People take great pride in their manicured, weed-free lawns and gardens. There’s a tendency in fairly recent times to tidy up the landscape rather than allowing wildflowers, for instance, to grow along roadsides and on the edges of fields and parks.
But, as Chris Barrow, the man quoted in the introduction, stresses, space ought to be made for nature. A decline in wildflowers is leading to starvation among bees, the pollinators of many crops which provide food for humankind, he pointed out.
As part of the annual series of winter talks organised by Killarney National Park, Mr Barrow welcomed the recently-announced plan of action by the National Biodiversity Data Centre to make Ireland a place where pollinators can thrive. One-third of our 98 bee species are threatened with extinction.
Actions can be taken on farmland, public land and private land. These include creating ‘pollinator highways’ along our roads and railways, making public parks pollinator-friendly and urging people to see their gardens as potential pit-stops for bees. Sections of lawns and gardens should be let go wild to help bees and insects survive.
With the support of organisations like An Taisce Green-Schools, the plan tells everyone, from schoolchildren to farmers, gardeners, local authorities and businesses, what pollinators need, and which simple, almost cost-free, actions people can take to help. Use of fertilisers and insecticides has resulted in increased crop yields, but in strong declines in wild flowers.
The Pollinator Plan is not just about saving bees, but also about protecting the livelihood of farmers and growers who rely on their free pollinator service, which allows consumers to buy Irish fruit and vegetables at an affordable price, according to the biodiversity centre.
Mr Barrow is manager of the Education Centre, in Killarney National Park, which welcomes 12,000 second and third-level students each year. The 26,000-acre park is an ideal place for young people to study and observe the environment and wildlife close-up. It is located in the Knockreer area, close to the cathedral, which is frequented by a variety of animals, including deer and bats.
There’s no doubt the current generation of young people is far more aware of the environment than previous generations, as classroom displays, projects and ‘green’ activity inside and outside school buildings show.
It’s also good to note almost 70 government and voluntary organisations have agreed to a shared plan of action to tackle pollinator decline.