Ireland could be a ‘ghost country’ for nature, citizens’ assembly said


Ireland risks turning into a “ghost country” for nature if abuse of land, habitats and species continues, the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss has been told.

The gathering of 99 randomly selected members of the public marked the start of a series of meetings on the biodiversity emergency declared by the Dáil in May 2019.

Their conclusions will be presented in a report with recommendations to the government on what actions should be taken to protect the country’s remnants of nature.

Experts outlining the task ahead told the group that nature had already been cornered in Ireland.

“About 65 percent of our land is agricultural land and about 10 percent forestry, so about 75 percent of Ireland’s countryside is relatively intensively farmed,” said Dr. Ferdia Marnell of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

“Most of our biodiversity is in the other 25 percent.”

Ireland has nearly 31,500 species of plants and animals, the vast majority of insects, fungi, algae and plants with just 1,000 birds, mammals, fish, amphibians and reptiles.

Ella McSweeney, an environmental writer and broadcaster, said the past few decades have seen a shocking decline in population numbers, particularly among birds.

The iconic swift, the migratory bird that set the mood for summer across Ireland, had lost 40 per cent of its population in just 15 years.

Ms McSweeney said Ireland is not the land of a hundred thousand welcomes to nature.

“We shrugged our shoulders at nature,” she said.

“I don’t want the next generation of people in Ireland to live in a ghost land shaped not by what’s around us but by memories of what was there.”

Professor Robert Watson, senior climate and biodiversity expert at the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research in the UK, provided the international context.

“We have already transformed 75 percent of ice-free land around the world with our cities, roads, monoculture agriculture and plantation forestry,” he warned.

“By 2050 we will have lost or converted 90 percent unless we do something else.”

Prof Watson said only 3 per cent of the world’s oceans are untouched by human activity and more than 85 per cent of wetlands have been lost.

Climate change would likely become the main reason for further losses, as one million of the 8.1 million species on Earth are now threatened with extinction.

Prof Watson said the Government’s policies and commitments are inadequate.

He stressed that natural ecosystems are essential to regulate flooding, water quality, air quality and disease.

“Nature is critical to human well-being and we humans are destroying it, undermining our own future,” he said.

He urged the assembly to think carefully about its message to government and the private sector. “You have to tell them what the world is that you want for you and your children.”

The meeting chaired by Dr. Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin has a field trip next month and intensive discussion sessions in September. Ireland could be a ‘ghost country’ for nature, citizens’ assembly said

Fry Electronics Team

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