Ecologically sustainable agriculture
Sir, – Agriculture is responsible for a higher percentage of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions than transport, electricity or heating.
Adaptation is required across the board, although it is our large concentration of intensive beef and dairy cattle that is the main cause of high emissions of methane and nitrous oxide (many times the warming potential of carbon dioxide emissions, unit for unit).
A lowering of cattle numbers, with reduction of fertilisers and increasing use of mixed-grass swards would make a good start in reducing both emissions and the damaging effects of our agriculture on soil, water and biodiversity, as discussed by Michael Hamell recently (Letters, September 22nd).
The conservationist Aldo Leopold believed the extension of ethics to the care of the natural environment to be “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity”. The goal of ecologically sustainable agricultural management requires such an ethic; unless we accept that there are limits defined by the needs of natural systems, we cannot achieve it. – Yours, etc,