I’m always sad to see the summer pass, but more often than not the sense of loss is compounded by the fact that we didn’t get much of a summer to begin with. Not so this year. Saying goodbye to this summer is all about moving on from something wonderful rather than something that never was.
Before this year, 1995 shone bright as the champion of summers. It set the bar by which all other summers would be measured. Then (after Ophelia, snow drifts, floods and a muddy grey Spring), Summer 2018 smashed the record and set a new bar.
What a summer! (I speak as a private well owner who did not have to fear drought.) Sunshine, blue skies, balmy breezes – Summer 2018 had it all. The best thing about good weather is that it gets me exploring the wonders of West Cork just outside my door. I spent a lot of this summer in the garden, and what a delight that was. The vegetable patch is still like a giant cornucopia literally overflowing its borders. I have never successfully grown more than one or two small pumpkins. This year the two pumpkin patches have turned into an undulating sea of giant green leaves and orange flowers that trails off into the grass and onto the paths. This green tide is dotted with actual pumpkins! Some are already the size of a respectable beach ball.
Further afield than my own little patch of paradise, West Cork this summer was like a 24/7 Bord Failte video. Even a short drive was a breathtaking, life-enhancing dose of beauty. Whether through fields, woods or (gasp!) along the coast, it was 360 degrees of splendour. The most gob-smacking, of course, is if you were lucky enough to get out on the water.
Those of us who are lucky enough to live here, know that the landscape is only the most obvious bit. The sense of wonder and awe comes not only from the vista but from the cacophony of birds in the woods, the buzz of insects in the garden, the harbor seal popping out from the waves, the whale eyeballing you, as it breeches, the buzzard on a telephone pole, or the hundreds of dolphins frolicking around a boat.
Our natural capital is not only the mountains, rivers and beaches. It is the fauna and flora that live and thrive in a complex and delicate ecosystem. The people of West Cork don’t take this all for granted. We get out into it. We organise beach clean-ups of the trash thrown into the ocean, or left behind by visitors. We tell each other about the nature encounters we’ve had that week (A buzzard! An albino swallow! A stoat!). We care – both blow-ins and natives. We know how lucky we are to live here.
So that is why it is so incomprehensible to me that two projects, which could be detrimental to our natural habitat have been given the go ahead without a thorough Environmental Impact Assessment. Regular readers of this column will know that I keep this column light. I keep my politics off these pages. This time, however I feel that I must speak out.
How could the proposed plastics factory in Skibbereen, and mechanical kelp harvesting of Bantry Bay been given the green light without public consultation, and a serious study of what impact these enterprises will have on our environment, is beyond me. That in this day and age of environmental awareness we would agree to mechanically harvest the magnificent kelp forest in Bantry Bay without a study as to the long-term effects is unthinkable.
I have heard all about the whys and wherefores. It’s all paperwork and politics. Mere puffs of smoke compared to losing a river, or destroying a kelp forest. Demanding a proper Environmental Impact Assessment for any development is a no-brainer.
We have a natural capital second-to-none. We cannot go blindly down a road that could cause long term damage to that capital. We must manage our natural capital like a good gardener, parent, or custodian.
Native Americans have a concept called ‘the 7th generation’. It is enshrined in the Constitution of the Iroquois Nation. In a nutshell it says that in every deliberation they must think of the impact their decision will have on the seventh generation. It is an idea that we would do well to embrace, keeping in mind that the Iroquois counted a generation as 100 years (we count a mere 25 years!).
Let’s make sure that seven generations from now, West Cork is still the wonderful place is was this summer.