, as well as their contribution to flooding and silting up of rivers and streams.  The Woodland League spokesperson says that we need major reform of the current stagnant forestry policy that “only benefits the few”. He goes on to call for the State to commit to “a new community oriented model focused on transforming the unproductive areas, (where appropriate back to mixed native forests …as well as ensuring funding for the management and restoration of our ancient woodlands.

The Woodland League also wish to see a National Public Works plan drawn up to target flooding, biodiversity enhancement, river restoration, local fuel wood production for mini grid small scale energy projects, wood crafts, furniture making, training, recreation, meaningful employment, etc., creating viable useful community woodlands of mainly mixed native species.

Andrew St Ledger goes on to say that it is “time to stop pumping more public funding into this outdated tree farming model, and start investing in a forestry policy suited for the future with multiple benefits for all”. The funding for this new policy need not come from the public purse at all; provision already exists within the EU Rural Development funds whereby approx 60% of the funding measures relate to the type of sustainable forestry we are seeking.

If the Woodland League call is responded to we will make progress in reaching our EU and UN commitments to increase our forest cover to reach the EU average of 30%. We will also contribute to our climate change pledges to store more carbon in our forests.

The Woodland League invoke the words  of the Omagh poet Alice Milligan (1865 – 1953) a prominent member of the Gaelic League, an organisation instrumental in preparing the country for independence via restoration and awareness of the rich cultural and natural heritage.

Fallen in Eireann are all our leafy Forests,

The oaks lie buried under a bog land mould.
Only in legend dim are they remembered,
Only in ancient books their fame is told.
But seers who dream of times to come,
Have promised forests will rise,
Where perished these.
And of this desolate land,
It shall be spoken.
In Tirconnell of the territories,
There are trees.

Alice Milligan, 1908.

Events in April can be found here