Study review by Paul Lynch
A new study by Andi Wilson of the Sustainability Institute in Mayo on food security and climate change has concluded that Ireland may currently be only producing a quarter the human food consumed domestically. Click here for study.
In this broad-ranging study and preliminary action plan Andi Wilson examines the consequences of continued global warming & climate change for Irish food security. The study finds that a restructuring and reorientation of Irish agriculture away from export driven beef and dairy towards domestic self-sufficiency in a plant based diet could meet over 100% of our protein and calorific requirements and massively decrease green-house gas emissions. In Ireland agriculture currently produces one third of the gasses emitted nationally that cause global warming, which is more than both the residential and transport sectors combined. Indeed the study finds that such a shift would turn agriculture into a nett carbon sink for greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors.
As mentioned, this is not a blueprint for post climate change agriculture but an indicative model. A true blueprint would include all the crops Ireland might need. Notable omissions here include sugarbeet and crops for making alcohol – both for human consumption and for vehicle fuel – and readers conversant with the threat posed by irreversible climate change may feel that by 2030 these would be crops of some importance, and especially by 2050.Mixing a shot of humour into the menu in “Can Ireland Feed Itself?”
The estimates Andi used to establish rates of self-sufficiency are just that – estimates. But whether we have 20% or 30% self-sufficiency we should be drawing roughly the same conclusions – we need to radically change tack. In recent years the government and corporate media were insistent that the Corrib Gas field be exploited to supposedly improve Irish energy security of supply, but there are no such powerful champions yet for the security of an even more important resource – our food.
Challenge to permaculture
The study will be provocative to many in proposing a primarily vegan diet based on plants, fruits and nuts. But the object is more to show that the status quo – and plans to even further grow the dairy industry – is absolutely unsustainable and makes our climate targets unattainable. My own feeling is that smaller scale but still significant smart animal husbandry systems will be important in preparation, fertilisation and maintenance of the land needed to grow crops. This integration will be important for taking multiple yields, using biological resources over fossil fuel dependent machinery, and reducing and interrupting plant pest life cycles by animal foraging. The theory is there but it’s up to permaculture practitioners to prove these concepts at scale.
A welcome feedback-loop
For a new generation that see climate change as their defining challenge, older generations waking up to reality and long time environmentalists alike there is still very little research and analysis of this type available in an Irish context. This compact study is essential reading for anyone interested in any or all of the topics of Irish agriculture, food security, climate change and education.
Andi is welcoming discussion and feedback on this document and you can make contact here. I hope it is widely read, shared further developed and taken into consideration immediately to inform government agriculture, education, health and climate change mitigation policies.