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Very end
environmental activists
are the real
Matt O'Kee e lets o some steam and commends farmers for their role in protecting the
Farmers have been left behind to a great extent when
it comes to securing due credit for our care of the
environment. The environmental activism brigade has
cornered the market when it comes to environmental
awareness. Yet the reality is that the true environmental
activists are the farmers of this country. The word
activism has been misappropriated by those who produce
little more than hot air, yet perceive themselves as
engaging in practices that protect the environment.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Most self-
proclaimed environmental activists talk the talk and
preach at others but do little of value for their chosen
cause. Some, in truth, could be described as aiders and
abetters of environmental destruction. They fly around
the globe attending conferences where they talk about
saving the environment while all the time, by their very
actions, contributing to the destruction of that same
environment. The thousands of attendees at Climate
Change conferences burn carbon by the tonne through
their travel and yet insist that those who stay at home
and manage the environment are the cause of our
environmental problems. Young
people are the most recent
additions to the hypocritical
environmental activist ranks.
They are the ones who buy `fast
fashion', which has huge negative
implications for the environment.
Their phones are umbilically attached
to their ears with similar ignorance of
the energy and material costs of their
permanently connected lifestyles.
Yet the fiction persists that farmers are the
environmental terrorists. The reality is that we
are custodians of the countryside and directly
care for and protect the environment. Through
pasture-based livestock production we turn low
value, humanly indigestible carbohydrate into high value,
highly digestible and nutritious protein to feed the human
race. We manage and maintain the largest carbon sinks
in the country. Permanent grassland is the most cost-
effective carbon storage facility available. The second
most effective and efficient carbon storage facility is our
vast network of hedgerows across the countryside. There
are enough miles of Irish hedgerows to circumnavigate
the world four times. Yet no credit whatsoever is allowed
for the fact that either permanent grassland or our
hedgerows are carbon storage facilities or for the fact that
Irish farmers maintain those facilities and enhance their
efficiency through regular management. It is time that
Irish farmers became proactive in asserting their positive
role as environmental custodians. Those who criticise
Irish livestock production for adding to the greenhouse
gases that are said to contribute to climate change fail
utterly to realise that farmers manage their cattle in a
manner which ensures that our permanent grassland
works efficiently as a secure carbon store. The absence
of cattle would result in grass decaying and emitting
methane. Properly managed through rotational grazing
and maintained in place permanently, Irish
grasslands ensure that the carbon
stored in the soil and grassroots
remains in place. Actively growing
grass sequesters carbon dioxide
from the atmosphere. In order
to grow actively, grass must be
fertilised and managed. That is what
real environmental activism involves
active care and management of the
environment. As farmers we have put
up with unwarranted and undeserved
criticism for too long. It is time to go on
the offensive and reclaim our credentials as
the real environmental activists.