Thanks for stopping by. Bet you are a civic-minded soul with an independent streak and a can-do attitude!

What’s this all about? We think we, as in the people of Wexford, can make much more of what we have by working together. Better infrastructure, better local economy, better environment. And stronger communities. And we all have a part to play.

Why ‘voting with your dollar’ doesn’t work

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Just when you thought you were making a difference by shopping ethically and being more brand aware, you may find that your money is ending up exactly where you did not want it to go.


The fall down the rabbit hole is a long one – and often very painful. Once you start to deconstruct reality around you, you tend to alienate a lot of people. They are perfectly adjusted and don’t need your philosophical musings, thank you very much.


Vote with your dollars is something you will hear well-meaning sustainability-leaning people say a lot. I used to. I still do, to an extent, but it took a long time to realize just how difficult that is.

The idea behind voting with your dollars is to put your money where your values lie. If you are against animal testing on cosmetics, you make sure to only buy cosmetics that are not tested on animals. Easy, right? Not so fast. Did you know that The Body Shop (the most famous worldwide company for natural and ethically produced beauty products) is owned by L’oreal? I didn’t, and…

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Optimism and the Apocalypse

2512086374_5da1610fc9_bWe stumbled upon a very good and thought-provoking article which will appeal to all future-proofers. Just as we are what we eat, maybe we like to think we – the few – are shining examples of our species at its caring, sharing best! In this article Sebastien Carew-Reid says: “we manipulate the truth in order to reduce personal responsibility and validate inaction”. And, yes, he is talking about every one of us. Mind you he does say that, at some point, albeit rather late in the day, we will get wake up smell the coffee: “When hope dies, action begins.” (Beyond Hope – Derrick Jensen)

Community Garden Project in Wexford Town

Plans are underway to develop a mini Community Garden behind the Wexford Chamber of Commerce HQ on Hill Street, Wexford. This follows a meeting earlier in the year at which GIY (Grow It Yourself) and Wexford County Council announced details of a new Community Food Growing initiative in Co Wexford. This is one of the three chosen host sites.
The broad aims of the programme are for GIY to provide a support and mentoring framework to identified community groups, including Love Redmond Park and the Cornmarket Project, to enable the creation of community gardens in a number of locations in Wexford. The programme will act as a catalyst to establish thriving community gardens using the ‘Meitheal’ approach while, at the same time, bringing communities closer together.
While the Wexford Town project is relatively small it will hopefully serve to inspire other similar initiatives in the area.

What’s nature trying to do here?

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American academic Larry Korn gave a very entertaining and enlightening talk on the philosophy and practise of natural farming at a packed Wexford Library last Thursday. The talk was the last in the current series the library has been running with Future-Proof Wexford.

Oregon-based Larry Korn is an iconic and influential figure in the world of natural farming. His passion for the “methodless method” approach to farming developed back in the 1970s when he spent time living and working on the farm of innovative Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka. The latter, who passed away in 2008, is now seen as being a pioneer and, dare one say it, ground-breaker (keep reading!), of the natural farming movement. Korn is translator and editor of the English-language edition of Mr. Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution and editor of his later book, Sowing Seeds in the Desert.

Larry Korn’s primary reason for being in Ireland was to launch the new book, The Garden Awakening, by award-winning Wexford gardener Mary Reynolds. This was a duty he could hardly refuse as he himself edited the same tome!
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In his presentation Larry spoke about his experiences in Japan with Fukuoka and, going further back, how Fukuoka ended up taking the natural farming route.

Because of his family’s relatively privileged position in local society, Fukuoka got to go to college where he studied Agricultural Science. On returning home with a head full of ideas his father gave him management of an orchard containing 400 apple trees. While the trees had, up to that point, been pruned annually, he decided to leave them to their own devices. They died!

He deduced from this that once you start interfering with nature it can be difficult to then go the route of letting nature do its own thing. What to do? Take human decision making out of the process and let nature do as it will.

Fukuoka said it took 35 years to develop his simplistic and non-interventionist approach to growing. His ideas were completely at odds with standard practice. Most growers reckon that if something is to grow successfully they must eliminate the competition. Fukuoka saw an abundance of weeds sprouting forth and he rejoiced!

He had no time for the plough, figuring that it broke down the soil structure in a negative way. He would scatter seeds – open-pollinated as opposed to the hybridised ones we are used to buying at our local garden centres – on the ground and know that the stronger of them would take root and grow.

Larry Korn encouraged his audience to always seek out open-pollinated seeds from the likes of Irish Seed Savers and Brown Envelope.

When it came to composting, something dear to the hearts of all DIY gardeners, Fukuoka did not take the approach we all take today. Rather he dug trenches around his apple trees and threw in rotten branches and foliage so that they might enrich the trees at root level.
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Larry said that the basis of Fukuoka’s approach was to ask “what is nature trying to do here”, to take the path of least resistance, the one requiring the least effort, and to let nature do the carrying. He called this approach, this very unscientific approach, “the methodless method”. In fact he reckoned science was more likely to be a hindrance than a help.

Asked what kind of results the farm achieved, Larry said that the yields were every bit as good as that of neighbouring farms. All this using zero mechanization and only the most basic of hand tools.

While his approach might have been regarded as ground-breaking there was little, if any, breaking of ground!

Larry spoke briefly about the principles of permaculture, a concept developed in the 1970s. Originally taken to mean permanent agriculture it subsequently morphed into permanent culture. It involves observing and studying nature and working with rather than against it, considering all the factors involved and working out the optimal final design. One got the impression that as far as Fukuoka was concerned permaculture, brilliant and all as the concept is, simply involved too much effort!

With the clock running into the red Larry finished with a slide containing a Fukuoka image entitled “The Cave of the Intellect” whereby “he councils a humbleness before nature, a cessation of the materialist drive to understand and control” (www.rootsimple.com).

In Fukuoka’s words:
“It shows two men toiling in a pit or a cave swinging their pickaxes to loosen the hard earth. The picks represent the human intellect. The more these workers swing their tools, the deeper the pit gets and the more difficult it is for them to escape. Outside the cave I draw a person who is relaxing in the sunlight. While still working to provide everyday necessities through natural farming, that person is free from the drudgery of trying to understand nature, and is simply enjoying life.”
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Wexford Library and Future-Proof Wexford hope to return in the Autumn with a new series of talks and films.

Understanding Natural Farming with Larry Korn

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The next talk in the Wexford Library / Future-Proof Wexford series sees acclaimed American natural farming expert, Larry Korn, speak on the philosophy and practise of natural farming and permaculture.

Larry Korn is an iconic figure in the world of natural farming, permaculture, and sustainability. The defining move in his life was back in the 1970s when he took himself off to Japan where he lived and worked on the farm of Masanobu Fukuoka, a pioneer and world leader of the natural farming movement. Korn is translator and editor of the English-language edition of Mr. Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution and editor of his later book, Sowing Seeds in the Desert.

Larry Korn studied Asian history, soil science, and plant nutrition at the University of California, Berkeley, and worked as a soil scientist for the California Department of Forestry. He has taught many courses and workshops about natural farming, permaculture, and local food production throughout the United States. He currently lives in Ashland, Oregon.

Larry edited the new book, The Garden Awakening, by award-winning Wexford gardener Mary Reynolds. He is in Wexford, at Mary’s invitation, for the launch of the book. Naturally, we were delighted when he accepted the invitation to speak at the Library.

Bord Bia proudly states that “Ireland’s long standing farming tradition, together with our location on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, provides us with the ideal climate and conditions for sustainable farming and food production.” It also tells us that “80% of Ireland’s agricultural land is devoted to grasslands”. We also know from Duncan Stewart’s recent talk at Wexford Library that Ireland imports about 70% of its food needs and up to 90% of its fuel for energy (all fossil fuel). “The €11 billion we lose from our economy each year in imports of food and energy, breaks down at €2,400 p.a., on average, for each individual across Ireland.”

So, if growing conditions here are so good, why can’t we grow more of our own food and create more of our own energy? We can! Scientists say that, sooner or later, we must move away from the grassland-for-livestock model and produce more consumable plant-based protein. More beans, less burgers!

In his presentation Larry Korn will speak give an introduction to the general area of sustainable growing practises, in particular natural farming. He will, in the process, look at the simple, yet essential, philosophy and practical techniques of Masanobu Fukuoka.

This is a free event but advance booking is recommended. Tel 053 9196760.

Holy St Patrick, the snakes are back!

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“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level.”

This is how Barry O’Dwyer, Senior Researcher at UCC’s Environmental Research Unit, began his ‘Preparing for the Inevitable’ talk at Wexford Library last Tuesday. Presented in association with Future-Proof Wexford the focus of the evening was about the changes already being wrought by climate change and how we must act to both lessen and cope with these changes.

“There is certainty at the 95% confidence level that this warming is caused primarily by human interventions in the Earth’s coupled ocean-atmosphere system,” said O’Dwyer. “Globally all the trends point to temperatures rising at an unprecedented rate.”

April 2016 has been recorded as the warmest on record. This warming is the reason the World is experiencing rising sea levels, changing patterns of precipitation (rain/snow), increased storminess  and more frequent periods of drought.

Ireland is no exception to these effects. In general our weather is now warmer, wetter and, as we saw last Winter, more stormy. Indeed last Winter’s storms were the worst, in terms of intensity and frequency, that we experienced in 143 years.

Globally sea levels have risen by close to 200mm since 1900. There is still some uncertainty as to how the continuing increase in emissions will impact on sea level rises. Estimates vary from 0.5m to 0.8m.

Climate change is bringing real and visible changes to Ireland, some gradual, others more unexpected and extreme. Examples:
Our growing season has changed;
The tillage, veg and fruit we grow will alter as changing conditions affect yields (how long before Wexford’s first commercial vineyard!)
High water flows are increasing;
Increased incidence of water quality being negatively affected;
Soft coasts are seeing more intense erosion;
Sea fish (eg mackerel) stocks have been negatively affected.

Projections for future global climate change are based on expected, or possible, future levels of greenhouse gas emissions, the response of the climate system to these, and natural influences on climate such as volcanic activity and changes in oceanic circulation patterns.

Future projections for global temperature are difficult to call. As Barry O’Dwyer put it “when it comes to global tipping points, all bets are off”. A low-emissions scenario could see a rise on 1990 levels of around 1.5°C. With no curb in emissions the rise could be 4-5°C. In the latter case the effects globally would be devastating: big sea level rises and major flooding, heatwaves, water and food shortages, melting glaciers, acidification of the seas, marine ecosystems destroyed, etc.

As things stand now, Ireland is looking at an increase in periods of drought and heavy precipitation events. With drought we will experience water shortages and water quality issues. The southeast can expect a 20% drop in Summer precipitation but much heavier precipitation when the clouds do open. The landscape and biodiversity will be negatively impacted – the agricultural sector will find itself adapting to cope with warmer Summers and longer, drier periods.

The flip side is that we can expect increased flood risk with more and more areas affected and more incidences of “bridge scour”, the process by which the structure of bridges is undermined. Storms, at least as intense as those of last Winter, will become a more common occurrence. The impact of sea level rises and storms will be seen initially on the southern coast while soft coastlines will be at increased risk. This will also have implications for ports, harbours and other coastal infrastructure.

On a more serious level there is a possibility that Ireland, and Europe, could lose the warming effect of the gulf stream giving us much colder Winters.

The two principle ways of dealing with climate change are mitigation (reduce emissions and you reduce the main cause of climate change) and adaptation (coping and preparing for the challenges ahead).

At the COP21 talks in Paris last year World leaders set a max policy target of 2°C warming on 1990 global temperatures. Projections using multiple global climate models give estimates of likely temperature rises for different levels of greenhouse gas emissions. These “Representative Concentration Pathways” give four likely outcomes varying from a low emissions rise of up to 2°C to a high emissions 4.5°C. Emissions would need to peak in the next five years if we are to have any chance of staying below a 2°C rise. We would also need to see net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere in the second half of this century to stay within target.

Is the political will there to collectively make this happen? Suffice to say that when it comes to dealing with the effects of climate change we are now looking as much at adaptation as we are at mitigation. Barry O’Dwyer says that adaptation is now considered an essential part of planning and socio-economic development. It involves learning by doing and constantly reviewing strategies and policies.

At a national and local level adaptive management might see us widening drains to increase capacity, installing one way valves, raising floor levels, using flood resilient materials, using sustainable means to slow down fast-flowing and swollen rivers, and, in some cases, relocating families.

While adaptive management is key to any policy what else can be done in Ireland to deal with the threats presented by climate change?
Ensure climate change is integrated into socio-economic planning at local and national level;
Raise public awareness and understanding both in the community and at public representative level;
Ensure equity and fairness play a part in any plans;
Continue to develop the evidence base – hard facts are hard to deny;
Accept that climate change is no longer just a notion, something that might happen. It is happening now and its effects will only become greater.

And the mention of “snakes” in the title? It would appear that there is a small but active snake population resident around the Dodder River in Dublin. These are snakes that were bought as pets but which subsequently escaped, or were released into the great outdoors. The warmer year-round temperatures means that they can now survive in the open. They are having a negative impact on the biodiversity around the river.
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Planning for the Inevitable: Climate Change


Barry O’Dwyer, a Senior Post Doctoral Researcher at the MaREI Centre, UCC, is the guest speaker at a climate change talk at Wexford Library on Tuesday, May 24 (7pm). The event, presented in association with Future-Proof Wexford, follows a recent talk at the same venue by environmentalist and architect Duncan Stewart.

The latter focused on how climate change may lead to mass migrations of people fleeing devastation and/or starvation, and global food shortages generally. On the plus side, he also looked at how those innovative enterprises prepared to take a long term sustainable approach can expect to prosper.

Barry O’Dwyer’s talk will look at how climate change is already impacting, physically, with the island of Ireland and what measures we can take to cope with the inevitable changes resulting from this.

Our weather experiences of recent years, e.g., on coastal regions in the storm series of Winter 2013-2014, and the unprecedented high rainfall and temperatures of Winter 2015, have demonstrated the enormous impact that climate change, has had, and will continue to have, upon the country. These events have also highlighted the urgent requirement for planned, pro-active and strategic responses to projected future climate changes.

The COP21 Meeting (Paris, Dec 2015), attended by government representatives from over 190 countries, affirmed that human induced global climate warming is now occurring, that the impacts of these changes are already being felt and that they are expected to continue and to intensify into the future.

Co Wexford has already suffered the effects of climate change, most recently with last Winter’s flooding causing substantial disruption and damage to property and coastal erosion shaving many acres off the coastline.

Barry O’Dwyer contends that Wexford, like other badly effected counties, can either take this lying down or it can put in place measures to deal with future such events.

In the context of current and potential future impacts of climate change for Ireland, this talk will outline how planned and pro-active adaptation responses can help us to cope with our now inevitable but still uncertain climate future.

This is a free event but advance booking is recommended. Tel 053 9196760.