The campaign to secure National Park City status for Galway kicked off in earnest on last week, with a launch celebrating the raft of ecological and environmental projects already underway across the city and county.
Spearheaded by veteran environmental campaigner Brendan Smith, this initiative seeks to make Galway one of the first national park cities in the world – something Brendan said couldn’t be more timely as the world faces down the barrel of environmental destruction.
“The world has become disconnected with nature. We have to work together to save ourselves, to save nature and to save the planet,” said Mr Smith.
Launched at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway, Mr Smith said it was an ideal location to start the campaign, as the connection between technology and environmental action would be key.
“This might seem an unusual place to launch a national park city, but the future is with smart cities and the two have to work together.
“Galway is famous the world over for its arts, and for its science and technology. We have those two big pillars, technology and the arts – the third pillar is the green,” he said.
“We’re more connected than ever before in terms of technology, but in the real world, we’re more disconnected than ever,” he added.
Some 20 speakers from different organisations and groups across the city spoke at the launch, and it was evident that the use of both technology and the arts would be vital to secure national park city designation and promoting the green environment in Galway.
Scientists from NUIG told attendees of their work on citizen science; the creation of a mobile lab with 50 sensors monitoring the atmosphere; an app to identify species of mushrooms; outdoor classrooms and laboratories; managing Ireland’s peatlands; mapping bee habitats; upcycling using 3D printing; and using an app to collect tree data.
Speakers from community and voluntary groups illustrated the importance of Galway’s waterways; the Connemara Greenway as a transport corridor from the west into the city; the urban bee project; and using Merlin Woods as an education centre for flora and fauna.
The Buildings Department at NUIG outlined their work to achieve a green campus, while Scoil Náisiúnta Iognáid (the Jes) showed the work that has gone into their outdoor classroom – with a representation from Our Lady’s College also at the launch.
From the business community, Dangan-based Aerogen outlined how their employees planted 550 trees in Terryland Forest Park during National Tree Week, and have invested in a tree nursery at Ballinfoile Community Garden – a template for businesses to engage with the environmental sector. The tourism sector was also represented with the Nox Hotel in attendance – a hotel located right at the edge of Terryland Forest Park.
This multi-sectoral approach was celebrated by guest of honour, Duncan Stewart, who said Galway was a national leader in environmental issues.
“We should be in a state of panic,” said Mr Stewart. “We should have been in a state of panic 20 years ago.”
“When you look at Ireland, we have the highest greenhouse gas emissions in Europe per person. It’s not just about the little things at the edges – we need to see fundamental change because we are stealing our children’s futures,” added the well-known environmentalist.