Skip to main content

ECO EYE SERIES 19 (2021)

Watch all 10 episodes of Eco Eye 19 here

EP1: ‘A Place for Home (Rural Spatial Planning)’

Duncan Stewart looks at the social implications of Ireland’s extraordinary number of one-off homes across Ireland’s countryside and searches for sustainable solutions to Ireland’s housing problems. Ireland is one of the most sprawled out countries in all of Europe and that unique settlement pattern has brought with it unintended consequences for life in rural Ireland. The environmental, economic and social impact of one-off homes is unfortunately disproportionately large, from the cost of maintaining roads and providing services like post, broadband and waste management to the lack of transport options for our ageing rural dwellers, which can lead to isolation. Despite all we now know about the unsustainable nature of this housing pattern, it still continues. In this episode Duncan meets with planners, architects, rural dwellers and policy makers to ask what the legacy of Ireland’s one-off houses are, and what the rural communities of the future could look like with modern, clustered living solutions- which are already starting to emerge.

EP2: ‘The Last Lake (Lough Carra)’

Anja Murray investigates how one of the last remaining Marl lakes in Europe is facing decline. She hears from scientists concerned that pollution has pushed the lake to a tipping point and meets the community determined to save this rare and beautiful waterway.

Lough Carra in County Mayo is one of the finest examples of a marl lake found anywhere in the world, it’s a place of exceptional geology and natural beauty. For thousands of years, a limestone white bedrock and crystal clear waters gave the lake an almost tropical colouring. But over the last 20 years the lake has started to change, anglers noticed a drop in trout numbers and the lake started to lose it’s characteristic turquoise colour turning a murky green instead. The cause? The flow of phosphorus and nitrates from agricultural land that surrounds the lake in this largely rural part of County Mayo.

What can be done to stem the pollution flowing into the lake and ultimately restore it to its former natural beauty, before it’s too late? In this episode Anja learns what makes Lough Carra so special, meeting with scientists and community members who have come together to protect the lake.

EP3: ‘A Green New Deal (Ireland’s Climate Commitments)’

Dr Lara Dungan investigates Ireland’s ambitious pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 50% in just 10 years. Is this reduction even possible? And can we decarbonise and grow the economy at the same time? 2020 has been an unforgettable year. As Covid-19 shocked the world, lockdowns forced us to take stock of the environment around us and the toll human activity and our lifestyles have on the environment. As attitudes changed over the past year, climate change and how to solve it has become one of the main political issues in Ireland. The scale of this crisis is unprecedented in human history, now the European Commission and the new Irish Government have set a strict target of 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, that’s a commitment of 7% emissions reduction per year for the next decade. No country has ever succeeded in cuts such as these. Do we have any chance of meeting this goal? and if we try, will it crash our economy? And how can we do this without leaving people behind? Or is this an opportunity for Ireland, is there a way to keep growing our economy while we rapidly reduce emissions? The ambition with which we must tackle this issue, is like no other project ever attempted, one which will involve every part of our economy. In this episode Dr Lara Dungan will investigate Ireland’s pledge to tackle climate change and what it would take to continue to grow prosperity while rapidly reducing emissions.

EP4: ‘Radiation: The Silent Killer (Radon gas)’

How much radiation is dangerous? Dr Clare Kambamettu explores radiation exposure in Ireland debunking some surprising myths she’ll uncover where the real danger lies and what we can do to protect ourselves. If you thought that your greatest risk of radiation exposure in Ireland was from Sellafield or nuclear power stations, you’d be wrong. Radiation is all around us, all the time, from nuclear power plant waste, radon from Ireland’s bedrock, phone masts, cosmic ray’s and 5g signals. But it turns out that the man-made radiation that everyone is afraid of, is not worth being worried about. The greatest health risk from radiation in Ireland actually comes from a natural source, a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas called Radon that lives in the rocks and soils across Ireland. Indoor exposure to Radon kills more people in Ireland each year than carbon monoxide poisoning, fires and road accidents combined. But this is a threat to human health that can be managed with home testing and simple remediation works. So why then are the number of radon linked lung cancer cases increasing to nearly 300 yearly? In this episode, Psychologist Dr Clare Kambamettu learns about our exposure to radiation in Ireland, debunking some conspiracy theories along the way she’ll find out where the real danger lies and what we can do to minimise the health risks from this deadly Radon gas.

EP5: ‘Revitalising Ireland’s Towns (Tipperary / Clonakilty)’

While many towns and villages across Ireland have undergone years of decline since the last economic downturn, some are thriving. What’s their secret? Travelling across the country Duncan discovers the challenges facing our towns and learns what good quality design, strong leadership and community buy-in can do to improve the quality of life for all living and working in our towns. This episode shows how spatial planning profoundly impacts the viability of communities, and how a redesign of our rural towns and villages can breathe new life and hope back into rural Ireland.

EP6: ‘Ireland’s Big Blue (Ireland’s Marine Environment) ‘

Anja Murray takes a deep dive into the state of Ireland’s marine environment, she’ll uncover the main threats but also the solutions, joining the scientists and communities fighting for the health of our oceans. Oceans are essential for all life on Earth, they supply over half of the world’s oxygen, sequester massive amounts of carbon and are a primary source of food for 3.5 billion people. But despite this vital role, our oceans are in crisis, facing unprecedented threats as a result of overfishing, climate change, pollution, habitat destruction and other forms of human exploitation. Ireland’s offshore waters are considered to be relatively healthy, however they are increasingly under pressure. With almost 2 million of us living within 5 kilometres of the coast, our collective actions impact these important ecosystems and only 2% of Ireland’s marine habitats have been designated as protected areas, meaning we have missed the legally binding target to protect at least 10% by 2020. Simultaneously it seems we are nature’s destroyer but we are also it’s best hope. Ecologist Anja Murray meets with scientists and communities fighting to safeguard these precious habitats.

EP7: ‘Something in the Air (Air Pollution in Ireland)’

Dr Lara Dungan examines the legacy of the ‘Dieselgate’ emissions cheating scandal, 6 years on. She’ll cover the latest health impacts and some of the solutions to traffic related air pollution in Ireland. “Dieselgate”, the emissions scandal that broke in 2015 brought air pollution to the forefront of public conversation. 6 years on there are over 51 million dirty diesel cars still on our roads that emit 3 or more times the legal limit of harmful nitrogen dioxide. To this day, car manufacturers continue to exploit legal loopholes to defeat new stricter European emissions tests. So today, we are living with the poisonous legacy of old and new diesels on our lives, the consequences although we cannot see them, are deadly. Each year 1,200 people die as a result of poor air quality, tragically these deaths are entirely preventable. While transport emissions are one of the leading causes of air pollution in Ireland, roadside monitoring of these emissions appears to be sparse. Has legislation caught up with medical research? In this episode, Dr Lara Dungan unpicks the damaging legacy of the Dieselgate scandal, she covers the latest research on the negative health impacts of air pollution and joins communities fighting to restrict car access in our cities.

EP8: ‘Cities Reimagined (Cork / Limerick)’

Ireland’s population is expected to increase by more than 1 million people over the next 20 years, 75% of which will live in our cities. Can our cities handle this? Duncan Stewart investigates. Ireland’s expected population increase by 2040, of 1 million people will require half a million new homes and about 1.8 million urban apartments. Even now the viability of our cities as places to live, work and grow are not as healthy as they could be. Without an integrated approach to planning, Ireland’s cities are currently on track for a future with continuing sprawling growth, stagnation and a further decline of our environment from increasing levels of gridlock. Now with the realisation of the National Planning Framework, Government policy on planning has never been clearer or joined up in terms of infrastructure investment following planning- rather than the other way around. Under this new plan, over 40% of all new housing has to be delivered within existing urban areas on brownfield sites which could transform city life as we know it. In this episode Duncan Stewart travels to Limerick and Cork to find out if we can retrofit our cities and build communities suitable for families within the city limits. He’ll show how individuals and communities together can feed into the planning and development process that shape the development of our communities into the future.

EP9: ‘Retrofitting Ireland (Home retrofit challenge)’

At the centre of Ireland’s incredibly ambitious climate change commitments is an extraordinary target to deep retrofit at least 500,000 homes in the next ten years. This would represent a 50-fold increase in home upgrades in Ireland. What would it take to realise this goal? Over the last 20 years, Eco Eye has reported on the need for Ireland to invest heavily in upgrading our buildings for both environmental and health reasons. This new national goal to upgrade Ireland’s building stock has never been more ambitious or more necessary. A new home built today is unrecognisable in energy performance from any built 12 or more years ago, because of much stronger regulations, far superior construction standards and new technologies. This new energy performance standard is what all of our older buildings must strive towards, to meet the energy and climate change challenge of the next 30 years. But the Irish Government don’t have the power to directly retrofit our buildings or force homeowners to comply with new standards for older builds. It’s only homeowners that can make the decision to upgrade. So what would it take to turn this ambition into a reality? The episode will explore new policies, financial models and technologies relevant to homeowners considering retrofitting a home and will explore what this will mean for jobs, fuel costs and property prices in the years ahead.

EP10: ‘Design for Life (Circular Economy in Ireland)’

The scale and speed at which we extract finite resources to produce, consume and dispose of goods has led to environmental destruction now impossible to ignore. Dr Lara Dungan looks at how Ireland can move to a circular economy, where we eliminate waste and extend the life cycle of products for as long as possible. For the past 250 years our world has functioned through a linear economy where we have drawn on the world’s natural resources to make our lives healthier, wealthier and more comfortable. But the world has been showing the stresses and strains of this ‘take, make, waste’ model. What if there was another way, another model that not only protects our environment, but also our way of life? In this episode Dr Lara Dungan examines how Ireland can move away from this traditional linear model and move towards a circular economy which is based on an extended life cycle of products by sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible. With help from experts in the National Centre f