Stupid cars ruin everything. Why we need to go back to the past and make our towns more people friendly…

You may have seen the photo above on social media. It shows the old entrance to Queen’s University before it was removed to make the entrance suitable for cars. Throughout the world, there are very few places that have been improved by building massive roads through them. Here are some old photos of Donegal Street, Carlisle Circus and Clifton St before somebody had the bright idea to run the Westlink through them. When you look at some of the terrible …

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But today I looked up and now I feel better, so I’m passing it on like a breeze through the leaves of a sycamore tree…

A friend died last Sunday, a past neighbour, someone who was kind to us when we were impossibly young and new to married life. He’d been ill and wasn’t going to get better, but still, the human brain finds death difficult to compute. No matter the age or circumstance, it always feels too soon. Sorrow cuts through the heart like a flesh wound. We watched his coffin, with its effervescent floral haul, as it was lowered into the earth. The …

Read more…But today I looked up and now I feel better, so I’m passing it on like a breeze through the leaves of a sycamore tree…

ESRC Virtual Festival – Creating a label to help us make more sustainable food choices…

Recent years have been a remarkable increase in interest in our environment. TV programmes such as The Blue Planet and Planet Earth have been credited as increasing our awareness of the environment and even changing our behaviour. From cutting back on meat consumption to ditching single-use plastics, many of us have changed our lifestyles. While there are many ways in which our behaviour affects the environment, the production and consumption of food and drink has a strong impact. Some estimates …

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What does behavioural science have to do with safe water interventions?

Over half of the world’s population lack safely managed sanitation services, while at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces (WHO, 2017). This causes diarrhoeal disease which is responsible for the death of around half a million children under the age of 5 each year (WHO, 2017). Without the adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conditions in place, risks of contamination are everywhere, and practices that pose a risk to health become highly prevalent. Examples …

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Autumn Awe…

We have three Red Maple trees in our garden. They flame skyward like balls of luminescent fire. They’re claret stars grounded in the earth. The leaves are not a uniform red, similar to how blood from a deep cut differs from a surface wound. They are deep berry red, orange-red, burnt sienna and crimson. When I remember to notice them, I can’t help but stop and stare. An autumn bee will live three times as long as a summer bee. …

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The garden is where I think and where I try to put negative thoughts to bed…

I have a tree growing in my garden christened the ‘tree of love’. It was planted as two small saplings and when the bark was young and still flexible, I twisted their skinny limbs around each other and left them to it. Over the past couple of years, with the amount of hugging that’s gone on, the saplings have merged into one and in so doing have become a talking point for passing walkers on our country road. People ask …

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Time to reset our approach to energy efficiency of homes to support a green, climate-resilient recovery…

By Dr Patrice Cairns, Policy Manager, RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors). You can follow her on Twitter. This year, for many, their home has become not only their shelter but a place of work, of homeschooling, of social space and respite. It can be assumed that there is undoubtfully now a greater appreciation of the intrinsic link between wellbeing and improved indoor health. However, if we spend more time at home, we will typically use more energy. The built …

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Mallon’s decision on the interconnector ought to be the thin edge of a positive #Reset wedge

Interesting development earlier this week as Nichola Mallon approved the new North-South interconnector from Tyrone to Meath, not least because of the cacophony of noise arising not just from rivals but even from within her own party. The BBC reports… The approval is for the building of a single circuit 400kV electricity line consisting of 102 towers over 34.1kms in length from Moy in County Tyrone to Crossreagh in County Armagh. The first application was lodged on 15th December 2009. …

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With the opening of a new 575 space car park in Belfast City Centre can we remove 575 on street car parking spaces and replace them with bike lanes?

2020 has not been a good year for the McCausland family. Firstly they own Value Cabs, which has been hit hard by COVID, then they open up a new car park just as the city has record low levels of commuters. I am sure all of you working from home really miss having to pay £20 a day to park in Belfast. Still, they have been in business over 100 years so I imagine this too shall pass for them. …

Read more…With the opening of a new 575 space car park in Belfast City Centre can we remove 575 on street car parking spaces and replace them with bike lanes?

#TheReset-We cannot build back better if we don’t put our environment at the heart of it.

Ian Humphreys is the Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful. The Reset is an apt description for the type of change that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented to us over the past six months. Our lives have been changed and priorities re-evaluated as we grapple with an uncertain future. For the environment sector, we have long argued (perhaps too meekly) for a new way of doing things. Our lifestyle of increasing carbon emissions and ignoring the consequences of waste …

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Bees, Breath and Back To School…

The day is dull, it can’t decide whether to rain, or not. The air is autumn cool, the blooms of summer have faded, there’s a ‘last orders’ feeling before winter. I’m hunkered down, underneath the big fir tree on the edge of our wet lawn half a metre from my first hive entrance. I’ve just left my youngest off at school for the first time in five months. He turned nine in July and takes his extra year into the …

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Putting a trans-border university at the heart of the Shared Island agenda – The regenerative role of a local university

With plans to form a Shared Island unit in the Taoiseach’s Office there will be opportunities for Dublin’s new coalition government to select a number of flagship projects that can form part of a transformative legacy. One that can contribute significantly to the re-imagination of our island is a trans-border university in the North West. The region could lead the way in both pedagogical and ecological innovation as we prepare to ‘Build Back Better’ to address the impacts of both …

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#InConversation podcast with Greg Keefe from Queen’s about rebuilding our cities and societies after Covid-19…

Greg is one of my favourite guests. He is a very imaginative thinker who really makes you see the world in a new light. He has a very down to earth casual manner that explains complex topics is an accessible way. You will be guaranteed to learn something interesting from our chat. Greg is Head of the School of Natural and Built Environment. He is an academic and urban designer with 25 years of experience. In this podcast we chat …

Read more…#InConversation podcast with Greg Keefe from Queen’s about rebuilding our cities and societies after Covid-19…

A passion for social justice: Tribute to Anne MOORE

Anne Moore will be remembered for her passion for social justice. I met Anne during my employment as a policy officer for the Alliance Party as I sought out the views of a valued stakeholder, NICVA, where she served as public affairs officer. Anne and I had plenty of enjoyable conversations and discussions on official as well as unofficial business matters—we would frequently diverge to global and philosophical perspectives. I regret that we didn’t continue such conversations as our careers …

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Loyalism must succeed where Sinn Fein has failed…

Moore Holmes is a Loyalist from East Belfast. You can find him on Twitter I have a fond memory of my dad telling me how foolish he thought the phrase, “learn from your mistakes.” Each time it came up in a conversation, he’d half-chuckle and half-scoff, provocatively asking, “why not learn from someone else’s mistakes and save yourself the hassle?” Although my dad would be at pains to point out that I’ve sung “Fathers Advice” far more than I’ve ever …

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Cycling – One of life’s simple pleasures…

Normally at this time of the year, cycling fever would be in the air with the Giro d’Italia a recent memory (remember the year it started in Belfast?), and that other famous pharmaceutical warehouse on wheels (sorry, bike race) the Tour de France just about to start. This year it’s all different though, but it hasn’t stopped the Middle-Aged Men In Lycra (MAMILs, I believe the modern terminology is) – ie people like myself – from making the most of …

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Irish Government needs to pick an ambitious and sustainable path to economic renewal past climate change. And stay on it.

“Anger is a valid emotion. It’s only bad when it takes control and makes you do things you didn’t want to do…” Ellen Hopkins, via #Angrynomics So Micheál Martin made good his strategic promise when he took over the party 2011 that he would lead the Fianna Fáil party back into government within ten years. It’s easy to forget just how implausible that sounded at the time, as they returned with just 20 seats. He has also tried over the …

Read more…Irish Government needs to pick an ambitious and sustainable path to economic renewal past climate change. And stay on it.

The ethics of shopping vs buying less stuff…

In case you have missed all the subtle hints, the government wants you to open your wallet and spend some cash. I studied Economics at A-Level and as part of my degree at Queen’s, but through all my learning, no one has ever summed up our economic system as well as the geniuses over at Modern Toss. Or as the quote goes: We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like. Over …

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More musings from a beekeeper in lockdown…

29th May 2020 It’s hot. I’m out watering my new plants at 7am in shorts and t-shirt. The garden is dying of thirst and after such a wet winter this prolonged lack of rain is going to be equally difficult for the farmers. But this weather is glorious. The honeysuckle, that my husband said would never grow, has extended by at least 30cm and will need attached to the wall soon. My lavender, old and new, are doing well and …

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Slugger Podcast #InConversation with David Gavaghan about the economy & society after Covid-19…

For the third of my Slugger #InConversation podcasts, I chat with David Gavaghan. David is the founder of Aurora Prime Real Estate Ltd. He is a Non- Executive Director of CBI (and in 2016/2017 was chair of CBI in Northern Ireland). In January David was appointed a Belfast Climate Commissioner and was Chair of MAC in Belfast until March 2020. Amongst his previous roles, he was the Chief Executive of Titanic Quarter Ltd and Strategic Investment Board. Whilst his background …

Read more…Slugger Podcast #InConversation with David Gavaghan about the economy & society after Covid-19…