Jude Collins

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

How green are you?

The lane into our house was lined with big trees and one night, one of these giants fell right across the lane. The next day my father got some men to help cut down all the trees in the lane, so the path to our house looked like a mouthful of stumpy teeth. When asked, my father said he had eight children going in and out that lane to school every day and he was damned if he’d have a tree fall and kill one of them. He valued his family above any fancy talk about  the look of the lane.

There, in a different time and circumstance, you have the fracking issue. Today’s Irish Times reports that Leitrim is one of the poorest counties in Ireland, with just 17% of the population it had in pre-Famine times. Now it emerges that there could be billions of euros worth of extractable gas in the county. The neighbouring county of Fermanagh is in the same position.

 What to do?

Those opposed to it say that the fracking process to extract the gas would pollute the water supplies as well as the air, as well as ruining agriculture and tourism in the county. Those in favour say these are hard times, Ireland north and south is up against it and a bonanza like this could be the fast route to new prosperity. Pat Rabbite, the Energy minister says everybody thinks they're an expert. Arlene Foster, the minister in the north, says there's been too much scare-mongering about fracking.

What to do?

In today’s Guardian,  it’s reported that Canada has pulled out of the Kyoto protocol, which committed signatories to lower pollution levels. Canada says it’s done so because places like China and India are ignoring it. The truth is, Canada has the third-largest store of oil reserves in the world, but the process of extracting it from the tar sands of Alberta takes an enormous amount of energy and water and plays merry hell with greenhouse gas emissions. 

What to do?

From the long-term point of view,  playing fast and loose with the environment will damage, perhaps irreparably, the planet we live on. At the same time, if  your son or daughter was jobless and faced with the dole or the emigrant airplane, would you still feel so green? Would you sacrifice their future for the possible future of mankind?

I know what my father would have said.


  1. It IS a real dilemma and not everyone on either side is right. Many people opposed to fracking in Leitrim are blow-in s who didn't grow up in the area and do not have their roots here.Many protesters are also on benefits and are not working or contributing to the economy & productivity of the area. There are also people who have retired here from other countries furious that their peace and expat quiet will be disturbed, or have moved here because they wanted to live in an untouched, un polluted county OR because they wanted to live in isolation. Speak to a parent who finds it hard to say goodbye to all their kids at 18 when they all have to leave because there is no work for them and watch from the sidelines while their grandchildren grow up far away. Speak to the elderly who live alone with very little support and care from younger generations. On the other hand the farmers who have so little and truly care about the land and nature are upset, but the other side of it is many poor farmers are secretly hoping someone will come and buy their land for a lump sum to use for fracking and relieve their poverty and struggles. There are a few who have a genuine love, care and devotion to their natural surround with which they are truly bonded and who are devoted & active members of the community. But lots of not so righteous motives mixed in too. One thing is for sure, no natural resources which belong to the people should be naively handed over to global vultures happy to dole out a minute fraction of the mouthwatering profits they are set to make. I am not sure which 'side' I am on, but que sera sera. It is not always easy to perceive what is right. Leitrim has long been poor and marginalised. Leitrim deserves a break whether that comes from a renewed desire to protect its beauty and recognise its gifts or it being opened up in a dramatically modern industrialised way.Many people are unaware of what it does to a place when all the young men leave or when any man who stays gets trapped in welfare and ends up living his life in the pub with the confidence and gutsy certainty of youth in tatters. Short memories. If I had read your post a few years ago - I would have reared up with indignation at the destruction of the environment you seemed to be advocating!!! A nice luxury for a city person preserving their holiday destination!

  2. Thank you for that detailed and eloquent comment, L H. Most illuminating.

  3. 'Only God can make a Tree.
    (but Jude's dad can sure unmake a few)'

    I think that I shall never be
    Killed by walking past a tree
    The odds are tiny if you please
    Cos Jude's papa killed all the trees

    Apologies to Joyce Kilmer

  4. Environmentalist dogma will always seek to block change such as this. Human well being, standards of living and advancement are not put above their own, ill-supported by evidence, perception of an ever marauding human disease damaging all that is good.

    Of course all these things have a cost and downside, but when balanced against the human benefits there is no comparison.

    This attitude would never have allowed an industrial revolution, mass vaccination, the feeding of a growing third world in the 70's or the building of railways and roads.

    We need to focus on the well being of our people - especially the less well off - rather than pandering to an ideology that will never be appeased, as - by definition - nothing good can ever come from human development.

    Go for it Leitrim - provide cheap energy for elderly people who look to be in for a rough time in the coming years.
    Use the revenue to build hospitals and schools, and hire the people to work in them.

    The planet will be fine - soon enough there will be no trace of us left on it. We don't know when the next comet or ice age will arrive and give us something real to worry about.

  5. If I thought that there was a chance of the less well off being better off because of the extraction and use/sale of the gas I think I'd be in favour, but I think the fat cats will get fatter, the Republic will sell off another natural resource and the less well off will be left to deal with the aftermath of extraction.