Progress at snail’s pace

Progress at snail’s pace

Over the years, we’ve had controversies about the need to save rare snails which had got in the way of roadworks in places such as Ballyvourney, Co Cork, and the Pollardstown Fen nature reserve in Co Kildare. Some politicians tried to trivialise the issue and mock campaigners, but they missed the point.

The real story was that the presence of these snails was a sign of a valuable environment which was worth protecting. Now, the focus is taking a completely different turn, and another obscure snail comes into the picture.

Ironically, this ocean resident may be a victim of the drive to manufacture electric cars which are supposed to protect the environment. The seabed may well have to be mined to obtain some essential materials for electric car batteries, with negative effects on marine life. The seabed, more than half the world’s surface, contains more nickel, cobalt, and rare earth metals than all land reserves combined. Mining corporations say that deep-sea exploration could help the supply of metals, including cobalt, for such batteries. The demand for copper, aluminium, cobalt, and other metals, to power technology and smartphones, is also soaring.

New technology is being developed to start mining the seafloor targeting areas that are home to some of the world’s rarest, strangest and most vulnerable, animals. Queen’s University Belfast researchers have found that a scaly-foot snail, also known as the sea pangolin, is the first species at risk of extinction due to potential deep-sea mining.

This snail has now been internationally red-listed as being endangered from mining, according to Nature Ecology and Evolution. The deep sea is home to thousands of species and new species are being discovered all the time.

“These deep-sea marine animals like the scaly-foot snail are out of sight, out of mind, but they are still threatened by human activities,” warns Julia Sigwart, senior lecturer in marine biology at Queen’s.

It is crucial we are aware of the immediacy and potential impacts of deep-sea mining. This red-list designation for these species will enable appropriate international protection for the most vulnerable of creatures

In Ireland, we’re still slow movers in regard to electrics cars. Despite a 470% rise (from a low base) in the numbers purchased here in the first quarter of this year, everyone knows there’s no chance of the Government reaching its target that such cars should make up 10% of all vehicles (around 230,000) by 2020.

Progress at snail’s pace

A decade has passed, meanwhile, since the row about the Kerry slug in Ballyvourney, but work on the bypass has yet to start. Pollardstown Fen, near the Curragh, is today a peatland of international importance for its natural treasures.

Over the years, we’ve had controversies about the need to save rare snails which had got in the way of roadworks in places such as Ballyvourney, Co Cork, and the Pollardstown Fen nature reserve in Co Kildare. Some politicians tried to trivialise the issue and mock campaigners, but they missed the point. The real story was that the presence of these snails was a sign of a valuable environment which was worth protecting. Now, the focus is taking a completely different turn, and another obscure snail comes into the picture.

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