This week there’s so much sustainability and climate news that I’m holding it back for an extra episode which will be with you next Tuesday 3rd August.

Before we talk about rewilding there’s news from Ireland of creative and artistic projects with the aim of engaging the public about the changes people will have to make to address climate change.

The projects include coastal light installations, reimagined Bord na Mona villages, decarbonisation projects and pop-up energy stores.

One of the projects, Field Exchange, centres on the idea of agri-culture – linking art, food and agriculture and bringing artists, farmers, scientists, experts and the public together in Brookfield Farm, Tipperary. The objective is to integrate regenerative agriculture, creativity and gathering to combat climate change, linking production, consumption and individual farmers’ actions. Field Exchange will present two significant art works addressing climate change: A major newly commissioned pair of sculptural plantings by artist Deirdre O’Mahony will be open to the public for 12 days over 12 weeks and artist John Gerrard’s artwork, Corn Work, presented in a barn on an LCD screen.

Together, these works bring art out of the gallery, into rural Ireland, linking artistic response to climate change with practical mitigation ideas. 

Rewilding 

Rewilding. We’re concerned with tackling the climate emergency and doing everything we can to mitigate the extreme weather and sea-level rise. We need to spare a thought as well about how we continue to co-exist with our planet and with nature.

I spoke recently with Ria Rocha and she explained how rewilding helps us address climate change at the same time as making the world a more sustainable place to live - for wildlife and biodiversity as well as for us humans.

Anthony Day:

Today I'd like to welcome Ria, who is the presenter of The Eco-side podcast. Now that podcast is produced on behalf of Mossy Earth. And Mossy Earth says on its website, "It's a team restoring nature and fighting climate change." Tell us a bit more about Mossy Earth, Ria.

Ria Rocha:

Hi Anthony, thank you so much for having me here. Yeah, so Mossy Earth, the reason why we're doing what we're doing is exactly what you said. We want to fight climate change and help restore nature through reforestation and rewilding initiatives. What we're wanting to do is to restore nature and fight climate change through reforestation and rewilding initiatives. So by combining those two approaches, we can really help nature to thrive. And that's really simply put, what we're doing. So we're pretty much taking the focus away from carbon offsetting and to actually try and have more of a holistic approach.

Anthony Day:

When you say rewilding, as I understand it, you're assisting a piece of land to get back to nature. And the intention is that once you've done that nature should take care of itself. Is that a fair comment?

Ria Rocha:

Yeah exactly. It's how we like to think of it yes. Because I think the biggest difference between rewilding and a more traditional approach to conservation is exactly that. We're not wanting to manage the land forever. We're wanting to help it thrive and then let nature take care of itself.

Anthony Day:

So you're making a clear distinction between rewilding and conservation. If you take the approach of restoring a piece of land and leaving it to itself, is there not a risk that it will just eventually turn to scrub land or some not very attractive piece of countryside over time?

Ria Rocha:

Yeah, well so the goal is not to eventually leave it completely. It's just that we're trying to not be as an active component let's say, to that piece of land to restore. So we're helping to restore the damaged ecosystem services that need help, that have been damaged. And then hopefully in the future, once they can function on his son and there's a more balanced way to that habitat, then to leave it and to come in whenever we needed. The only differences with a more traditional approach, people want to perpetually manage it, to keep it in a certain way. Where we expect that nature can, at a certain point, do the work much better than we can ever possibly try.

Anthony Day:

When you talk about rewilding, what land are you talking about? Is your objective to convert agricultural land to a more natural habitat?

Ria Rocha:

Not specifically, in general we've been working with protected pieces of land that have already been the stage to different rewilding projects. So these are lands that, they used to be wild and they're just damaged to an extent they need our help. So we're not coming in, in a place that has agricultural land and trying to get people out and then rewild that area. If that's what you're asking.

Anthony Day:

So are we looking at what we might call brownfield sites? In other words, sites which may have been the site of industrial activity or possibly mining or quarrying and restoring areas of that nature?

Ria Rocha:

Not our projects now. So for example, just to give you an example, we have a project in the north of Portugal and what we're trying to do there is... And this is a rewilding initiative, it's to just help the coexistence between humans and the wolf population that exists there. So we're not coming in and saying, you can't have your herds and you can't have cows. We're just helping both of these components to co-exist. And that is rewilding as well. Just helping us to be able to co-exist in a world where there's wildlife and there's predators.

Anthony Day:

Yeah. That's really interesting because you're not just talking about planting trees or wild flowers, you're actually reintroducing and protecting animals like the wolf, which I think have become extinct in large parts, if not all of Europe. And that's quite a... That must be quite difficult to get people, particularly farmers to accept.

Ria Rocha:

Yeah. So in this case we're not reintroducing, pretty much what we're doing is there used to be a population there. And what happened is, its persecuted by farmers every time there's a Wolf attack on their herd. So what we're doing and our partners, Rewilding Portugal, they're doing an amazing job of this and we're supporting them in this aspect. Which is introducing the livestock guarding dogs in the area that protect and prevent the wolf attacks to happen in the first place. Because there's more than enough wild food for them to pursue. It's just that if the herd is not protected, then it becomes easy prey. And then the farmers go after the wolves themselves because it's their livelihood, that's it's in cause.

Anthony Day:

But if I were devil's advocate, I would say if you got rid of the wolves, then you wouldn't need the dogs and you wouldn't have any attacks on the sheep. Why is it important to maintain the wolf population?

Ria Rocha:

Yeah, so I think different people will answer this in different ways. There's many reasons why we need biodiversity and we should protect these amazing species that one, have all the right to be in these areas that we live in as well. And then there's this value to sharing this world with other species, not just us.

Anthony Day:

If we go for rewilding, are we going to have enough land left to feed a growing population? Human population that is.

Ria Rocha:

Yeah, that is a really big question. I don't think that the rewilding movement aims to just rewild the whole world and put humans in a box where we won't be able to sustain ourselves. I think the idea here is to create a balance where both nature and the human population can thrive, which is what's not happening at the moment. There's a lot of land that could be used more sustainably to create what we need, the food supplies that we need. And then there's this other component, which is there's so much land that could be rewilded at the same time. I don't know if I'm making myself clear here.

Anthony Day:

Mossy Earth has got operations in Scotland, in Portugal, Romania, and elsewhere in the UK I think. So it's an international organization. Where did it come about? How has it started and what is the overall objective of Mossy Earth?

Ria Rocha:

Yeah, so it started with just two like-minded people that wanted to make a difference as individuals and they didn't know where to start. And that's where the idea came from creating a membership, a tool that allows individuals to be able to make this difference and to help nature thrive. Because otherwise it seems so overwhelming. And there's so much to do that at an individual level it would be really hard to even begin to fight for what we value. And so we created this membership where people can, for £10 a month, they can start rebuilding the world and reforesting and just help nature thrive in different parts of the world.

Anthony Day:

So your organization is based on membership subscriptions. Do you encourage members to get involved directly in initiatives to rewild parts of the neighborhood where they live?

Ria Rocha:

Yeah, so we've created low-impact living guides and even rewilding articles that help people understand better this subject. And there's many ways in which they can help themselves, like rebuilding their own garden and planting for bio diversity in the garden and stuff like that, which is really useful. But for example, in terms of our own project, we like to support the local community. So we don't incentivize, we get a lot of people asking us if they can come and help us plant trees. And that is something that we avoid just because we like to support the local communities in the areas where we're planting.

Anthony Day:

If somebody lives in a flat in a city center, is there much that they can personally do about rewilding?

Ria Rocha:

I mean, there is more than one would think to be honest. There's this amazing organization and they're pretty much connecting the dots between the lines where bees can operate. And one of the things that you could do is just check the map and see if there's other people adhering to this project around you. And so even just by having the right plants or the right flowers in your veranda can help a global movement. And it's just a tiny little thing that you can do that might have a really big impact. So there's more than one would imagine I'd say.

Anthony Day:

What's Mossy Earth's next challenge? Have you got a program? Are you aiming to achieve something specific in the next two, three, five years? What's your vision?

Ria Rocha:

So what we're wanting to do is to just really make an impact in areas that are being overlooked. So we have programs that are looking at species that are underfunded, and they are so special and they're so important to keep protecting. And so we're trying to actually direct our funds towards these species and really make a difference there. Because there's a lot of organizations out there, there's a lot of funds being directed towards the most iconic species. And so we're trying to make a difference in this way.

Anthony Day:

All the details of what you're doing on your website, of course, and that is mossy.earth, one of the new unusual domain identifiers Mossy, M-O-S-S-Y.earth. If people go there, can they find a link to your podcast as well?

Ria Rocha:

Yeah, we're working on making it a bit more prominent on the website, but they can find it on the right hand corner.

Anthony Day:

That's great. And far as the podcast is concerned, what have you got coming up? What will be the subject of future episodes?

Ria Rocha:

We actually have a really cool conversation that should be released in the next two weeks. And it is about tree planting done wrong. So one of our aims is to actually just help people be more informed in how nature restoration is done. And so this conversation is all going to be about how tree planting can actually cause some harm, and what are the solutions here and the different approaches to tree planting and to the other alternatives. Which could be natural regeneration. And it'll be a really interesting conversation to have a listen to, for sure.

Anthony Day:

You sound a little bit skeptical about planting trees as offsets. Am I detecting that correctly?

Ria Rocha:

Yeah. I wouldn't say... I just feel like there should be more of a holistic approach to restoring nature and the only issue with carbon offsetting, as that's your main thing, that's your main goal, is that things might not be done in the best way possible. In terms of protecting bio diversity and wilderness. Which is one of our main focuses.

Anthony Day:

So Mossy Earth doesn't sell carbon offsets?

Ria Rocha:

So we have members that have started... They became members because they wanted to offset their life. And there's nothing wrong with that. That's a really beautiful thing to want to do. So people can be offsetting with us. The difference is that we're not just only planting trees for the sake of carbon, we're looking at how we can actually restore that ecosystem in a whole. Rather than just planting the trees and say, here you go, this is the carbon. We're trying to achieve a little bit more than that.

Anthony Day:

So you're looking at the whole biodiversity context rather than just the single issue of carbon?

Ria Rocha:

Yes, absolutely.

Anthony Day:

Well Ria, that's been very interesting. Thank you for explaining about your work and how Mossy Earth is approaching climate change.

Ria Rocha:

I think we covered that a lot in such a brief conversation. It was really nice to talk to you. This is great.

Anthony Day:

Ria, thank you very much for talking to The Sustainable Futures Report and good luck with The Eco-side podcast. There's going to be links to that on our website, and you can find out, as I said, all the details on mossy.earth as well.

Many thanks to Ria Rocha.

And that’s it,

For this week. Next week it’s August, but this year the Sustainable Futures Report still goes on. In fact there’s an extra episode coming out next Tuesday 3rd August as the clamour increases as people suddenly realise that there may be some truth in the climate emergency idea. 

There will still be an episode next Friday as usual, when I’m talking to Ross O’Ceallaigh about Green Urbanism, and whatever else is making sustainability news by then.

Don’t miss out - hit the subscribe button. And if you’d like to add your support - a couple of pounds towards covering the costs of this podcast - just head across to patreon.com/sfr

Thanks to all my patrons for their support, and thank you for listening. Please comment, tweet and share.

I’m Anthony Day.

That was the Sustainable Futures Report.

Think carbon.

Until next Tuesday.

 

Sources

https://www.rte.ie/news/2021/0729/1237933-climate-change-creative-artistic-projects/ 

https://www.brookfield.farm

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nUriHYgkSgs&feature=youtu.be 

 

http://www.Mossy.earth 

 

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