Evelyn Slevin steps back and forth in her walking boots until the water flows out of the wet ground. Next to her is Paul Connaughton. In winter, when it rains heavily, it is more noticeable, he says. Then you will feel the peat floor shaking.
The two were driving through the Coronagapple bog in County Galway in Western Ireland. The 77 – year – old Connaughton spends most of his life here. He wears a light blue shirt and dark blue suit pants over his rubber boots. You can still tell that he sat in the Irish Parliament for 30 years.
He was still fighting for his right to continue digging here. But even against his resistance, Coronagapul was declared a protected area along with about 900 other parts of the Irish island. 2011 was the end of peat digging.
The mounds are growing again
Evelyn Slevin works for the government program “The Living Bog”, which ensures that algae and lichens are re-watered today from the bottom. Before that, the trenches flowed over the area where the fog was flowing.
“That ditch was closed. There was a ditch here, and you can see where the excavator has dug a big hole in the ground. It’s preventing water from flowing here and into the rivers.
Thousands of such simple obstacles now block 45 km of drainage ditches, so the swamp becomes wet and overgrown again – the elevated swamps curve upwards like a dome.
“You can see the branches of the trees. When you were young you could not see anything on the other side. The hill was very high, not 6 or 7 like that.
Serious damage from peat extraction
Not only did decades of peat mining cause serious damage in Caronagap: cutting peat was hard work, but unlike all other energy sources, black-and-brown briquettes were free. Twenty percent of the Irish island is made up of moors, and large parts of it have been destroyed.
This is a big problem for the climate, explains Florence Renault-Wilson of University College Dublin: “Every day carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Every day, constantly.
Undamaged swamps act as CO2 zinc, binding climate-damaging gases through their slow but steady growth. In damaged, arid swamps, on the other hand, biochemical processes release large amounts of CO2. They are therefore responsible for six percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – three times global air traffic.
The last pure peat power plant went offline
In addition, peat has its own emission from combustion: peat has a worse energy balance than lignite. In Ireland, more than 3 million tonnes of CO2 will be emitted in 2018, accounting for 8% of total energy emissions.
Partly under pressure from the European Union, Ireland decided to stop producing peat. By the end of 2020, the last clean peat power plant will be offline, and sooner or later this year, Board Na Mona, a semi-state energy company with a major responsibility for extracting peat, announced its final phase.
“Honestly, it’s not surprising that the board decided to stop mining the principle. It was planned for so long that they could not continue.” Board Na Mona conducted large peat opencast mines in the center of the country, which are now being rebuilt with funds from the European Union Reconstruction Fund.
New jobs in the renewable energy sector
In 1990, 20 percent of Ireland’s electricity was a source of energy, and in 2018 it was just under 5 percent. At the same time, the share of renewable energy was 20 percent; By the end of this decade, the share will rise to 70 percent. So Board Na Mona offers new jobs in the renewable energy sector. The multi-million euro funding programs from Dublin and Brussels are intended to cushion structural change in principle.
But peat affects not only growers: Nurseries that use peat as a breeding ground, for example, need to consider alternatives. Pete expert Renou-Wilson points out the importance of this area: “The principle of horticulture is still very common. If we get out of there, it will have a greater impact than heating the private principle.”
In County Galway, where the Coronagapul swamp is located, about a quarter of homes were heated with peat five years ago. State subsidy programs help when it comes to eco-friendly heat. And the principle compensates for the cutters themselves – as in the case of the Coronagapul Moore.
Moores as a local recreation area and educational facility
Here Paul Connaughton points to a map of Moore with the names of hundreds of families who cut the peat. Most of them received government compensation: 500 1,500 per family for 15 years. Few have chosen an alternative area where they can continue digging peat – including Paul Connaughton. Because Paul Connaughton did not want to give up his tradition and passion for cutting principle – so as not to lose his political credibility.
“Like all politicians, I would argue that I have not changed my position: I have always said in Parliament that I should dig for principle.
Now those in charge of the project want to make sure locals can use Moore in other ways: as a recreational area and as an educational facility.
Convincing people of this is crucial to the future of the Irish Moore, says biologist Reno-Wilson: “Now the population needs to be included. To be honest, for a long time no one wanted to know anything about the Moors. I also wanted to see the beautiful scenery and it was well developed: the locals took over and we said make a local moor here and want to recreate it.
Wannabe twitter trailblazer. Troublemaker. Freelance beer evangelist. Amateur pop culture nerd.