Posted by: graemelaidlaw | April 20, 2010

From the bottom up

Our lectures were about the layers of bureaucracy which touch our lives, the final thought was ‘how can we make our individual voices heard when we don’t really understand the system we want to change.  The thought I came away with was that when politicians are fighting to get re-elected every 4 or 5 years, they reflect the people who voted for them.  I know that sounds simple but in the last decade in Ireland the majority of the population wanted ‘progress’ at any cost.  The government would pay lip service to the european directives but nothing stood in the way of progress.  Duchas, who used to be the centralized body in charge of Ireland’s archaeological heritage, were quickly subsumed into the department of the environment when they were felt to be encouraging the proper excavation of sites prior to construction, and therefore holding up development.  There was no groundswell of support for environmental or archaeological protection in the face of development, which is why Bertie Ahern could get away with saying that that major road schemes were being held up “because of swans, snails and the occasional person hanging out of a tree”.  And how people laughed.  Ahern for all his faults was at least savvy enough to have a feel for public opinion.

If you compare this attitude with that in Germany, they are hardly comparable.  In Germany I could not imagine a politician, never mind the head of state, stating an opinion similar to Ahern’s.  The Wildlife Crossing on the 26 Motorway in the Hardt Forest in Germany is a wildlife corridor that allows mammals to safetly access land on either side of the motorway.   The habitat overpass includes board fences to reduce road noise and lights. Rocks are placed at the ends of the overpass to prevent vehicular use.  And there also no black bin bags filled with rubbish dumped all over the place.

It will take an awful lot of directives from Europe to change the attitude of most Irish people about the environment, and until the attitude at the bottom is changed the politicians will refuse to take the environment seriously, and Ireland will continue to have an awful record implementing european legislation


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