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Researchers study likely future impact of consumer habits

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How we will live and consume in 2050 is far from our own minds, but in their book ‘Challenging Consumption’, Galway researchers Dr Frances Fahy and Dr Henrike Rau question our rate of consumption and how this might change in the future.

‘Challenging Consumption’ is a ground-breaking book that draws on some conceptual approaches which move beyond the responsibility of the individual consumer, taking into account wider social, economic and political structures and processes, and highlighting possibilities for and challenges to sustainable consumption.

The book is structured around four main themes in sustainable consumption research. These are living, moving, dwelling and futures.

“This is a highly relevant research area as everybody consumes. It is part of everyday life. This was clearly shown in our Consensus Survey which engaged 1,500 people across Ireland,” explained Dr Fahy, who is the Head of Geography in NUI Galway.

“The response rate to our survey was so high, primarily because people were just asked to reflect on their everyday energy, water, food and transport practices. We asked people about activities such as washing, heating, eating, cooking, cycling and driving.”

In this book, Dr Fahy and Dr Rau balance theoretical insights with grounded case studies on mobility, heating, washing and eating practices and conclude by exploring future sustainable research pathways.  Over the past decade, the ways in which we consume energy, water, food and transport have changed dramatically with the economy.

“During the Celtic Tiger period, consumption increased dramatically across key sectors, resulting in significant environmental impacts. However, there was a big dip in consumption rates during the recession,” said Dr Rau, Lecturer in Sociology and Political Science.

“While these rapid changes suggest that economic activity and consumption are interlinked, consumption is so much more complex than that.

“These economic changes were complemented by huge social and cultural changes which impacted the quality of consumption (for example, people changed their tastes – coffee instead of tea, etc), but also effected overall consumption levels; energy use in the home shot up and perhaps most importantly, the purchase of houses which were located many miles from where people work, resulting in wide-spread commuting.”

Since its publication, Challenging Consumption has been used as a teaching text in a number of countries, including New Zealand, Germany and Ireland.

Recently in NUI Galway, Dr Rau and some of her colleagues undertook an audit of courses related to sustainability in NUI Galway.

“There are almost 200 courses in NUI Galway that deal with environmental and sustainability issues – some of them, primarily in the Disciplines of Geography, and Sociology and Political Science, focus explicitly on the causes and consequences of consumption for society and the environment,” Dr Rau explained.

In addition to teaching, Dr Rau and Dr Fahy are engaged in a research project entitled ‘CONSENSUS’ – Consumption, Environment and Sustainability.

“It is a seven-year project funded by STRIVE (Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for the Environment Programme) and is administered by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” said Dr Fahy.

“CONENSUS uses innovative social science and collaborative research methods to explore trends and solutions for sustainable household consumption on the island of Ireland.

“So far, we have directly engaged over 2,000 members of public in our research along with 100 government, private sector and civil society stakeholders from across Ireland.”

More information on this research can be found on the CONSENSUS website, where Dr Fahy and Dr Rau have a number of animated cartoons of their key results and findings.

The two NUI Galway researchers are also holding an International Conference on sustainable consumption in Galway this coming May. Registration for this is now closed, but there will be a public lecture for members of the public to attend.

The event will take place on Friday, May 22 in Lecture Hall ENG-G018 and will feature Professor Gert Spaargaren from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, who is a professor on ‘Environmental Policy for Sustainable Lifestyles and Patterns of Consumption’.

■ For more information on CONSENSUS, visit consensus.ie.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest

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Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races

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Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie. You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises

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From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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