Brendan Palmer's Personal Blog Brendan Palmers's Personal Blog: Comments – Opinions – Rants
Browsing all posts in: Sustainability

A Christmas Story

December 16

My first recollection of being different was when I was about two years old, I was different because I could understand the speech of the humans who managed the forest in which I was growing.

We were a forest of Norway spruce trees, as humans called us, and we were growing specifically as Christmas trees according to the forest managers. Of course, at that time I had no idea what a Christmas tree was or what it would mean for me when I grew up.

The forest was a wonderful place when I was small, I know from the older trees and the conversations of the forest managers that I was brought to the forest as a two year old sapling, having been grown from a seed in a nursery and planted along with thousands of other saplings in ground beside another forest of much bigger trees.

I was lucky as I was planted at the edge of the forest, close to the trees in the other forest who were three years older than me and they looked after me as I grew up.

Most humans don’t know how trees help each other as we grow, or how we communicate with each other as this mostly happens underground. As we grow our roots spread out to intertwine with each other. This allows us to share nutrients and water, the younger or weaker trees being helped by the older and stronger trees as we grow. Nutrients are generated and shared by various beneficial fungi who grow all around our roots and spread right across the forest floor. These fungi attach to our roots and use some of the sugars we generate from the sun through our leaves as food, they then scavenge the soil for nitrogen, phosphorus and other mineral nutrients, which we then absorb and consume to help us to grow.

These connections also allow us to share information across the forest in a similar way that humans use the internet, we have a “wood wide web” and we can communicate everything that is happening to every tree in the forest, especially danger, attacks of insects, or dangerous unfriendly fungi. This will trigger a defence mechanism right across the forest until the threat is gone. My special ability to understand human speech, an ability only a few trees have, also helped the forest to understand the surrounding environment, based on the conversations of the foresters.

For the next five years I was happy, growing strongly in the warmth of the summer and slumbering through the colder winters, although, I was never really cold as above ground my body was sheltered by the bigger trees growing in the forest beside me, and the ground beneath my roots supplied geothermal heat all through the winter. During this time, I learned more and more of the speech of the humans managing the forest as they kept the spaces between the trees free of weeds and vines that could harm our growth, wanting us to grow tall and straight. Every winter I would hear talk of Christmas and Santy, although I later found out that this was what the foresters from Dublin called Santa Claus. We also heard stories of trees been cut down for Christmas, but this was always denied by the older trees in the forest next to us, telling us that it was just some ancient forest legends being spread by grumpy old trees who liked to frighten the younger trees.

During the winter of my seventh year of growing everything changed. The messages coming through the roots from the older trees, who were now ten years old, were cries of anguish and screams of pain and then a deadly silence and a cold wind blowing through my firs from the side against which they had been growing.

Confusion and panic spread through our forest of seven year old trees and we now believed that the stories we had heard about being cut down for Christmas must be true and every day we waited for something terrible to happen, remembering the screams from the older trees. But everything went quiet and the summers and winters came and went without any more cries of pain coming from the network and we slowly forgot about that time.

The day it happened was a bright crisp sunny day.  I was slumbering while enjoying the weak sun shining on my firs when I heard the high pitched voice of a little girl saying “Daddy, look at this one, it’s beautiful, can we have this one”? “Of course Lucy, you can have whichever one you want” was followed by the most excruciating pain.  I am disconnected from my roots and only pain and panic remain. From instinct I excrete every panic signal I have and Lucy shouts, “Oh Daddy, it smells so beautiful, I’m so glad we are having a real tree this year instead of that old plastic thing we always have”.

I’m trussed up into a long straight plastic net and tied to the roof of a car. The open wound at my base is facing into the cold wind as we drive along, which brings some relief until we stop outside a house. I’m carried inside, the plastic net is cut away, a huge metal stand is screwed into my base increasing the pain and I scream more scent into the air.

Lucy’s Daddy places me in a barrel of cold water and sugar, explaining to Lucy that this will help keep my fir cones green as I can absorb the water up through my trunk and branches. This is not true, but it does slow down the loss of water and minerals so I will survive a little longer and the water helps ease the pain.

There is great excitement as Lucy and her small sister Sadie get to help decorate me with glass baubles and tinsel. Two sets of small coloured light are wrapped around my branches and each little girl gets to switch one of them on, constantly chattering with excitement and finally declaring that I am the best Christmas tree they have ever seen in their whole life, dancing and singing Jingle Bells and other Christmas songs.

Time goes by. A huge number of coloured parcels are placed around my base. I can feel the life draining from my branches and sometimes the voices around me are muted and dull as I slip in and out of awareness.

A week later there is great excitement in the room and when I focus on the voices, Lucy and Sadie are dancing around and clapping their hands screaming “Santa is coming tonight” Lucy shouting, “I’m getting a new bicycle and a surprise and Sadie squealing “I’m getting a big wooden dolls house, roller skates, a smart phone, a scooter, a kitten and a surprise” and everybody laughs and I get a good feeling from the love and happiness all around me, maybe my life has been useful after all.

I wake up to the sound of more excited squealing from Lucy and Sadie because Santa has brought them what they wanted, well, a bicycle and a dolls house and some jewellery for their hair as surprises, they are shivering with excitement at the idea that Santa was there while they were asleep and had brought them what they wanted.

People come and go from the house all day and there is a beautiful sense of love and happiness as they share gifts with each other and I realise that this is what my life was for, to make these two little girls and their family happy. I feel good about that but really tired.

The house goes quiet and dark and I can’t feel anyth……….


Trying to Govern the Ungovernable Who Want Free Water With Cute Hoors Muddying the Water

March 4

Free Tap WaterIt would appear that one of the biggest problems the powers that be have in getting a single water utility up and running and having people pay for what they use, is the fact that a serious amount of people in this country think that the water that comes out of their tap, and the water that’s used to flush away their human waste is directly connected to the amount of water that falls from the sky.

Dublin Water Resevoir
They then make the leap that gathering the water into reservoirs that will hold enough to guarantee a constant supply, cleaning it from contaminants to make it potable (for those with a challenged lexicon, it means making it drinkable) and then managing the vast majority of the water again as it flows through the waste system and must be cleaned before being released back into the environment, somehow costs nothing.


Who would envy an incoming Government who have to try Govern the Ungovernable? Especially when one of the informal supporters of the minority Government, having come back in from the cold have instantly reverted to their standard Cute Hoor way of doing things.


Dublin Water Treatment Plant

Dublin Water Treatment Plant



A City Boy on Farming 17 Bees : To Bee or not to Bee and the Survival of Mankind

November 4

Originally posted to the Irish Executives Bloggers in Residence on 22nd October 2015

I have always thought of bees as one of those things that could trigger a human catastrophe if they disappeared, up there on a scale of destruction with the loss of the Amazon Rain Forest or the various warm sea currents around the globe. The concept being that certain things we take for granted could disappear and start an irreversible chain reaction that would make the planet uninhabitable for humans.

The recently published “All Ireland Pollinator report” prompted me to investigate the importance of bees to our agriculture and our existence in general

The first results of the investigation produced the following quote attributed to Einstein

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

A pretty stark prediction by someone as eminent as Einstein (I will return to this later) is a serious call to action especially when the facts suggest that we are on the slippery slope to pollinator extinction. So, with The Sword of Damocles in the air further research on the current position of pollinators was needed.

Globally bee keepers are reporting a decline of between 30% and 50% in the honeybee population. In Ireland it is estimated that 30% of bee species face extinction including three species specific to Ireland. The EU Commission report on 2000 species of bees shows that 9% are threatened with extinction.

So what’s causing the decline? The main and most obvious cause is due to habitat loss of hedgerows and wild meadows as a result of intensification in farming and the increase in the use of pesticides. There is also the issue of intensive farming of the honeybee as the main commercial pollinator of choice. It is the farmed honeybee that is most under attack from pesticides and colony diseases. Another cause of loss of habitat is urban development and climate change

So, is Einstein’s prediction correct, when the bees go, we have four years left? Well, first off, Einstein never said any such thing. This looks like a classic case of a useful quote’s being invented and put into the mouth of a famous person to add credence. (pic is photo shopped). There is some justification for using this kind of comment going back as far a Darwin, who mentioned the importance of the connection between bees and man. Since then some version of the importance of bees to our continued existence has been regularly quoted and obviously expanded until the quote arbitrarily attributed to Einstein eventually evolved. (Darwin, Evolution…..)

Interestingly the first version of the exact quote comes from Ireland when, in 1966 “The Irish Beekeeper” printed a remark attributed to Einstein that gave a time limit for mankind quoting Abeilles et fleurs.
“Professor Einstein, the learned scientist, once calculated that if all bees disappeared off the earth, four years later all humans would also have disappeared. Abeilles et fleurs, June, 1965.”
(full story from an investigation by “Quote Investigator” )

The most “Authoritative study” I could find on the subject concluded that primary food production, and especially our staple foods, is independent of insect pollination. Sixty percent of global food production comes from crops that do not depend on animal pollination, although our diet would be dramatically impacted upon as 35% of crops depend on pollinators.

Thirty five percent is still a significant number and bees and other pollinating insects play an essential role in our ecosystems. The annual worldwide economic value of bees’ pollination work has been estimated around €265 billion. So from a purely economic point of view we need the bees.

While our imminent extinction following the loss of bees is not a reality, we do need to make some changes to protect the 35% of our food chain that is dependent on pollinators and particularly bees.

Apart from our food, the psychological impact on humans if flowers disappeared might be a bigger problem than the loss of certain foodstuffs. Who has not enjoyed the pleasure of a summer afternoon in a garden awash with colour from flowers and the lazy hum of bees as they gather nectar in the warm, heavy sunshine?

What about honey and all the wonderful benefits it bestows on our daily existence? Bees are the only insect that produces food eaten by man and honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water; and it’s the only food that contains “pinocembrin”, an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning.

So, we know we have a problem, it may not be as big as some of the scaremongering types would like us to believe but it is a problem that needs addressing. Of course one of the most important things about fixing problems is knowing that we have one in the first place. Now that we know, what are we going to do about it?

The actions set out in the “All Ireland Pollinator Plan” are certainly a good place to start.

Their main recommendations are
Plant patches of urban areas with wildflowers.
Incorporate pollinator friendly plants into gardens.
Allow lawn weeds to flower.
Incorporate wildflower strips within cropped fields.
Allow field margins to grow wild
Incorporate clovers into grass-dominated swards.
Incorporate artificial solitary bee nests into urban gardens

Farmers can help by taking on board the replanting of biodiversity friendly hedgerows and wild flower strips between fields. There is a major question about the effect of the pesticides used in intensive farming on pollinators and while there is some argument about this, there certainly seems to be some cause and effect so farmers need to consider embracing more ecological management systems for crop management. The “BurrenLIFE programme” is a good example of farming methods in harmony with the environment

Government and local authorities can help by establishing bee friendly habitats along roadways and other public areas.

Individual householders can help by considering bee friendly initiatives for our gardens. Some good suggestions in “Gardening & Bees”

There are a huge amount of articles to read on the relationship between humans and bees. I liked this one by Eimear Chaomhánach a lot “The Bee, its Keeper and Produce, in Irish and other Folk Traditions”

Bees have been around for millions of years, by all accounts they are a very resilient life form so I don’t think we are in any immediate danger of destroying them completely and we certainly are not facing a four years to extinction scenario for the human race but perhaps recognising and addressing the problems our bee partners are having will lead us to a more sustainable way of managing our interaction with our mother, Earth.

Brendan Palmer is a Director of Electronic Recycling
Unit 20, Jamestown Business Pk. Finglas, Dublin 11

Drive Safe This Christmas

November 28

Drive safe this Christmas. There were 26,400 people killed on the roads in the EU in 2013. Think about that number!! Think about it again…… and then take five minutes to watch this video compiled by Transport Accident Commission, Victoria

The population of Wexford is 20,000, if Wexford was wiped out in the morning by some disaster either natural or manmade, would you sit up and take notice?

190 people died on the roads in Ireland in 2013.  See RSA Stats

Check out the Transport Accident Commission, Victoria YouTube site, it  has some good safe driving tips

Deaths from Ebola in 7 Months 4,484 ………………… EU road deaths in 7 months 15,379 ??

October 17

Ebola Graph 2014How strange we humans are in the way we can live with an epidemic that is killing 3.5 times more people every month in the EU than Ebola and the worst thing is this,  it’s not sick people who are dying, it is perfectly healthy people who are dying in Europe at a rate that is 3.5 times the rate from Ebola.

It would seem that we can ignore this epidemic by using the old human trick of “We are not looking over there” a bit like a two year old child who thinks they are invisible when they cover their eyes, because they can’t see you?

Since the current outbreak of Ebola in February there have been 4,484 deaths from Ebola
See stats here

Car crashSince the outbreak of Ebola there have been 15,379 Road deaths in the 28 countries of the EU  There are 507 Million Citizens in the EU. We had a road death rate of 52 per Million in 2013. (26,364) See full Stats on Europa

Big panic and hysterical bogyman media frenzy for Ebola. No comment on EU road deaths.

Let’s just break that down to months
Ebola Deaths per month 640
EU road deaths per month 2,197

The bogymen tell us that if don’t do something there will be 10,000 cases of Ebola by the end of the year. No mention of the fact that there will already have been 26,364 road deaths this year

The rate of deaths in the USA is more than twice that of the EU with about another 37,000 deaths per annum. See stats

Globally there are 1.3 million people killed in cars every year and between 20 and 50 million people seriously injured. See link in Bloomberg Report

So the world is having a major conniption (Hysterical fit) about Ebola with 4,484 deaths in 7 months while there is no apparent notice taken of the 185,714 people killed on roads during the same period.
Just to say that again 185,714 people killed on the roads.

Almost all road deaths are caused by inappropriate speed. We have the technology to prevent this. The question is, why don’t we use it?

Of course road death is not the only preventable thing humans die, smoking kills 7000 people per year in Ireland. Worldwide there are about 5 million deaths from smoking (WHO stats)

How come the media is not having a conniption (Hysterical fit) about these? Very strange………

I am not suggesting that we should not treat the current Ebola outbreak seriously, we should and perhaps now, because of the size of this outbreak, a vaccine will be developed but perhaps a sense of proportion relative to the other mass killers we contend with would be better than having to listen the latest “flavour of the month” media frenzy

I heard a commentator this morning claiming that there would be 100,000 deaths from Ebola by next March. Let’s park that on this date and revisit in March….


A City Boy on Farming 9: If we are what we eat, we’re in trouble

April 16

As part of a series of articles written for irish Execcutives “Blogger in Residence”

Antibiotics in foodOver the past year or so I have looked at the foods we eat as part of our modern lifestyle and discovered that our modern food chain leaves a lot to be desired. It may be that in the “first world” we have cracked the food availability issue, with more than enough food for all.  In fact 50% of all food produced never even reaches a table.  The question is this, what kind of food are we being presented with and what effect is it having on our long term health?  Has anyone connected the trend of children dying from the new lifestyle diseases, before their parents, to the food we eat?

Over the last year I have covered various subjects

The behaviour of the meat industry:
The additives in our food:
The quality of the food we are asked to eat:
The Turkey industry:
The Pig industry:

none of which covered the industry with glory

The food processing industry use the same additives for preserving their packaged “foods” travelling from production to fork,  as those are used in the manufacture of cleaning agents, lubricants, stain removers and degreasers. See “The additives in our food” above

For those on a meat based diet, the indiscriminative use of antibiotics in animal husbandry is creating a time bomb in our health industry as antibiotic resistant bugs transfer from animals to humans. If continued unchecked, all the advantages that antibiotics have brought to our health system since the early 20th Century will be wiped out.

The following is an abridged version of an article on antibiotic use in animals by Irish Radio and Television Presenter and Producer, Ella McSweeny

More than 25,000 people across Europe die each year because of bacterial infections that are impossible to treat.

We know that the same classes of antibiotics used to treat humans are given – sometimes liberally – to animals. Last month, a report from the Food and Drink Administration in the US revealed that the meat industry accounts for nearly four-fifths of all antibiotics used.

Scientists first spotted  MRSA ST398 nine years ago in the Netherlands. A sickly child was taken to hospital by her parents, who were pig farmers. When scientists tested the pigs, they found the same strain of MRSA in the child. “Pig MRSA” was born. In the Netherlands, ST398 accounts for just under 40 per cent of human MRSA cases.
In the UK last year scientists discovered MRSA ST398 in milk. In October, it was discovered that a retired part-time cattle farmer in the west of Ireland had been infected with the same MRSA ST398.

In 2012, Dr Mark Holmes, who led the UK team which discovered MRSA ST398 in milk commented, “If farmers were not screwed into the ground by the supermarkets and allowed to get a fair price for their milk, they would be able to use fewer antibiotics.”

In 2011, a new type of MRSA was discovered in two patients in Irish hospitals. This new strain belongs to a genetic lineage that was previously associated only with cows and other animals, but not humans.

That same year, UK scientists identified MRSA in cows with a near-identical profile to that of the Irish human MRSA. It’s clear that new strains of MRSA that can colonise humans are emerging from animal reservoirs in Ireland and Europe.

So what do we know about the use of antibiotics on Irish farms?  The worrying fact is that we don’t know much. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine does not collect data on antibiotic usage on Irish farms. Available data from the global market research specialist, GFK Kynetec, shows that antibiotic sales for large animals in Ireland is increasing.

According to Prof Séamus Fanning, food safety expert in UCD“ Increased surveillance of antibiotic use is critical or we will have no drugs available for future generations.”
The full article can be found here

It seems to me that, if the current system is allowed to progress without change,  we are moving inexorably towards the situation depicted in the movie “Soylent Green” where the food processing industry, having destroyed the ability to produce natural food from the planet, then ran out of raw materials for processed, concentrated nutrition, “biscuits” and resorted to using expired humans as the raw materials for their “Green Biscuits”

The question is, do we want “cheap” food or a healthy life?

To return to a theme in a previous blog, we give our farmers €1.6bn in CAP payments every year and this is a very small part of the €50bn the CAP will cost each year from now until 2020

Fifty billion Euros per annum and those of us who fund this through our taxes have no say in the quality of the food the farming and food distribution industry decide to produce.

Funding our food production by subsidies is a reasonable thing to do and I have no issue with the amount of money we allocate to the CAP. The issue is with how it is spent.

€50bn per annum,  we all know from our own businesses that people produce what they are paid to produce; it’s time we moved from a quantity based production system to a quality based production system.

He who pays the piper and all that……………..

How to manage this is a subject for another post, comments or ideas appreciated

A multi generational Dub. on the maternal side with a Toronto born father and a Palmer family seat based in North Waltham in Norfolk. Born in The Rotunda Hospital, Parnell Square, Dublin within walking distance of a first home in Rutland Place, at the Summerhill end of The North Circular Road. Moved to and grew up in Santry

Primary and Secondary education provided by The Christian Brothers in O’Connell’s  Primary School  and St Aidans, Whitehall, Secondary School. Third level education includes an MBA from UCD Michael Smurfit Business School, a Law Degree from DIT and various courses of study on sustainability and the environment.

Taxes are earned as CEO of an environmental management company specialising in the management of electronic waste.

Divorced with five children, six grandchildren and currently living in Santry, in Dublin

Looking forward to some adventures of the third age