Ireland is an interesting place when you look at the way they consume and create their energy. In America the main source of energy is oil and natural gas which are also burned to create electricity. This is something that so far from what we have seen in rural Ireland is not regarded as the same way to keep a home warm. Turf is a popular source of energy because it is virtually everywhere in Ireland. Turf is harvested from bog lands, which over the course of history compresses and creates a carbon based product that can be burned for energy. This is not a very environmentally practice, as doing so releases carbon back into the atmosphere, which is not good for our o-zone or life on Earth. Ireland, stores about 3% of the world’s carbon. Preserving these fields are in our best interest because when carbon is burned it releases a toxin call Carbon Monoxide. Turf farming isn’t a large scale problem created by farmers in the countryside burning it for personal use on their property, the problem is the large corporations that come into Ireland and buy up land to farm the turf from the bog all at once. A farmer in Ireland traditionally uses around 3-4 turf bricks every 15 minutes when trying to keep the fire going. This doesn’t seem like a lot but when you multiply that by the hour they use 384 slabs an hour and 140,000 a year. This seems like a lot but that is if they keep the fire constantly lit throughout the whole entire year, which is not true for everyone in Ireland. Turf farming is a cheap way to heat homes in Ireland and with trees not being abundant on the island, residents do not have many other viable options to use to heat their homes. Traditional farmers using this source of fuel will never be able to clear a field in their lifetime, but corporations can tear up a 50 meters by 35 meters field in under a day according to our friends in the Killary sheep farm. This practice has pushed Ireland to try and push back on corporations having the ability to harvest turf from bogs. One type of clean sustainable energy that can be seen as an alternative is wind turbines, in specific we saw the models known as kw3 and kw6’s. The smaller model, the kw3, gives out an average of 4,000kW/hrs while the larger size the kw6 gives out around 8,000kW/hrs. This is the greenest way to create energy because winds is natural and abundant in Ireland and the creation and use of these devices are not harming the environment while turf farming is. Most of the turbines we saw were along the Wild Atlantic Way but they were also seen inlet from the coast. These are great examples of clean energy because they have a low carbon footprint which is great for the environment and allows people to realize there are alternatives to traditional practices still being used today.
“A farmer was digging up through some bog and found the body, it was fully preserved and probably over 100 years old.” Can you imagine something that would be able to fully preserve something such as a body for over 100 years? Bogs can. It is a naturally forming substance that exists throughout Ireland and plays a huge role in Ireland’s cultural history. A bog is approximately ninety percent water and ten percent turf and while it may not sound like a lot, it takes centuries to become a substantial amount. It forms at around 1 millimeter per year. A bog is essentially thousands of years of old wood. There may be a lot of bogs but it is not unlimited. Bogs are all around Ireland and are used by nearly every farmer around the country.
Ireland is an interesting country in the fact that it has a really small number of different habitats compared to other nations. Ireland has two main habitats that are vastly around the parts of rural Ireland – bog and limestone. The interesting concept between these two habitats are from how much they differ, a bog is highly acidic while a limestone habitat is not. pH level is the level of acidity in anything rated on a 1-14 scale, 1 being the most acidic, and 14 being the least acidic, and a 7 means that it is completely neutral. A bog usually rates under a 5 on the pH scale*, rendering it very acidic land which inhibits the growth of a lot of different types of fauna. Limestone habitats usually lay above a 6.5** on the pH scale, which represents a very neutral state or non-acidic land.
Bogs can be separated into three different categories: typical bogs, fens, and tropical tree bogs. A typical bog, which I was able to see most of the time traveling around Ireland, is covered in what is known as bog moss. The fens are mostly filled with grass-like fauna. Lastly, the tropical tree bog is almost entirely just three remnants of tree remains known as peat which formed over thousands of years, which each bog also consists of.* Limestone has what is known as alkaline soil, which means it can have a high pH level, which also limits the various amounts of fauna to grow on the soil. Some shrubs such as evergreen shrubs, deciduous shrubs, and perennials can be grown on this soil well, but it is tough to grow many other species in these areas.
It may seem like Ireland is completely sustainable considering how green everything is and how small a population there is, but they are not entirely perfect. Cows are actually the biggest contributor to methane production in the world, and as you travel through Ireland, the amount of cattle that catch the eye is staggering. This country had to make a very difficult decision along with other developing countries around the time of the industrial revolution, and that’s how this country will retrieve most of its energy in the future – nonrenewable or renewable resources. As you are traveling through the country, it is nearly impossible to not pass a field of wind turbines at one point. Wind turbine fields are able to gather immense amounts of power to distribute around the areas, they also place these turbines in places that will not impact the environment’s aesthetic appeal either. The idea of a nuclear power plant scares Irish people greatly due to the fact they were harmed from the aftermath of a nuclear meltdown in Europe. Understandably, they have the right to be nervous about something such as that, but the concept not getting through is how a nuclear power plant is the most sustainable way to gather energy as of right now. When I was having a conversation with a local about how he feels the country was headed in terms of sustainability, he was extremely proud of how his country is going right now. I asked what his thoughts on a nuclear power plant were, his response was “Nuh-uh, we will never allow a nuclear power plant in this country, no matter how hard anyone tries, this will not be something that would settle well with anyone.” For something that could progress the country as much as a power plant, it seems that people are just a little misinformed on the topic and if the government ever plans on it, hopefully they release the proper information for the population to grasp a better understanding. The government did try to pass legislation to build a power plant in the late 1970’s, but as I stated before, they received major backlash from the community. A valid argument to worry about is where to dispose of the nuclear waste. The answer to that question is the government should not even consider placing a nuclear power plant in the country unless they had a plan for the waste disposal in the end.
“Hello,” “Good morning,” “You alright?” What is going on here? Why are these random people greeting me everywhere that I go? Where I am from, if I look at someone while near them on the street I will get a dirty look or an angry remark. As I walk down the stone path streets of Cloughjordan I am able to further my understanding of the community that everyone around the village built. When you get to villages like this, the population starts to dwindle tremendously compared to the larger cities, everyone knows everyone. There is a sense of belonging in each place I visited, and every community member knows if you are actually a part of the community or not. Residents do things for each other even if it requires some personal sacrifices. While exploring the area, in the eco-village, I spoke with a local bartender about life in the small village. Cloughjordan is a special example because of how small the village is, but the bartender said something that stuck with me: “If I closed down shop tomorrow and started collecting unemployment, I would earn more money per week than if I ran this pub.” I responded, “Then what is stopping you from doing something like that?” He replied, “I could not leave an occupation like this where I am able to be paid to see everyone in the village that I have grown up with and am close to, it gives me a sense of meaning.” He seemed so passionate as he spoke, he has been dealing with these hardships for nearly twenty years, but even with all of that he loves every second of it. To struggle for the sake of having a happy life is not an easy choice to make, but to that bartender it was the best choice he ever made.
It looked like I just got served puke on a plate. My eyes and nose are in a major battle on what is going on in front of me, a plate of Beef & Guinness stew. The brown chunks on a dark creamy sauce that seemed like an unappetizing mess combined with the savory smell of perfectly cooked beef and went through my nasal passage like music.
I am an extremely particular person when it comes to eating food, I have not had the pleasure of expanding my palate too much, but I usually give new foods a shot. I was in the Achill Islands located in a hostel called the Valley House, we were told the chefs had something special cooked up for us. Seated next to me, my bus driver Des seemed to sense my discomfort, so he gave me some reassurance, “Trust me, it may look like a disgusting mess but it might be one of the most tasty meals you will have had so far, and it is a typical meal families would have on a Sunday night so it is not like they do not know how to make it right.” I took his little pep talk with great consideration as I extended my teeth to take the slightest little nibble on the corner of a piece of the beef, and to my complete astonishment, the flavors ran through my palate like I have been missing out on something my whole life. Without even giving the slightest thought, I gobbled that dish up in a matter of two minutes along with the softest textured buttery mashed potatoes that my mouth has ever experienced. Before I knew it I was already asking for seconds, followed by a small request for thirds, I could not get enough of it. The following day I did not even want to eat anything else, my mind was still obsessed with the beef stew from the previous night. I managed to get them to heat me up more leftovers for my dinner that night, and without any sort of question in my mind, that was the absolute best dish I had experienced on this entire trip to Ireland.