Comhthéacs | Context
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Comhthéacs | Context

“Teas gaoithe aduaidh nó fuacht gaoithe aneas, sin báisteach”   Irish proverb

Galway, in the West of Ireland, is one of the wettest and windiest places in Europe. It can rain on up to 227 days out of 365, and over 2m can fall in a year. Storms and gales come in frequently from the Atlantic, bringing near-horizontal driving rain.  In mid-winter there can be as little as 1 hour sunshine in a day.  The only thing you can count on about the weather is that it will change, soon. We have 4 seasons in an hour, not just a day.

The weather is so unpredictable and influential, that talking about it is a very important part of Irish culture.[i] People often greet each other by commenting about the weather, and no conversation is complete without talking about it. Complaining about the rain/wind/cold is a common bond that brings strangers together, and as it changes so often, there is always something to talk about. The Irish language has more than 30 specific words for rain, and countless expressions for the wind.

Weather dominates our decisions – or to be more correct, our indecision. Plans have to cover all eventualities, from storm to sun, so it’s often just easier not to plan, and to grab opportunities when they arise. The weather affects our national character, our mood, our behaviour, our physical and our mental health. 

Irish cultural attitudes have a significant negative impact on our behaviour around inclement weather. People spend less time outdoors, depriving them of opportunities for physical activity and recreation, communal and social interaction, connecting with nature and contributing to growing levels of obesity.  Studies have shown that Irish people view being outdoors in winter and in rain as problematic, risky and dangerous. Even children are affected. The 2016 Heritage Council of Ireland study, “Children and the Outdoors”, reported that children view the weather as the second worst thing about living in Ireland.[ii]

But our weather has its upsides. It can be very beautiful and dramatic. Changeability and unpredictability are exciting and dynamic. Rainbows are common. And it’s not as bad as we think. It is mild in comparison with countries on the same latitude, and while it may frequently rain, it’s dry more often than wet.

You never hear an Irish person say ‘hope it rains’.  But we don’t know that we are blessed. In the future, due to climate change, we may be praying and hoping for rain. We have already witnessed how climate change is affecting us in Ireland, with an increase in violent storms, floods, droughts, coastal erosion and sea-level rising. Water management – of excess and absence – is a global concern. Climate change predictions are for increased precipitation, and drought. Public recognition of climate change and its causes is high in Ireland (69% SFI 2017 survey), but the country is significantly behind in reaching its targets for mitigation. We need to engage people in planning for the future, and adapting to change. We need to act fast.

This is the context in which the Weatherproof Me! design competition is being held.

We want people to want the weather to be bad, and to want to be outside when it’s bad. We want to offer the public positive ways to re-engage with the weather in Galway, and to be active participants in addressing climate change in their communities.

More information on the weather in Galway: www.met.ie

[i] Dulux commissioned Ipsos MRBI poll in 2015 on Irish people’s close relationship with the weather found that 60 per cent of Irish people admit to talking about the weather at least twice a day and one in four talk about it four times a day.)

[ii] Children and the Outdoors: contact with the outdoors and natural heritage among Children aged 5 to 12:

Current trends, benefits, barriers and research requirements, Commissioned Report by the Heritage Council, 2016