The Planetary Accounting Dilemma

Ever since I published my blog post ‘System Change not Climate Change’, I have felt slightly unsatisfied. Sure, I dare say my analysis of the failures of the current economic system was pretty accurate. But I fell short on the solution side of the story. After 21 paragraphs on what is wrong with free market capitalism, I did not get farther than 2 paragraphs on a possible way out. Because I didn’t see one.

The absence of a feasible alternative at hand should not withhold me – or anyone else – from criticising the shortcomings of society. But truth be told, this blog is all about finding a sensible answer to the climate challenge and I would very much like to succeed at that.

Therefore, I am revisiting my conclusion of the article I – somewhat hesitantly – threw at the world nearly three months ago. Finding my way in the web of interdependencies between science, economics, politics, and human psychology is by no means an easy task. But we are not here for a PhD defence, as a close friend pointed out recently. So, we’ll take it in manageable bites. Paso a paso, as my Spanish teacher used to tell me when I lived in Barcelona.

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Empower the complainers

How are you all doing? It has been a while since my last post, which solicited a lot of responses. Thanks a lot for that! It was exactly my goal to stir up the debate around our consumerism-centred economy. While that post focused a lot on problems, I want to turn back to a vision for solutions today. I want to make a case to empower the complainers around us to become doers… the doers who will solve the societal and environmental challenges of the 21st century.

I presented this vision last week at the World Resources Forum Conference –  a gathering of scientists, industry leaders, and policymakers to discuss innovative use of materials and resources. Based on my experience from the citizen’s initiative fighting plastic waste, that I have set up with a couple of friends in Brussels, I showed that bottom-up solutions can turn the impossible into possible. In what follows, a slightly adapted version of what I told the men and women in suits last Tuesday. Enjoy!

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System Change not Climate Change – my protest sign explained

Sunday the 27th of January, 11 am. I am preparing myself to leave the house, putting on an extra sweater before I get into my warmest winter jacket. I am about to navigate myself through the rainy streets to the North Station of Brussels, where soon another climate protest will start to demand action from the Belgian governments. It’s the second march this week, the 5th in the last two months. The last thing I pick up before I head off is my protest sign. It reads: ‘System Change not Climate Change’.

Rained out but full of energy after walking with more than 70 000 through the streets of Brussels to demand system change over climate change (own photo)

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My climate action wish list for 2019

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a great holiday break and are ready to make the world a better place this year.

2018 was a pretty amazing year for me on a personal level. I got settled into a new job and a new city, started a campaign against single-use plastics with a group of friends, and started giving guided tours in Brussels to showcase citizen initiatives that are making the Belgian capital more sustainable. Although these two projects kept me from writing blog posts as much as I would have wanted, they were very rewarding and brought me in contact with a lot of inspiring people.

The satisfaction I got out of my work was somewhat overshadowed by the fact that humankind did a pretty bad job preparing for a low-carbon society. Over and over again, I was disappointed in the lack of urgency in the business world and among policy makers. Not the least when the climate conference COP24 in Poland ended with meagre results and barely increased commitments from member states. All this after a number of unambiguous scientific reports laid out clearly that time is running out.

In short, they come down to the following: to limit catastrophic climate change, we need to keep global warming under 1,5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. How to make that happen? Cut carbon emissions by half by 2030 (12 years from now!) and be carbon neutral by 2050. Footnote: worldwide emissions are currently still on the rise.

What better way to wash away that somewhat bitter aftertaste of 2018, with some optimistic dreams for what the future could bring? I sat down with a cup of cinnamon tea and drafted up a list of climate action wishes for 2019. By no means exhaustive, but hey, if we can move forward on all these fronts this year I will be a happy man!

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6 presents with a purpose (Infographic)

Oooff, that went quick! We are at the end of yet another year and it seems like time flew by even faster than usual. In less than two weeks it is Christmas, which means we all have to start the increasingly difficult search for original presents for our loved ones. My personal favourites are things people make themselves: homemade chocolate cookies, a hand-drawn card, maybe a knitted beanie against the winter cold. It might cost you a lot more time than buying something in a shop or online –and that’s exactly the point: that effort is highly appreciated! It is also far better than going on a shopping haul, ending up with stuff nobody really needs, and often packaged in tonnes of plastic. Planet Earth does not approve.

That being said, if you are horrible in the kitchen and have two left hands, or are just short one time, buying a gift might be the safest option to avoid disappointment on Christmas Eve. In the infographic below, I listed some of the brands I discovered in 2018 that create products with a heart for the planet. Besides creating great products, many of them donate part of their profits to a good cause. This way your purchase can help address environmental or social issues around the world!

I wish all of you a great holiday season with family and friends, enjoy the time together :)

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COP24 in coal town Katowice: what to expect?

It’s that time of the year again. The days are getting shorter, the trees have shed off their last leaves, and the city is preparing itself for the Christmas festivities. It can only mean one thing: the yearly climate conference is around the corner! This summit, known as Conference of the Parties or COP, in short, is ready for its 24th edition. This year’s host is the (former) coal king of coal-addicted Poland: Katowice.

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