2007 Members’ Weekend

In a departure from previous years, Feasta’s 2007 Members’ Weekend was held as part of a larger event, the first ever “Irish Green Gathering”, at Woodbrook House outside Bunclody, Co. Wexford in August. The aim was to allow members to meet, have fun and get excited by new ideas. To launch the weekend Feasta hosted a social gathering on the Friday night. As with the other Feasta events that weekend it was held in the beautiful ‘Old Chapel’, for which we were very grateful as it rained for most of the weekend!

Feasta staged two major talks on Saturday the 18th. One by systems’ ecologist and former farmer Folke Günther on the use of charcoal to create the equivalent of amazingly fertile “terra preta” (black earth) soils found in the Amazon Basin. This locks away carbon for thousands of years and is something people could do in their own gardens or which can also be done on a larger scale (as is being researched by Danny Day and EPRIDA).

 In Folke’s own words: “If we are to counteract global warming, the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide must be reduced from the level it is today. I will explore the concept and practice of carbon sequestration by means of bio-char, or terra preta (“black earth”). Most methods of carbon sequestration that are currently used focus on removing excess carbon dioxide as a gas, but the bio-char process removes it for thousands of years by using plants to turn carbon dioxide into carbohydrates, which are then converted into charcoal and incorporated into the soil where it greatly increases fertility. I’d like to see the introduction of financial incentives, such as a “negative” carbon tax, for those sequestering carbon this way.”

The other talk was by environmental psychologist Dr. Patrick Devine-Wright. It was titled “Beyond Nimbyism: Seeking an understanding of public opposition to alternative energy technologies.”

According to Patrick: “Responding to climate change requires significant changes in how we generate energy, to reduce carbon emissions stemming from the use of fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil. Whilst opinion polls consistently show that renewable energy is popular in theory, a transition to a renewable energy-based economy in practice looks unlikely, as specific projects, particularly those involving wind farms, have often been greeted with vociferous opposition. NIMBYism (‘not in my back yard’) is the commonest means of explaining such opposition, yet it has been extensively critiqued by social scientists, both theoretically and empirically. My presentation reviews cases of public opposition to energy technologies in Ireland and the UK, including the Corrib Gas project. It challenges the value of what we mean by NIMBYism. It is based on an interdisciplinary research programme funded by the UK Government in which I’m involved which seeks to propose an alternative framework for understanding public responses, both supportive and resistant, to energy technologies.”

Then, on Saturday evening, Feasta co-founder Richard Douthwaite had a public discussion with the Green Party’s Deputy Leader, Mary White TD, on whether the government should introduce carbon taxation or issue individual, tradeable, emissions allocations on the lines of Feasta’s ‘Cap and Share’.  Of course Cap and Share won the debate, hands down, though Mary White stated that it wasn’t an ‘either / or’ situation and that the Green Party would be seriously looking at all options.

All three events were open to Feasta’s members and other attendees of the festival. They were well attended and gave rise to lively questions and answer sessions afterwards. And it wasn’t all hard work for members either. The organisers had laid on a wide range of films and musical and other attractions. To enable Feasta members to meet each other, and the public to learn about Feasta, we ran an informal cafe/information point in the stable yard where people were able to meet and chat over coffee or tea. And when the weather was too inclement we were able to retire to the warmth of the old Chapel. All in all it was a great weekend and we hope to be able to do it again next year.

Note: Feasta is a forum for exchanging ideas. By posting on its site Feasta agrees that the ideas expressed by authors are worthy of consideration. However, there is no one ‘Feasta line’. The views of the article do not necessarily represent the views of all Feasta members.