Locating pressure points on nature
ENVIRONMENT Mountnugent hosts Earth Day event on Saturday, April 22
With the natural world coming under increasing pressure, a Mountnugent woman is trying to educate people to value the wealth of nature on their doorstep.
Kathleen O’Hagan, a biology teacher who also runs the company Eco Endeavours, aims to educate people about the importance of the natural world. She will be co-hosting an event alongside Mountnugent ICA in Mountnugent Community Centre on Saturday, April 22.
“In Mountnugent we’re near the shores of Lough Sheelin so there’s definitely a consciousness here about protecting waterways and protecting biodiversity here”, said Kathleen.
“We’re going to have a panel of experts which will include Michael Cooke from Irish Water, Eamonn Ross from the Trout Protection Society, Bernie Reilly who runs the Bee Barn near Lough Sheelin, John McGuire, from the Big Tree company and Heather Bothwell an ecologist.”
Kathleen hopes by bringing people together they can have meaningful discussions and spark real change.
“We’re hoping to create interaction between the speakers, they all know a lot about their different fields. We’re hoping to discuss the pressures on the environment as they see it.
“Wilton Waste will be there and they’ll show us the statistics, give us information about the pressure points and waste collection and what we can do about it. So we’re also just looking to have a conversation with people with a lot of knowledge in their fields from the local area.
“We will see how people in their everyday lives, especially women, can counteract some pressure points that are putting strain on the environment.”
Kathleen has been an advocate for using education to create environmental awareness for several years.
“While I’m a biology teacher in 2013, I set up a small business called Eco Endeavors. It’s aim was to educate and help people understand better and appreciate the rich diversity of environments we have here in Cavan.
“One project I did was the Sunny Hollow [creche] in Omard. I brought them out into nature’s biodiversity guide and showed them the interconnectedness of life and reintroduced them to nature and textures. I presented my findings to Sligo IT.”
Kathleen says introducing children to the natural world at a young age can be hugely beneficial in their later lives.
“Young children have a natural instinct and inbuilt grá for nature. It strikes a chord with them. Research shows that children develop a relationship with nature at an early age if they’re allowed.
“A local school ran an art competition for Earth Day and a poetry competition. One of the themes was ‘The tree I love the most’. One of the mothers told me the children were able to talk about their love for trees and most of the parents didn’t know anything about it. It just shows you that children do have this unbelievable appreciation and love of nature.
“They learn through their five senses. That’s why you always see their hands moving to grab things. Children love mysterious places where space is limitless. If people want to entertain children nature is the place to bring them. It’s also a much better way of education than being stuck behind a desk.”
Kathleen, who studied at both Sligo and Glasgow University says that people often don’t appreciate the rich biodiversity in their locality.
“I did a study around Lough Sheelin and I named 31 plants but there’s probably 131 plants there. I think we became very outward-looking and looking to other countries and think they have better things than us. But I definitely want to come home to Ireland - I started to read and to go into language as well, and the Irish language is full of references to landscape,” she enthuses, giving the example of the Irish name for Virginia ‘Achadh an Iúir’ as meaning ‘the field of the yew’.
“So our country and our people have been so connected with the landscape for centuries now. The Irish language holds a big key to landscape and place names, which are just phenomenal. It’s a world just waiting to be discovered.”
She believes if people gained a greater appreciation for what goes on in the natural world they would be more inclined to protect it.
“We need to ask ourselves about the impact things like infrastructural development would do. Will they ruin or take away our biodiversity? We have to remember we are deeply connected to nature and rely on biodiversity for existence.
“It’s something many of us take for granted. We rely on it for clean air, water and food, and raw materials for medicine. So if you keep putting the pressure on the environment and weakening it, you’re putting pressure on your own way of life.”