What will Monaghan’s Climate look like in the future?

On the 6th January, 1839, 175 years ago, Co Monaghan and the rest of Ireland experienced a hurricane. The 1993 book ‘The Big Wind’ by Peter Carr describes in detail the devastation caused. The  Northern Standard carried reports  in its first edition which was just published just four days later.  Our recent storms have not been quite as severe as the one in 1839. Nevertheless it has focused our attention on the type of weather that  climate scientists are predicting that we will experience  in the  coming years. 

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Watch Disruption and join The People’s Climate Movement

The number of activists and citizens across the world calling bluff on the fossil fuel industry and demanding radical action on climate change. The temperature is rising ahead of the New York Climate Summit. In advance of this summit, people are urged to join in the People’s Climate Mobilisation for a Global Day of Action, wherever in the world they are. The idea is to have simultaneous marches and gatherings across the globe, to send a clear and unavoidable signal to the world’s elite that we demand action!

In Dublin, members of the public are invited to attend the Climate Picnic on Sunday 21 Septembe from 12 – 2pm at the Band Stand, St. Stephen’s Green. Bring some sandwiches, bring banners, bring your friends!

The short film Disruption charts the urgency of the climate movement, and how we can come together to pressurise the world’s leaders to do the right thing for their children’s future.

As Bill Mc Kibbon, author and founder of 350.org stated that the fossil fuel industry is “a rogue industry. It’s an industry if whose business plan is followed to the letter, it will wreck the planet. Once you know that, then you know that these are now illegitimate business plans.”

Members of Transition Monaghan will be in attendance on the day. If  you would like to join us or meet us there on the day please e-mail transitionmonaghan@gmail.com

This is the cause of our time. Make sure your voice is counted!

Oil & Gas Debate: Where do our priorities lie?

The current dispute between Russia and the Ukraine has once again drawn attention to  the dependency of Europe on gas from Russia. Nowhere is this more relevant than Ireland, where we import roughly 90% of our fossil fuels. Mícheál Callaghan went along to a recent Prime Time debate on Oil & Gas exploration in Ireland.

USA fracked landscape on left, with visible oil wells. Will parts of Irish country side look similar?

USA fracked landscape on left, with visible oil wells. Will parts of Irish country side look similar?

Increased flooding, extreme weather, rising fuel prices. The signs are all around of us of the need for a break from fossil fuels. We are told that Ireland could be the Saudia Arabia of the green energy world. Despite this, the Prime Time debate on Tuesday 11th March in relation to Oil and Gas exploration in Ireland did not once mention climate change. On the panel were Eddie Hobbs, Richard Boyd Barrett TD, Minister for Energy & Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte and David Horgan of Petrel Resources. The debate largely focused on what tax rate should be charged on any finds of oil and gas off the coast of Ireland. While this is indeed an important discussion to have, all sides seemed to agree that if reserves were found they should be exploited, with Pat Rabitte even questioning the sense of leaving it in the ground.

It is now recognised in climate science, that if we are to avoid the critical threshold of 2 degrees of warming we can only ‘afford’ to exploit one fifth of the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves. Therefore, it would seem clear that the future of the planet and a stable climate would depend on resources being left in the ground and alternative, cleaner sources of energy being favoured.

Closer to home , the possibility of shale gas being exploited in the process of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ is being investigated in Counties Fermanagh, Leitrim & Cavan. If fracking were to be given the go ahead in these areas, this could result in significant environmental destruction of the area and pollution to the water table. At present.

In the Republic, the government has put in place a moratorium of the granting of new licenses for fracking, pending further studies.

Fracking involves drilling up to 2km below the surface to access shale gas trapped in rock. Water, chemicals and sand are pumped at high pressure under the rock to create cracks in the rock, to access the gas, which is then pumped up to the fracking wells on the surface.

According to Robert Emmet Hernan, author of The Borrowed Earth, Irish farmers should be deeply concerned about fracking. He cites the risk of groundwater and surface pollution from the chemicals used in fracking, dangers from trucks carrying chemicals and hazardous waste on country roads, as well as general threat to quality of life by greater industrialisation brought by fracking as concerns that farmers and rural dwellers alike should have. He also raises concerns about competition for water resources. Fracking requires between 2.4 to 7.8 million gallons of water per well, according to assessment in New York.

Fracking has caused controversy in the USA, with claims that leakages and poor regulation leading to high methane levels in water supplies, as well as issues around the disposal of the highly toxic waste materials. There has also been a link between fracking and seismic activity. An earthquake of magnitude 3.0 on the richter scale has been linked to fracking in Ohio.

With the upcoming local and European elections, Friends of the Earth are calling on people to prompt their candidates and public representatives about fracking to find out their stance on the issue.

Over all, there are many worrying issues that are still unclear about fracking. Above all else, if we are serious about combatting climate change and leaving a stable future for generations to come it is about time we start leaving the oil in the soil!

Developing Community Resilience

Co Monaghan was lucky to escape the worst effects of  last week’s storm that hit the whole country.  Developing community resilience is now regarded as important in helping deal with various types of emergencies that affect communities.

Floods at Lough Muckno

While we had a few fallen trees and slates from the recent storm, there was  unfortunately  the loss of of person’s life in the Midlands. For some people in other parts of Ireland there were power outages for a few days while others were left with no telephone or broadband services.   The utility companies and some local authority and emergency services staff had to come out in the adverse weather to respond to the urgent situations that had arisen.

So what happens if communities are faced with emergencies be they from a natural or manmade diaster.  A lot depends on the level of ‘community resilience’. ‘Cultivate’, the practical sustainability organisation, which is based in Cloughjordan, has been working on ways that community resilience can be developed.  Davie Philip of Cultivate defines community resilience as the capability of communities to hold together, learn, adapt and maintain their ability to function in response to change. These changes can be sudden or slowly evolving. Davie sees the biggest challenge being our mind-set. Most of us don’t realise that we are never more than three days from running out of food – except you might only have a few days extra in your cupboard.   Co-sufficiency rather than self-sufficiency is advocated. He sees the GIY (Grow it Yourself) movement and the increasing number of allotment projects as very welcome as they are examples of ways in which more people can have their own local food and also the skills to produce it – and so be more resilient. Developing community resilience can also be an enjoyable experience as people come together to share various skills and enjoy the fun and celebrations that form part of community projects.

The online UK book ‘Exploring Resilience in times of Rapid Change’ is a useful resource for communities looking at community resilience. It draws on the experience of emergency responses such as in the case of Hurricane Katrina in the US and explores the development of four key features of resilient communities: (1) healthy and engaged people. (2) an inclusive culture creating a positive sense of place.(3) a localising economy – towards sustainable food, shelter, housing shelter etc. (4) strong links to other places and communities.  In recent years the use of social media has also been found to be extremely useful in helping communities in emergency situations.

In emergencies, individuals and of course our national and local authorties also have  important roles to play. In a severe storm,  individuals and families can be without power for many days.  Heating and cooking become impossible or at least challenging for many of us. If we have a gas cooker or solid fuel stove (with no back boiler) it means we can boil some water. In order to be prepared for a storm it is advisable to have roof slates checked and also to a arrange for a professional assessment of tall trees that are near the house or roadside to see that  they are not likely to be blown down in a storm.  There are useful tips on tree safety in the ‘Roads / Severe Weather Information’ section of the  Cork Co Council website www.corkcoco.ie. Detailed guidance on flooding can be found at www.flooding.ie while  www.winterready.ie has useful guidance on dealing with adverse winter weather in the following contexts:  home, road safety, health matters, schools, farming community and businesses.  Businesses are directed to the Forfás document on ‘Business Continuity Planning in Severe Weather’.

The national authorities and volunteer support workers also play a major role in responding to emergencies. The website www.emergencyplanning.ie details the Irish Government’s plans for dealing with major emergencies. In the North East there is an inter-agency Regional Steering Group that has been formed for the Major Emergency Region of the North East.  Monaghan Co Council has details on emergency planning on its website (under Fire & Building Control Section) including the ‘Preparing for Major Emergencies handbook’. In relation to the threat of a nuclear incident the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland’s website (www.rpii.ie) describes the National Plan for Nuclear Emergencies.

The ‘Emergency Planning Society’ (www.the–eps.org) is an international organisation of emergency planning professionals and it has a branch in Ireland.  Here in Ireland we also have our Civil Defence which in emergency situations supports Government agencies and the Emergency Services. It is a volunteer based organisation with 4,500 volunteers. For further details or to enquire about enrolling see www.civildefence.ie.

At various levels – be it at individual, family, community, business, local authority, national or international there is a need to have certain preparations in place to deal with emergencies. There are certain situations that we cannot prepare for. However there are ones, be they unexpected or slowly developing, that we can have certain strategies, plans, expertise, skills and resources in place to help our response ‘in the event of an emergency’.

Chasing Ice – Film Screening Nov 2013

On Thursday 6 November 2013, Monaghan Ecological Group hosted a free film screening of “Chasing Ice” in the Market House, Monaghan, at 7:30pm.

Chasing Ice is a compelling film which charts the work of photographer James Balog, who began tracking changes in Arctic Ice in 2005, by placing a number of cameras at different locations across the arctic. Through photographs and videos, Balog built up spectacular time lapse images and videos of changes to arctic sea ice, including the capturing of dramatic ice cavings, when large chunks of ice break off into the sea. The result is indisputable evidence of the dramatic pace of arcitc ice melt in recent years. The film provides moving and compelling evidence of man made climate change.

The evidence is in the ice!

Successful evening at “Celebrating Transition” (Aug 2013)


L – R: Liam Murtagh, Monaghan Ecological Group Committee Member, Mícheál Callaghan, co – founder, Davie Philip, Cultivate (Guest Speaker). Photo by Amie Hynes Fitzpatrick.

Over fifty people from across County Monaghan, and further afield, gathered, on Friday 23 August, in Ballybay Wetlands Centre for “Celebrating Transition”, a social & networking evening organised by Monaghan Ecological Group. Attendees, who represented a wide range of organisations, discussed and shared ideas, participated in informative break – out sessions and enjoyed a locally sourced buffet. The goal of the evening was to introduce people to the work and ethos of Monaghan Ecological Group, bring together local organisations and individuals working in the area of local sustainability and create a platform from which to build a strong movement for a positive, resilient future for County Monaghan.

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