Cork Nature Network (West Cork) was very active during Heritage Week 2019. This first series of events took place in and around Clonakilty, the town where the group started in May just after the Irish government declared a ‘climate and biodiversity emergency‘ in the Dáil on May 9.
A group of about 45 adults and children enjoyed an informative walk led by Ciarán Cronin besides Kilkern Lake near Castlefreke, checking out bats and their habitats.
Pipistrelle (one of Ireland’s smallest bat species) were out at dusk swooping across the reeds and over the water. Ciarán’s love of bats is infectious and lots of questions were asked about the bat detectors, the animals’ diets and eye sight. Myths were dispelled. Do they get get stuck in your hair? Do they bite? (No!) Are vampires real? (You decide) Ciarán’s detector made audible how many bats were around. And then a line of about six little egrets passed over in formation!
More info on bats
Wildlife Gardening Workshop
Workshop with Marleen Drijkoningen in the Dome at the Clonakilty Community Garden.
Marleen has not just been an active horticulturalist and leading Tidy Town gardener in Clonaklity for many years but she also built her own wildlife paradise from scratch in the course of nine years around an ordinary bungalow. What started as a “dead lawn” became a forest that attracted all sorts of wildlife – insects, songbirds, and even birds of prey.
Biodiversity in action!
She showed photos of the various stages of the process, answered practical questions and took part in a lively conversation about the pros and cons of rewilding. The beautiful Community Garden (with raised beds and a small orchard) provided a fabulous backdrop.
Two workshops: ‘Introduction to Active Hope’ and ‘Working with Ecogrief’
Two ecogrief workshops were scheduled in Clonakilty on consecutive days.
- Introduction to Active Hope with Debra Davies
- Working with ecogrief with Melanie O’Driscoll
Both workshops offered a ‘sanctuary’ to the participants where they could delve into emotions and perceptions around the global climate and biodiversity crisis. Each took the work of environmental activist Joanna Macy as their starting point, albeit in slightly different ways. Particularly her book, “Active Hope: How to face the mess we’re in without going crazy” (2012).
Ecogrief is a sense of mourning felt as people become aware how much of nature is being destroyed and depleted around the world leading to a devastating loss of wildlife, mass extinction, and the distinct possibility of a bleak and uncertain future.
Macy’s method uses the emotion of gratitude as a springboard. Pain is honoured, and grief is shared, which makes it possible to see the world with new eyes as hope re-emerges that there is a way forward. This helps to ease the feelings of hopelessness and despair that often lead to denial and inaction.
Public Meeting: Connecting the Dots
The gathering in O’Donovan’s Hotel, Clonakilty was attended by over 50 people and facilitated by Moze Jacobs.
Featured speakers were Cillian Lohan (CEO Green Economy Foundation, Irish Environmental Network, member of the European Economic and Social Committee), Debra Davies (Active Hope), Fiona Vincent (SOS Skibbereen/Stop Ecocide), Cllr. Hollie Cairns, Saoi and Isolda O’Connor and Lauren Guillery (Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion West Cork), Kieran Coffey (engineer/inventor MyGug), Christopher O’Sullivan TD, the then Mayor of County Cork, whale watcher and birder.
The intention was to bring a few of the many environmental groups together that are active across West Cork, some for many years. There were discussions and interviews. The subjects covered included environmental policy and networks, ecocide and Polly Higgins, farmers and the Common Agricultural Policy, food security, green food waste solutions, resistance and rebellion, talking to politicians, the nitty-gritty of politics, and Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics as a model for a society that operates with nature’s planetary boundaries.
Various connections were made between groups and individuals and even between towns (Skibbereen, Clonakilty, Bandon) and they seem to have strengthened since then.
Writing Workshop: How Green Is My Valley
The workshop, facilitated by Nick Smith, came with an open invitation, “To write about the environment (and) our heritage passed down from previous generations”.
The participants wrote poems or short pieces about the environment. They covered forests, slurry, roadkill, litter, chemicals, love, compassion, and the painful cutting down of trees. A further exercise redirected the focus to the art of essay-writing on,, “personal experiences couched in a geographical context” aka our relationship with that which always surrounds us: the environment.
Talk in Twig: How to Shop with Minimal Waste
A talk by Olive Finn, owner of the Twig Refill Shop. The road towards a fully plastic-free, organic, food-secure, biodiverse society is a long and winding one. Tips were swapped, advice was given, problems and products discussed.
Storytelling workshop: Pathway through the Woodlands
A workshop with Rae McKinlay. Animals and our relationship with nature formed the building blocks for four stories that were collectively created by smaller groups and then narrated. The theme was very topical: “How to protect a living and mature forest against logging and destruction?”. The resulting tales were psychologically and mythologically satisfying but also surprisingly practical. At their core the ancient concept, “What goes around comes around”. And, “nature will provide the answer”. Old stories, maybe, but told in entirely new ways. The workshop took place in the Clonakilty Community Resource Centre.
Talk on pollinators
Ken Bond from Cork Nature Network gave a talk on pollinators at the Clonakilty Library. He helps to coordinate the Cork Entomology group and is an entomologist, an expert in the field of insects, who has recorded butterflies and moths in all Ireland’s counties. He has also discovered species that were new to the country.
Ken outlined how normal practices in the garden can benefit biodiversity and wildlife and above all, pollinators, which carry pollen between different flowers and are an unmissable part of the process that, ultimately, puts food on our tables. Among the recommended steps are using plants with flowers on the ultraviolet spectrum (purple, blue, yellow, white), leaving bare south/east facing strips of ground for solitary mining bees (80% of the Irish species), less mowing, letting dead grass overwinter, and the presence of long grass underneath hedgerows for bumblebees.