“Yeah, but it’s tradition!”

Ireland isn’t perfect for a lot of things. But that’s OK. I don’t think there’s a perfect country out there really. We are happy to stay here and help in any way. If we left the country just because we didn’t like it and didn’t stay and try and change it, we’d not be doing our part.

Tradition is a bane here. Not changing something because traditionally it’s done that way is the speed bump in the way of Ireland’s progression.

The mountain we live on has a very long name. But translated it means the bog with the stringy turf. That gives you a clue as to what is going on around us. Ireland is one of the last holdouts of natural peat reserves in Europe. And some fella thousands of years ago found out that dried peat burns. Environmentally, people holding a plot of turf and cutting it each year is a disaster. It’s an incredibly rare biome and one I think we should be proud of and actively protecting.

Thinking about the thought experiment from an earlier post it would make sense for us to burn peat as a fuel and move away from oil. It’s within our immediate area after all, and you can cut enough turf to stock up until the next season. Importing coal from Poland is just another Avocado Problem. Unfortunately peat doesn’t grow back after you cut it. At least not in time for next season.

Progress and the unceasing move forward in technology however means we can actually leave the peat alone. Houses can be insulated, even if they’re 100-year-old farm houses. We have absolutely no need for open fires or stoves. With the growth of megawatt wind farms in Ireland, and easier access to solar panels, we can heat homes with electricity. This is about how we can be sustainable. What are our options here on the bog with the stringy turf?

Replacing the oil burning heating.

  • Wood/fuel burning. Can be done and Ireland has a lot of solutions open to residents to move to a wood burning stove that can provide hot water and heating, without blasting heat into the room. This can only be sustainable if people managed their own copse for firewood. Remember the Avocado Problem: If I must drive to the farm co-op to pick up wood to burn, that was grown in central Europe I am still adding to the problem of climate change.
  • Central-air. This is a system that would be more familiar to North American residents. But in Ireland HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) is taking off in a big way. It can recycle hot air from kitchens and bathrooms and use it to warm the cool air coming in to a building to provide heating (just one thing it can do). The premise of HVAC is making an air and environmental management system that is cheap and efficient.
  • Insulation to reduce the amount of oil needed. Is the glass fibre manufactured in Ireland? If not, then it has an Avocado Problem. In our area we have a lot of managed forests, can bi-products from that be used in insulation? Wool and straw can be used as insulation, but they must come from places in Ireland (and for safety reasons must be tightly controlled for use in building). Can we improve our windows and doors? Only if the products are manufactured in Ireland…

In conclusion the problem is power. Getting a HVAC system would be the best option, but until Ireland shuts the door on coal, oil and peat burning power stations/home heating solutions it just can’t be considered as one of the good guys. Unless I can hook in to the wind turbines in my back garden I could quite easily be getting power from a peat burning power station. If I get solar panels I need to store the power and batteries are the least environmentally friendly option out there (they also suffer from the Avocado Problem). Ignoring the complete lack of sunshine hours, we have on our North Atlantic rock, of course. Wood burning stoves for us work perfectly because we have the land to manage our own fire wood. This would only be sustainable if a ban on fireplaces and stoves could be put in place for those people who couldn’t manage their own firewood. Tradition and sustainability is a partnership that will never work, and in Ireland the conflict between the two is really stifling progress.

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Living on a mountain in Ireland. Working towards being self-sufficient but starting with a conscious effort towards sustainability.

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