Table Mountain: Looking down across a Sea of Clouds

A photograph I took a few days ago from the top of Table Mountain (Hoerikwaggo = Mountain of the Sea) reinforced my sense of wonder at the beauty and power of Nature as well as on how different regions and peoples of the world have been connected for far longer than we sometimes realise.
Six times older than the Himalayas, this 1085 metres high rock formation that towers above Capetown includes volcanic and glacial elements but most interestingly sandstone. To realise that this mountain was formed out of sediment that settled at the bottom of deep waters millions of years ago is truly astonishing.

Looking down across a never-ending sea of clouds (part of Capetown appears at bottom of photo) I could in the aerial gaps catch glimpses of Robben (‘seal’: Dutch) Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years, and surviving architectural heritage from Dutch, English and Asian urban settlements, evidence of its colonial past and rich diverse ethnicity that makes it still one of Africa’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities. Both the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean are visible; hence the reason why it was initially developed by the Dutch in the seventeenth century as a strategic stop-off refuelling port along the European-Oriental spice trade route. 

But even more interestingly I could gaze from possibly the world’s oldest mountain (240million years) towards the location of the world’s oldest evidence of the human species (‘homo sapiens sapiens’) that dates back 100,000 years old. Is this place the cradle of humanity?
Traveling to nearby beaches to witness colonies of Africa’s only penguin species should not come as a surprise when one realises that this region was once joined to Antarctica. 

Table Mountain also looks onto landmarks and localities of Capetown that are from my own country. Bantry Bay, Athlone and Clifton beach are reminders that both Ireland and South Africa were once colonies of a British global empire whose rulers often transplanted the names from one region to the next.
I am presently in South Africa to take part in an amazing life-changing project initiated by renowned philanthropist Sabine Plattner that aims to develop a conservation educational curriculum for schools across Africa. Spearheaded by Claire Gillissen supported by an expert team of Ibrahim Khafagy, Bernard Kirk and Julie Cleverdon amongst others, it is another pioneering project to replicate in environmental learning what Africa Code Week did for coding learning across a whole continent.
But that is another story (to follow shortly!).

American Youth do what mainstream politicians are too scared to do- stand up to the NRA.

It is so heartening to see hundreds of thousands of young Americans demand gun control and an end of the big money power of the National Rifle Association(NRA), something that the cowardly spineless leadership of both the Republican and Democrat parties have never had the courage to do.

Mainstream US political parties have been corrupted by the monies provided by the NRA who by their policies have helped kill more Americans (by guns) that all the wars involving the USA since its foundation combined.
The destructive hold of the NRA over US society is only matched by the destructive control of the fossil fuel corporations (who are promoting Global Warming and the extinction of so much life on the planet) and the right-wing Israeli lobby who along with the Christian fundamentalists and the Saudi Arabian Wahhabi elite are turning the Middle East into a cauldron of death.
These groups control American politics to the the detriment of the American public and life on the planet.
The NRA keep talking about the their role in defending the Second Amendment even if its origins have nothing to do with machine guns and killing machines. Yet it must be remembered that the 'right to bear arms' in the 18th century America grew out of a war of genocide waged by the European colonists against the native Indian population. Guns gave the invaders pf Indian lands the technological advantage over the bows, arrows and spears of the indigenous peoples.

Volunteers Needed Tomorrow (Sat) in preparing a Food Garden for Humans and a Food Meadow for Bees.

Do You Want to Save the Planet?
Of course you do! So we are giving you the opportunity this Saturday to become involved in this great global mission by doing something positive at a local Galway level that involves preparing a Food Garden for Humans and a Food Meadow for Bees.

We welcome all lovers of locally grown organic foods and wildlife to join us for an exciting double nature project in the community organic garden and a wildflower meadow of Terryland Forest Park. 

We will meet at the Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden at 11.30am to undertake the digging and laying out of vegetable beds. Then, after a nice social lunchtime break of good healthy food and beverages, we will continue onto a nearby meadow in the forest park to plant an array of native Irish wildflowers. Google map location for the garden is at
Working with others in an urban community garden provides wonderful opportunities for people to plant nutritious foods that can be enjoyed later in the year at harvest time. Volunteering in our garden entitles people to a share of the vegetables, fruits and herbs grown and to learn how to transform Nature’s bounty into delightful tasty foods such as jams and chutneys.

Mealtime will be followed by a short walk to a forest meadow to plant, under the expert tutelage of Padraic Keirns, hundreds of native wildflowers that will provide food for the moths, butterflies, bats, beetles and bees that, thanks to previous plantings by volunteers over the last two years, now call this locality home. 
These pollinators have been in serious decline in Ireland and elsewhere over the last few decades due to pollution, invasive species, urbanization, loss of habitat and the use of pesticides and herbicides in modern farming. So our efforts are helping at a local level to reverse this calamitous trend and ensure that once again our countryside is populated with flowers representing all the colours of the rainbow and will throb to the sounds of a wide of variety bees and birds.

31 Years later: All Smiles at Our Neighbourhood Centre's First Open Day.

I was delighted to be present at today's very well attended and most enjoyable 'Open Day' for the Ballinfoile - Castlegar Neighbourhood Centre, six weeks after it opened its doors to the general public and 31 years after local community activists started a campaign to secure indoor and outdoor recreational facilities for the residents of the Ballinfoile Mór and Castlegar area.

The top photograph shows a happy bunch of politicians, community campaigners and local residents in the foyer of a very impressive state-of-the-art sports and community facility.
The bottom photograph shows a demonstration of people of all ages outside City Hall in June 1989 as a meeting of Galway City Council (then known as Galway City Corporation) voted on a proposal to provide outdoor and indoor recreational facilities in our neighbourhood. 

As a result of our campaign from 1987-1989, that evening the councillors (including Michael D. Higgins, now President of Ireland) voted in our favour. Within a 12-18 month period two playing pitches, changing rooms, a tennis court, a children's playground, car park and a most beautiful nature park with karst limestone outcrops and walking trails were provided.

Sadly we failed at the time to secure the construction of a sports and community centre. 
But over the next three decades in different shapes and guises we kept fighting and finally after many false promises and starts, January 2018 saw the fine building that we were in today open. In its short few weeks of existence under the auspices of the social enterprise entitiy SCCUL and supported by the community representative umbrella grouping Croí na Tuath (heart of the people/land) and Galway City, it has spawned and become home to a myriad of sporting, artistic, health and learning activities.
So many people have helped along the way; sadly some of them did not live to experience this afternoon's joyous coming together of a community. Today though was the start of the next phase in the ongoing development of the Ballinfoile Mór - Castlegar district. So we must grasp the positivity that today has meant to everyone living locally and build on this wonderful celebration of community to foster a true Sense of Place and a Sense of Purpose.
So, as they say, watch this space!

Storms & Snow - Rediscovering a Sense of Personal Worth & of Togetherness

Spurred on by my son Dáire, Cepta and myself helped him build a lovely beehive Igloo in the back garden that as you can see from the photograph became a home for an owl, a hedgehog and a squirrel! 
The forced closure of schools, colleges and workplaces over the last two days was a reality check for many of us as it presented a rare opportunity in our fast-paced lives to reconnect with family members and close friends. It was a blessing in disguise. Confined to our homes and localities, we got the chance to do things together such as take a walk in the local woodlands, play cards and build snow people. 
Rather than being stuck at a computer, trying to get reports completed and met business targets in sterile air-conditioned offices, we managed to get outside and take advantage of Mother Nature's gift of snow. With so few cars on the roads, we could hear again the wonderful melodic sounds of the birds in the trees. We became caring concerned community people again as we called to our older neighbours to ensure that they were safe. We became Nature lovers again as we left out food for the birds. We learnt to use our hands again, to rediscover the art of our childhood and to collaborate as a family or as a group of friends in creating the most creative sculptures out of snow. 

Have you ever seen the countryside look more beautiful, have you ever seen so many smiles and heard so much joyous laughter as experienced in the last few days as you watched others or participated with others in the construction of snow people and snow animals?
Maybe these types of storms should come more often!