Standing at the Craggaunowen Heritage site, our first stop in Ireland, there was a very distinct smell in the air. I had never smelt it before and could not figure out what it was. As we moved further along in the tour we came up to a fire pit. This fire pit looked no different from a fire in the states, but the smell it was that distinct smell I had been smelling earlier. Stiofan, our tour guide, quickly informed us that this fire source was not wood, but it was peat. Peat is used throughout all of Ireland because it is a natural resource here that rich in many fields. Peat is found in the bogs of Ireland and formed over thousands of years. When we ventured to Killary’s Sheep Farm, Tom the owner of the property brought us over to a bog and explained it in greater detail. Peat is found in Ireland due to its climate. A bog is formed over thousands of years and has grown on top of trees like birch and pine that once were on the land before.
Peat is made from grass and Sphagnum moss that builds up on top of each other over thousands of years and begin to compress. Sphagnum moss is unique to Ireland that grows one millimeter a year. It is a very wet compacted surface that is very acidic from all the rain water. To harvest the peat from a bog, farmers use a tool that cuts a brick of peat from the bog so they can put it on the grass for the sun to dry it out. A peat brick consist of 90 percent of water. So the farmers have to let them dry it before they are able to be used.
One brick of peat takes fifteen minutes to burn in a fire. Throughout a household in one day, 96 peat bricks are burnt. When peat is burnt it releases CO2 into the air. Bogs act like a carbon sink because it absorbs the CO2 in the air. When people burn the peat the CO2 is released back into the air resulting in a negative impact on the environment. Peat is Ireland’s number one energy source due to its accessibility and its abundance. Since Ireland has limited trees throughout their terrain, it is important that the bogs absorb the CO2 from the air. From people harvesting the turf and collecting peat for their energy source it cut back on the amount of CO2 being absorbed through the bogs and releases CO2 back into the air. Peat is a highly used energy source in Ireland and the government needs to start regulating the maximum usage of for the better of our planet.