The Famine: Politics and Ecology. Ecology Politics.
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Transcript of The Famine: Politics and Ecology. Ecology Politics.
Joseph O’Connor’s Star of the Sea The Famine:
Politics and Ecology
Context of the Famine Ecology Politics
Politics 1776: American Revolution 1789: French Revolution 1798: Wolfe Tone Rebellion 1800: Act of Union 1803: Robert Emmet Rebellion
1800 Act of Union “Ireland lost her political and legislative
autonomy and her economic independence” (186).
Linen factories meant that people lost the work and income that allowed them to subsist on their tiny farm plots—and rely on the potato.
“Nowhere else in Europe did people rely so heavily on one crop for survival. And the structure of land ownership meant that this crop was grown on plots so small that almost no tenant could produce a food surplus” (187).
The Little Ice Age Brian Fagan, The Little Ice Age: How
Climate Made History (1300-1850) Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire
1815-1816 1815: Eruption of Mt. Tambora 1816: The Year Without Summer
“More than 65,000 people died of hunger and related diseases in 1816… They died in part because the British authorities chose not to ban grain exports, an effect measure in earlier dearths. Chief Secretary Robert Peel justified this on the specious grounds that private charity would relax their efforts if the government assumed major responsibility for famine relief” (187).
Danger of Monocultures Generally growing cereal crops (often failed), but
the combination of potatoes and cereal crops “was a safeguard against the failure of either crop” (183).
Danger of monoculture: “Grain was no longer part of the diet in the south and west of the country and had become predominantly a cash crop in the north” (185).
The Potato Many varieties of potato: Black,
Apple, Cup (187). Dwindled to just the Lumper, highly
productive in poor soil—but Lumpers did not keep from one year to the next. Which meant no food reserves against famine.
The Blight 1843: outbreak of phytophthora
infestans in the eastern United states.
1845: summer was “cold, sunless, and wetter than normal” (189).
October 1845: blight strikes Ireland’s crop.
1845 Relief Sir Robert Peel responded: he
“ordered the immediate importation of 100,000-worth of maize from the United States” (190).
1846 Eating seed potatoes. Spring cold, May and
June excellent growing weather. August: “the blight appeared a full two
months earlier than the previous year” (190).
Poor cereal crop harvest across Europe; official indifference from the British government.
“North Atlantic Oscillation flipped into low mode, bringing the most severe winter in living memory” (190).
Relief Work programs. “The government in London argued
that relief was the responsibility of ‘local relief committees.’ None existed, and food was plentiful in Skibbereen market. But the poor had no money to buy it” (192).
“The British government, believing firmly in the sanctity of the free market, pursued the ideology of minimal intervention that dominated many European governments of the day. Ministers believed that poverty was a self-imposed condition, so the poor should fend for themselves” (193).
1847 Excellent weather, but there were no
potatoes to plant. No employment to be had.
1848 Cold spring, complete failure of the
crop. Evictions continued, landlords also in
great debt. Emigration to survive, crime and
transportation to survive.
Tolls 1841 Census: 8,175,124 1851 Census: 6,552,385 Population decline did not reverse
until the 1960s. “The lasting physical effects among
the survivors included a high incidence of mental illness” (194).
Not the last famine.