Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ireland and old-school island sustainability

Last week I took a few days off from the thesis and hopped a cheap Ryanair flight to Dublin with Michelle, Tamara, and Kyle, pictured here enjoying our first Guinness (of many) upon arrival.

A couple of nights in Dublin in a flea-bag hostel was a welcome change from a small town winter in southern Sweden. The city is really cool, pretty vibrant with lots of people on the streets. We spent the day on Saturday walking the city and stumbled upon Cultivate – a sustainable living center near Temple Bar.

It was impressive to see what they were doing – they had a shop with great books, some food and various eco-design products from electric bikes to window sill greenhouse planters. They had a demonstration yard in the back with displays for green building and organic gardening techniques, and because it was earth day they were ending up a week of events with a movie on Cuba’s response to their “end of oil” crisis when the Soviet Union collapsed in which they relied heavily on Permaculture and urban gardening for food and solar and biofuel for energy – click here for more on the documentary.

Next, we were off to “Mecca” – which did not disappoint. The freshest Guinness in the world, with a little entertainment about how they brew the beer, the history of the brewery.

Sunday we took the bus across the country to Galway, where we happen to catch “the Irish rugby game of the decade” and then grabbed a ferry to the island of Inis Mór. This place was a total treat, and just what I imagined the Irish country side to look – cows and sheep grazing on spots of lush green pasture engulfed in a network of stone walls.

On Monday we had a great tour of the island from Patrick, a 7th generation islander with a full bag of one-liners. He took us to a couple of ruins – both about 2,500-3,000 years old and incredibly well preserved. Just thinking about that sort of time scale in the island setting (where 'limits to growth' are more obvious than on the global scale) was another reminder of how important that perspective is in terms of sustainability – the fact that natural systems have been co-evolving for billions of years, purifying the atmosphere, soil and water systems to create a livable biosphere for humans with relatively low-toxicity is mind-boggling when considering how incredibly quickly we have gone about forcing those systems towards total collapse as we destroy more and more of the interconnected sub-systems (forests, fisheries, lakes, rivers, fertile soil, climate systems, etc). In just 100-200 years we’ve managed to breakdown so much of the resilience from that co-evolution, in some cases irreversibly.

Depressing and enraging thoughts, but fitting with the melancholy grey drizzle and interspersed ferocious gusts of wind (which added some excitement while checking out the ~400 ft (?) cliffs).

But it was nothing a couple Guinness couldn’t take care of and the inspiration from the positive, restorative solutions from the Cuba movie were keeping us going – and given the growing awareness everywhere you look, I have no doubt that we will restructure the way we go about meeting our needs in time and achieve that dynamic state of sustainability (hopefully) without too much war and catastrophe.

After a long journey of boats, trains, planes, and automobiles from one corner of Europe to another, we were back in K-town, refreshed and ready to dive back into thesis writing – which is pretty much what I’ve been doing non-stop since. It’s going well, getting some great feedback from CDM experts about our tool, “CDM Select,” which is encouraging, and hopefully could lead to its implementation on some real-world projects.

Anyway, for more pics from Ireland check out Michelle’s album:

Hope you’re all well... Stay going.