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09May

Cities of tomorrow

Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin,Budapest… Have you ever lived in or visited one of these cities? If you have, I’m sure you could feel the motion. These European cities are ahead of the world when it comes to innovation and ideas to build more sustainable cities.

This is not only about infrastructures but people also seem happier! For example, it’s clear that riding a bike to work in a city with fresh air (like in Amsterdam or Copenhagen) is much more pleasant than spending hours in traffic jams in a polluted city!  These cities reflect the necessity of our societies to change. Environmental issues, social and economic crises are currently affecting the world. With a constantly increasing urban population (54% of the population live in urban area, +2% per years)); it’s time for cities to work about tomorrow urban life. Because it’s now clear that we won’t be able to feed, house, provide energy to everyone in the future with our current system.

Hopefully, innovative people are working every day to build better cities. For example, you can visit the Fabcity (“Together we make the city of tomorrow”) in Amsterdam; walking in there feels like a preview of how our future cities will look like… In this little “village” you can find people working on the project of today; for tomorrow, to make sustainable cities. Now that we know that we are running out of many resources, climate change is already here… Urban garden, tiny houses, clean energy, electric cars represent the new face of our cities… Clean and self-sufficient. Moreover, well-being and happiness of the population is at the core of this transition!fabcity house

Besides, to build these new cities, new forms of economy and politic are needed. Today, innovative solutions come more and more from citizens like you and me, innovation is becoming independent from big companies and governments. We can talk about bottom-up initiatives, initiatives that come from citizens or group of citizens and integrate the economy and system then. This gives independence to communities; circular economy is at the core. Economy that produces no waste and pollution, recycle and reuse everything, with a preference for local production and consumption; on their way to become the “new normal”. Soon, we can imagine that cities will become self-sufficient. Are we slowly going away from this globalised system?friendly green production in Fabcity

Visiting this Fabcity was so inspiring and motivating as I felt totally comfortable in this atmosphere: engineers was working next to people building houses or people gardening in the same purpose of making a community live sustainably while I could enjoy drinking a soda in the sun at the “local café”.

In this transition, social ties are more important than before which contribute to the happiness of a society as a reflection of solidarity and mutual aid: peer-to-peer and local consumption tighten link between people. Economic crisis and political distrust make us look at each other to find solutions.

Besides, with solar,wind energy, urban gardening, it’s clear that we are tightening our links with  nature…and maybe those changes was what missing to our modern societies to make the world better. Indeed, that’s maybe something that was forgotten during last centuries, growing individualism made us forget the name of our neighbours and industrialisation with mass consumption made us forget where our food was coming from. And that’s why I felt so comfortable visiting this Fabcity, because we can imagine that in the future it will be like that: people working for their community.

Population is growing fast, climate change is more and more visible, so we have to act now! Hopefully, when we see how fast innovation and technology are evolving, we can only be optimistic about the future of our cities and societies! However, there is still a long way to go before this transition impacts the whole world, but it has to start somewhere!

A long term challenge based on short terms action.

Visit https://citiesintransition.eu/ to stay aware about these European cities in transition.

17Mar

Comfortably ignorant

Since a few months I have passed my 40’s. I become more and more aware that a lot has changed in those years that I have enjoyed on this planet. More than I could imagine….It brings the question to mind what in the coming 40 years, more will change. What are the game changers and what will be solutions to the big problems that the last decades this so called time of prosperity have brought.

To show you how times have changed and at the same time unravelled the mist of so-called prosperity I take you to my childhood. In my street where I grew up, in Amsterdam in the nineties there was a bakery, a milkman with fresh cheese. A tobacco shop, a grocery store with great fruit and vegetables, and a store that we called ‘’Jantje van alles’’. All these shops had everything that a normal household needed. And these products were packaged for you in paper bags.

With the coming of the supermarkets, these shops disappeared and the immersive introduction of plastic became a reality. And without exaggerating plastic waste became one of the most critical environmental issues in the world. The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is described as a 7th continent  and is a product of our way of living. It is made out of plastic and has direct impact on our ecosystem, livelihood and food chain.

Plastic is still an easy and cheap material to produce for industries and with the coming of 3D printers’, plastic has a bright new future. Knowing that only 10% of plastic is recycled, it’s time to raise the alarm and change our way of production and consumption.

A few years ago I was not so much aware of the impact of these changes. The realisation of fact that all you buy is packaged in plastic. Makes you aware of your role as consumer. With the effect that I can’t do any shopping without having guilty feelings.

Luckily more and more people has the same guilty feelings and are trying to have a more responsible behaviour and reduce considerably their wastes. This is just about new habits to adopt and more reflection when you are doing your groceries or throwing your garbage away.Groenteman

It started with bringing your own bag to the store, and re-used the ones you had. Separate the plastic waste, from the rest of the garbage. But that is not enough. A new mentality is needed, to avoid plastic packaging. By using paper bags and bringing your own sacks again. And even then you can’t avoid paradoxical situations: “should I choose the organic cucumber in plastic packaging” or “the non-organic one without packaging”. When you want to have a responsible behaviour, this kind of decisions matters: you have to choose between supporting this “plastic mania” or eating these pesticides poisoning our lands.

Some still see a positive side to plastics as an opportunity for sustainable development. It is actually a cheap material that we can reuse and reuse again through recycling. Some entrepreneur and communities are inspired to change from a linear to a circular relationship with plastic. This is always motivating to see people thinking out of the box and looking for alternatives solutions for the good of our planet.

An inspiring story is that of Wilco and Edwin from Clean 2 Antarctica, they are convinced we can have a zero waste community. And to prove that they will go on expedition to the South Pole in a vehicle entirely built from recycled plastics and powered by solar energy. This is a way to demonstrate that “Zero Waste” and “Zero emissions” are possible… Imagine the relief of clean air and clean oceans! It is not only their opinion but also that of the younger generation. That is why children in this project to collect plastic waste and shape them through 3D printing in a message to the world. This project is a message of hope showing the promises of plastic recycling and clean technology to live in a cleaner planet. It is just one of many great projects only here in the Netherlands. Possibilities are infinite with recycling and reusing. Each time that you are closing your garbage you can make sure that nothing belong to the recycle bin and ask yourself in which way you could reuse these wastes. You will awake your creative spirit and reduce your environmental impact. Give to your wastes a happy ending, a second life, much more brighter than ending in one bird’s stomach.everything1-1200x686

 

And although older generations and mine will have to a make a major change in their behaviour, the hopeful finding is that when I can’t separate my garbage I feel awkward. As doing something really wrong. That is in my point of view the confirmation that humans a custom animals. And with a little effort we can change the beautiful world around us.

More info on great plastic projects in the Netherlands:

WASTED Laboratory: a neighborhood Laboratory for Plastic Waste Upcycling in Amsterdam Noord

PLASTIC: Promises of a Home-made Future; explores the relation between plastic and the 3D printing market

Precious Plastic: built machines able to build new objects thanks to recycled plastic

 

 

03Mar

Share your ideas

Without knowing we take advantage of others people ideas’ every day. Whether it is as simple as a fork or as elaborate as a major scientific breakthrough as the last discovery at CERN with the particle Z(4430). It ALL started with the conception of an idea. We can imagine that someone in ancient Egypt or the Qijia culture (2400-1900 BC in China), had the brilliant idea for a fork and courage to speak out. He thought that the idea would make life better if we would have a fork, and he spoke with his neighbor…and he or she found the concept of a fork a great idea and gave some suggestion of what materials to use or how to make it. And so the first fork was made. Maybe not the best….but it was the start of an evolution, to make something better.shutterstock_146133539-680x400

Many philosophers have given their input of ideas and how to understand the world around us, and this is still needed to interpret the actualities of the present daily life. Idea has the power to have impact for the future in the positive sense. Ideas although it is something untouchable can be very powerful.

This power is only created if the idea is shared, and transmitted and communicated in some way. If it is not shared the idea keeps imprisoned in its concept chamber. Ideas need to be shaped and nourished, as anything that grows in this world. Indeed, evolution is not about protecting ideas, it is about connecting them together. Like bees pollinating flowers, people spread ideas to grow something new.o-FRAME-WITH-HANDS-facebook

What is incredible today is that we are more and more aware that the whole world forms one global entity in which we are more and more connected to each other. Technology and innovation bring us endless possibilities of sharing ideas; and that’s for our best.

One of the possibilities is by participating or following TED.com. A place where you can read that Ideas are like a virus but with inspiration instead of sneezing. Through the diffusion of short talks, this platform offers people coming from different places in the world and having different backgrounds the possibility to share their ideas to the whole world. And the unique purpose of this is to spread ideas to inspire people. We can never have enough inspiration; inspiration is the cradle of new ideas and creativity.

In short, ideas cause ideas.

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And March is the International Ideas Month, so let’s just celebrate and appreciate all those ideas burgeoning all around the world. I challenge you to use this month to listen to people’s ideas, get inspired and finally, share your own ideas. Coming spring is a good time to explore your creativity. So grab your notebook everywhere you go because as we all experienced it, ideas often strike us like a flash and then just go away.

 

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