29 Feb 2024

Peatlands are a finite resource and provide many benefits for society as well as being valuable ecosystems for biodiversity. When they are restored, rewetted or rehabilitated, peatlands also play a crucial role in the fight against climate change and in supporting human health and well-being However, degraded peatlands in Ireland have a negative impact on water and air quality, flora and fauna, and climate (through greenhouse gas emissions), as well as impacting on cultural heritage and the communities that live and work in these landscapes.

The question of how to support a shift to sustainable management of peatlands and a better understanding of these landscapes is one that is addressed in a collaborative arts project called ‘Gnáthóga Nádúrtha’. The project consists of a series of activities and actions across three peatland habitats (Drummin Bog, Carlow, Ballydermot Bog, Kildare, and Girley Bog, Meath) and is supported by the Arts Council Invitation to Collaborate fund.

The project foregrounds the importance of community relationships with the living world for climate and biodiversity action and is led by Carlow County Council Arts Office, in partnership with Kildare and Meath County Council Arts Offices. It involves collaboration with key partners including: the Drummin Bog Project, Creative Rathangan Meitheal and Girley Bog Meitheal, Dr. Anita McKeown FutureFocus21c, Dr. Cathy Fitzgerald Haumea Ecoversity, and artists Jules Michael, Monica de Bath, Kate Flood and the wider communities of South County Carlow, Kildare and Meath.

The project actions occurred across the three sites, with a focus on three strands of activities. These included a place-based mapping of the sites and their communities led by Dr. Anita McKeown; ecoliteracy training for council staff, artists and cultural practitioners in the three counties led by Dr. Cathy Fitzgerald; and collaborative weaving together of the creative practices and community-based activities of the participating artists, Jules Michael, Monica de Bath and Kate Flood. As part of these activities, the artists organised a series of lizard surveying workshops, led by Rob Gandola of the Herpetological Society of Ireland. These workshops helped to build capacity within each community group to enjoy, record and help in preserving populations of native amphibians and reptiles at these local sites through citizen engagement.

Cover photo: visual relational mapping of the Gnáthóga Nádúrtha project by artist Jules Michael in her studio 2023.

Text by Kate Flood (originally posted on UCD Earth Institute website).