I was asked to contribute to a new column in the Galway Advertiser on a Post-COVID Galway.
Below is my contribution which appeared in last week's edition.
The greatest global disruption since World War Two has brought
humanity to a crossroads. This pandemic has caused massive job losses, financial
meltdown, suffering and death. In a post COVID-19 world, we as a country can
understandably decide to take what looks like the easier route in quickly making
up for what was lost by going full steam ahead to stimulate job creation via the
traditional consumer economic model. But this option, with its interrelated
symptoms of Climate Chaos, oceanic pollution, biodiversity loss and pandemics,
will in my opinion mean travelling at speed down a cul-de-sac leading finally
to a crash of unprecedented global catastrophe.
Or we can reflect on what has happened over the last few
months and decide to take a different route that, with hard graft and ingenuity,
promises a better quality of life and a better future for the planet.
Galway city is uniquely positioned to be a flagship for a more
sustainable equitable world. It is surrounded by picturesque natural landscapes
that can, through a network of greenways, help revitalise areas such as
Connemara and east Galway. The city is renowned for its arts but also as a
world class hub for benign biomedical, computing, marine and renewable energy technology
research and production that can be developed even further. It has an
environmental volunteer movement that is promoting innovative ‘Outdoor
Classroom’ education and ‘Health through Nature’ programmes, and a small but
growing organic farming sector involved in revitalising food models of
beekeeping, fresh vegetable and preservative production.
One of the unexpected windfalls of the lockdown was the wonderful
ways that Galwegians came together in local and online communities to reach out
to those in need, from providing reconditioned laptops for Leaving Cert
students to making vegetable boxes for people living in isolation to setting up
online neighbourhood newsletters to producing quirky collaborative musical videos.
We finally paid homage to those everyday
people who lived amongst us but whom we now recognised as the super heroes that
they always were- nurses, doctors, carers, cleaners, scientists, Garda, outdoor
council personnel, shop workers, garden centre staff and those working in local
life-saving medical companies. The message of campaigners pushing for a
walking, cycling and park infrastructure started to appeal to us.
Post-COVID, let us not lose this sense of community
solidarity and respect for others.
But many of us also found ourselves falling madly in love
with an intensity that we never thought possible. Nature became our passionate
lover. We could not stop ourselves getting excited by the sights and sounds of
birds in our garden, the beauty of wildflowers in a field, the movement of a
bee or butterfly in flight, or the leaves unfolding in our new vegetable plot
that we hastily dug out in March. Our rendezvous with our new love was often in
the local park, a place that we never really visited before.
We discovered too that cooking, eating, sharing stories and
undertaking home repairs together with family began to give us a new
perspective on what really mattered in life.
Next month, the ‘National Park City for Galway’ initiative
will be unveiled. Supported by all sectors of local society and with President
Michael D. Higgins as patron, it is about integrating the rest of Nature into
the fabric of our urban environment, something that we have found, through the
experience of the Great Lockdown, is fundamental to our wellbeing and, as we
will soon learn, can provide us with amazing new economic and societal models.