Policy-makers are hiding behind committees instead of making decisions and getting things done
It is almost 30 years since our new national afforestation scheme was launched. It was hugely successful, amazingly so compared it to the current appalling situation where farmers are struggling to get permits for planting, thinning and general management tasks.
In the 1990s, the Forest Service worked with zeal and efficiency and the people concerned went out of their way to help farmers to become involved and get trees in to the ground.
What went wrong? Looking back from a distance of almost three decades, it seems that from being viewed as doing something good by increasing our areas of woodland, forestry became demonised by a small but very vocal group of protestors who attacked tree planting for some rather questionable reasons.
Weak governance allowed the protestors to slow down the process of afforestation with endless objections and legal battles.
The decision-makers in government then failed to do what they were elected to do and stand up for what was right for the environment, our economy and the rural landscape.
Currently we are about to have yet more public consultation. After three decades of such waffle, why on earth do we need more?
It is of course a political cop-out in that instead of taking action and making decisions, the policy-makers hide behind committees and their endless bickering.
If I am sick, I ask my doctor for a remedy. If I have a financial query, I ask my accountant for advice. I don’t hold meetings or put it up on social media and ask for comments.
What is the point in consulting people from all walks of life on a subject most of them are hugely ignorant about?
It is said that a camel is a horse designed by a committee — which is a fair comment on the stupidity of endless consultation rather than having a small group of people who know their business making the hard decisions and putting them
in to action.
That is called leadership. It is also said that the best committee is a committee of one — one good person who will drive the process in hand and get results.
When I was 25, I paid £124 for a return flight to Heathrow. At that time the agricultural wage was £12 a week so a farm labourer would need 10 weeks’ wages to simply fly return to England.
Then Ryanair appeared on the scene and within a very short period, virtually everyone could afford to fly to numerous foreign destinations.
That was the result of strong leadership and sound decision-making.
Just imagine if Michael O’Leary was in charge of forestry.
In 1995, some 25,000 hectares of woodland were established. Last year the figure was a disastrous 2,000ha and the forestry budget was substantially underspent.
Minister Pippa Hackett might at least speak honestly and acknowledge the current scheme is not working and do something positive about it. Action speaks louder than words.
I recently read an article where a professor of chemistry in UCC strongly criticised our love of fires, especially the popularity of wood-burning stoves.
The professor was described as being an “expert on air quality”, but was then quoted as saying: “The burning of fossil fuels such as coal and wood is known to be extremely harmful for health and the environment.”
Does he not know that unlike coal and oil, firewood is not a fossil fuel? Wood is the ultimate clean, green sustainable source of heat and energy.
Trees are renowned for their ability to clean the air we breathe and remove carbon from the atmosphere. This is hugely beneficial for our health, especially in urban areas with high traffic volumes.
The main body of a tree is normally used to provide the raw materials for housing along with fencing posts and rails and multiple other products that lock away the carbon they contain, often for centuries.
The residual timber makes an excellent fuel for our stoves that is both sustainable and renewable.
Firewood is a clean, readily available fuel that has warmed homes worldwide for millennia.
Modern wood-burning stoves are designed to burn at peak efficiency and ensure there is a secondary combustion of the gases produced.
This greatly reduces any potential for pollution of the atmosphere.
There is simply nothing that can compare with a friendly flickering flame that soothes and warms us on winter evenings.
The professor even suggested that no new houses should have chimneys and criticised the people who install them in dwellings where there are none.
Are they to rely on expensive, polluting oil and gas? And how does he expect Santa to make his Christmas visits? I rest my case.