Continuous Cover Forestry consultant Paddy Purser and Chair of Pro Silva Ireland, Liam Byrne before presenting a statement to Joint Committee on Climate Action at the Oireachtas, Dublin on behalf of Pro Silva Ireland. 11 December 2019. Photo: Cathy Fitzgerald.
Many of you familiar with my work to transform Hollywood from a monoculture Sitka spruce plantation into a permanent, biodiverse and resilient forest, know I have been a voluntary committee member of Pro Silva Ireland this last decade (Crann founder and former Chair of Pro Silva Ireland, Jan Alexander, who first inspired me to work for Crann and Irish forests in Leitrim in the late 90s, nominated me to the committee in 2009). I get much expert support and advice from the committee for Hollywood forest and my ongoing art-forestry work, and have gained so much insights into forestry in Ireland and in Europe. The committee is so dedicated, action-orientated and creative – along with great strategies to promote continuous cover forestry we make it inclusive and fun – the Pro Silva Ireland committee now has a music band and t-shirts, so my exploits with Hollywood forest are welcomed!
I have learned so much. Pro Silva Ireland is the lead non-governmental organisation that has promoted ecological forestry practices as a viable alternative to industrial monoculture clearfell plantation forestry. Industrial forestry, whilst giving economic and material returns is increasingly seem as limited as many now realise it is not delivering necessary environmental or social benefit for these urgent times. With relatively recent afforestation in Ireland since the 1950s, after having virtually no forested lands at the beginning of the 20th century, Pro Silva Ireland has also enjoyed considerable support from United Kingdom and European Pro Silva foresters who have longer experience and more research in permanent, mixed species forestry.
So I was very honoured yesterday to accompany my Pro Silva Ireland committee colleagues: continuous cover forest consultant, and past Chair Paddy Purser, Chair and expert 4th generation timber-harvester Liam Byrne, foresters – Manus Crowley and Padriag O’Tuama, to the Oireachtas (the houses of the Irish Parliament). Paddy gave a statement on behalf of Pro Silva Ireland members to the Irish senators and members of parliament who are part of the Joint Committee on Climate Action – Climate Change and Forestry panel.
You can read and watch the statement and other Irish forest stakeholders discuss the future of Irish forestry on the Pro Silva Ireland website here – the session was a good three hours, so it was a comprehensive discussion at the highest levels for exploring a new direction for Irish forestry.
This is the statement below – note the reference to artists 🙂 – thank you Paddy!
There is much to do still to reorient our relations to our forests, lands, rivers, oceans and air. There is no magic wand to quickly transform Ireland’s, and the world’s tree monoculture plantations overnight. Moving toward a life-sustaining ecological paradigm where all species thriving is prioritised in perpetuity, is a huge shift for modern society that has become so alienated from the living world. However, the more just, resilient and beautiful world we sense is possible, is not just about requiring new information, implementing financial incentives or systems to transform plantations, although all these are important and urgent.
At its heart, ecological forestry and ecological living for all aspects of our lives, that attunes to interwoven environmental, social and economic realities, requires open-mindedness to embrace new insights and courage to care for objectives and others beyond the marketplace. Cultural activity has a significant role in alerting society to these emerging, more expanded ecological values. And while Ireland has been referred to as a laggard for climate action from our very own Taoiseach (Prime Minister), since Pro Silva Ireland has been pioneering continuous cover forestry experience and research across Ireland through an enthusiastic membership organisation since 2000, there are significant examples, including here at Hollywood forest, that ecological forestry has a bright, beautiful future across the island of Éire. And while Ireland is a small country, with its chatty and creative diaspora, I sense Ireland will help spread inspiration to other countries’ forest caretakers too.