If we go back in time the whole climate problem has been a product of the last 40 to 50 years. We didn’t have a problem with our planet in 1959 but we had a problem by 1989. Around 1987 – the father of climate change – James Hansen first began speaking about climate change in the US Senate.

And if you look at the amount of CO2 emissions over the last 50 years – therein lies the problem.

These were just some of the sentiments that were expressed by Paul Kenny, chief executive of Tipperary Energy Agency – one of the partners in the Energy in Agriculture conference which is taking place next month – while speaking to AgriLand recently.

The event will be held on August 20, at Gurteen Agriculture College and is a joint initiative between Teagasc, Tipperary County Council, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Tipperary Energy Agency and Gurteen Agricultural College.

The effect of mass production

The energy expert then pointed to the emergence of processed food, the subsequent mass production of produce – the waste of same – and the development of plastic during that time.

When you grow your own food, you learn very quickly not to waste it, that is for sure.

He continued: “While we have come a long way from a technological point of view we need to understand it better.

“I think ultimately what has happened is that as a society we have plenty of money now and there is a perception that, therefore, we can do what we like – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should do it.

If you look at a child’s toy – it’s cheap plastic made in China and costs very little to buy; we need to learn – from a sustainability point of view – that is not what we should be buying.

“We need to think more about what we are buying – what is it made from, do I really need this?

“Just because we can produce plastic microbeads that can exfoliate our skin doesn’t mean we should use it.”

Knowledge is power

Kenny, meanwhile, pointed to the Energy in Agriculture conference and how its aim is to arm farmers with the knowledge on how to buy the right equipment, materials, etc – what to get involved in, what to wait for and what not to wait for.

It’s all about knowledge…knowledge is key to change.

He continued: “If we look at bioenergy it is about a supply and demand chain. Therefore, everything has to be local and together – so there is no point in putting a pile of crop into the ground if there is no market there.

“Then at the same time a person can’t put in a boiler unless they have a supply chain.

So, what needs to happen is, farmers must be signed up to producing what is needed.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship really – if a farmer plants a crop in two years’ time, say, and all his neighbours do the same thing well then all of sudden there could be 20,000t of crop – but is the market there for all of that?

“So the importance of knowing and understanding market demand and the supply chain is absolutely vital to making all of this work.”