Ozone Baby

1979 was a pretty bleak year in Ireland, probably as miserable as 2020 but for different reasons. Petrol shortages and workers disputes, the troubles were in full flow and surprise surprise Fianna Fail was in power and then came September. Il Papi spoke to the multitudes in Phoenix Park, and I arrived in the world to join the other 4.5bn people on the planet. It looked like things were on the up.

Unfortunately by the end of the year, CJ Haughey was the leader of the FF party and the rest is all private Islands, helicopters, brown envelopes, and Charvet shirts. Led Zeppelin’s album “In Through The Out Door was Number 1”, and a track called “Ozone Baby” while recorded for the album didn’t make the final cut. It’s a pretty weak song by Zeppelins standards and it never once mentions the word Ozone in it’s lyrics and they correctly dropped it (for it to later appear on Coda). So to say no one knew what Global Warming and the Ozone layer was would be fairly accurate.  

photo courtesy of Dublinlive.ie

Normally if I was talking about PPMS it would be linked to phenols in peated malt whiskey but now I’m going to use them for something else. In ’79 C02 accounted for around 334ppm in the atmosphere and the world population was approaching 4.5bn. 41 years on it has grown to 417ppm and 7.8bn population. Over the next 40 years leading to 2060 if trends continue C02 levels could hit 680ppm and the population is projected to be around 10.15bn. If this were a company balance sheet we would be happy, but it’s not and the numbers are going in the wrong direction.

The forests and the biodiversity that comes with them have been decimated. Up to 2015, we were losing 24m hectares a year, that’s about the size of the UK. While it has dropped to around 16m hectares a year now and will hopefully keep going in that direction it’s not nearly quick enough. You might think that as most of this is happening in the Southern Hemisphere and in developing nations does it really affect you, but the likelihood is that the decisions you make on a daily basis are driving these losses without you feeling the consequences right now, but you will start to feel them very soon. If we look closer to home our native woodlands were cleared centuries ago and today Ireland has about 2% coverage of native species which is shockingly low and we continue to plant poorly managed forests with foreign tree species that are pretty much lifeless and are simply seen as cash cows from landowners due to the grant system in place.

I’m not here to throw stones, I am as guilty as the next man and with that in mind and for the future of my children and their children, we are about to start doing something about it. Whiskey companies have many moving parts in its production and supply chain. During the process of distillation, maturation, bottling, labelling, transporting product and ourselves around we are contributing to carbon emissions and O’Connell Whiskey Merchants have set a target of becoming carbon neutral by the end of 2022. Over the next 2 years, we will monitor all these processes and be able to offset them.

The first step, we are starting a tree planting program here in Ireland where we will plant a native tree for each case (6 bottles) that we have sold to date and will apply the same methodology going forward for the coming years.The first planting will happen in February 2021 and it will be managed by Trees On The Land, a cross-border initiative covering the 32 counties of Ireland. Trees On The Land and ourselves will work with farmers, smallholders, community groups, councils, schools, colleges, and other landowners to coordinate hundreds of planting sites to accommodate trees each year. Further details on the program can be found by visiting here and we will update our own website with details also.

Tree planting is just a start and we must look to not just offset but to avoid and reduce where we can.  We would encourage not just the Irish Whiskey sector but all sectors, big and all small business owners, community groups, sporting bodies and even individuals to adopt a similar approach to help restore our natural world which in turn will help future generations to continue to live on and enjoy all our planet has to offer. If you want to join in with us to donate land or add to the budget please reach out to me directly using daithí@wdoconnell.com.

Is mise le meas,