Experiences of COVID-19: Falling in Love & Discovering Superheroes living amongst us

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.

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