Latest News from Westport Eco-Congregation

Caroline Goucher sent ECI this update:

A zoom talk was hosted by Westport Eco-Congregation on 16 May entitled: ‘Faith in the Environment and Inter Faith Perspectives’ by Alastair McIntosh, Scottish writer, academic and activist and the question was asked ‘Does faith have anything to say to the Climate Crisis?’

Having posed this question, Alastair then took us on a journey to his home Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, where evidence of climate change and its effect on the people of this island, was obvious. There were ruins of houses, and large areas of land uninhabited …where had all the people gone?  He took us through the story of one of the inhabitants of this island … Mary Ann McLeod.  Her grandfather’s family had been brutally evicted from their land by a landlord who was Governor General of Barbados … a slave colony at the time. This same grandfather lost his life in a mass drowning tragedy when her mother was a child.  This island saw many tragedies … young men lost at war, drowned on their journey home or through the Spanish flu or TB.

Mary Ann emigrated to the U.S in the 1920s, taking with her that heavy load of generational trauma. Mary Ann was to be the mother of the 45th President of the USA … Donald Trump.  We were asked to consider how the family trauma from his mother’s side alone, might have shaped him.

Alastair posited that 4Cs played a large part in the Climate Crisis we now have…CLEARANCE…the separation of people from their land and community, as happened with colonisation and subsequent emigration.

COLLAPSE…inner psychological collapse.  What do I do to fill the emptiness left by this loss?

CONSUMPTION… ”Consumerism is consumption beyond what is needed for dignified sufficiency of life”.  We know that consumerism is what is driving Climate change in the world…when have we enough? What emotional or spiritual poverty are we hoping to fill with our next purchase or acquisition? 

Alastair believes that the medicine to cure consumerism leads us to the 4th C…COMMUNITY.

Perhaps, this is where faith can play a part.  How do we open our hearts to people of all beliefs and none within our town, county, country, and world?  How can we bring back the practice of the Meitheal where we all work together for the common good, ensuring that the needs of all are met?

Alastair challenged us to look at how we can pull life back into our communities, where young and old can be supported in what he called the basket of community that holds us in our humanity.  This, he believes is what is sadly lacking in so many disenchanted young people and many narcissistic adults too, which can have devastating effects on many lives, as they try to fill their spiritual and emotional poverty.

For more from this fascinating speaker/author, read Alastair McIntosh’s latest book RIDERS ON THE STORM, or listen to his entire talk on the Westport Eco-Congregation YouTube channel here.

On Monday 15th March, as part of the Mayo County Council goes green for Paddy’s week, Westport Eco-Congregation hosted an online seminar exploring one aspect of the current climate emergency – feedback loops and forestry. 

In a changing climate, a feedback loop is something that speeds up or slows down a warming trend and the seminar explored the part played by forestry in these feedback loops.

The seminar was facilitated by a panel which included: Laura Dixon, Climate Action Officer Mayo County Council; Ray Foley, Learning about Forests – LEAF Ireland and Dave Whelan and Edel Hackett from Edible Landscape Projects.

We learnt that the world’s forests are responsible for removing a quarter of all human carbon emissions from the atmosphere and are essential for cooling the planet. But that fraction is shrinking as the three major forests of the world—tropical, boreal, and temperate—succumb to the effects of climate feedback loops. The resulting tree dieback threatens to tip forests from net carbon absorbers to net carbon emitters, heating rather than cooling the planet.

During the discussion it was acknowledged that the subject could cause alarm, or even be viewed as being depressing in the severity of the threat caused by feedback loops, especially in Ireland where only 2% of the 12% of forests are native woodland, which can leave the other 10% of forests vulnerable, however it was also acknowledged that temperate zones, like Ireland, are the most likely areas to sustain forests which act as carbon sinks, once the right kind of forestry is planted.  There is hope there, but we have a huge responsibility with that. 

The importance of Ireland’s peat bogs as carbon sinks was also discussed.

The overriding message is that we all must work together as a community in order to stop these feedback loops before it’s too late.  While planting trees is a great thing to do, even more than that we should be protecting the forests we already have as mature trees are better absorbers of carbon than new planted trees.  Having said that, planting the right trees in the right places is also hugely beneficial and the importance of this should not be underestimated.  So, if you’re planning on planting a tree, do a little research and make sure you plant the right tree for the area of planting.  Our world is worth fighting for and we should be working together to save our forests and our planet.

Our thanks to those in attendance and Laura, Ray, Edel and Dave for their input to this event. 

The recording can be found on social media and youtube