Today is July 4th, the national day of the USA, commemorating the declaration of independence of the first 13 states, which had until then been English colonies. It is a long-established tradition that the American people celebrate this day with parades, concerts and many other festive and happy events.
Friends in the USA have told me that one of the most traditional and also most common events on the 4th of July is to organise a barbecue, to which one invites friends and neighbours. Even though I am a vegetarian and thus would not much benefit from most of the food served at barbecues, the idea I find quite appealing.
The French celebrate their national day - July 14th - with a large military parade, and here on the Emerald Isle we have our civilian and funny parades on March 17th - St. Patrick's Day - which is the national day of the Irish republic.
Given the strong ties between Ireland and the USA, there are actually more and larger parades on St. Patrick's Day in the USA than here in Ireland. But given the early date in the year, it is unlikely that there will be many barbecues or picnics on March 17th. For that one needs good weather, as it is normal for July.
I do hope that the Sun is shining for the Americans today, and especially for those who organise celebratory barbecues and picnics. Sadly I have to report that here in Ireland we have another washed-out summer with cool weather and heavy rain. Had anyone here wished to have a nice barbecue or picnic today, it would not have been possible. The whole of the Emerald Isle was all day covered by dark rain clouds, and it still is now, that night has fallen. It has been one of the wettest and most unfriendly days for weeks, and anyone who could avoid going out has stayed indoors.
This is already the second year in a row that the Irish summer is a short and early event - about four to six weeks in April and May - and that the traditional summer months are cold and rainy. At the same time an unprecedented heat wave with day temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius hits the Swiss mountains, in the same way as it turned the Balkans and the Black Sea area into a heat bowl last year. The climate of the planet is changing, and we - the people in the developed world - have a lot of the responsibility for that. Perhaps it is already too late to save the planet or at least to keep our traditional seasons. But I hope that the people of the USA, who celebrate their independence today, also give a little thought to the rest of the world and to the changing climate of our planet.
Ireland has just introduced new laws that penalise high-polluting cars and reward those who use environmentally friendly vehicles with lower taxes. This is only one small step, but it is made in the right direction. And as Ireland is a small country, it might not make all that much difference. But what really counts is to recognise problems, devise solutions and introduce them. Maybe the small step towards a cleaner environment, made now by Ireland, can inspire others, including the USA, which are still the heaviest polluters in the world.
The independence celebrated today was and is a political independence. But in the global village of the 21st century we do no longer have "independence" to ruin our part of the globe. There is only one planet, which we all share. And if we want to continue to exist, with freedom and the pursuit of happiness, then we all have to do our share to save and protect this planet, our environment and the world's climate.
The Emerald Islander