Peat management in Ireland as a case study for the social dimensions of environmental problems

Problem Title

Peat management in Ireland as a case study for the social dimensions of environmental problems

Scientific Title

NGO uses of environmental discourses and discourses of rurality in an Irish rural environmental policy arena

Student: 
Samuel Mardell
Major(s): 
Bachelor's Degree with Individual Concentration: Science, Technology, and Society
iCons Concentration: 
Renewable Energy
iCons Class Year: 
Class of 2014
Executive Summary 

In 2010 and 2011 the Irish government designated 53 raised bog sites as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). SACs were closed to peat cutting, sparking protest, especially among rural populations. Several non-governmental organizations (NGO) are attempting to influence Irish policy responses. I focus on Friend's of the Irish Environment, Irish Peatland Conservation Council, and Turf Cutters and Contractors Association, selected for high levels of participation and conflicting policy goals. NGO policy goals range from environmental conservation to preserving rural livelihood and culture.

I analyze NGO environmental discourses and discourses of rurality using interviews with NGO members, official NGO publications, and content from NGO websites, focusing on scientific and artistic representations of peatlands. I consider theoretical discussions of lay-expert knowledge divides, Irish environmental policy, environmental justice, and modernization. My analysis reveals conflicting understandings of environment and rural life which inform policy goals. At local levels environmental policy affects community interaction with place, which impacts social structures and environment. I consider strategies for resolving conflicts involving tensions between historic cultural practices and environmental degradation. Finally, I consider the role of NGOs in creating environmentally and socially bearable environmental policy.

Problem Keywords: 
environmental sustainability
Irish peatland management
Scientific Keywords: 
discourse analysis
NGOs
Special Areas of Conservation