In your own words, tell us about your project.
In 1875 the Presentation Sisters of the South West Province of Ireland were invited into the Parish of Lixnaw, North Co. Kerry by a local wealthy land owner. Lixnaw or "Leic Snámha" in Irish means floating flag (as in flag stones). It is one of these 20 flags that is home to the 'Sisters Bog'. Having accepted the invitation to educate the children of the tenant farmers who worked the surrounding land the Sisters were offered just over 20 acres of “bog”. In this way it was explained that the neither the Sisters in the convent nor the children in the school would be cold. The Sisters are still a part of the fabric of Lixnaw but have decided in 2012 to gift the bog back to Mother Earth by allowing it to go fallow. This involved explanations and negotiations with local farmers who for generations had harvested turf from this parcel of bog. At one stage machine cutters were used on this raised bog. The Sisters in understanding their responsibilities to all in respect of Climate Change began the task of conserving and preserving this bog. Being outside the areas of "designated conservation status" meant that all costs were and are borne by the Presentation Sisters of the South West Province. The first steps were to engage those who had some expertise in the management and conservation of bogs. This meant identifying the weaknesses of the bog and once fenced off it was rested from all human ingress allowing only the small animals in to nest and this offered the chance to long absent species of bog plants and animals to take hold in what would become a wetter bog and therefore a healthier bog.
Why did you do this work?
The need to confer "Preservation Status" on this parcel of bog in Lixnaw arose in 2012 when the Presentation Sisters moved take a stand on their Climate Change responsibilities. The Sisters explained that their restored bog would be their contribution to a better Lixnaw, a better Ireland and indeed a better planet once rested and managed sustainably. It is only in more recent times, encouraged by the publication of Laudato Si
by Pope Francis, that others can see and understand the delicate and true thread of connection of all of creation. There was concern about why the Sisters were moving in this new direction of not just allowing the bog go fallow but working to ensure that the bog would recover as quickly as possible. This recovery could be measured in the increased biodiversity that has followed in the “managed” recovery. The rested bog gives pause to all to consider their connectedness with nature, to examine our link to our environment more closely and with a greater understanding than might have been the case previously. The rejuvenation of the bog enhanced our understanding of our connection and place in our environment. It also gives us an insight into our ability to make a difference, to improve a situation, to create an example. The restored Lixnaw Bog helps us to understand that we have a duty to take action. This work is an example of mission and ministry of the Presentation Sisters.
What was the impact or outcome of your project?
The restored bog is now, not just a home to the plants of a healthy bog but also to the wildlife and insect life that now thrives undisturbed on this fenced off 20 acres of bog. The Sisters have had a guiding hand in all matters educational in Lixnaw since their arrival in 1875 and they would encourage the primary school children not just to learn of their locality but to experience the natural habitats of the raised bog that defines their very home. “What we do now is for future generations and is but a simple act, an example”, explains Sr. Mary Kelliher. “It behoves us all to leave the planet in as good a shape as possible for the children and the most appropriate way is to begin by showing them how a small difference can be made on their doorstep.” In this way the Sisters continue their commitment to the children of the Parish of Lixnaw. This is the very living of the Sustainable Development Goals in that a local act can and does have a global impact. It is in more recent times that this saved bog can be held up as a proud local example of how a small community can offer something back. The conservation work on the bog is ongoing and even still the Presentation Sisters are eager to engage students of all ages (up to university age) and indeed visitors when they come now are treated to a thriving wet bog full of the expected flora and fauna of an untouched bog. The return of so many different species of animals and nesting birds is testament to the success of this project. The most important advice received and taken came from Fr. Seán McDonagh when he said “protect your bog from humans”.
Do you have any tips or advice for similar projects?
Listen first.... as the most important part of talking is listening and listen deeply.
Do not rush.
Take expert advice,
Take stock regularly.
Negotiate, Meet often, talk, engage all stakeholders.
Be prepared to change your tack.
Be sure of what you want to achieve.
Be prepared for the unanticipated achievements.
Don't be afraid to tell others what you are doing.
Your efforts are always more than your own.
Which Sustainable Development Goals does your work link to?
Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Location of Project
Lixnaw North Kerry
Brian O' Toole