Connecting communities and sustainable tourism
Colaiste Na Sceilge float included input from Transition Years, LCA and Junior years, Image K.Ware
An ongoing aspect of CoDesRes’s research has been exploring the creation of and involvement in local cultural events for their potential to encourage engagement with the environment and the sustainable development goals. As an interventional approach, our engagement with the St Patrick’s day parade, builds on our first year's work and is showing growth.
Last year’s St Patrick’s Day Parade with 26 floats, was the largest it had been in years, feedback showed that the themes; SDG 14 - Life Below Water and SDG 15 - Life on Land, helped people focus on their floats as they are open to interpretation e.g. Dark Skies, Wild Atlantic Way, Fishing, Conservation (animals, landscapes and biodiversity) Farming to name a few with the only limit being our imagination.
Last year’s winners, Puffins Nursery walking group entry, The Hungry Caterpillar, including the full life cycle, connected to SDG 15 Life on Land. This was a great example of how we can lay the foundations of environmental stewardship and activism in the very young. By building an interest and enjoyment through playful and creative education about the physical world early on an awareness of our place in the planetary ecosystem is created and appreciated.
But it wasn’t only an engagement with the embedded themes that had value. Cahersiveen now has a unique night-time event - putting our 30ft snake puppet, that leads the parade, to bed. This also presents an opportunity for our Seanchai in residence, Sean O’Laoghaire to weave new narratives into our contemporary existence. This year Sean created a new story about St Patrick and his wife, Sheila who’s day falls on the 18th March. get link to Sean's story
Made from recycled materials; old coal bags, old piping and willow, our night-time parade means families with small children and those who don’t go to the pub can co-create an experience that contributes to a community's cohesiveness.
Why does this matter?
Everybody’s involvement and enthusiasm is what makes a parade great - the community that plays together, stays together; or at least can come together to collaborate or address shared aims.
Relationships will be increasingly critical as we experience the diverse effects of human-driven climate change. Some groups working in local organisations value the opportunity to work together differently and although it takes time, energy and commitment the 'payback' is worth it.
Feedback from those who experienced the festival reported that they want to get more involved in local events. With this year’s festival, not only could we could see more involvement, a number of floats made a big effort with Renard GAA and BC Shellfish, both embracing SDG 14 with boisterous entries. Colaiste na Sceilge entered the competition for the first time in years, with their float being build by the Leaving Cert Applied students with help from Transition Year with decoration and painting and students form other years taking part on the day.
Inclusion in community events not only contributes to social resilience but can also enable the development of more tangible skills e.g. project management and production skills. Self-organisation, the ability for a system to change through new structures and behaviours, is one of the strongest forms of resilience (Meadows, 2008). A resilient system portraying adaptive behaviour has the potential to evolve new responses that will influence the system and enable it to sustain aspects it has never encountered before.
Communities also have a role to play within the development of sustainable tourism; travellers are increasingly searching for deeper connections and experiences. Experiential travel experiences that include meaningful engagement with local cultures are growth areas but it is critical that this contributes positively to a local community. Local ecosystems are fragile and it is important that any tourism development protects the natural and cultural heritage often core to its success, as well as provide benefits to the local community.
A cohesive community that is invested in its locale are key to managing tourism development and monitoring the need for infrastructure (water, waste management) and the biodiversity. Formal structures and platforms for discussion and debate enable residents to feedback and trust that their concerns and ideas will be listened to.
Rather than DIY and doing it yourself, CoDesRes is showing how it’s much more fun to do it with others (DIWO, Furtherfield, 2006); our resilience could depend on it.