Individuals, Farmers, Local and National Policymakers
The problems of resource depletion suggest that the future for Ireland and indeed many other countries is one of increased number of people involved in agriculture and food production. With scarcer oil and gas, higher external costs including phosphates and nitrates, the number of Europeans working in agriculture could increase from 4% to 20%, meaning a reversal of the current trend of urbanisation. In the past, food was a much more significant part of each family’s weekly budget and this is likely to be the case in the future.
Some opportunities exist in the following areas:
• Rural regeneration
Smaller towns and villages have traditionally suffered from a ‘brain drain’ and the loss of young people to the bigger urban centres. This has led to reduced local services such as schools, post offices etc. as well as a reduced local vibrancy. This trend can be reversed as has been shown in the Cloughjordan Ecovillage project. As well as building a large settlement of eco-friendly housing, the ecovillage also has a ‘Fab Lab’ (a purpose built space for small scale fabrication which is also a shared work and a learning space) and its own community supported agriculture scheme (CSA).
As more people will be employed in agriculture, more people will be living in rural areas. As much as possible, people should build in existing clusters (villages etc.). However, some new homes will need to be built in the open countryside. This will mean changes in planning laws. This will also mean opportunities for local construction workers.
• ‘Ghost Estates’
There should be financial incentives for people who move into ‘ghost estates’ in small villages if they get involved in local food production.
• Rural Cooperatives
Rather than corporate owned food production, co-operatives have a much more producer focussed economic approach. Though the potential for of co-operatives is likely to be enhanced by resource depletion, setting up co-operatives could be financially incentivised by policy makers to plan ahead and create local jobs at the same time.
Cloughjordan Ecovillage, Co. Tipperary
Irish Rural Link, Moate, Co. Westmeath
Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), The Plunkett House, 84 Merrion Square, Dublin 2