A ground-breaking new Climate Action Walk for Abbeyleix has been launched by Abbeyleix Tidy Towns, working in partnership with Laois County Council, Creative Ireland Laois and Midlands Science. The walk is an end of residency project by science communicator in residence for the Abbeyleix Climate Action Project, Dr Niamh Shaw.
The walk is an interactive walking tour through the town of Abbeyleix to engage the general public about climate change, focusing on the cyclical nature of our planet, how climate change has impacted our lives, how it affects us emotionally and what we can do on a local level to positively contribute to this global issue.
Speaking at the launch, Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council Catherine Fitzgerald said “Successful climate action will require deep changes in our society, and this cannot happen without citizen engagement at the heart of public policy change. I’d like to congratulate the members of Abbeyleix Tidy Towns for their enthusiastic participation in this ground breaking project to engage the people of the town with the breadth of change needed to address climate action and biodiversity loss.
“I’d like to thank Creative Ireland and the Laois County Council Culture and Creativity Team for giving this project the space to develop over the past year, and allowing the team to react in such an agile way to the new challenges of the Covid restrictions on public gatherings. The online elements of this project and in particular the Abbeyleix Almanac online programme really demonstrated how much engagement can be created when a creative approach is taken to communicating these topics”.
The Abbeyleix Climate Action Walk is designed for the public to discover ceramic tiles dotted along Main Street Abbeyleix, and guide them along a walk which starts at Heritage House and ends at Abbeyleix Bog. A unique QR code is printed on each ceramic tile, which will trigger a mobile device to open an animation or video hosted on youtube. An online Story Map has also been published so anyone in the world can “virtually” follow the path of the walk. The Storymap is on the Climate Action section of the Laois County Council website at www.laois.ie/climate.
Dr Shaw said “It was an absolute pleasure to work with the Abbeyleix Tidy Towns and local community for the past six months on raising awareness about the topic of climate change. This end of residency walking project was a most enjoyable part of that shared experience and would not have been possible without the people on the ground who worked with me in creating the walk. From the local businesses and council buildings who allowed us to install the tiles, to the Abbeyleix Tidy Towns committee who have helped with the installation, I have had terrific support throughout.
“I have to thank local graphic designer Paulina Nickstrom for making my words come to life in her gorgeous animations. Thanks also to Sally Weintrobe who permitted us to incorporate the talk she gave back in March as one of the audio pieces along the walk. But most importantly I want to acknowledge the guidance and support throughout my residency from Laois Heritage Officer Catherine Casey, Ann Lawlor from Creative Laois, Jackie Gorman from Midlands Science and the amazing Abbeyleix Tidy Towns committee. We can do some good things on our own, but together we can make the impossible possible”
The new Abbeyleix Climate Action Walk is a project under the Healthy Ireland Keep Well Campaign, aimed at showing people of all ages how we can mind our own physical and mental health and wellbeing by adding healthy and helpful habits to our daily and weekly routines.
Julie Scully, Healthy Ireland Co-ordinator for Laois County Council said we are delighted to collaborate with Abbeyleix Tidy Towns, The Heritage Office and Creative Ireland on this initiative that brings together so many elements of the Keep Well Campaign. This project links the past to the future with the use of the most up to date technology. The links between personal wellness and environmental wellness are well documented and this project, with the beautiful and informative videos by Dr. Niamh Shaw, encourages people to enjoy a leisurely walk in Abbeyleix Heritage Town while also engaging with climate action.”
Abbeyleix Tidy Towns have been partners in the Abbeyleix Climate Action Projects since last year. Chair of the Tidy Towns group Robbie Quinn said “The current committee is charged with creating a community that continues to be an attractive place to live, to work and to visit. In doing this our focus is now on placemaking and on reimagining our beautiful heritage town as a smart and sustainable community that is fit for the 21st Century. We have an inclusive ethos and work very hard to engage the wider community in our work. It is through a positive working relationship with a range of public bodies and agencies, not least Laois County Council, that we are beginning to deliver a number of significant flagship biodiversity and climate actions projects that will move us forward on our journey to become a truly sustainable community. We hope our community and visitors engage and enjoy this experience “
An important aspect of the Climate Action Project in Abbeyleix was the attention given to the importance of having good scientific data to back up policy, and in creating public engagement with science. Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said “we were delighted to be part of this innovative and exciting project with Laois County Council. It was a great example of engaging a community with science and evidence and using these experiences to drive changes locally. Climate change and climate action are defining issues of our time and are informed by science and how we engage with science. Our support for various elements of the project such as the sensors, the Fast Facts series and other outreach elements allowed us to explore how science can localised and brought into a community in a real way. We learnt a lot from working with the team involved and the community of Abbeyleix.”
Abbeyleix used the momentum generated by the Climate Action project to engage with UCD on the international We Count project. This citizen science project involved placing traffic sensors in locations around the town to enhance local understanding of traffic and travel patterns and related impacts on air quality, climate action and quality of life. This in turn led to a complementary project, supported by Midlands Science, whereby the community received training in how to build and install air quality sensors –using cost effective Internet of Things technologies and a citizen science approach.
“This exciting project ties in well with our vision to become a smart, sustainable community”, said Mark Clancy of Abbeyleix Tidy Towns “It is a very cost-effective way of generating scientifically valid data which we intend to use to better understand local traffic and air quality patterns and also to make compelling arguments to implement measures to promote active travel. We are grateful to Midland Science for providing us with the training and assistance to develop these IoT based applications. This STEM based learning alone has been fantastic and we can already see numerous spin off projects in making.”
The Abbeyleix Climate Action Project is supported by Creative Ireland Laois as part of the Creative Ireland Programme (2017-2022) in partnership with Laois County Council Heritage Office, Abbeyleix Tidy Towns and Midlands Science.
The Abbeyleix Climate Action Walk Project was created in 2021 with thanks to Healthy Ireland, an initiative of the Government of Ireland with funding from the Healthy Ireland Fund and the Sláintecare Fund delivered by Pobal, administrated by Laois County Council.