By chance, on the way to a great conference last week I happened to meet Duncan Stewart – we were both taking public transport. Duncan is perhaps one of Ireland’s best known TV personalities, an award-winning architect, he hosts Ireland’s only environmental programme “EcoEye”. In fact, with the woeful reporting on environmental concerns in Ireland (see here for a recent discussion), its hard to imagine where we would be without Duncan’s popular programme. “EcoEye” often raises ideas and projects that people are working on despite the slowness of our government to really respond to key issues like fuel and food security and climate change. Duncan’s “EcoEye” team have recently looked at communities getting on with developing their own community energy schemes, the future of farming and food production, climate change, the problems with water, and also, a vision for Ireland’s forests!
I was really delighted to see Duncan’s episode on forests and woodlands in January (see above). Duncan’s overview of different perspectives of forestry, from across the country, are so valuable and give a vision beyond the dry policies that forestry is often described in. As witnessed last year when large crowds came out against the sale of the harvesting rights of Ireland’s public forests, many other dimensions, ecological and social need to be attended to, not just their economic return. In this episode I was particularly taken with Duncan’s proposal about planting trees along all our rivers, to mitigate flooding, increase biodiversity and substantially improve the beauty and tourist potential of our rural areas. It is a point that I managed to highlight in a recent Green forest press statement and I hope its an idea that will be promoted further.
I was able to share for a few moments my own project with Duncan; I often find it hard to convey my phd art work quickly as it is an unusual combination of contemporary eco art research with new-to-Ireland Close to Nature continuous cover forestry but luckily I had pictures of Hollywood on my iPad, the small conifer plantation that since 2008 I have been turning into a continuous cover forest. Duncan was delighted to hear that the project had been inspired by my early work with Crann and Crann founder, Jan Alexander’s work. Duncan was well aware that Jan initiated Crann, a grass roots organisation that in the mid 1980s fostered enormous public interest in planting broadleaf native trees across Ireland. Jan also in recent years encouraged me to join the committee of ProSilva Ireland – this is the group that since 2000 has been promoting European Close-to-Nature non clearfell, continuous cover forestry and this experience led me to forest policy work as well.
In my ongoing artful eco research I’ve long felt that change toward more sustainable land practices is fundamentally tied up with the artful ‘stories’ we tell. That human concerns must always be presented with the facts. In recent academic research Lakoff and others say that neurologically this is the only way we can ‘reframe’ people’s ‘mental maps’ towards new ways of relating to our environments. It is something Jan knew instinctively, that combining my interest in the arts and forestry was important.
So a big thank you to Duncan and the “EcoEye” team (and you too Jan 😉 )
I’d be interested in any of your comments regarding a new vision for Ireland’s forests too.