Fortunately, technique lends a helping hand: sustainable energy has developed to such an extent that the price per Kw. hour has now become competitive with fossil energy. That offers tremendous opportunities for new, clean business models. Technology also provides other answers, from bio-degradable plastic to a ‘smart’ water-saving shower. Many of these innovations shall inevitably enrich our lives and make them more sustainable, but the big question is: when? And: will it be enough to control the rise in global temperature?
From Pope Franciscus to Leonardo di Caprio at the Oscars: the call for change resounds worldwide. An increasing number of people understand the necessity for transformation: we must switch from a linear to a circular economy, focused on maximum re-use of products and raw materials. Such a transition is rough rather than smooth: steps are made in stops and starts, particularly when there is a solid reason. Take, for example, the nuclear disaster in Fukushima that resulted in the decision of the German government to stop producing nuclear energy. Salient detail: after Fukushima, Maxime Verhagen, former Minister of Economic Affairs, wanted a second Dutch nuclear plant as quickly as possible. Drastic events can in fact speed up processes, but there are no guarantees.
Yet we live in an era of transformation. ‘The Netherlands is tilting’, says Jan Rotmans. Rotmans is professor of transformational sciences at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam and a known advocate of the circular economy. Rotmans: ‘We are not living in an era of change, but in a change of eras.’ Rotmans is co-initiator of the Urgenda Foundation, known for the Climate case against the Dutch State. Through a court ruling, Urgenda forced the State to realise a 25% reduction in CO2 by 2020. The State is going to appeal. Waste of time, according to Urgenda Director Marjan Minnesma: ‘By choosing for legal proceedings that go on for years, the cabinet shows that it does not find climate change important for the coming years.’
Meanwhile the clock is ticking: the Earth is heating up, commodities are becoming scarcer and in the long term fossil fuels are also untenable. A circular economy with clean energy supply is a pure necessity. That message is shared (for the most part), but a lot goes wrong when it comes to implementing: economic, social or political-administrative motives often have the upper hand. All the more reason to keep mentioning the necessity, chances and challenges of a sustainable world. So that we can avoid short term thinking and stay focused on transformation. A sustainable world will not come about by itself. Andy Warhol knew it: ‘They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.’
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