Traveling around the countryside of Ireland, you see a lot of junk. There is trash everywhere along the roads, crap dumped in ditches, stuff chucked into streams and the ocean. There are abandoned lots with old furniture, holes in the ground full of discarded clothing. Houses are abandoned, unfinished. Nowhere is this blight more evident than on some of the western islands.
Now, you’d think – wait, the islands are supposed to be beautiful, aren’t they? The natural setting is indeed unbeatable. If treated well, the islands should be world heritage sites. However, all too often the islanders view them as dumping grounds. And the human presence itself can be, shall we say, unlovely. Cars are left on blocks, basic signs are broken or missing. Garbage is piled on streets. Plastic bags stream from wire fences. It’s like Port-au-Prince in the North Atlantic. The scene is not unlike what you’d see on some Native American reservations in the US.
This shameful neglect and damage of the land points to something that initially shocked me – the complete absence of any kind of environmental ethic in Ireland today. There is almost no concern for any of the standard ecological principles that are taken for granted at this point in most of the first world. How could people in such a beautiful place with a long history of living close to the land treat it like such a cesspool? The Irish should be leaders in the environmental field. But they are in fact still living in some previous age where, when you’re done with that car battery, you throw it in the woods.
Remember those 1970 era TV ads with the Native American on a horse shedding a tear as he surveys a stream choked with car tires and trash? That’s about where Ireland is today.
The land weeps. And the people would weep – if anyone cared.
Here are a few scenes on Tory Island, off the north coast of County Donegal.