Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Looking at economic growth

Politicians throughout the world are obsessed with looking at economic growth as an essential component of individual and collective wealth. Low grow rates are likely going forward and there is fundamental doubt about future growth forecasts.  The challenge for us as citizens and for politicians is to understand this uncertainty and to create a society which focuses on other ways to ensure well being and prosperity.

Economic growth is blind to inequality. Growth is invisible from our ecological footprint due to the environmental damage it causes and because of its role in the depletion of our natural resources. The Green Party wants to move away from the growth rhetoric and concentrate on real objectives like fighting climate change, reducing inequality in wealth and in society, creating jobs, and improving life satisfaction.



I grew up holidaying in the west of Ireland where turf cutting played a major role in the day-to-day life of the local people. I read and truly loved all the magical 'Turf Cutter Donkey' stories by Patricia Lynch, and indeed one of my favourite short stories nowadays is 'The Reek', by John B Keane, a beautifully-written story on turf cutting, in which he describes the turf-cutting process like a piece of specialised art work. I have that deep love for the folklore, for times past when turf cutting was part of our culture, and a large part of me grieves its demise.

Ireland has 50 percent of the bogs in Europe and 8 percent of all bogs in the world, a remarkable fact given the size of our landmass. In fact, our bogs represent the last bastion of any significant worth worldwide, with considerable value not only for its rare and biodiverse habitats, but for ecosystem benefits such as flood protection and climate stabilisation. . The Peat land ecosystem is the most efficient carbon sink on the planet.
Ireland has lost one-third of its active raised bog habitats in the last ten years.

We have the headquarters of this ecosystem type in the world.  We should cherish it, but do we? The answer to this question awaits the judgement of time, but is perilously close to negative.