Some of what I have written has been negative. It is a problem that most environmentalists have - they tend to focus on gloomy data and end up prophesying the end of the world. However, if I stand back from all the detail and take a broad view of the state of Ireland’s biodiversity, the overall picture is far from depressing.

By northern European standards our countryside is still relatively unpolluted. Our standard of national hygiene is slowly improving, though we still have quite a long road to travel in this respect. Our population is increasing, but the increase is largely confined to towns and cities leaving rural areas lightly populated compared to other parts of Europe. We still have enough of our biodiversity left to make it worth fighting for. We still have a remarkable number of places where people can enjoy the wonders of nature.

To put it in perspective, otters were once distributed across the whole of Europe. Today only Ireland and parts of western Scotland have approximately the same numbers of this iconic wild animal as they had a thousand years ago.

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