Environment, Food Politics, Gastronomy, Health, Science, Slavery, Sugar, Uncategorized

Too Much of a Bad Thing

(London Magazine, December 2011) So many tears have been shed for sugar that by rights it ought to have lost its sweetness. Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat The English palate, especially the working class palate, now rejects good food almost automatically. George Orwell Type: ‘Haiti’; ‘Dominican Republic’; and ‘border’, into an image search on Google. A split-second-cyber-miracle-later a startling aerial photograph of a …


Communism, Czech Republic, Eastern Europe, Immigration, Politics, Uncategorized

Anti-Refugee Sentiment in Czechia

(Published in Village Magazine, April, 2016) Aflons Mucha’s Slav Epic enjoys pride of place in the Czech National Gallery in Prague. It is a cycle of twenty large and portentous paintings completed between 1910 and 1928 recalling the history and myths of an heterogeneous people inhabiting territory from the Asian steppe to the shores of the Mediterranean. The artist imposes …


Protecting Agriculture from Emissions Targets Will Cost the Wider Economy

(Published in the Sunday Times, November 9, 2014) In a week when the International Panel on Climate Change said that current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have not been seen in at least 800,000 years the European Council agreed to set no specific targets for greenhouse gas emission reduction in the agriculture sector. The move was instigated by the …

Catholicise-nation

(Published in Village Magazine, April 2016) Michel Aflaq (1910-1989) was the principle ideologue of the pan-Arabist Ba’ath Socialist party still ruling Syria and previously Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Although born Christian he believed Islam to be proof of Arab genius and allegedly converted before his death in Baghdad. The Arabs were a motley collection of illiterate warring tribes inhabiting the …

The Environmental Origins of Ebola

(Published in the Irish Times Oct 27, 2015) A new study explores the environmental factors that give rise to outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). Jointly undertaken by the Environmental Foundation for Africa and the ERM Foundation it posits a connection between rainforest fragmentation and this zoonotic disease. This is hypothesised to occur through increased contact between species that normally …

Interview with Tommy Garnett

(Published in Village Magazine June 2015) Tommy Garnett is a dual citizen of Ireland and Sierra Leone. He founded the Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA) in 1997 while living in Liberia at the end of the first Sierra Leonean civil war. His organisation currently employs twenty staff all of whom are Sierra Leonean. He lives and works in Freetown. 1. …

Sierra Leone After Ebola

(Published in Village Magazine, June 2015) In Sierra Leone an amusing assortment of greetings have evolved to replace any ‘pressing of the flesh’ that could give rise to Ebola contagion. From elbow jabs to clasped-hand bows, a gallows humour is derived from the enforced measures. The reality of Ebola is hidden from visitors, the main reminder the hand-held, infra-red thermometers …

The Scapegoat

(version in Village Magazine, May 2015) The Charlie Hebdo attacks by individuals purporting to represent Islam have again linked that religion to violent behaviour anathema to Western, liberal values. From stoning of adulterers to beheadings and burning alive of infidels, flogging bloggers and even female genital mutilation (fgm), a picture registers of a religion stubbornly rooted in a barbaric past, …

Song is Existence

(Published in Village Magazine May, 2015) In the presence of great music we have no alternative but to live nobly. Sean O’Faolain Donal Dineen recently described this as a ‘golden age’ in Irish music. We might take heart when a DJ of his calibre with knowledge crossing genres and continents makes such a pronouncement. His sets and peripatetic shows reveal …

Defining the Anthropocene

(Published in Village Magazine, January 2013) This is an interview with environmental historian Professor John Robert McNeill of Georgetown University author of Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914 (2010); The Human Web (2003); and Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th-century World (2000) Can you define the Anthropocene?  I can, but there …