On 18 May 2014 Wubbo Ockels, physicist, astronaut and professor, died at the age of 68. Ockels was the first Dutchman to go into space in 1985. As a result of that extraordinary trip he realised how fragile the Planet is and decided to dedicate his life to its protection. This is no empty statement, because Ockels has definitely earned sustainable recognition.
Up until his death Wubbo Ockels was professor Aerospace for Sustainable Science and Technology at the faculty of Aerospace and Engineering at the University of Technology in Delft, The Netherlands. In that capacity he has created some notable sustainable initiatives. He designed the solar car Nuna, which won the World Solar Challenge no less than five times (2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2013). Next to that he also developed an energy-efficient Superbus and the zero emission sailing-ship Ecolution.
However Ockels' main legacy does not relate to an invention, but to Happy Energy. The movement for a sustainable Earth and Us: Humanity. This organisation is committed to creating a society in which clean energy and recycling are playing a central role. Shortly before his death, through an open letter, Ockels explained why this is so important: ‘It is enough, we have gone too far!!! The Industrial Revolution has brought us in an unwanted state, we bulldozed through nature, we ruin our life support. We need to stop, we need to change, we need to choose another path, we need to update our lives and our ways of doing business. (…) Let it be clear to all Humanity, to every individual. We need to find a new attitude, a new culture, a new mindset, a new unification of Humanity, for our survival.’
The crucial point in Ockels’ legacy is the idea that the global population should join forces in a shared belief in Humanity: ‘The answer is a new global awareness of Humanity, Nature and Earth as an inseparable entity. Humanity is the people, Humanity is carried by the people. Only if we believe in our individual role to make Humanity sustainable we will survive and we can survive. (…) Our will is the key. The believe in Humanity will give this will.’
Ockels emphasized that a sustainable world cannot be realized by governments alone; it is a shared responsibility of every citizen of the planet. An inspiring example of the power of the individual is the initiative of the 19-year-old student Boyan Slat. He has devised an innovative method to clean plastic waste in the world's oceans. The solution to a major problem is ‘suddenly’ within reach, and that as a result of the initiative of one young man.
Ockels is right: Humanity, that is all of us. Everyone will have to contribute a little bit, but this only happens when the need is big enough. Change only occurs when we feel compelled to change. This is all the more reason to share this blog for example on social media. Those who áre aware of the importance of sustainability can become overwhelmed by the scale of the challenge: there is so much to do! Especially keep in mind individuals like Boyan Slat: they prove that one man can make a difference. Really no, we do not all have to change the world. Start with yourself, that is enough.
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