“It seems to me that there is a new type of forestry emerging in Ireland, involving local communities and broadleaf trees; it’s the beginning of a return to a sustainable Irish wood culture.” Cathy Fitzgerald 2006
The ‘local project’ film can be seen at www.youtube.com/cathnarnia (30 min, composed of short 1-3 minutes interviews)
The artist and the exhibition:
A solo exhibition and film by Cathy Fitzgerald with Jan Alexander and Leitrim woodland owners, commissioned by The Dock and Crann for the 20th anniversary of Crann.
In 1993 the Forest Service funded a Crann (an Irish tree NGO) project, in which local people from 13 farms, comprising of over 300 acres, planted broadleaf woodlands across Co. Leitrim, Ireland. This pioneering model of community forestry to initiate a local wood culture of this scale has been little recognised. Yet in Ireland which has the best tree growing conditions in Europe and a need for self-sufficiency in fuel, whilst responding to biodiversity and climate change issues, a return to locally produced fuels will be necessary.
Ireland has only a very recent history in forestry, having lost its native woodlands centuries ago. In the last 30 years, huge areas have been reforested but in the main it embraced the quick return/cash crop/clear felling forestry that involves conifer monocultures. Moves towards permanent, sustainable forestry are coming, the ‘local project’ gives some picture of what permanent forestry in Ireland in the future will look like.
While my earlier art projects have focused on my interest in science, particularly biology, I have continued to develop my involvement in environmental concerns. In my practice I combine research along with my desire to work alongside people in the creative process to make the artwork.
In March 2005 I initiated a proposal which was jointly supported by Crann and The Dock, to reassess the ‘local project’. In this exhibition I brought together the voices and images of local people who volunteered to plant broadleaf woodlands 10-12 years ago in an innovative Crann Project in South Leitrim, Ireland.
The Crann ‘local project’ was an opportunity for people to act at a local level in addressing issues about international deforestation and Ireland’s almost total dependence on imported tropical woods.
The film and photographs document the growing of a new local wood culture in Leitrim that is both sustainable and suitable for transferring to other areas in Ireland.
* reviewed in the Irish Times Ticket here *
Previous work with Crann:
I am originally from New Zealand, and have lived in Ireland since 1995 and have a background in biological science research.
My first few summers were spent in South Leitrim working on a Crann Hedgerow awareness project and I was involved in setting up a small Crann craft and information shop in Mohill in Leitrim – at that time I met many of the people involved in the ‘local project’. Some of the crafts people from that time now exhibit their woodcrafts in The Leitrim Design House.
I received an ESB Environmental Endeavour Award for my work on this project and created an illustrated rare trees and shrubs of Irish Hedgerows calendar in 1997. I was accepted into the National College of Art and Design for a Joint honours fine art and Irish Art History degree course in 1996 and completed an MA in Fine Art (new media) in 2002.
background to the ‘local project’ and ‘Close to Nature’ forestry
I’ve had this one page article below, A Good Forest Economy by Wendell Berry, from the time when I worked with the Irish tree NGO, Crann, in Co Leitrim, Ireland, back in 1996! Working on an environmental project for the first time, and still getting to grips with simple ideas such as ‘thinking global, acting locally’, I put this article in the 1997 Crann newsletter, it seemed to explain all the new concepts I was encountering.
When I revisited the local project in 2005, I was startled to find that I still had my original photocopy of this article ! Some of the ideas naturally flow through the local project film I made (below is an extract of the main points; Berry describes his points in the context of a US Indian local community forest he visited). I have always meant to write to W. Berry. He is, I believe, a farmer/forester and a well respected writer in this area. He writes in the magazine, Resurgence but I read somewhere that he corresponds only by pencil, so I’m not sure what he would make of this art cum tree film-blog project 🙂
A good forest economy
by Wendell Berry appeared in the CRANN newsletter in 1997, kindly reprinted from the Scottish Radical Rowan. Its principle arguments extracted from his article below underlie the many aims in the Leitrim ‘local project’.
A good forest economy, like any other good land-based economy, would aim to join the local human community and local natural community or ecosystem together as conservingly and as healthfully as possible
A good forest economy would therefore be a local economy, and the forest economy of a state or region would therefore be a decentralised economy.
A good forest economy would be owned locally. It would afford decent livelihood to local people. And it would be serve local needs and fill local demands first, before seeking markets elsewhere.
A good forest economy would be properly scaled. Keeping the scale reasonably small is good for the forest. Only a local, small scale forest economy would permit, for e.g., the timely and selective logging of small woodlots.
A good forest economy would be locally complex. People in the community would be employed in forest management, logging and saw milling, in a variety of value-adding small factories and shops, and in satellite or supporting industries.
A good forest economy would obviously need to be much interested in local education. It would of course, need to pass on to its children the large culture’s inheritance of book learning. But also, both at home and in school, it would want its children to acquire a competent knowledge of local geography, ecology, history, natural history, and of local songs and stories..
And so, to complete my description of a good forest economy, I must add that it would be a long-term economy. Our modern economy is still essentially a crop-year economy, as though industrialism had founded itself upon the principles of the worst sort of agriculture. ..
But even the slightest acquaintance with the vital statistics of trees places us in another kind of world. A forest makes things slowly; a good forest economy would therefore be a patient economy. It would also be an unselfish one, for good foresters must always look toward harvests that they will not live to reap.
What is the ‘Close to Nature forestry’
that is promoted by Pro Silva Ireland & Pro Silva Europe?
pro silva (latin: ‘for the forests’) Pro Silva Ireland
PRO SILVA promotes forest management strategies which optimise the maintenance, conservation and utilisation of forest ecosystems in such a way that the ecological and socio-economic functions are sustainable and profitable -i.e. by following close to nature.
The general approach to management which is advocated by PRO SILVA, includes market and non-market objectives, and takes the whole forest ecosystem into consideration.
With reference to sustainability in its broadest sense PRO SILVA believes that forests provide four categories of benefit to society. These are:
1. conservation of ecosystems
2. protection of soil and climate
3. production of timber and other products
4. recreation, amenity, and cultural aspects