Built 250 years ago by armies of barrel-chested Irishmen fed on meat and beer, they became one of the country's great natural resources. Within sight of my front gate lies the rusted husk of a barge station, where teams of horses drawing carts of peat - dug from the bog all around us -- on rails from the bog up to the canal. From there the peat could be pulled by horses, in boats this time, to provide the urban centres of Dublin with heat in winter.
Today, as I ride my bicycle along the canal, I pass the derelicts of old canal boats, some with literal trees growing through them. In the coming years, this is a resource the Irish will have to remember that they have.
I wish more governments would begin such projects now. Employing armies of otherwise struggling young males could substantially reduce the crime rate, as happened during World War II. It would provide wildlife with a haven and families with sources of fresh water and fish, as it does for us. It would create infrastructure that could continue to serve Iowa or Alabama a millennia from now.