Irish Times view on Biodiversity Week

We cannot continue to damage the web of life without severe consequences for us all

It is fitting that National Biodiversity Week opens on Saturday with, among a wealth of other attractive and family-friendly events across the country, a tour of Abbeyleix Bog. The Abbeyleix Bog Project has shown how local community awareness and action can help shift the policy of a powerful corporation towards protecting our environment. Bord na Móna had been on the point of destroying most of this valuable but already degraded and hitherto neglected natural site. However, it finally responded to local protests by assisting the community to restore many species and ecological processes – more successfully than even well-disposed experts had believed possible.

The fact that this event is already fully booked underlines one of the few really positive findings of the latest survey of biodiversity indicators by the National Biodiversity Data Centre: appreciation of the critical importance of our natural heritage is increasing. National Biodiversity Week plays a significant role in fostering this appreciation. Its continued growth is vital if the attitudes that have led to so much environmental degradation and habitat and species loss are to change fast enough to reverse this dangerous decline.

Scientific experts, state agencies and environmental NGOs can all be important players in protecting the natural world, on whose health our economy and, ultimately, our lives are entirely dependent. But events like the turf-cutting controversy have shown that, unless local communities are engaged from the outset, even good environmental policies can lead to bad outcomes.

National Biodiversity Week is organised by the Irish Environmental Network - made up of NGOs - and supported by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). The programme offers many options – from bats to birds, from bees to whales, from urban to rural – to discover the wonder and pleasure that direct contact with nature can bring. That contact can spark understanding that everything in our world is connected; we cannot continue to damage the web of life that sustains us all without severe consequences for every one.