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Nature first must become second nature

Lay of the Land

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'It's quite a sight to see a saucepan full of sparrows, finches, and doves all pecking away in relative harmony' (stock photo)

'It's quite a sight to see a saucepan full of sparrows, finches, and doves all pecking away in relative harmony' (stock photo)

'It's quite a sight to see a saucepan full of sparrows, finches, and doves all pecking away in relative harmony' (stock photo)

Apparently birds in their little nest agree - even if the collared doves that visit my back yard are far from the serene symbols of peace they're purported to be.

They're always getting in a flap - literally - as they compete for the food left out for them in the old pan I found on the riverbank. Though it says something that other songbirds feel safe to eat alongside these gentle giants. It's quite a sight to see a saucepan full of sparrows, finches, and doves all pecking away in relative harmony.

Of course the crows are never far away, since they too need sustenance. I can't outwit these feathered apes of the sky, try as I might, so I've appealed to their smartness for a solution, leaving them food in another area of the yard, where they happily make a humongous fuss, in contrast to the flitting back and forth of little birds and docile doves in the far corner. 

It works for the most part, bar the odd rebel that doesn't know the rules or can't resist breaking them, forcing this scarecrow into action. Maybe it's as good as it gets in terms of negotiating relations between different nests. Much like our new Government, being composed of different political parties, has to find common ground in order to function. 

Perhaps they could learn from Ireland's main environmental groups, who work tirelessly - and for tuppence - to protect this corner of our precious planet. For BirdWatch Ireland, Irish Wildlife Trust, Friends of the Earth, An Taisce, Swan and the Environmental Pillar recently joined forces to express their vehement opposition to its proposal to shift responsibility for nature to the Department of Housing. 

Certainly, it would seem to make little sense for such critical issues to be foisted on a minister already burdened by the massive challenge of tackling Ireland's housing crisis. And represents not a conflict but an outright clash of interests to give, as Oisin Coghlan, director of Friends of the Earth Ireland pointed out, responsibility for nature to a department whose primary role is to facilitate builders and developers. 

But the groups have since been gratified by the appointment of Malcolm Noonan as Minister for State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, alongside fellow Green Pippa Hackett, who will have responsibility for Land Use and Biodiversity.

Both have "strong track records as biodiversity advocates which will be critical in their new portfolios", according to Nick Williams, CEO of BirdWatch Ireland.

"We look forward to working closely with, and supporting, the new ministers to address the many challenges facing wild birds, and the habitats and ecosystems they rely on, many of which are in trouble," he said.

Certainly, these groups have their ears to the ground and their feet firmly on it. More members gives them more clout when it comes to being heard. Time we all hopped into that saucepan to support them.

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