The first trace of ash dieback in Ireland was detected in Co. Leitrim in 2012. Ash dieback is a fatal fungal disease of the ash tree. Low cost nursery stock imported from continental Europe led to the introduction of the disease to Ireland; these diseased saplings were imported for planting on one of Ireland’s new motorways. The presence of the disease now threatens the existence of a tree with huge ecological, economic and cultural importance in Ireland.

Provoked by the ash dieback crisis in Ireland, Uinse explores our contemporary perceptions of and interaction with the natural environment; that is overwhelmingly based on the separation of Nature and Society.

While the dominant argument links the origins of the Nature/Society dualism with the rise of The Industrial Revolution, Uinse reveals a longer history and an important one to consider if we are to tackle the present ecological crisis. Colonialism, Capitalism, The Romantic Era and The Industrial Revolution have all played a role in shaping humanity’s relationship with nature —even the very idea of nature itself.

Capitalism and colonialism, based on a separation of Nature and Society, tend to understand nature solely in terms of domination and profit, whilst the Romantics tried to reconnect us to Nature itself.

Despite our domination of the environment a sense of alienation lingers. Even the aesthetic framing of nature employed by the Romantics is a distorted mirror of reality that maintains the Nature/Society dualism. In a sense, this idealisation of nature sentimentalises it and separates us further from our environment.

Uinse argues for a new way of being: an epistemological, cultural and political revolution that rejects the Nature/Society dualism and the excesses of capitalism.

(‘Baile na Fuinseoige’ © Government of Ireland 2019)