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Meet Irish environmental activist Tara Clarke


Lough Allen, where the exploratory licences have been granted. Photo: dusi_bbg, under a CC license.

This post is part of a series of profiles celebrating October’s special youth-focused New Internationalist magazine. Read articles or buy a copy here .

‘I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made.’ William Butler Yeats

Growing up in Ireland, I had the opportunity of learning about Irish mythology and the stories that were tied to the land, such as Tir na nOg, an early paradise that lay far off the west of Ireland, a place were sickness and death never existed. I was named after the Hill of Tara in County Meath, believed to be the seat of kings until the 6th century. This sacred hill lies in close proximity to Newgrange. Every year, on 21 December, the winter solstice (and my birthday), light from the rising winter sun floods the inner chamber of this prehistoric monument; a symbol, it is believed, of the days getting longer. I feel a close connection to the land and a determination to protect it – this is why I became a campaigner with Young Friends of the Earth in Ireland.

Whenever I read the first line of The Lake Isle of Innisfree by Yeats, I am reminded of the shear beauty, elegance and purity of the west of Ireland. In March 2011, my vision of this peacefulness was broken when Labour member of parliament Patt Rabitte awarded exploratory licences to two energy companies in the Lough Allen Basin, northwest Ireland. Canadian-based Tamboran Resources and LANGO (Lough Allen Natural Gas Company) were granted licences to explore the possibilities of extracting shale gas from the region.

Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking), the method used to extract natural gas from the ground, has been used in the US, where it has caused widespread environmental damage and water pollution, including death to livestock and wildlife.

Richard Moorman, chief executive of Tamboran Resources, claims to have found reserves of up to 4.4 trillion cubic feet, worth $154 billion. He promises to open up Ireland’s market, providing 3,000 jobs over the next 40 years and a long-term supply of fuel which would attract international businesses to Ireland.

My heart sank when I found out that the lake isle, the naturally carved landscape of Counties Clare, Mayo and Leitrim, would soon be pierced with 150 wells. Production is expected to peak in 2025, supplying 400 million cubic feet of gas daily. Dreams of Ireland becoming a leader on climate change are fading. Most of the pollution from fracking comes from the evaporation water that has been pumped into the well and released. Farmers who believe they would make money from leasing their land are not thinking about the future pollution clean-up costs. The livelihoods and health of the population are at risk.

In 2014, Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency will have completed its full independent report on the feasibility of extraction of natural gas in the Lough Allen Basin. Sian Cowman, climate activist with Young Friends of the Earth Ireland, wrote about her concerns that researchers taking part in this report may have close ties with the fossil fuel industry’s funding body: ‘This kind of industry co-opting of scientific studies is becoming more common than you’d think.’

I have lost trust in the government, which is looking into the tax benefits of this venture. I have lost trust in experts that are claiming to be doing independent research while oil money is flowing into their bank accounts. The only hope I feel is in being an activist with Young Friends of the Earth Ireland, talking to people who feel as passionate as I and who are eager to push for change.

On 21 October, in Dublin, Young Friends of the Earth Ireland held a FRACtion – an anti-fracking day of action. Young activists took to the streets to raise awareness of the harmful effect fracking can have on the environment. People all over Ireland are working in solidarity with groups from Europe, the US and Australia to highlight the dangers of fracking in our community. I believe that our generation can revoke our dependence on fossil fuels and push for a future of renewable, sustainable energy.

This post originally appeared at Tara’s Eco Science Blog.
Find out more at Young Friends of the Earth Ireland.

Above photo: Young Friends of the Earth Ireland protest against fracking. By Young Friends of the Earth Ireland.

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