In the newest season of RTÉ’s long-running series Eco Eye, host Duncan Stewart is joined by ecologist Anja Murray and Dr Lara Dungan to explore critical environmental issues impacting Ireland and abroad. Featuring topics from air pollution to aquatic invasive species, this season documents pioneering research and community action in the fields of medicine, ecology, conservation and more. Filmed all across the country and further afield, it reveals the challenges that our native flora and fauna face today.

1) ‘Restoring Nature’ - with Anja Murray

Anja Murray studies how humans have changed Ireland’s natural landscape in recent years, and the responsibility that humans now hold in managing an ecosystem that they have irrevocably altered, from predator to prey.

Humans have been responsible for many changes to Ireland’s ecosystems, flora, and fauna. Sometimes species which were introduced as a mere garden pleasantry have now run amok, such as the rhododendron.

We have also been the reason other species have been eliminated, such as the grey wolf. It’s come to a point where we have to step in to manage the delicate balance of our remaining native habitats. Sometimes that means culling unwanted species, but sometimes it means reintroducing those that we have come close to losing.

This episode will explore how nature is changing in our time, and what can be done to preserve our most important ecosystems.

2) ‘Active Travel’ - with Dr Lara Dungan

Dr Lara Dungan investigates how daily healthy activity has been engineered out of our lives and environments, increasing our waistlines. She also explores simple lifestyle choices which can get Irish citizens moving.

By 2030 Ireland will be the most obese country in the EU, according to the WHO. This isn’t just a problem for our waistlines; it’s causing a crisis in our health system. Many of the chronic diseases overburdening the health system today are a result of our sedentary lifestyles.

But what is it about the last 25 years that has turned us from one of the slimmest nations to one of the fattest and least active?

While sedentary work and personal lifestyle choices play a part, our environment has a bigger part to play than most people think. Our new environment has made it more and more difficult to get around using our legs and feet. Now almost everything is geared towards the car. It’s become such an important part of our daily lives that we’re not getting the very basic minimum exercise we need in our daily lives to stay healthy.

With easy, unhealthy choices everywhere, what hope do we have to reverse the trends? Can we change our environment to create a healthier society?

On this journey Dr Lara Dungan explores why our society has turned its back on being active despite all the evidence available of what is required for a healthy society. She will delve deep into the reasons for this new direction and she will try to discover what we can do to change.

3) ‘Price of Peat’ - with Duncan Stewart

In this episode about Ireland’s iconic peatlands, Duncan Stewart will investigate the technical, social and environmental implications of restoring and protecting our bogs from the traditional activities of cutting and burning.

The global climate is changing. Our exploitation of fossil fuels and land use change is causing an unprecedented level of global warming in our time. This is leading to weather extremes that make everyday life impossible in many parts of the world.

However, peat bogs can store carbon and slow down climate change, helping to stabilise the whole climate system. While peatlands only make up 3% of the world’s landmass, they store more carbon than all of the world’s forests combined.

Peatlands have always been a distinct characteristic of the Irish landscape, covering 20% of the country. But our peat bogs are in a heavily degraded state, due to turf harvesting and other environmental pressures.

About 99% of Ireland’s bogs are no longer functioning as a carbon store but are instead emitting huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, further accelerating global warming. When these bogs are cut and drained, carbon is released into the atmosphere and into water catchments. This causes pollution of drinking water, as well as contributing to global warming.

In this episode Duncan will speak to Irish scientists and industry about the importance of peat for carbon sequestration, filtering water, mitigating flooding, and improving habitats. He will also travel to Northern Ireland to see the impacts of bog restoration on Garron Plateau.

4) ‘Pristine Waters’ - with Anja Murray

Ecologist Anja Murray explores the decline of Ireland’s high status waters and its impact on

those delicate ecosystems. She will also find out what concerned citizens are doing to preserve these waters, home to the endangered freshwater pearl mussel and other unique wildlife.

Ireland’s highest status freshwaters are home to many unique birds and marine life, as well as the endangered freshwater pearl mussel. But high quality status water sites in Ireland are disappearing at an alarming rate. What can be done to reverse the decline?

Presenter Anja Murray will journey to the heart of the country and speak with locals who are passionate about these unique waters, and find out what can be done at a local and national level to reverse the decline of Ireland’s highest status waters.

Wilderness guide Darach Ó Murchú will show her the special wildlife native to the area and its particular interconnectedness. She will also spend some time with local conservation scheme, the Kerry Life project, as its members fight to improve the freshwater pearl mussel population in the area.

5) ‘The Air We Breathe’ - with Dr Lara Dungan

In this episode Dr Lara Dungan investigates the main sources of air pollution in Ireland, including traffic emissions and solid fuel burning, the health impacts, and possible solutions.

Synopsis: As an island country, our air is a natural resource we all take for granted. But how often do we consider the quality of the air we breathe? While Ireland’s air is quite clean compared to many industrialised countries, recent research has shown that even small levels of air pollution can have a direct impact on our long term health.

Even with our relatively clean air in Ireland, roughly 1500 premature deaths are caused here every year by air pollution and many healthy life years are lost. Children's exposure to air pollution is linked to learning difficulties, and in later life a range of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s are accelerated by air pollution.

The two main culprits in Ireland are transport emissions and solid fuel burning of turf, coal and wood. Dr Lara Dungan will explore these issues, and to understand more about the health impacts she will travel to the UK to speak to preeminent paediatrician Jonathan Grigg about his research on health impacts caused by air pollution. She will also explore what changes can be made in Ireland to improve awareness, monitoring and air quality.

6) ‘Silence Is Golden’ - with Duncan Stewart and Lara Dungan

Duncan Stewart and Dr Lara Dungan delve into the effects of noise pollution on our physical and mental well-being, as well as the natural world.

Most of us don't realise that noise is the second biggest environmental health issue, after air pollution. Recent research has shown that exposure to noise significantly increases risks of hearing loss, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The issues of how noise affects wildlife on land and in the ocean is also only starting to be understood.

This episode will see Duncan and Lara investigate some of the ways noise affects human health and wildlife. The episode will also explore some of the technical and policy solutions to noise, and question if Ireland has sufficient legislation to protect the general public against the health effects of noise pollution, and if such regulations would be effective and feasible.

7) ‘Aquatic Invaders’ - with Anja Murray

Anja Murray examines the potentially catastrophic impacts of alien aquatic invaders that have infested Ireland’s water bodies, and what we can do to contain the problem.

Ireland’s rivers and lakes are a central part of our unique biodiversity and ecosystems. But with rapid globalization, we have seen a sharp rise in invasive species in our freshwater systems. From the zebra mussel and Asian clam to a mysterious plague targeting our native crayfish in the river Suir, the biology of some of our water bodies are changing at an alarming rate. But what do these invasive species actually mean for the ecosystems they colonise?

In this episode Anja looks at the biological implications of such invasive species, and speaks to experts and anglers about the best way to contain these species without compromising Ireland’s natural ecosystem.

8) ‘The Future Of Transport’ - with Dr Lara Dungan

Dr Lara Dungan explores the need to reduce our transport emissions, and what trading the petrol car for electric innovation, public transit, and other transport options could look like in Ireland.

With the global implications of climate change becoming more apparent by the day, renewed focus has been placed on how Ireland is going to meet its 2030 targets and set a real trajectory for achieving almost zero emissions by 2050. One of the most challenging areas, where we have so far failed to make any significant progress, is transport.

Ireland has a unique legacy of significant urban sprawl and one-off housing, which has made public transport difficult, and reliance on the automobile is the only solution for many. But how do we maintain good affordable transport for citizens while dramatically reducing reliance on fossil fuels?

Through technological solutions, such as electric vehicles and innovative public transport strategies, this episode will explore what it would take to bring Ireland’s transport system into the future.

Lara will speak to experts and average citizens about Ireland’s transport problems, and travel to the Netherlands to find out how the government and industry has encouraged citizens to embrace electric vehicles and alternate transport options such as cycling and car sharing. She will see if this kind of integrated approach could be exported to Ireland.

9) ‘Hazardous Waste’ - with Duncan Stewart

Duncan Stewart investigates the common household chemicals that we use every day, their health and environmental impacts, and seeks less hazardous and eco-friendly alternatives.

Today we are exposed to thousands of known and unknown man-made chemicals. Paints, cleaning products, and garden sprays are all flushed into our water systems and contaminate our earth. The health and environmental effects of some of these chemicals are just starting to be understood.

But how do we create a world without harmful chemicals and still go about our daily lives?

This episode will explore some of the common household chemicals and hazardous waste we come into contact with on a regular basis in our homes. It will highlight some of the environmental and health implications of these chemicals and investigate healthy alternatives. Duncan will explore if it’s possible to keep harmful chemicals away from the public.

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