Well, it’s the longest day of the year in the last week or two of June, so of course it’s pouring with rain here in Dublin, there is a strong wind, it’s cold, and at noon it seems to be almost totally dark. Yes, summer is here! For me it is all the more striking because, only a few days ago, I was on a brief visit to Los Angeles, where (as a friend remarked) it was more like being on the surface of the sun, with scorching heat. And I imagine that in Sydney, in the middle of their winter, it’s much warmer than here.
Weather patterns, it is often said, contribute significantly to our cultures. There are significant differences in attitude and lifestyle between Northern Europeans and those from the Mediterranean countries, and the contrasting climate almost certainly contributes to that. The rather laid back but also ‘can do’ Californian ethos is helped by year-round warmth moderated by breezes from the Pacific. Here in Ireland we have lots of rain, but also mild conditions brought about by the gulf stream. When my family moved to Ireland in 1961 my parents were struck by the fact that Irish people were almost always at least somewhat positive about even very bad weather. We arrived in September, and our move was followed within days by a major hurricane which dislodged trees and blew roofs off houses – and my father was told by a local that the wind created ‘great drying conditions’. The rain following a few days later was not a problem either, because it was ‘nice soft rain’.
I hope we can always remain positive about the weather. But of course our fragile environment may get in the way of that, as it already has done in so many parts of the world, with devastating consequences. This world needs a sustainable future, and needs global climate conditions that make that possible. And we humans as the most invasive inhabitants of this planet need to do more in pursuit of that goal. DCU intends to focus on that agenda in its research over the period ahead. It is my belief that, alongside the need to adjust patterns of behaviour in order to secure a sustainable future, we also need to prioritise scientific discovery that will secure cheaper and cleaner energy and widely available but non-destructive methods of global transport.
From now on during this year the days will get shorter. We need to ensure that in terms of the health and welfare of the earth we are not about to go into long term decline.