Last night I had commented upon the context in which this legislation had to be considered and, indeed, welcomed. I spoke yesterday of the delicate balance that regulates life in our species world, in our environment, and of our imposition of crude practices on that relationship, the devastation brought about by the subjugation of social values to an economic system primed by a seemingly infinite greed. I asserted too that the environmental crisis was not a simple creation of technology but rather the consequence of the use of technology in a particular way, in a way that is historically specific. What I said last night is better summarised in a Newsletter distributed on 6th June, 1972, by the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. This is what that document said:
Human beings live as a part of a complex natural system with aspects of interdependence which have only recently become dramatically evident. They are also a part of complex social, economic and political systems which they themselves have created, usually without an appreciation of the unpredictable and sometimes disastrous effects of such systems on the life-giving capabilities of nature. These systems contain such faults and imbalances that they do not respond equally to the needs of all people, but provide a minority with a surfeit of goods, while leaving the greater part of the world's people in poverty and despair.
Later in that document reference was made to the atmosphere in which legislation on the environment and on wildlife must be considered. The same document had this to say:
The interaction between the social and natural systems on this planet has in our time resulted in an environmental crisis which although it has been produced largely by the economic practices of the industrial nations, affects every person on earth. The awareness of the environmental crisis has come upon us suddenly and it has come at a time when the deprived nations and the poor and the deprived people in all nations are struggling for power to control their own destinies and asserting their right to full participation in national and world affairs.
It is imperative for the well-being and even the survival of humanity that the condition of the natural environment and the needs of human beings be considered as interrelated parts of the same problem. This will require the introduction of profound changes into both our political, economic and social structures and our individual lifestyles, with the aim not only one of survival, but of survival with maximum possibility of human fulfilment.
Those two quotations summarise what I had to say last night. Those principles were adverted to in the Minister's opening speech to a lesser extent. The foundation which distributed that newsletter suggested a number of principles which, they suggested, essentially precede adequate legislation on the environment and in the area of wildlife. These principles, at least five of them are relevant, are contained in the same Newsletter of 6th June, 1972. I quote:
Human beings inhabit the earth but not they alone. Human survival depends upon the life activities of uncounted thousands of species of plants, animals and micro-organisms, and upon intricate physical and chemical reactions in the atmosphere, oceans, fresh water, and on the land.
They go on to comment on the vastness and complexity of this interdependence. The first principle is that human beings inhabit the earth but not they alone and human survival depends, again as I mentioned in my opening remarks, on the delicate balance between different forms of life.
The second principle is important. I do not expect people to agree with me about this because they have not agreed when I mentioned it before. The Newsletter continued:
There is a fundamental conflict between traditional concepts of economic growth and the preservation of the environment. During the last century, uncontrolled continuous industrial growth and the production of environmentally harmful substances and products in some regions of the world, has produced dangerous amounts of pollution and has been responsible for an inordinate waste of resources.
The third principle was to some extent adverted to in the Minister's opening speech. I noticed he sought to put a restraint on indiscriminate road building. That is a correct emphasis. Also in his speech he asks the farming community for their co-operation in introducing these measures. My view on this is that he should have asked for not only the co-operation of the farming community, but for the co-operation of the Industrial Development Authority, because it should be a requirement of all new industrialisation projects that they assure us they will have no harmful effects on wildlife and on the environment. The Minister, of course, could add the Industrial Development Authority when he comes to develop that section. As I said last evening, the Minister is a most sensitive man and has presented this Bill in a sensitive way.
I doubt if the Minister will have much control over the exploitation of national and regional resources by foreign corporations with a consequent outflow of profits from the exploited regions which has in other areas resulted in a vast and growing economic disparity among nations and a monopoly of industrialised countries over production, energy, technology, information and political power. Complementary to this is the flooding of developing countries with surplus goods and capital, with the resultant distortion of their economies and the deformation of their environments into monocultures in the interests of further enriching the industrial states.
It is this kind of interference with the environment over which we have such little control and we should seek to have control in this area. I referred last night to the crude, bullying tactics of the oil barons when they suggest—"Let us get the oil and gas out as fast as we can, under any conditions." It is to control the activity of these companies that we will have to devise new legislation. We are in difficulty here because at the present time the political checks on multi-national corporations in industrialisation projects, the ability to exact from them care for the environment, care for wildlife, has not been successful.
There is a fifth point which we will have to realise. I want, by the way, to assure everybody that I am not some kind of neo-Luddite. I am not against machines and technology. Economic development of any kind will require technology. But, some products proliferated by conventional technology have been extremely harmful ecologically. I am not rejecting technology per se, but I am suggesting that it must be restructured and reoriented.
It is a principle that in the future the culture of any industrial nation will reflect its ideology. We will need a technology which will stress the solution of humanity's problems rather than the exploitation of humanity's apparently endless greed as a basic principle, or starting point for legislation.
The Minister's speech is a reflection of a very late response in the world generally to the problems with which we find ourselves environmentally. The January, 1972, issue of The Ecologist, volume 2, No. 1, published their commentary entitled “Blueprint for Survival”. A number of eminent scholars put their names to that document, among them economists, suggesting that scholarships could no longer be value free, that it was a time for scientists in the human sciences and in the physical sciences to take a stand on the side of or against life. I quote one paragraph from that document:
The principal defect of the industrial way of life with its ethos of expansion is that it is not sustainable. Its termination within the lifetime of someone born today is inevitable—unless it continues to be sustained for a while longer by an entrenched minority at the cost of imposing great suffering on the rest of mankind. We can be certain, however, that sooner or later it will end (only the precise time and circumstances are in doubt), and that it will do so in one of two ways: either against our will, in a succession of famines, epidemics, social crises and wars; or because we want it to—because we wish to create a society which will not impose hardship and cruelty upon our children —in a succession of thoughtful, humane and measured changes.
They, like the Minister in his opening speech, made an optimistic observation that it was not too late to change. I said last night that I was not so convinced of this, and that I was probably more pessimistic. One of the reasons for that pessimism is that I am aware not only of the present consequences of economic activity, which I have so consistently attacked recently, but also of past and future developments. I also referred last night to the forced human migrations from areas and the threat in the future from the unthoughtful development of the oil and gas resources.
Senators will remember my reference to the scholar who wrote about the experience of Scotland. When I complimented the Minister on his emphasis on the necessity of creating adequate wildlife values, I referred to the tragic division of the classroom from life which had become in modern times the necessary accompaniment to the economics of elite greed. I referred too to the technologically contradictory nature of our actions, as evidenced in the destructure of nature, by for example, trees being destroyed and, at the same time, the replacement of the birds who lived in those trees by inefficient garbage collection innovations. I referred too to the presence of wildlife species in the art forms of different civilisations, and indeed of our own civilisation in a different period. I now summarise all of this in a sentence. What I have been speaking about so far in this debate has been the destruction of the quality of wonderment. I repeat that phrase—the quality of wonderment —and that is what this Bill is, but a very small beginning towards possibly restoring, or even recreating the possibility of it being restored, in a future generation.
I am grateful to so many Senators who have shown an interest in this Bill, particularly when someone like myself who cannot guarantee that he will sit down in two minutes is speaking. When I use the phrase the destruction of the quality of wonderment, I would ask the Senators to bear this in mind. Create the image in your own minds of the manner in which a child will marvel at the magnificent subtlety of life. If one has seen a child hold a little animal or plant in its hand, one will be immediately struck by the magnificent wonderment of the child, the appreciation of the magnificence of life. This child is condemned in our society to become the educated adult who must destroy life. That is part of our contribution to civilisation.
Not in anger but with a certain amount of sadness I referred yesterday to the reports of the Roscommon Herald of 13th August, 1971, when 1,574 birds and animals were reported as having been killed. I refrained from naming the chairman of the organisation responsible. I said then I was not angry with these people but, as I explained at length last night, it was the reaction I feared. I hope that the Minister's careful introduction of this Bill will help in some small way to change the attitudes which generated that awful assault on nature, for example, the belief that all the varieties of life need to be destroyed—this includes cranes, foxes, badgers and so forth—in order to sustain economic existence. The chairman of the gun club in question suggested that two farmers had been socially irresponsible because they had not allowed this savagery to take place. I must insist, however, that it is only when clear social objectives and their political expression take precedence over consumer activity that the saving of the environment may be available to usher in a new and more dignified way of life.
I would like to refer in more detail to parts of the Bill. I agree with what Senator Horgan has said. I would have liked this legislation to have contained measures for the control of our lakes and fish. I think they might have appropriately come within the responsibility of the Minister. I feel that the Minister could sort out the complex legal questions. For example—I will refer to it when I go through the text of the Bill—he has sorted out the question of acquiring commonages for the development of afforestation. Everybody knows that there are difficult legal questions involved in the taking over of fish life. For example, a salmon on its way to the sea becomes the property of nearly 1,000 people as it passes through a river flowing through people's land. There is a legal problem involved but not an insuperable one. What I would have regarded previously as an insuperable legal problem has been solved in this Bill with regard to certain kinds of land. I feel that the Minister should have moved towards establishing that the richness of our lakes and rivers is the property of the community.
I would like to pay tribute to the people who work in the Wildlife Section of the Forestry Division and so forth. The public in general have got tremendous benefits from the openup of the forests for recreational use. This model of the community restoring itself by having access to the natural resources is an appropriate one for rivers and lakes. We need legislation in this area too. We also need it for wildlife for many other reasons. When the most successful person is exercising greed, and in the private enterprise economy that is a requirement to be a success, he cannot be trusted to use resources in the interests of the community. It would be inconceivable to expect him to do so. Why should we expect it in the case of rivers and lakes? It is our duty to defend our resources.
Information kindly made available to me by the Salmon and Trout Conservation Council of Ireland some years ago suggested that salmon and trout are in trouble. We all know why they are in trouble—because people have regarded fish as something that is economic, an object for making profits. We know, too, that in fisheries people have made small fortunes. This should of course be one of the life assets of the nation. I look forward to legislation in this area soon to stop all this absurdity. Nets and weirs killed 255,406 pounds of salmon. When a salmon is expressed in pounds, society has reached another level of development and purpose. I wish legislation in this area had been included in the Bill.
I want to extend to the Senators and the Parliamentary Secretary the courtesy of some details as to what the Minister has proposed. Senator Horgan last night referred to Humanity Dick Martin, a most interesting man who was born in and lived in Galway. He was referring to his work in initiating legislation to prevent the infliction of cruelty on domesticated animals. What Senator Horgan forgot, of course, was the interesting philosophical significance of Humanity Dick's success. There are many lawyers in this House. Part of my education has been to listen to them, and I have learned a great deal from them. What strikes me is how good they are at law and how reluctant or shy they are on principles of jurisprudence. I wished that they would discuss with me the social context in which legislative instruments emerge. Why did Humanity Dick succeed in preventing cruelty to domesticated animals? Yet in 1975 we are protecting deer that run free, that are rare, for the first time by the legislation before us. We legislated so that we could not be cruel in private but we could be indiscriminately cruel in public.
The truth is that laws at that time were reflecting the privatisation of experience; the idea that the outside world, the great economic and social forces that affected mankind, were outside our control. Drama reflects the same thing. Passion and emotion become a matter of tension between characters in a drawingroom rather than being played out against a wider background. Similarly, as the scenes of the drama withdrew to the sitting room, the lawyers withdrew their legislative intent indoors as well. A 100 years afterwards they have gone out for a walk again. Seeing that they have all taken the air and searched with such wonderful benefit, I suppose that these small measures are a beginning.
I do not want to appear not to appreciate the great amount of good that is in this Bill. I would like my remarks of last night, complimenting those involved in developing our forests as a great amenity, to be noted. I will come to compliment the draftsman of this Bill for solving this problem of commonages which I know of because of my own proximity to Connemara. That is the way the legal advisers to an imaginative Department should always work. It should not be the exception. It should be a regular procedure.
I should like to make a comment on the use of an interesting term in the Minister's speech and that is the term "habitat". I will examine it more closely when I comment on Senator Cowen's contribution on the activities of the Irish Coursing Club. We all know what happens to hares; even the coursing club admits that. I shall be providing some scientific evidence about what happens to hares when they are removed from their habitat. Not only are they removed but they are brought to a certain stage of feeding. Even if they survive this cruel kind of activity, coursing, they are then supposed to be released and are expected to return to their habitat.
Parliamentarians will be glad to know that Winston Churchill used this phrase about Parliamentarians themselves in 1943 when they were discussing the architecture which was best suited for the new chambers of the House of Commons in England. I am quoting from The Ecologist of October, 1970.
The old building had been badly damaged by German bombardment and was uncomfortable and impractical.
The Ecologist refrains from saying “irrelevant.”
Yet Mr. Churchill urged that it be rebuilt exactly as it was before the war instead of being replaced by one equipped for greater comfort and with better means of communication. He argued that the style of parliamentary debates in England had been conditioned by the physical characteristics of the old House and that changing its architecture would affect not only the manner of debates but also as a result the structure of English democracy. In his words, we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.
I have been thinking about Churchill's remarks a great deal recently, as I have seen the buildings that have appeared in recent times and examined the contributions of the people who happen to live and supposedly work in them, legal and illegal.
The Minister in his speech stressed Part II which, he suggests, will contain the power in relation to wildlife in the future. I welcome most of the sections. I shall dwell a little on section 23 which deals with practices which another parliamentarian, whom I do not admire very much, referred to on another occasion as degrading anachronism. I am referring to coursing. In section 11 the Minister has rightly stressed the importance of being able to give assistance and aid development to different schemes in connection with wildlife. There is something that bothers me in that section and that is whether the necessity for research is sufficiently adverted to. We know so little about so many of the species for which we are expected to legislate. Section 11 (1) says:
It shall be a function of the Minister to secure the conservation of wildlife.
Even though we might have a public awareness of our attitude of destruction it is doubtful whether we have a sufficient number of experts to enable the Minister to do that adequately. I am glad that the Minister noted in section 15 the importance of the North Slob in Wexford, and the way in which he adverted generally to the importance of nature reserves. We all know of the importance of the North Slob particularly for migratory birds from Greenland. Part of our obligation becomes clear to us here. Positioned as we are, we have an international responsibility. In fairness, we have shown ourselves to be more sensitive in areas of ornithological interest than in any other areas, and the contrast is to our shame that our laws should be so disgraceful in relation to the animals that are running free.
Section 17 refers to the wildlife habitat of animals and the importance of their being protected. Later on I will ask the Minister to accept some amendment to the use of the word "habitat" and probably to extend some sections where the destruction of the habitat of wildlife is not protected in the Bill. By that I mean the rooting of wildlife out of its natural lair.
Section 21 deals with the protection of flora. As pointed out by Senator Alexis FitzGerald, the protection of flora has received a relatively small mention in the Bill. I am reminded in that section of the tremendous value that attaches to areas of North Clare. It is appalling the manner in which insensitive people—who could blame them, removed from the experience of regular exposure to nature —decided to practically destroy very important areas in that part of Clare. That kind of protection, of course, will not come in a Bill. It will come only in a society through education to believe generously in life.
Section 25 is a historic one. Here the dear little emerald isle enters the modern world to protect deer.
I am anxious to come to section 26. I ask the Minister to consider the deletion of this section altogether from the Bill. It refers to hunting. Last night I reminded the Seanad of the omissions from Somerville and Ross's accounts of The Experiences of an Irish R.M.—lawyers defending law sporadically, hunting most of the time, and generally entertaining themselves, never killing anything.
I suggest that the idea in modern times of a defenceless animal, the fox, being chased by a pack of hounds, followed by a group of people mounted on horseback, is ludicrous. If I may digress for a moment, it can be extremely difficult I am told on occasions to distinguish the sound of the hounds from the sound of the people on horseback. Something which always puzzled me as a child why should such a traditional activity be so highly disorganised. I think it is because of the variation in the sounds emitting from such people that they take off in different directions. While we should show tolerance towards such people and realise that they may need to get out in the air regularly——