Communism, Development, Economy, Education, Environment, Health, Ireland, Politics, Uncategorized

Green should mean Red

The leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan has written an article for Village Magazine on the origins and current orientation of his party. I welcome references to seminal influences such as Rachel Carson, whose Silent Spring (1962) drew attention to the environmental damage wrought by industrial farming; and to 1960s ‘systems thinking’, culminating in the Club of Rome, which …


Agriculture, Development, Economy, Environment, Food Politics, Gastronomy, Health, Ireland, Uncategorized

Feirme-geddon. Ten reasons why Irish farming as we know it is on the way out.

We have already seen two agricultural revolutions in Ireland, now we are set for a third. This presents opportunities to farmers who are willing to adapt. After the last Ice Age, the agriculturists who arrived in Ireland brought with them a tool kit of grains and domesticated animals that had spread from the Middle East into Europe. Irish conditions could …


In Praise of Hemp

(Published in the Sunday Times, 19/10/14) In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar a marauding mob scour the city for the Emperor’s assassins. They chance upon Cinna the Poet, namesake of one the conspirators. On being asked his name, fatally he replies ‘Cinna’ at which point the First Citizen cries ‘tear him to pieces; he’s a conspirator’. Understandably vexed Cinna wails: ‘I am …

Reforming Our Food Culture

Steven Poole declares that ‘Western culture is eating itself stupid’. His book You Aren’t What You Eat (2012) pokes fun at the snobbery, fads and celebrity culture that attend ‘foodie’ culture. The term ‘foodie’ emerged in the 1980s, but the idea of discussing the enjoyment of food is much older. In France it goes back to the start of the …

Peasant Food Myths

(Spectator Scoff, January 2010) If you are reading this article the likelihood is that you are university educated, your parents owned the home you grew up in and you’ve travelled extensively. Food enthusiasts fall into a cohort of the population that is, undoubtedly, the antithesis of the Chav, and his successful cousin Mondeo Man. We have to face up to …

An Enduring Legacy – Lessons from the Great Famine

(Published in Village Magazine, November 2012) Who was to blame for the Great Famine? This thorny question rears its head with the recent publication of the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine by Cork University Press. We may accept the detached assessment of the American economic historian Joel Mokyr expressed some years ago that ‘Ireland was considered by Britain as …

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 …