10 May, 2010

Smarter travel, good food and proper planning

It was chilly enough in Sandycove yesterday. There were a few brave souls in the water, but I stuck to the rock-pooling.

The weather's been a bit like the economy, turning the corner, but not quite there yet. Still, I'm optimistic about the months ahead: we're due a decent Summer, and figures are indicating a recovery in the economy as well.

I'm writing this from the train, on my way back up from a meeting of
Forás Orgánach in Co. Offaly. I've finally worked out how do this tethering thing between my laptop and an iphone.

The meeting was held at the Department of Finance offices, decentralised a few years ago
to Tullamore. I'm not convinced of the merits of decentralisation, especially when it is linked to building offices in out-of-town locations. The building is located in an office park, and although it seemed well-built, there was only one bike visible in a sea of surface car-parking. You can't detach proper planning from building in the right location in the first instance, and while the building standards may be high, it doesn't seem right to place such buildings a mile out the road from the town, where people are more inclined to drive, rather than walk, cycle or use public transport. On the same issue I was glad to see Bertie Ahern having a re-think on decentralisation in yesterday's Sunday Tribune. I'd have thought that one of the first aspects of decentralisation should have been a state-of-the-art video-conferencing suite in every decentralised office, but I suspect that if they do exist they're not being used to full capacity. I can only imagine that mileage claims have increased as a result of Charlie McCreevy's flawed decision.

Still, the meeting went well, and we had a good discussion of the draft plan from the
Forás Orgánach Partnership Market Development Group. In my contribution at the start of the meeting I mentioned a report from the United Nations Environment Programme on 'Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Africa'. The report suggests that organic farming can feed Africa, and all the cases studied showed increases in per hectare productivity of food crops, challenging the myth that organic agriculture cannot increase agricultural productivity. Meanwhile the European Union has a new organic logo that comes into force at the start of July. It depicts a leaf outlined by European stars and is accompanied by the words- "organic farming good for nature, good for you" and should increase awareness of organics within the European Union.

Meanwhile I'm launching William Campbell's new book on Thursday 13th May 2010. "Here's How" is both provocative and challenging - packed with ideas for how to transform Ireland to meet the challenges ahead. It concentrates on the need for reform at all levels on how the State operates and is a thumping good read.

The Green Economy is turning out to be a huge part of how we turn Ireland around. Green goods and services are estimated to be worth €2.8bn to the Irish economy every year and this figure is growing rapidly. We're helping to organise a conference on Friday and Saturday 21st and 22nd May 2010 in the Croke Park Exhibition Centre. A keynote speech will be given by Gabriel D'Arcy, CEO, Bord na Móna entitled "A New Contract With Nature – the Green Economy in Action." I'll be adding my tuppence ha'penny worth as well on the issues of agriculture and planning.

Details of the conference are on the www.GreenEconomy.ie website.


Oisin said...

Ciaran, Tullamore is an interesting case study in how not to plan. Most of the new housing estates are to the north of the town, the big box shops to the east, business park with DoF, HSE to the south and the posh part where taoiseachs live to the west! This causes huge car dependency, which could be seen at 9, 1 and 5 before the second bypass was built. Apparently only Latvians cycle in Tullamore. Locals mention the question of who the landlords on the business parks are and who the builders who built the estates are, and what other roles people might have had on town councils etc.

There is some silver lining though. Within the new bypass there is a nice environment for cycling and walking. The town is on the train and is crying out for some sort of "figure 8" bus service and car-pooling. The new hospital has excellent video-conferencing facilities. The organic dairy Glenisk is also nearby in Killeigh.


Slow food Clare said...

Hi ciaran. Interesting event in Croke park and good luck. We are running he burren slow food festival in lisdoonvarna on the same weekend so if any of your readers are in the west it may be of interest. www.slowfoodclare.com. We have a very interesting talk on 'food and water' by Alex bell.details on our site. Sfc.