If this is what a post-pandemic future may look like... I like it

On a cycling trip to get her vaccination, Kathriona Devereux was left optimistic for a better future
If this is what a post-pandemic future may look like... I like it

Pedestrianised streets and more bike lanes are relatively minor changes, but they are a start. Picture: Stock

A FEW weeks ago, I experienced 25 minutes that left me euphoric.

Hurrying for an important appointment, I left my city centre office and hopped on my bike to make the short journey to City Hall. I rode on bike lanes that did not exist six months ago, cycled past outdoor restaurants filled with shiny, happy people backgrounded by cool street art and heard an Isn’t She Lovely snippet of Stevie Wonder leaking from the Poor Relations Pub on Parnell Street.

The sun was shining and it felt like the city was resurrected.

At City Hall, I announced my appointment time and then fell into a vortex of efficiency, friendliness and competence, culminating in me being protected from an illness that has killed more than four million people worldwide. How lucky am I?

After the obligatory ten minutes of comparing myself to a room full of similarly aged people (I thought everyone looked great!), I hopped back on my bike.

My appointment was at 11.50am and I was back at my desk on a phone call at 12.13pm.

Seriously, how good is that! When did Ireland, and specifically the HSE, get this good at organisation and time-keeping?

I was buzzing after receiving my first vaccine and was so impressed with the smooth operation at City Hall. The improvement to the city by giving more public space to people, not cars, was the icing on the cake. If this is what a post-pandemic future might look like, then I like it.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could tackle other national problems with the same zest and efficiency as the vaccine roll-out?

I really want to know what is special about the organisation of this system that has made it such a success. Is it because of the whole-of-government approach with senior officials from a range of departments sitting alongside industry experts working together on the ‘High Level Task Force on Covid-19 Vaccination’? Or is it because of the involvement of the Defence Forces that makes it run so smoothly?

Has the military logistical know-how whipped civil servants into shape, or is there an army of competent and smart people running this country, and when the usual barriers of budget constraint and politicking are removed they can get on with their jobs?

Could we tackle the homeless crisis with the same ambition and scale as we have achieved with the vaccine roll-out? There is already a High Level Homelessness Task Force but clearly the job of building homes for the almost 8,000 homeless people in Ireland (about the same as the population of Youghal) is a lot more difficult than sticking needles in people’s arms in a few minutes.

Could we address climate change with the same purpose, energy and money the world poured into the development of the Covid-19 vaccinations and getting them into people’s arms? We need to.

The problem of climate change is complex and multi-factorial, but with political will and commitment the goal of lowering emissions and cooling the planet is not beyond us.

Perhaps the urgency of tackling the climate crisis and the political will of Europe to fix the problem will be heightened by the shocking images of flooding in Germany and Belgium and the rising death toll.

The German Minister for the Environment acknowledged that this extreme weather event was a result of human-induced climate change and with videos of violent flooding smashing cars, trucks and buildings and the large loss of life, it is clear the devastating effects of climate change have already arrived.

With these floods coming so soon after the smashed heat records in the U.S and Canada, climate scientists themselves are shocked at the scale of disruption to weather systems.

The passage, last week, of the Climate Bill in the Dáil is a welcome and necessary step in Ireland’s road to slashing emissions and is the culmination of ten years of advocacy and campaigning by environmental NGOs and climate activists.

However, targets are meaningless unless actions are taken swiftly to meet them. The window within which we can avoid dangerous climate change is closing rapidly and the government needs to drive cuts to carbon emissions with the same urgency it has to vaccinating the entire population.

Pedestrianised streets and more bike lanes are relatively minor changes to the large-scale changes that need to happen in transport, home heating, agriculture and electricity production.

I must mention, as an aside, for those who lament the loss of on street parking spots in the city and who can’t get to town by foot, bike or a bus that the first two hours of parking in Cork City Council owned car parks at Paul Street and North Main Street are free — all the time!

You could come into town, spend three hours pottering, buying from locally owned traders, eating at lovely outdoor eateries and only pay €2.30 in parking.

Some recent transformations in the city are brilliant additions to the urbanscape — Marina Market, Caroline Street, South Mall and pop up parklets are all examples of a re-imagination of how our city can function. The proposed redesign of Bishop Lucey Park, Tuckey Street and the redevelopment of South Main street needs to be equally ambitious. I’m very keen to know what’s going to happen to the Cork City Council owned vacant site at the former location of Henry’s nightclub on South Main Street?

Can that corner of the city be reimagined as something with sustainability and city residents at its core? That’s the artist’s impression of the future I really want to see!

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