Sustainability and living in a city

“While watching this interview with the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, I wanted to know more about his hedonistic sustainability concept, and I came across his manifesto “Yes is more“. He claims that sustainability doesn’t have to mean renunciation, pain or less comfort, but building cities with sustainability in mind can make life in the city more enjoyable.

Right now, giving up the car and taking the bus, cycling or walking feels like giving up the comfort we grew to enjoy, and facing the caprices of the weather. How to make these alternative choices attractive is still a challenge. Better health due to increased exercise, reconnecting with nature and relearning how to be sociable on streets and footpaths do not seem to have sufficient appeal for most of the people at this point in time. Not having a car is still perceived as a nuisance. It would be great if we could do the same thing the Dutch did, but cycling is not the most fashionable thing at the moment.

The Ranks exhibition open at the Hunt Museum in Limerick allows us a glimpse into the city’s past and features bicycles used by employees to get to work. Helen O’Dwyer’s memories show how prominent these were at the time:

“… We used to always be on our bikes. … I was going mad without my bike now because we all cycled down… That time now there were hundreds cycling down the Dock road..

Can Limerick tap into its past to revive that cycling culture? Let’s hope so!

We love Plassey riverbank – a well spent Sunday

Yesterday, about 20 people showed up for the canal and riverbank cleanup. We were hoping for some sunshine, but it didn’t happen. At least it didn’t rain!

The meeting point was Richmond Rugby Football Club on the canal bank at 12pm. The Munster Junior League final was on at 2:30pm, and we knew the place was going to get very busy.

People continued to arrive between 12 and 12:30. Miriam Lohan had done an audit of the riverbank and had maps for every group – with the severely littered areas marked on it.

Members of the Clancy Strand Street Feast group brought lovely cakes. Mary from Wildroutes showed us how you can build a nice birdhouse of almost any material. Children  were playing around. A fisherman showed up, wearing high boots, and offered us his help with carrying the rubbish back on the river and on the canal.

Shane Hickey and a few other people from the UL Green Campus initiative came to help, and brought materials left after last year’s  spring clean  with them (pickers, plastic bags).

We also had the support of the City Council Environmental officer, Sinead McDonnell, who helped us getting gloves and plastic bags, and made possible the pick-up of the rubbish this morning.

People spread along the canal and the river. We noticed the work that had been done to prepare the side areas for sowing grass. We tried to avoid them. Miriam cycled up and down, making sure everyone had the proper materials and helping various groups.

It was amazing to see how all the various people belonging to groups across Limerick city and from the neighbourhood came together. The “We love Plassey riverbank” Facebook page was the central point, but this blog post, together with the posters that we placed on the riverbank on Friday and the tiny flyers (actually business cards) also did the job.

We encountered mixed reactions from the people who were walking, jogging and cycling. Some avoided eye contact and didn’t answer to friendly hellos. Others stopped and engaged in a conversation. A lady told us it was the first time she walked there in ages – and she was really impressed.

There were people of several nationalities and backgrounds – together with locals, there were Swedish, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian. Not everybody knew the others in the beginning, but we quickly bonded.

The before and after pictures on our Facebook page show impressive transformations. We felt we really made a difference! The problem was that we ended up with 60+ very heavy bags of rubbish, that we had to carry back to Richmond RFC.

Dan O Neill, Plassey fisherman and hero of the day, ferried all he could fit in his boat.Anthony Furlong, of Limerick City Biodiversity Network  took quite a few of these 60 bags down the path on his bike. The problem was that we only had a wheelbarrow. Most of the bags had to be carried  back – and that was probably the toughest job we had! Asia came to our help with her 3 lovely daughters, carrying heavy bags at the back of the buggy.

When all the bags were brought back to the Richmond club – to be collected on Monday morning, we enjoyed the warm hospitality of the club, getting a cup of tea and a cake and planning the next action.

Note: Brian Leddin, who took part  in the clean-up, has a post on his blog on this event as well. There is also a mention of our action on this local blog.