Clare PPN/Clare Environmental Network Submission to Clare County Development Plan 2022-2028

Clare PPN/ Clare Environmental Network Submission to Clare County Development Plan 2022-2028

Our thanks to all the members of our environmental college and of Clare Environmental Network who participated in our consultation on the new Clare County Development Plan for the years 2022- 2028.  We have a 24 page submission full of great suggestions and expertise thanks to you all. You can read it at the link below:

Clare PPN CEN Environmental Submission for CDP 2022-2028

‘The Vision for County Clare 2022-2028’
A county that values, protects and restores its unique landscape, environment
and biodiversity, where sustainable livelihoods are prioritised for this and future
generations and where citizens, migrants, ethnic minorities and people of all
abilities, age groups and genders are able to reach their potential in an
atmosphere of support, respect and inclusion, and where Local Government is
open, transparent, accountable and committed to reducing poverty and
marginalisation within the County. Our vision is for a County to be part of and a
County to be proud of

 

Postcards from the Edge: Aisling Wheeler – ‘We must re-learn the skills to grow our own food’

Postcards from the Edge: Aisling Wheeler – ‘We must re-learn the skills to grow our own food’

Postcards from the Edge: ‘We must re-learn the skills to grow our own food’

In our continuing ‘Postcards from the Edge’ series, Aisling Wheeler, a small food producer in Kilfenora, hopes that a silver lining to the coronavirus cloud will be a realisation that Ireland has a food security problem, and hopes the new enthusiasm for gardening will translate into more community farms, fewer imports, more biodiverse agriculture and more people skilled in how to produce food.

I started learning how to grow my own food 16 years ago, mainly because I was concerned about climate change and food security. I was aware of how, as a society, we were losing our basic food production skills and I wanted to be one of the people passing on those skills. In 2011 my partner and I bought a small-holding near Kilfenora with the intention of meeting some of our own food needs and starting some kind of food business.

We have planted hundreds of trees, including apple, cherry, plum and nut trees. We keep poultry for meat and eggs and grow many of our own vegetables. Everything is done by hand, with no machinery, fossil fuels or synthetic fertiliser, and no herbicides or pesticides. Recently I have started experimenting with grain-growing.

In 2015 I started ‘Clare Farm to Fork’ to sell our surplus fruit, vegetables, eggs and plants at markets, through farm-gate sales and online. Small-scale production is uncompetitive and ill-suited to the food retail system, so our focus has been on high nutrition and environmental standards, with the intention of being ready to scale up if food imports were disrupted.

The reasons I had in mind were more climate related – droughts in Spain or flooding in China could lead to higher prices and less availability worldwide. I hadn’t anticipated a global pandemic, but the same principle applies – when things go wrong, the best kind of food supply chain is a short one.

The vital skills we have lost
It’s not so long since food production in Clare was almost entirely local. A typical Clare person born before 1960 could kill and pluck a chicken; grow, harvest and store vegetables, milk a cow and make butter; and grind grain to make bread. A smaller, but significant number could kill and butcher a medium-sized animal such as a pig or goat and, crucially, select and save seed for next year’s crop. If they couldn’t do these things themselves, everyone certainly knew dozens of people who could. These days, most people wouldn’t know where to start.

Irish agriculture is, of course, still an important part of our economy and way of life. However, it is so specialised now, that most farmers produce only meat or milk, and mixed farming is a thing of the past. Between 1916 and 2010, the area used to produce potatoes and oats in Ireland dropped by 90%. The skills and knowledge required to produce those crops, and many others, were built up over many generations, and lost in just two.

I really hope this pandemic makes more people realise we need mixed farming to be the farming of the future too. Roughly 80% of the meat and milk produced on Irish farms is exported, and pretty much everything else we eat is imported. Whereas 50 years ago Irish wheat was milled and baked to make our bread, today our wheat and barley is used almost exclusively for animal feed, and all our flour is imported. It is rare to see Irish fruit and vegetables for sale. We spend €100 million on apples each year, 95 per cent of which are imported.

Since the pandemic took hold in February I have been inundated with calls, emails and texts from friends asking for advice on growing vegetables or keeping chickens at home. I have posted seeds out to about 60 people around the country who weren’t able to buy seeds online, as seed suppliers were inundated with orders. It has brought home to me how fragile our food supply system is and how deskilled we have become.

My good friend Eanna Byrt has just set up a new company, Clare Local Delivery, a sort of online farmers’ market – local produce is delivered to your door every Friday. We’re selling our eggs, vegetables and plants this way, and it’s a lot more convenient than doing a market, as we only need to harvest what is ordered, resulting in less waste. They are delivering in North Clare, with the intention of expanding it countywide.

The scramble for seeds 
Disconnected from our food supply, disempowered by lack of practical skills, disenfranchised by lack of access to affordable land and housing, we are more and more dependent on a handful of corporations for our basic sustenance. Covid-19 has thrown this into sharp relief, hence the scramble for seeds.

Ability to generate profits – not necessarily profits for farmers – is the only criterion successive governments have applied to our agricultural system. But what about food security, local employment and basic skills?

I’m hoping the silver lining to the coronavirus cloud will be the realisation that we have a national food security problem, and that the current enthusiasm for gardening will translate into more community farms, less imported food, more biodiverse agricultural systems and more people skilled in the basics of food production.

Government policy must focus on food security and soil fertility. This will also benefit human health and biodiversity. This year it’s a global pandemic, but undoubtedly the future will bring climate-related disasters that will affect our food supply. Let’s hope we’re ready.

Aisling Wheeler has a small-holding near Kilfenora and is an environmental campaigner. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of all of Clare PPN.

We’d like to hear from you! Back to normal or time for radical change? We’re asking people for their views (in less than 350 words) on how to move forward together in Clare in the wake of Covid-19. You can win a €50 restaurant/take-away voucher. Details of how to submit here: http://clareppn.ie/what-do-we-want/

Back to ‘normal’ or time for radical change? Send us your views and win a prize

Back to ‘normal’ or time for radical change? Send us your views and win a prize

Back to ‘normal’ or time for radical change? Send us your views and win a prize

What would you say to the parties forming the next government?

New deadline of Friday, May 29th at 5pm – see below

 

By William Hederman

As politicians from three parties sit down in a room in Dublin this week – socially distanced – to thrash out a programme for government, it’s likely there will be a big focus on getting things ‘back to normal’ as quickly as public health considerations will allow. But is a return to the old normal what we need? Or is this a once-in-a-generation opportunity to find new ways of organising our society and economy?

The Covid-19 crisis has been traumatic, bringing tragedy and distress to many people. But the crisis and the lockdown have also brought changes that may be worth holding on to. As Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party try to plan our collective futures, Clare PPN would like to hear your views on what they or any other grouping that emerges should be prioritising. We will publish submissions and there will be prizes of €50 vouchers for meals from local restaurants. Read on to find out more.

Covid-19 has transformed Ireland and Clare like nothing in living memory. The tourism and hospitality sectors, and much of retail, have shut down. Huge numbers of people in Clare have lost their jobs. This is a very stressful and difficult time for many, especially those who have lost loved ones, those who have lost their jobs or businesses and people living in isolation or in direct provision. There is huge uncertainty about what the future holds – for tourism, live music, sport. Some businesses may not reopen. Many of us will have to retrain.

Are there silver linings?
However, without in any way minimising the huge stresses, fears and grief this crisis has caused, there have been some silver linings around the dark cloud of Covid-19. The crisis has brought us together and has revealed the great strength in community. People are learning new technologies and finding new ways to do things. Many more people are growing their own food – organisations such as Irish Seed Savers in Scariff have been overwhelmed with orders.

The pandemic has also forced society to recognise the huge value of the work done by those in the health sector, carers, shop workers and others. It has also revealed that things we were told were impossible are possible after all – the use of private hospitals for public healthcare being just one example.

The global lockdown has also had huge environmental benefits. Cleaner air resulted in some 11,000 fewer deaths from pollution in Europe in April. Greenhouse gas emissions have fallen dramatically and wildlife is returning to areas they had fled long ago. The Government’s decisive response to Covid-19 has been contrasted to its years of foot-dragging on climate action. It turns out we can follow scientific warnings and take radical action to save lives, even if that means less economic output.

What the parties have proposed
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s joint document published in mid-April commits to working “towards a consensus on a united island”; plans for affordable housing and a new deal for renters; expanded universal healthcare; no rises in income tax or USC and no cuts to core social welfare rates.

Among the Green Party’s ‘red lines’ for entering government talks is a yearly reduction of 7% in greenhouse gas emissions, which climate scientists have warned is needed to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown. The party has also demanded the scrapping of the Shannon LNG fracked gas terminal on the Shannon Estuary.

Sinn Féin’s general election manifesto proposed abolishing Universal Social Charge on the first €30,000 earned; building 100,000 council homes over five years; opening 1,500 hospital beds and providing free GP care; giving people the right to retire at 65; and cutting the cost of childcare.

Solidary-People Before Profit pledged to hold a referendum to make housing a constitutional right, to build 100,000 homes over five years and a rent freeze; to push for a health service that is free at the point of use; free public transport for all and to shift the carbon tax towards big polluters.

Labour’s manifesto proposed building 80,000 homes over five years, a rent cap and rent freeze; the roll-out of Sláintecare and free GP care for under-18s; introducing more protections for casual workers and converting the minimum wage to a living wage.

Sláintecare was also central to the Social Democrats’ manifesto, as well abolishing home care waiting lists; building 100,000 homes over five years; trialling a four-day working week; ending the State subsidy for fee-paying schools; and encouraging community energy schemes.

What would you do?
So, if you could sit down – socially distanced – with the negotiators from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party, or the other parties if they end up around the table what would you say to them? What new measures would you like to see in response to the crisis? Should they be striving to return things as close to the old ‘normal’ as possible or is this the time for a major rethink? What are the positive aspects of the lockdown and of the response to the crisis you’d like to see maintained?

Hundreds of thousands of people have switched to remote working – should this be continued? Could a four-day week become the new normal? Should Shannon Airport be bailed out and supported or should Clare be preparing for a post-air travel world by diversifying into new industries? Is it time for a universal basic income? Should we get rid of the Leaving Cert for good?

Even before coronavirus, sectors such as farming were already in crisis. Can a new approach to agriculture give farmers a decent living, protect the environment and make Ireland more food secure?

What about Clare’s musicians and arts sector? They have already been organising events, exhibitions and workshops online – what does the future look like for them? Any ideas?

Please send us your views on what Clare – and Ireland – needs now. Tell us what you would like to say to the parties forming a government or what you think is worth keeping from our experiences during this crisis.

Please keep your submissions to less than 350 words. Alternatively, you can submit a video of no more than 2 minutes. We’ve extended the deadline – email us by 5pm on Friday, May 29th, at newsletter@clareppn.ie

We will publish submissions on our website and social media and they will go into a draw for prizes. For Clare PPN meetings, we usually pay for refreshments or room hire and we get to hear what people think of whats happening in the world. We‘re really missing those interactions and so on this occasion, for each of the four people drawn out of a hat, we’ll buy a €50 voucher at a local restaurant or takeaway of your choice – helping to support local business.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Important Update from Clare PPN following September 9th Council Meeting

Important update from Clare PPN on yesterday’s Clare County Council meeting.

Please note that we still need to seek clarity on some issues below as these are just based on our notes from yesterday and will need to be confirmed by official council minutes. 

Update on Clare PPN’s Submissions to Clare County Council from their meeting of September 9th 2019

Yesterday, among other business, three items on which Clare PPN and our member groups had made submissions on were up for consideration by Clare County Council.
Those items were
• Clare County’s Draft Climate Adaptation Strategy 2019- 2024
• The Draft Scheme for Strategic Policy Committees 2019 – 2024
• Clare County’s Traveller Accommodation Strategy 2019- 2024

Clare PPN had contacted all Councillors seeking their support in advance of this meeting because it was brought to our attention that in particular the Draft Climate Adaptation Strategy was being presented to Councillors as originally drafted despite more than 29 individual submissions being received. One of those submissions was from Clare PPN and Clare Environmental Network and had been contributed to by 27 separate environmental groups in the County. We are grateful that a cross party group of Councillors sought and secured a special meeting of Clare County Council on the Draft Climate Adaptation Strategy. This will ensure that Councillors can consider each submission received and question the directors of service as to their decisions. This meeting will take place next Monday September 16th at 2pm in the Council Chamber and the gallery will be open to the public. We would encourage any of our members who made submissions to attend however we will also attend at take notes for feedback purposes.

As part of Clare PPN’s submissions to both the Draft Climate Adaptation Strategy 2019 -2024 and to the Draft Strategic Policy Committee 2019- 2024 we had requested that a separate dedicated Climate Change and Biodiversity Strategic Policy Committee be set up in Clare and that all other SPCs would have a minimum of one environmental representative seat. The proposal for a Climate Change and Biodiversity SPC was not agreed at yesterday’s meeting which is something that Clare PPN and our member groups consider a lost opportunity and it is something we will continue to campaign for. Several changes that we do welcome were proposed and seconded however by the Councillors and we look forward to seeing the following actions implemented:

-A full time Climate Change and Biodiversity Officer will be appointed from within existing staff resources to oversee Climate Change and Biodiversity Actions across all directorates.

-Each Strategic Policy Committee will have Climate Change and Biodiversity as a standing agenda item.

-Each Directorate will issue a monthly report on Climate Change and Biodiversity as part of their contribution to the Monthly Management Report.

We also note the proposals to rename/add areas of responsibility two existing Strategic Policy Committees as follows:
The Physical Development SPC will be renamed ‘SPC for Physical Development and Climate Change’ and the SPC for Economic Development will be renamed SPC for Economic Development and Biodiversity. On behalf of our members we seek clarification from the Council on the rationale for these changes, in particular we wish to ascertain the reason that Climate Change and Biodiversity are being separated and secondly how it was decided that biodiversity should sit with Economic Development. Clare PPN considers that the changes in responsibility for the above SPCs will necessitate extra seats for community environmental interests if they are to be effective. We will seek clarity from Clare County Council as to whether this has already been incorporated in the changes.

We thank the Councillors for their support in ensuring that the views of all of those who made submissions will be given consideration at Council level next Monday and for working to ensure that Climate Change and Biodiversity are made central to the work of all directorates in the Council. We look forward to working with them to ensure that these actions are implemented as soon as possible.

Submissions relating to the Traveller Community:
Our submission on the Draft Strategic Policy Scheme requested that the Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee be reconfigured as a Strategic Policy Committee which is in line with a proposal made in an independently commissioned report for the National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee. This was not accepted and the LTACC will instead continue as a stand-alone committee, where issues raised may come before the Social Development SPC which deals with housing. Clare PPN is disappointed that this committee was not reconfigured as suggested however we remain committed to working alongside Travellers to ensure that successful and meaningful participation is possible for the Traveller Community in Clare.

Further to that we welcome the fact that the Draft Traveller Accommodation Programme 2019 – 2024 was not adopted at yesterday’s Council meeting and was deferred until next month’s meeting. We had expressed our concerns that this plan was being passed without involvement from the Traveller Community. We will seek clarity however from Clare County Council on whether during this deferred month the Draft Traveller Accommodation Programme will reopen for submissions and if so what efforts will be made by the Local Authority to ensure that the community affected by this accommodation programme have an opportunity to have their views heard. Clare PPN is willing to assist in this regard in whatever way we can.

Overall we feel that several progressive changes were agreed at yesterday’s council meeting and whilst some of the above needs clarification we are extremely glad that the above strategies were not passed without respect and consideration given to community engagement. We hope to see further progress being made, in particular in relation to the issue of a dedicated Climate Change and Biodiversity SPC and towards a respectful and meaningful engagement between the Traveller community and the local authority. We state Clare PPN’s own commitment to working to ensure that the public and in particular Community and voluntary groups in Clare are able to influence and input to Local Government decisions. Thanks to the Councillors for their work on all of the above and in particular our thanks to all of those who engaged with and participated in our submissions.

 

Please note that as we said above these are not official minutes from Clare County Council’s meeting but are notes taken as the meeting happened so we can’t guarantee that we have no inaccuracies – but we’ll confirm as we get all details and official reports.