Cli­mate in fo­cus at speakeatsy event

Irish Examiner - Farming - - COUNTRY LIVING - Oliver Moore oliv­er­moore.blogspot.com

What would ru­ral Ire­land look like with less live­stock? This is a ques­tion this colum­nist and UCD en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tist Dr Cara Au­gusten­borg will be grap­pling with on Satur­day, at the speakeatsy event in Cloughjor­dan. Speakeatsy is an evening time event, which brings to­gether po­etry, live mu­sic, a lo­cal food meal with a story to tell, and a con­ver­sa­tion with a noted ex­pert in a par­tic­u­lar area. With world soil day be­ing cel­e­brated, the IPCC’S most stark re­port yet, giv­ing 12 years for cli­mate ac­tion, as well as the COP24 meet­ing in Poland, the tim­ing was right for a “soil and cli­mate ac­tion” dis­cus­sion topic.

Also rel­e­vant are: EU changes which al­low for trees to off­set live­stock’s car­bon foot­print. On­go­ing eco­nomic dif­fi­cul­ties suck­ler farm­ers have. Rise in plant-based di­ets.

Emer­gence of mil­i­tant cli­mate change ac­tion via the new ex­tinc­tion re­bel­lion move­ment. Stronger sound­ings about the need for ac­tion com­ing from RTE’S Ge­orge Lee and, more im­por­tantly, the new Min­is­ter with re­spon­si­bil­ity for Cli­mate Ac­tion Richard Bru­ton. There is some dis­agree­ment over the con­tri­bu­tion of live­stock to cli­mate change, es­pe­cially as re­gards re­gen­er­a­tive prac­tices, soil and car­bon se­ques­tra­tion. And there is much to be con­cerned about with a nar­row cli­mate change only fo­cus in a world of sus­tain­abil­ity needs. Nev­er­the­less, one of the strong­est ar­gu­ments for land use change put for­ward to try to achieve a rapid car­bon tran­si­tion has been rewil­d­ing, as pro­posed by Ge­orge Mon­biot and oth­ers. This sug­gests re­plac­ing ‘in­ef­fi­cient’ meat with abun­dant na­ture. By this logic, as sheep in the hills have the worst-of-all emis­sions score, we should re­place this live­stock with na­ture-based economies. These na­ture-based economies would in part stem from the rein­tro­duc­tion of broadleaf, mixed forestry and the se­lec­tive re-in­tro­duc­tion of big­ger mam­mals, such as ot­ters, beavers, and, more con­tro­ver­sially, lynx and other land-based car­ni­vores. Ru­ral economies would rely in­creas­ingly on emerg­ing ar­eas like eco­tourism, as well as tim­ber-re­lated and other for­est in­dus­tries. Pay­ments would also be pos­si­ble from a pub­lic goods per­spec­tive, from car­bon sinks to cleaner wa­ter, as hap­pens un­der CAP cur­rently. In purely eco­nomic terms this is un­likely to be enough to re­place dairy in the agrieco­nomic hon­eyspots. But is a na­ture-based econ­omy enough to re­place the suck­ler herds of the BMW (boarder mid­lands west) re­gion? Would this chime well with the Wild At­lantic Way? And what other un­in­tended con­se­quences would emerge? For ex­am­ple, with Ire­land’s low pop­u­la­tion, would re­duc­ing live­stock num­bers in the BMW re­gion in­crease the num­bers of peo­ple fly­ing onto our small is­land for an eco­tourism hol­i­day? And what will they want to eat? What fruit-of-the-for­est could ever chal­lenge Con­nemara moun­tain lamb?

Its note­wor­thy that whale meat con­sump­tion in­creased with tourism in Ice­land – lo­cals had mostly stopped eat­ing it. There has been much op­po­si­tion to the coniferi­sa­tion of parts of ru­ral Ire­land, as seen most acutely in Leitrim. The De­part­ment’s Midterm Re­view of the Forestry Pro­gramme 2014-2020 saw grants and pre­mi­ums for agro­forestry in­creased and broad­ened — an in­crease of c€1,700 in the grant rate and €385 in the premium rate. Min­i­mum broadleaf re­quire­ment is now 15% per site. Broadleaf and di­verse conifer grants and schemes have in­creased.

In 2017 broadleaved species ac­counted for 28.7% of the stocked for­est area. Broadleaf plant­ing is also up 4% in 2018. (De­part­ment fig­ures sup­plied upon re­quest). De­spite agro­forestry sup­ports, plant­ing rates re­main very low. And yet, sil­viopas­tu­ral agro­forestry - cat­tle with trees – was the high­est per­form­ing land-based prac­tice as mea­sured by ‘Project Draw­down’ — a coali­tion of over 2,300 ex­perts at­tempt­ing to model the best cli­mate change so­lu­tions. Could more agro­forestry be a less jar­ring ad­just­ment for ru­ral Ire­land, while also in­te­grat­ing into both na­ture based and farm­ing economies? speakeatsy takes place next Satur­day at 7pm in Cloughjor­dan, Tip­per­ary. See: www.cul­ti­vate.ie

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