Galway city centre is small with narrow, cobble-stoned streets and pedestrian-dominated pathways. It presents itself as more suited for walking rather than driving, yet, if you were to travel five minutes from the main streets of Galway you would find the opposite to be true.
Headford Road is one of the busiest roads in Galway city and displays an ongoing issue within Irish society; our dependency on cars as a primary form of transport.
This isn’t a Galway-specific problem. Whether you’re in Dublin city or the backroads of west Clare, one theme remains consistent. Cars are the dominant – and often the most-convenient – form of transport.
In the last few years, I believe cars have become the scapegoat within any climate-change related discussion. Switch to an electric car and you have automatically ‘fulfilled’ your duty to the planet.
Although I do take issue with our over-dependance on cars in Ireland, it is not only because of their contribution to carbon emissions. I don’t believe that they are the main reason for the environment deteriorating, but I do think they represent a stubbornness which may be.
While switching to an electric car is certainly a move in the right direction, it leads me to ask one question – are we only willing to make convenient changes, rather than substantial sacrifices?
This lack in effort is clear in other environmental initiatives, even the most basic as recycling. Despite programmes in schools and public recycling bins popping up in cities, we have failed to implement it properly. Seen clearly in 2017, when China refused to stop taking Irish waste due to our inability to recycle correctly.
The controversial Salthill cycle path, proposed last January, is another example of our progress in sustainability being stunted. The outcry against, and ultimate failure of, the cycle path displays our unwillingness to embrace changes that appear uncomfortable. It is critical that we see past this discomfort to understand the necessity of these developments.
As individuals we can always improve our lifestyles and become more eco-friendly, yet the government also has a role to play in creating a more sustainable society.
The reliance on cars within Ireland should not solely to be blamed on those of us who drive. It is the government’s duty to provide access to alternative transport options for people to adopt sustainable lifestyles. If public transport is developed and becomes more reliable and accessible, it will, in turn, be a realistic option for many people.
With everything going on in Ireland, it may be seen as a privilege to declare sustainability as your primary concern, yet I believe it shouldn’t be. Providing convenient and realistic options for those in disadvantaged situations will make it so being sustainable isn’t an additional burden, but just a new way of life.
Addressing climate change must be done in a co-operative system. It is not solely on the government to make the changes necessary to combat this crisis.
We need to adopt a new attitude towards sustainability in Ireland, whether that is changing how we commute to work or taking the time to recycle properly. The initial discomfort can no longer be an excuse to avoid these changes. Ultimately, we must understand the future facing us and once we do I believe real progress will begin.