The biodiversity of Ireland

When touring around Ireland you might notice how little diversity there is amongst animals and habitats. You will see endless miles of farmland and woods, but that is pretty much it. This repetitive habitat is sustainable for traditional farm animals such as horses, sheep, cows, pigs, and donkeys. However, because of the lack of diverse habitats you also have a lack of variety amongst animals. While touring with John, who is an expert in this field, he said “There is less biodiversity here because there is less variation of habitat, and since there is less variation of habitat there will be less variation of life in general.” John would also point out different species of birds that we would see flying around. He pointed out birds such as the jackdaw, wag tail, sky lark, and great black backed gulls. He was able to point out these birds from a great distance. These birds are permanent residents, but some were just visitors. Some coming from places like Africa or Iceland. We also learned about the ocean habitat. It is not uncommon to see whales, seals, and dolphins along the coastal habitats of Ireland.

It is not only important to learn about the habitats for wildlife here in Ireland, but for the people as well. Most of the population lives near bodies of water whether it be an ocean or inlet. This might be because of previous. The people who live near the water live in bigger communities such as cities and towns, and the people who live inland tend to belong to villages. There are also miles and miles of farmland which are home to families who are permanent residents. There are some exceptions for the population density. For example there are also small coastal villages that we have seen but because of my previous experience here I know that there are large cities as well.

Keeping Ireland Hydrated

Water is one of the main elements that is necessary for life as we know it. However, many of us take water for granted. It is a natural resource similar to any other that we find on our planet and it needs to be treated as such. From what I have observed on this two week course it is fairly obvious that the people of Ireland know how precious water is.  They treat it as if it has a significant value which you don’t see very often back at home in America. Our first three nights in the Eco village were a definitely an eye opener. The showers we used were button operated meaning you had to push a put-on which would give you about 20 seconds of water pressure. Over the course of the three days and nights I found myself taking shorter showers and therefore using less and less water. This could be because I had no desire to take longer showers due to the fact that I had to keep pressing the button. I believe that this practice could be applied to American households in order to help preserve water where it is more necessary. A more recent event that has me carefully checking my own water use is our arrival on the Aran Islands. The aran islands do not have access to massive underground wells or reservoirs. During times of water scarcity they have water shipped here from the mainland twice a day in massive tanks. This may seem impractical, but for these locals it is vital. I have even seen signs up around the island regarding water use. These signs are a constant reminder of the value of water to these people.  Something that caught my attention was the fact that our hostel’s showers needs to be running for five minutes before any hot water is released. This just isn’t what the island of Inis Oirr needs.

 

Food culture of Ireland

If you know me you know that food is a very important part of my life. I took a multitude of classes in high school teaching me various cooking and baking skills. I have tried my hardest to hold on to those skills but since the they have slowly diminished. Whenever I travel I really look forward to experiencing different tastes and textures. I might actually look forward to this more than anything else. Something that I learned last time was what a traditional Irish breakfast was. It includes eggs, beans, pudding, tomatoes, and bacon. This is something that will always remain constant and will most likely never be drastically changed or altered in any way. When thinking about traditional Irish food, if I haven’t had any previous experience then I would have no idea what I was talking about. Still, after visiting here twice for ten plus days each time I am still picking up on new things. For example I still thought that a traditional Irish meal was corned beef and cabbage. However, I learned that the traditional meal is actually ham and cabbage instead, with a side of mashed potatoes. This meal is eaten on Sunday nights with your family.

On top of the traditional Irish food, another important aspect of this culture to note would be how you get groceries. In both my trips here I have not seen anything other than stores to buy food called Spars and Centras. These are the only large chain stores that I have seen. I have not seen mass grocery distributors such a Stop and Shops or Whole Foods. I am not sure why they don’t have large discount wholesale stores such as BJ’s and Costco but they seem to be doing fine without them. This model for selling food might work better for a smaller country.

Powering up Ireland

Energy is a very important topic of discussion in modern day Ireland. Since Ireland is not the most economically prosperous country they need to be extremely smart about their decisions regarding how they obtain energy. They need to focus on figuring out what kind of energy they can obtain the most of for the least amount of money. The answer that comes to mind immediately when facing this dilemma would be the peat that is at the feet of the five and a half million people in Ireland. Peat is used as a source of fuel to slowly burn fires. This source is so abundant and so cheap that you would think that this would be an obvious answer to their problem. This is a common misconception, one that I was a victim too as well. The repercussions for using peat as an energy source is far more severe than a common traveler might know. Peat is a buildup of dead organic material that has collected in bogs for thousands of years. Peat is natural and can be found all across Ireland’s vast landscapes in areas called bogs. These bogs contain massive amounts peat that can easily be harvested by a machine or by hand using a tool. However, this form of energy contains a great amount of C02 and when it is burned it releases that C02 gas into the air and will eventually are its way to our atmosphere. People may not know this but peat actually releases more c02 than wood. The true dilemma here is the Irish have very easy access to peat bogs. Since it is so easy to obtain and so cheap for them to obtain it they have to think ethically about their use. For example, we visited the Killary sheep farm and were given a tour of his farm which includes a bog area. The owner, Tom, allowed me to dig up some peat out of the ground which was a very fascinating experience. He then explained about how his practice is sustainable since he does it for himself and at a rate which is ethically sound. He pointed to his dig site and said that his whole acre of peat would take him a century to burn through but a machine could dig it up in an afternoon. The Irish are facing a tough decision, do they try and preserve this abundant resource in order to protect our planet, or do they continue their current practices?

 

Community ties in Cloughjordan

For the first three days of our trip we were exposed to a lifestyle that I didn’t even know existed. This was what life is like in an ecovillage. This eco village in Cloughjordan contained 55 different families over dozens of acres. This is the only ecovillage in Ireland. This community is structured to be much more sustainable than you would see in a regular town. They focus on farming, helping each other out within their village, and keeping up with sustainable practices such as composting all food and paper waste. This particular village seems like a paradise, but due to the housing crash of 2008, it has been struggling to grow and expand. The crash didn’t just affect the ecovillage, but most of rural ireland, and it still shows today.

When getting taught about the lifestyles of the ecovillage, the woman speaking, Mary, made animportant point regarding their community. She said that when she is asked what her favorite part of living in the community is she replied “the people.” When she was asked what her least favorite part of living in the community replied “the people.” I think this shows that this is not a perfect society and has room for improvements. I hate to critique a progressive community because I strongly agree with what they are doing, but I believe there are a few things that could be tweaked in order to inspire growth from within. First of all it takes five years to make a decision. I’m not sure if that was an exaggeration but that is what I was heard. In order for this community to grow I believe that the people whom it consists of must improve their communal decisions making process. This might require them to establish a more formal board of directors to lead the community. Another way they could improve their community is by developing a marketing strategy to help promote their lifestyle. If they can attract more people then they could become more self sustainable. The more people they have the more skill sets can be utilized to better their community. There are a few smaller things I would change such as adding communal WiFi, but other than that I feel like this could be an amazing growth opportunity

Dear Zach…

The following is a work of fiction based on recent events and experiences in Ireland.

Dear Zach,

How are you my dear brother! It has been what feels like years since I have seen you. I miss you and the rest of the family very much. I am writing to you today because I met someone who reminded me of you. Allow me to tell you the story of what happened today. Let me try to paint this picture as best I can so you can understand it as well as I saw it. So I have just woken up on Sunday morning. I was out with my lads the night before having a grand time so keep in mind I was a tad groggy throughout my day. I made myself a traditional Irish breakfast at home including some pudding, eggs, beans and, of course, brown bread an butter. A lot of butter. I continue my usual Sunday morning and get ready for work. Before I leave for work I shower to rinse off the previous evenings stench of Guinness and whiskey. On my way out of the building I greet my neighbors who are walking into the building finishing up their daily run. I keep promising them that I will join them but I never do because I am a lazy college student. Anyway, I begin my 20 minute walk to Temple Bar where I walk past many coffee shops, pubs, and tourist attractions which are now in the full swing of the day. I walk across the River Liffey and notice a very large tour group walking in front of me. I brush past them with urgency as I am running a tad late for work. I play a little game with myself and count how many tourists I see on my way to work. That day I counted 25. I arrive at work and begin my shift tending to the locals who have been sipping Guinness since the night before. I was speaking to a man about the football match from the night before when a large group of tourists walk in look thirsty as hell. As I am filling up pints for these lads from America I strike up a conversation with a few of them. Occasionally you’ll run into some very rude Americans but these lads were not bad at all. They asked me some questions as if they were truly interested in my day to day life. I explained to them my current situation as they sipped their frothy Guinness. One of these lads really stuck out and reminded me of you. I asked him what he was doing here in Ireland and he said he was on a trip for lacrosse. It made me think of you because of everything you’ve taught me about the sport that you play and love. I like to think of lacrosse as the twin of hurling. Kind of like how you and I are twins. Anyways I hope that this letter reaches you well. Send love to the folks for me I will hopefully be able to visit soon.

Yours truly,

Patrick

About Zach

Everyone is a product of their youth and their upbringing. I’m very fortunate to have a loving family, as well as friends who would go into battle with me. Coming out of childhood and approaching the end of my teenage years I had to make a decision on what I wanted to do with my life. The four people that helped me make up my mind were my parents as well as my two siblings. Alongside my family, I used the themes of my past years to help influence me with that decision. The main theme that could be considered the ones with the most impact would be my adventurous side. My personal motto that I picked up from my summer camp when I was very young was “seek the joy of being alive,” and I try to live up to that motto everyday. I use that motto to help motivate myself to try new adventures and opportunities. For example, this trip to Ireland.

The story of my life or anyone’s life can’t be told on a single plain. Life is three dimensional with ups and downs, as well as side to sides. One main event that changed how I perceived life was during freshman year when we were finishing up our community service day as a brand new class. I remember the humid September day like it was yesterday. We had only moved in a few days before. It was the night before my first ever college classes when my parents called me to give me terrible news. My grandmother had passed away. It was extremely painful but I had to try and use the joyous moments that my family had shared to be strong and continue my academic career. I used the great memories to influence my return to school to help excel my way forward through the last three years. Here I am today prepared to embark on a new adventure.