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What to Do? (A List)

Updated: May 10

This text is not really an 'essay, but originally appeared as a Facebook-post gotten out of hand, on October 19, 2020. I did want to publish it here also, as writing this text was one of the germinating phases of my new focus, and an occasion to examine my own beliefs and actions at the start of this new life-project As an essay it is quite flawed, I consider it more like a 'train of thought', written almost in one go, all 25 pages of it. It kind of came bursting out of me as if it had been waiting to be born for too long. This makes it a rather impulsive text, but I choose to share it here because it was an outburst of energy that was important to me. WHAT TO DO (A LIST) I am a staunch optimist and that surprises some who see me as an "alarmist" when it comes to the climate and the biosphere crisis. And yes, I am - with the vast majority of the scientific world - still convinced that it 'is not too late' and that we still have a lot of opportunities to turn the tide and the final loss of our biotope to prevent. However, that will not happen automatically, and especially since our political elected representatives in Belgium are still largely in a state of total denial (fortunately that is already changing at European level), it will be necessary that we all contribute a bit - or a lot - to the transitions that are coming. And since I have "outed" myself as someone who is very involved with "the climate" and all the issues surrounding it, I sometimes get the question what someone can do individually in this matter. Many people are willing to think about this in order to change their behavior, but they are unsure how to get started, or they feel powerless and overwhelmed from the start. Of course, many answers to that question are already circulating, and many of those answers are primarily about what everyone can do for themselves to limit his / her CO2 emissions. I would like to formulate a different kind of answer. The constant focus on the (im) possibilities for each individual to reduce their own CO2 emissions is currently more likely to lead to an increasing aversion to the subject, apathy or despondency. We actually do not know how to deal with that information and therefore we often shut ourselves off from the full awareness of the crisis in our biotope. First and foremost, in order to move forward in this as a society (and that is the only way we are going to move forward, as a truly collective and not as the sum of individual consumers), is the dramatic increase in the collective awareness of our situation, and the creating a very broad social basis for very radical changes in our society. I will further articulate the answer below on the platform of my website, which is still under construction. This website will be home to a blog, essays, photographic projects and possible collaborations. In response to the above question, I will now share a personal "top ten": ten things that I believe any individual can start doing right away to help with the transitions we face. So a list, and "to-do lists" have a sort of clarity that we can use now. Some of these ten items may be obvious and familiar, others may seem rather unexpected for such a list. It will immediately be noticed that for example leaving the car in the garage or stop air travel are not in my top ten. If it were a top twenty, they would be in it, but they are currently of secondary importance for the short-term result and accelerating the transitions we are facing. I will elaborate on this position, which may also provoke resistance from "orthodox" climate activists. I am now sharing the full list and some further reflections on each point at once, making it a long "essay". Too long for social media of course, but until my website goes online, I will also share my longer texts in this way. I will share each point separately in the coming weeks, since repetition is the mother of education, and since it is a whole sandwich in one sitting. My "to-do list" then: 1. From now on, really look at the climate and biosphere crisis, do not run away from it, allow it fully into your consciousness. Feel what that realization does to you, and keep looking at it anyway. Make it part of your daily consciousness. But also fully realize that our situation is not (yet) hopeless. This first point is truly the single most important challenge facing us all right now, and may require some "work". It is also a prerequisite for all other points. 2. Talk about it, make a sound, share it, start the conversation, as often as you can. Be active and communicative about the topic, make yourself visible as someone who is working on it. Stop thinking it makes no difference whether you make personal noise or not. Also let go of the belief that you personally cannot have a meaningful impact on our society and future. 3. Inform yourself as thoroughly as possible. Check your sources, and turn to many different sources, preferably also international media if you are fluent in other languages. Pass the information you gather on to those around you. If you can't make time for that - and there are certainly a lot of people who are in such a situation - don't feel guilty about it. But at least investigate whether that is really the case. We often waste our time on things that are far from essential, and sometimes we can start making other choices. 4. Think. Don't be satisfied with the first opinion or label or judgment that comes to mind. Try to develop the habit of thinking as thoroughly as possible, not just about the climate, but about everything - the biosphere crisis is linked to almost everything we do and don't do here on this planet. More qualitative thinking is a habit that can be developed, just like a physical condition. It does require a constant openness to dialogue and the willingness to question your views. 5. Make clear to your representatives (at all political levels) how important this issue is to you regardless of which party they belong to or for whom you vote. The biosphere crisis affects us all equally, regardless of our political preferences. If you can do that, then preferably give your vote to politicians or parties that have climate and the biosphere high on their agendas. But the climate is certainly not just a matter for 'green' parties, and if for some reason you are attached to another party, let your representatives know that this theme is important to you and that you want your party to do this. consider important. In Belgium and Flanders, most politicians are still in a state of denial, and it is partly up to us to change that. 6. Eat little or no meat, especially beef. Industrial, large-scale agriculture is one of the greatest sources of C02 emissions, and one of the greatest threats to our biotope due to the continued degradation of 'wild nature', the relentless use of pesticides and insecticides, and the destruction of the complexity of local biotopes. The production of beef is one of the largest factors in this worldwide. 7. Switch to an energy supplier that provides 100% renewable energy. And of course do everything you can to limit your energy consumption at home, because renewable energy cannot be a license to waste energy either. Energy is a very precious commodity and we will have to learn to deal with it differently. 8. Buy as little clothing as possible, wash it as little as possible, and wear it as long as possible. The global clothing industry is one of the largest net sources of CO2 emissions (more than all global air traffic and maritime transport combined) and one of the world's largest consumers of a precious commodity that will become increasingly scarce: potable water. Choose to buy less clothing rather than to buy cheap. Washing our clothes is one of the largest sources of microplastics in wastewater worldwide. Let your producers know that the ecological and social cost of their products is an essential element in your choices as a consumer. 9. As far as your budget allows, buy food from organic farming, preferably small-scale and locally anchored, with the shortest possible supply line. The supply lines aspect is very important here: it is absurd to transport wine from Australia halfway around the world to here when we have great wine in abundance in Europe. Classical agriculture and monoculture are a form of chemical warfare against the planet that is partly at the root of the massive extinction wave that is now hitting our planet. 10. This point may just as well be number one: if you have children, give them the space to grow up to be independent, free, happy, balanced adults, who can think critically, communicate well, are in close contact with their feelings , able to make independent choices, not afraid to leave the beaten track, not primarily concerned with acquiring property or social status, being tolerant and open to different points of view, being able and daring to question old truths and paradigms, are empathetic and socially sensitive, and who are permeated by the interconnectedness of everything and their connection with their environment. And who are able to actively stand up for what they think is right, rather than obediently trying to fit into the system. So much for my top ten things that, from my perspective, anyone can immediately start doing to help with the social transition that must reverse the climate and biosphere crisis. I will explain each point in more detail below. First of all, it may be noted that of these "top ten" the first four items concern matters that should primarily happen in our head (and heart), and that point five is one that "only" concerns an action on communication. Why first of all these five, which at first sight will not immediately change much about ours CO2 emissions or our ecological footprint? Why not first point six or seven, or something about air travel? I'll go into that a little deeper on each of the points above, but first of all, this: we need to face the possibility that we've focused too much on our CO2 emissions and get to lower those quickly. As it happens, we are not succeeding at that, not one bit. Despite the enormous increase in renewable energy production worldwide, not one industrial country has managed to achieve a single CO2 emission target over the past twenty years. Not one. And it seems that the next decade, seen as critical to turning this crisis around, will be no different. The solutions may lie elsewhere, particularly in reorienting agriculture and making large parts of the planet wild again. For example, in his latest book "Climate, a New Story," author and climate thinker Charles Eisenstein no longer talks about CO2 emissions in his analysis of where we need to go to save our biosphere. Also for that reason: it just won't work, and it doesn't look like it will work in the next ten years. The reasons why that fails are a separate chapter that I will not go into now, but which have everything to do with the Story and Mythology in which we as a species live for many thousands of years. But the fact that this is not possible does not mean that the situation is hopeless and that there are no other actions that could have an even greater effect. The emphasis on individual action as a consumer in this is also a kind of caricature of the disintegration of the idea of ​​'society' into an arena of individuals and consumers who are no longer capable of collective synthesis and action, while powerful interest groups and lobbies make grateful use of this atomization of society to get their agendas permanently realized. But individuals will not be able to exert a decisive influence on a drastic change in our economic processes and global energy management. The idea alone is an absurdity. The solutions that can quickly make a difference to the biosphere crisis will, to a large extent, only be feasible through decisive steering actions from local and (trans) national governments. These strong government choices will only be made if the pressure from below becomes great enough, in other words if the "public support" reaches a critical size. The choices that we as individual consumers are going to make in the coming decades are also very important (and I will indicate the choices that I have already made in the past twenty years), but in themselves will be absolutely insufficient to just a start to make a difference by 2030, our 'deadline' for decisive climate action. Moreover, our options are sometimes limited, and certain options are currently inevitable due to a socio-economic system that has expanded over decades or even centuries into a particularly complex set of relationships and functions that sometimes leave us little freedom of choice. Disconnecting yourself from this system is almost impossible (unless you go to live in a passive house without electricity, stop working, live only from your own vegetable garden and treat your wastewater yourself, but argue that that is not really feasible for most of us, is an understatement. No, for most of us certain options within the current organization of our society are rather limited, and that is also what gives many people the feeling that 'you can no longer live' if you really want to do something for the climate or the planet , which can lead to a general feeling of powerlessness, resignation, indifference and passivity. Transforming a global system of production and consumption into one that serves us rather than the other way around will also require at least one, probably several generations. Although it can sometimes go very quickly, as the transitions after the Second World War prove. Many of the necessary reforms have to be initiated and managed nationally and internationally, because they often concern matters that are not immediately in our hands: the global reorganization of trade, transport, public transport, social security, energy, agriculture. , fishing, forest management, and so on and so on. Agriculture, for example, is one of the largest net sources of CO2 and one of the greatest threats to ecosystems and biodiversity worldwide. The global reorientation of agricultural production is a titanic job that will require a "Marshall Plan" in itself. So no, it will not be the cancellation of that flying holiday that will make the difference, even if we do it in millions at the same time (worldwide air traffic is responsible for 2.5 percent of global emissions, 3 to 4 percent after correction for the sake of of the level at which those emissions occur), although in the future we will absolutely have to learn to deal with the energy / CO2 cost of travel differently. Yes, leaving your car aside more often is recommended, but that in itself will not immediately make a difference, even if we do that in millions at a time - which is not going to happen anyway due to the requirements of the socio-economic system that I mentioned before, and the lack of a workable alternative for many people in Western societies (societies that have been orienting their entire infrastructure and economic dynamics towards the king of cars for decades). If we want the Belgian (or European or American) to leave his / her car at home more often in the current system, then the alternatives must be fully developed instead of being destroyed: an ubiquitous, CO2-neutral and cheap public transport, for example ( preferably free, as has been the case in Luxembourg for a few years now). And an affordable international harmonized network of train connections throughout Europe and the reintroduction of the night train. As long as the alternatives are inadequate or non-existent or very expensive, the Belgian will not leave his car or not enough. But above all, the economic system in which we all live (and are lived by, as more and more people feel) must change more profoundly than we now think possible, a subject I would like to approach in more depth in later essays. That means that what we can do to quickly create a dramatically greater support for rapid societal change is, in my view, much more important now than what we are going to do individually to reduce our carbon footprint. Again, not that those individual actions are unimportant, quite the contrary, and it wouldn't make sense to preach things that you don't make any effort or investment at all on a personal level. But leaving the responsibility for the necessary changes and transitions solely in the hands of the individual citizen and consumer is rather absurd once you take a closer look, and I will go into that absurdity later. The sum of all our possible individual actions will by no means be enough to make a difference within ten years. Not at all, and that is a hard statistic truth. Maybe if we had started twenty years ago, but now there will have to be such a rapid and dramatic reform of our entire society that it will only be possible through strong government intervention and direction. As was and is needed for the corona crisis, or as was needed for the Great Depression by a "New Deal" by Roosevelt, for example, analogy that led to the name of the current new "Green New Deal". This "Green New Deal" is a step in the right direction, but even if it really becomes policy, it will still be anything but sufficient. But everything starts with a first step, and the greater the support base will be in Europe, the greater the chance that further steps will be taken. Young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has become a vegan herself and will never take the plane, but her real contribution to the speed and thoroughness of the transition is the 'sound' she made, the way she visibly took a stand with total dedication and courage. If we are going to see more of that, it will make a much bigger difference than whether or not you are going to do that flying holiday to Thailand or not. Regardless of whether you really need that vacation to Thailand, and whether you can't travel closer to home. But that is an account that everyone has to make for themselves, and which also has many other aspects that I would like to go into in more detail in another essay. If we have a strong controlling government that correctly taxes air travel and therefore makes it much more expensive, there will automatically be less flying. Of course, Greta Thunberg also needed to avoid the plane as a role model and choose only vegan food, but we don't all have to be Greta Thunberg to make a difference. That kind of expectation of absolute perfection - which, by the way, is not an issue in any other social issue and indicates that there is more to it than a 'normal' social problem - also only helps to increase the blockade, and pushes a lot people towards apathy, projection and denial. The net result of the (often unspoken) emphasis on the need for perfect personal behavior is that most people do not change their behavior at all and refuse to think any more about the whole topic of the climate and biosphere crisis. Placing the emphasis on demanding far-reaching personal behavioral changes from the individual consumer that are hardly feasible for many in our current socio-economic system without government control, mainly creates aversion and apathy. As if in full corona crisis one were to place full responsibility with each individual individually, without any direction, regulation or even any advice from above. Or as if they were trying to steer traffic in the right direction by invoking the personal responsibility of the individual road user, without any traffic regulations or road code. Or as if one would not try to shape the organization of our increasingly complex society through laws and organized forms of government, but would simply leave everything to the "individual consumer". How strange, then, that regarding the greatest and most complex crisis our species has ever faced - a crisis that will in the worst case spell the end of our species and most of the species now living on this planet - the responsibility first and foremost lies with the 'individual consumer' would lie? It's an absurd idea, and one that particularly suits certain industrial and financial power centers. As long as that 'individual consumer' gets stuck in apathy arising from conflicting fears, desires, guilt feelings and impulses, the greatest polluters and the greatest lobbies also escape public attention, and they can continue to influence our policy structures and politicians without hindrance. their self-interest. And you can't even blame them because they play the game as we have been organizing it for years, and as our economic system has been encouraging and facilitating it for years. But again (repetition is the mother of education), this does not mean that your personal choices in this matter would be unimportant, just that creating a very large social base for rapid changes and a strong governmental government is currently much, much more important. And this is precisely because the most radical changes will not immediately depend on our individual behavioral changes, but will only be possible through very rapid and strong government intervention. Creating broad public support for a far-reaching social revolution in a short time is a very first absolute condition to save ourselves on this point. Because of her "sound", Great Thunberg was heard in European parliaments and at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. And that's where the difference she's already made really started to count, which has helped make the "Green New Deal" at least a policy intent in Europe. That is a result that is now infinitely more important than the amount of CO2 she has "saved" by choosing vegan food herself. Not everyone can make the same choices as Greta, but everyone can already contribute to creating support for a far-reaching social and political revolution. That is actually the essence of democracy: it is not enough to tick a box on a voting computer every five years. Democracy actually requires a permanent commitment to the direction of our society. Isn't that the essence of democracy? That the people choose where we go. Of course we are very far away from 'real' democratic decision-making, but only by becoming much more active in helping to shape our society, will we be able to change that. And that is currently much more important than your personal choices as a consumer. Again (repetition is the mother of education), however important those own choices are, and however inextricably linked to the processes at the macro level. Moreover, the question of personal choices is not black and white, and your personal choices can evolve. Start somewhere, and you will be on the move a few years later. I will also indicate at the end of this essay the individual choices I have made over the past twenty years, and these choices also continue to evolve. But for the creation of broad public support it is then first and foremost essential that we all become much, much more aware of the reality we face, without losing hope. We can be more courageous and alert in our awareness of our situation, and also share this awareness much more actively and communicate about it much more often. That seems to me nothing less than the most important contribution that everyone can immediately make to the social transition we are facing. And that is why points one to point five are also at the top of my list, because they form the precondition for creating the social support that we will need for the radical upheavals we are facing. I would like to explain the ten points in my list separately. I will share these separately per point later. 1. Really look at it, don't walk away from it. A particularly common reaction of people when they come up with the climate crisis is: “I don't want to know”. Even people who are aware and involved in the subject often avoid the full realization of what is going on. It quickly starts to seem overwhelming or depressing. When it comes up, the conversation quickly fades or the atmosphere becomes uncomfortable. People also become defensive quite quickly from a largely unconscious feeling that we are all responsible for the situation. We feel addressed but we do not immediately feel that we can change much about our situation and our behavior (the pressure and requirements of the system I was talking about), and that often immediately causes resentment, irritation, attack by projection of one's own guilt, resulting in either a sharp discussion, immediate criticism of the person who brings up the topic, or (more often) the premature termination of the topic of conversation. This turns the climate and biosphere crisis into the eternal giant white elephant in the corner of the room. There is already a white beast in every corner of the room, we can no longer look in any direction, so we just look down at our feet with a dormant sense of guilt and a desire for change that cannot penetrate our consciousness and unfold . And even when we are alone, we are not likely to allow the full realization of the scale of the crisis. We want hope, we want to believe that the world will be a better place, we want to believe that our children are going to have a better life than we do. But it is now clear that in many ways our children and grandchildren will have a more difficult time than ours. And that realization is not easy to fully let in. Whatever we do now, our climate has been destabilized for centuries, and our biosphere will be on the verge of clinical death for a long time to come. We've gone through rough times as a species before, but the "decor" was stable after all. Yes, there have been ice ages and 'warm periods', but change has never been as rapid as it is now, and in earlier times societies were ironically less vulnerable: our advanced and partly virtual life is extremely fragile, something the corona- crisis has made clear. Without electricity or the internet, for example, our global high-tech society would collapse in a matter of days, and most people would no longer be able to even provide for their basic needs (food, heat). Our "civilization" is probably less able to survive such calamities than the medieval ones. And we know that too, albeit largely unconsciously: the hoarding of pasta and toilet paper was the expression of a barely conscious realization of the unlikely fragility of our global "civilization". No, we usually don't want to know and don't want to look at it. Let that change now. This is the first condition for everything else. Really look at it, don't walk away anymore, let it fully: our world is in a very bad way, and our children and grandchildren will have known. Also allow to feel what that realization does to you: the sadness, the possible despair even, all the feelings that may arise. Don't run away from it, stick with it. Looking away from it is not "optimism" but ostrich politics, a strategy that seldom works and in this case guarantees a much worse outcome for our children and grandchildren. Looking at it is not "pessimism" or "doom thinking" but an essential form of realism and sense of responsibility. It is imperative to lay a foundation for the transitions that will be essential to create a viable future, and which will not only help prevent the apocalypse but lead to a much better world in every way. By looking at it, and sticking with it, we take full responsibility for the future of our posterity. Allow it into your consciousness and keep it there. Feel what it does to you, face all emotions, and stick with it, "no matter what". Make the realization part of your daily reality, not something that only occasionally comes up. Let the awareness of our situation be your ever-present companion helping you make choices and take responsibility for your actions. But also fully realize that the situation is anything but hopeless! Man is also a creature of enormous capacity for adaptation and unlikely perseverance and resilience. One fine example of this is how Europe, which was literally completely in ruins after the Second World War after years of the cruellest possible massacres, has reinvented itself in a few decades into a society in which despite all its shortcomings a historically exceptional level of international cooperation and peace has been reached. We are capable of much more than we usually realize, and there is never cause for despair. When homo sapiens collectively supports something, there is not much that can stop him / her. In a recent article in The Guardian, psychologist Caroline Hickman argues that "climate fear" has been present for several decades - albeit largely unconsciously - and that it has a paralyzing effect on our capacity to respond to this crisis. “An increasing number of psychologists believe that the trauma resulting from climate change is also one of the biggest obstacles in the fight against increasing greenhouse gas emissions. There is a growing sense that this trauma needs a therapeutic response to help people get past the paralysis and take action. A deep sense of fear may be the most rational response to the dizzying pace of climate disruption in 2020, but it is rarely the most helpful when it comes to influencing change on the scale needed to mitigate the unfolding crisis. Caroline Hickman, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Bath, says that climate trauma has lurked within the collective psyche of Western society for the past 40 years, leaving most people unable to act on the impending crisis we have seen for decades. years. ” In simple terms, she says, the human psyche is not very well equipped to let in information or experiences that are overwhelmingly difficult or disruptive. This is especially true when an individual feels powerless to influence change. "Many of us prefer not to know because otherwise it creates such an acutely disturbing experience for us as humans." This makes communicating the reality of the climate crisis and examining the complex social structures behind it a psychological dilemma with existential consequences. In its most extreme form, this inability presents itself as a complete denial of the climate crisis and climate science. But even among those who accept the harrowing predictions for nature, there are "micro-negatives" that can block the ability to take action. A mind seeking to avoid the grim reality of the climate crisis may drift into defeated eco-nihilism or cling to the gung-ho optimism of a free-market "solutioneer." In this way, many are able to keep the idea of ​​the climate crisis in mind as they continue with the behaviors that exacerbate this crisis. “In all fairness, what many of us do inadvertently is simply traumatize each other over and over again,” says Lertzman. “I feel like we've let ourselves be hijacked by our own fear, our own urgency, our own recognition of the high stakes, so that it makes us deaf and blind to the human dimension of this story, which is to say we've all heard and want to be seen and respected and appreciated, and we all want to feel like we're part of the solution. What we're seeing now is the impact of that. ” Hickman's work in the UK includes psychological training for climate campaigns that want to get their message across without triggering the defenses that can stop people. The answer lies in a "relentless compassion" - for ourselves and for others - that recognizes the extreme discomfort of facing the crisis, while still taking responsibility for the present, she says. "A measure of mental health is the ability to accurately respond emotionally to the reality in our world." So it is not crazy to feel anxious or depressed. It's sane, ”says Hickman. This "internal activism" can gently dismantle the defense, while still demanding change, by recognizing the desire to cling to and work around our psychological defenses. It gives rise to what she calls "radical hope": a belief that meaningful action can make a difference, rooted in the reality of the crisis, rather than a naive belief that it may not be as bad as we think. " In other words, it is essential that we gently but decisively dismantle our own line of defense against the realization of the climate crisis and face reality fully.It is the prerequisite for everything that follows. 2 Talk about it, make a sound, share it, start the conversation, as often as you can. It is not enough to be aware of the biosphere crisis, you also have to communicate that to your environment. The white elephants have to leave the room, and that room must be aired. Break through the taboo in this domain. Also let go of any fear: fear of rejection, fear of being seen as a freak or eco-fundamentalist, fear of being ignored or even rejected. Make 'noise', and this can be done in many ways: actually talking to your family members, friends or colleagues, sharing information via your social media, setting up a mailing, going to climate marches (and announcing that too), and so on. Be visible and empowered. This does not mean that you have to become the one who always whines about the climate and biosphere disaster in every company. It just means that you don't shy away from the topic and are not afraid to bring it up when there is opportunity. And that you are not afraid to openly share information or opinion via your social media platforms. This also doesn't mean that you should start arguing all the time or trying to convince people of something. Just that you enter into an open and constructive dialogue, and a willingness to listen is probably more important than any kind of conversion zeal. The possible polarizing tone that can arise can be transformed into respect for each other's points of view and background, and into mutual understanding. The far-reaching party politicization of this subject is unnecessary and can be dismantled with information. The more accurate information people have, the more they will be willing to talk about facts and not ideology. Spreading accurate information is therefore of paramount importance, and anyone can help with that - thanks to Google and social media, which can also play a very positive role in any possible transition. Anyone can "broadcast" today, and anyone can "go viral". Let's not leave that game to fanatics and half-wits of all kinds, but let's make the most of social media to "make noise". And also leave behind the belief that you cannot achieve anything, and that it does not matter whether you make noise or not. The belief that our individual actions cannot make a difference is one of our biggest stumbling blocks. Any individual can have an unlikely influence on the course of events, and even if it doesn't, your action will have consequences in your immediate environment. Every consequence counts, on a micro scale or on a macro scale. Effects on a micro-scale also start resonances that can have unforeseen major consequences elsewhere and at a later time (the famous 'butterfly effect') But you also cannot be sure that what you are doing cannot have consequences on a macro scale. Let's give the most obvious example right away: a few years ago a 15-year-old schoolgirl in Sweden decided that she would stop going to school for one day a week and would post that day with a banner in front of the parliament building in Stockholm. In just two years, this one girl has inspired tens of millions of young people and adults all over the world, and her action has led to tens of thousands of school strikes and youth marches. After barely one year, she stood in the pulpits of several national parliaments, speaking at meetings of the world's most influential people, including the annual World Economic Forum in Davos. One fifteen-year-old schoolgirl who might as well have thought she "can't make a difference" or that it's "hopeless." I don't think the Green New Deal would have been a policy project in Europe without that one girl. Talk about making a difference. And don't underestimate how you can contribute to an "infection rate" in society when it comes to spreading engagement and inspiration. In a pandemic, a reproduction rate of three is considered catastrophic. A reproduction rate of three means that each person infected with the pathogen infects an average of three other persons. At that reproduction rate, you infected the entire population in a matter of weeks or months. Well, if you can inspire three people with your 'sound' to in turn enter into a commitment and make 'sound', and those three people in turn also 'contaminate' three people, and so on, then there will bein no time there was a huge social uproar, which in political jargon is called 'support'.So let's aim for a reproduction rate of three (or more)!Our politicians today are usually not of the caliber that propagates a daring vision and creates support for a new policy and far-reaching social choices.No, nowadays they are more like managers and followers: they follow what they think is going on in society, and for this they call on market research and spin-doctors.It is what it is - and we helped create it, hopefully that will change someday.But for now we have to create that support ourselves, and everyone can help. 3. Inform yourself as thoroughly as possible. Check your sources and turn to many different sources, preferably international media if you speak other languages. Information is crucial. And information has never been more readily available to everyone. Thanks to the internet, everyone is a mouse click away from just about all data on Earth. But there is a lot of chaff between the wheat and figuring out which information is reliable is by no means obvious and sometimes - to stick to agricultural metaphors - resembles looking for a needle in a haystack. For the time being, the traditional media (TV, print press, magazines) often fail in this, and that has many causes which I will not go into more detail now. A number of foreign publications and channels are different, and I will later make a small list of sources that I find credible and relevant. The main point here is that you consult many different sources at home and abroad, and again, thanks to the internet, a different world has emerged than a few decades ago. Yes, there is an awful lot of fake news, disinformation, nonsense, and unadulterated hatred on the internet, but you can also access just about all the newspapers, magazines and television channels in the world with one click of the mouse. That is an instrument that we must use, rather than keep falling back on the Flemish media. The Fleming (or Belgian) can be very attached to his or her "gazet", but limiting yourself to one source, whichever it is, is usually not a good idea because it will inevitably entail a certain one-sidedness. As far as there is still a lot of difference between "progressive" and "conservative" media in Flanders, try to consult a news source from both directions. But don't limit yourself to the Flemish media if you speak only one other language. If your English or French is developed enough, explore the better international press, both the better conservative and the better progressive. Again, it can be considered that you should "have time for that". And indeed, for many people it is not easy to effectively set aside that time for this. But here again you can at least do the research: do I really not have time? Or do I just prefer to spend my time on other things? You can read the newspaper in many different ways. One way is to sit back with the paper newspaper as if in a warm bath, read it from cover to cover, taking in a lot of information that you don't actually need or is irrelevant. It is a kind of hypnosis, almost a drug, a relaxing and actually very passive experience that is not that different from watching a soap on television. Another way of dealing with newspapers, both online with print media, is to scan the information in a targeted way to find the information you really want. In my opinion, this is going a little better through the online versions of the newspapers and magazines. Although there too, beware of hypnosis and wasting time. Consciously dealing with the collection of information is an active process, and not a passive experience of a flow that you have no control over. We tend to fall back on one newspaper for all of our information, and everything in it is often accepted as truth without much scrutiny. Getting your news from different sources is a better guarantee for balanced information in which inconsistencies or a certain 'bias' become apparent more quickly In Flanders, Apache and MO * are a good additional source of "progressive" information. De Tijd is an interesting "conservative" counterpart. In the Netherlands, De Groene Amsterdammer and Vrij Nederland are good sources of "progressive" information. I have only recently started "scanning" the Dutch media and I am not sure yet what an interesting "conservative" counterpart there might be. If you speak English, I would recommend the following channels; The Atlantic, The New York Times (center); The Guardian, The Nation, Fair Observer and Jacobin (progressive); and The Financial Times and Bloomberg (conservative / business). And also scientific platforms and publications such as Nature or Scientific American. The German Der Spiegel also has an English version online, as well as the French "Le Monde Diplomatique". The United Nations news app is also a good source of information that often doesn't make it to the mainstream media. No doubt there are many others, but these are sources that I would recommend from my experience. Online subscriptions are also often much cheaper than subscriptions to printed newspapers and magazines. For example, The Atlantic costs me about six euros a month, The Nation four euros a month, The New York Times ten euros a month, Le Monde Diplomatique three euros a month, MO * about four euros a month. For example, for the price of one "printed" subscription of a Flemish Newspaper, you can subscribe to the online version of various national and foreign media. In order to be able to solve problems, which we must do now, we must first correctly identify the most pressing problems. Information is needed for this, preferably a lot of information. And each information channel has its own "bias" or agenda, which sometimes gets in the way of correctly identifying the problem. This is a process that is often in the "blind corner" even with so-called "quality media", and of which we are too little aware. Finally, international publications that consistently make climate a headline are the British newspaper The Guardian and the American Bloomberg. 4 Think afterwards. Don't be satisfied with the first opinion or label or judgment that comes to mind. Try to develop the habit of thinking as thoroughly as possible, not just about the climate, but about everything. More qualitative thinking is a habit that can be developed, just like a physical condition. It does require constant openness to dialogue and a willingness to question your views. Thinking more qualitatively is a permanent challenge. It requires a conscious effort, because very often we immediately take a position out of habit or reaction, without subjecting that position to any investigation. As comedian and actor Tim Minchin once beautifully put it in an "inspirational speech" to young graduates from his alma mater: “Opinions are like anuses: everyone has one. But unlike our anuses, our opinions deserve to be constantly scrutinized ”. Are you able to reach past your initial opinion and explore what's ahead? Can you still nuance or leave behind positions that you may have adhered to all your life? Can you break through simple contradictions and explore and recognize the complexity of underlying themes? Can you leave black and white thinking behind and start to distinguish all gray tones better? Can you honestly examine your "opponent's" views for their merits, regardless of ideological bias? Can you honestly admit your own "blind spots" and lack of knowledge on certain topics? Can you put yourself back into learning, really learn, rather than adopting the preconceived opinions of others uncritically? Can you really bring back to life your curiosity, which is an innate quality in all of us but has fallen into a coma for many through an often deadly tedious educational system and an equally often monotonous and uninspired work culture, and the adventure of life exploration with full intensity enter into? Can you accept that much of what you have ever been taught about our world may not be true? That there may be very different ways of looking at the world, ways that you might now still consider excessive or even insane? In retrospect, we see that in ancient times people believed many things that we now know are "not true." But it is undoubtedly true that we too believe many things that are "not true". Are you willing to explore that for yourself? Can you recognize and help combat polarization? Polarization is one of the greatest threats to our society. The US is always a bit ahead of us, and we can see how that country is now sinking into dysfunctional chaos and how a general systemic crisis of society and even a civil war are no longer entirely unimaginable. We are also on this path, and here too polarization leads to an increasing stalemate, aggression and an increasingly dysfunctional governance. Thinking more qualitatively can be a constant remedy for polarization, hatred and violence, and we desperately need it. Thinking more qualitatively can help fully liberate your creative potential, as well as your decisiveness and initiative, and we will fully need them if we are all to embark on the greatest transition in the history of our species. 5. Make clear to your representatives (at all political levels) how important this issue is to you regardless of which party they belong to or who you are voting for. The biosphere crisis affects us all equally, regardless of our political preferences. If you can do that, then preferably give your vote to politicians or parties that have climate and the biosphere high on their agendas. But the climate is certainly not a matter for 'green' or 'left' parties only, and if for some reason you are attached to another party, let your representatives know that this theme is important to you and that you wish that your party will consider this important. In Belgium and Flanders, most politicians are still in a state of denial, and it is partly up to us to change that. As with point number two on my list, it is also about creating "support" for far-reaching social changes and a new policy that will have to be particularly radical and daring. In a "democracy" everyone is partly responsible for this. Note that I have put the word "democracy" in quotation marks. This is because, in my opinion, we do not yet live in real democracies. We have come a long way since, say, the eighteenth century, but we are far from there. I would also like to elaborate on this in another essay. For now I would like to say that the feeling of powerlessness among the population is very great for a country in which we are expected to choose - through a system of representative representation - where we want to go with our society. How many people still believe that? The gap and breach of trust between citizens and politics is total, both in many countries in Europe and in the US. Most people absolutely no longer trust that they can exert any influence over the administration, and that is reflected in the success of populist protest parties and demagogues à la Trump, Orbàn, and Johnson. But if we want more democracy, we can start working on it ourselves, and there are many ways to do that. One of the quickest and easiest ways is to let your representatives of the people know with great conviction that you think this theme is essential, and to let them know that you are going to count them on it too. 6 Eat little or no meat, especially beef. Agriculture is one of the largest sources of C02 emissions (while it could become the largest 'CO2 absorber', with an absorption capacity greater than that of the collected global rainforests), and one of the greatest threats to our biotope worldwide due to the constantly evolving cutting down the last jungles to make room for the production of mainly soy (for animal feed) and palm oil, the relentless use of pesticides and insecticides, and the destruction of the complexity of local biotopes through large-scale industrial monocultures. The production of beef is one of the largest factors in this worldwide. The impact of pork and chicken is nothing compared to that of beef. I won't go into the numbers and data here, but the calories needed to "fatten" a beef could feed many more people without the intermediate stage of meat production. Cattle farming requires an inordinate amount of agricultural land. Fodder is often soya, for which tropical rainforest is still being destroyed worldwide. Methane production from cattle (in other words, cow farts) is another way in which cattle farming has a massive impact on the climate. The global CO2 footprint of cattle farming is many times that of all global air traffic combined. Stopping the consumption of beef, or limiting your consumption of it as much as possible, is one of the biggest contributions you can make now to global climate management and the saving of biodiversity on this planet, many times more important than whether or not you want it. take plane. If you are really motivated, become a vegetarian, pescotarian or vegan. It is sometimes joked that a vegan can fly as much as he / she wants, as vegans reduce their ecological footprint so dramatically just because of their dietary choices. If we all cut meat off the menu altogether on this planet, we can 'give' back to the planet no less than half of all farmland in one fell swoop, turn it back into game, and that will be much needed to sustain the ecosystems make our world healthy again. Rewilding the planet will be one of the essential challenges facing us as a species over the coming decades and centuries, a challenge even more pressing than reducing our carbon footprint. I myself have been a vegetarian for six months, or rather, "pescotarian" as it is called, because I sometimes still eat certain types of fish (making sure that this fish is caught in a responsible way).I haven't missed meat for a second.I may one day also cut fish from the menu, or switch to a vegan diet altogether.But there is also no need for everyone to become a vegetarian or vegan right away (although that will likely be a necessity in the longer term), cutting beef from your menu alone is a huge contribution. 7. Switch to an energy supplier that provides 100% renewable energy. And of course do everything you can to limit your energy consumption at home, because renewable energy cannot be a license to waste energy either. Energy is a very precious commodity and we will have to learn to deal with it differently. This requires little further explanation. Energy production is of course also one of the largest sources of CO2 emissions, with coal as the main culprit. There are several suppliers that offer 100% green electricity, and these are sometimes cheaper than the "normal" suppliers. Research whether the supplier you have in mind is really green: there is a lot of 'greenwashing' in this sector, in other words presenting the energy supplied in a greener way than it really is. On the Greenpeace website you will find a page where the various suppliers in Belgium are given a quotation in this regard. You can find the current ranking here: I myself have been a customer of Ecopower for twenty years and I am very satisfied with it. Please note: nuclear energy is not green electricity. The discussion about nuclear energy, which some would like to rerun because of the lower CO2 emissions of nuclear energy compared to fossil fuels, is actually a rearguard action. Globally, nuclear energy is undeniably on its way to the exit. The number of decommissioning or decommissioning of nuclear power plants in any country in the world far exceeds the number of planned new plants. Source: Nuclear energy remains an insane risk. A nuclear disaster also has only a beginning, no end, and both the Tsernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters are still in full swing (in Tsernobyl, for example, 5,000 people are still working every day to keep the disaster down) . Statistically, we can expect a nuclear disaster of that magnitude every 40 to 50 years, and each of those disasters will require millennia of clean-up and containment. In addition, nuclear energy is actually very primitive: the actual device that generates electricity is still a steam turbine, no different than in coal or gas-fired power plants. As I once heard a professor at Ghent University put it succinctly: "nuclear energy is an old-fashioned and dangerous way of boiling water." Nuclear fusion (hot or cold) and "safe nuclear energy" based on thorium are a bit like the "real socialism" in the former Soviet Union: always just a few decades in the future. If nuclear fusion or thorium reactors ever become a reality, they could also be a "game changer", but I wouldn't wait for a massive bet on renewable energy. Not only energy from wind, sun and water, but also geothermal energy, tidal energy, etc. are virtually unlimited energy sources. We are surrounded by unimaginable amounts of energy, and we have only just begun to harness it. The yield of solar panels increases exponentially every year and solar energy is already cheaper than energy from fossil fuel and nuclear energy. By the way, we will not know the real bill of nuclear energy for a few decades, centuries or even millennia. And speaking of nuclear fusion: we already have a nuclear fusion reactor: it hangs above our heads every day for free, the best imaginable. The amount of sunlight that hits the earth every day is a (very large) multiple of all the energy we need. It is a bit strange that we invest so much time, energy and resources in an attempt to reproduce something that nature already gives us (which is a pattern that is emerging in many areas of our technological development). If those resources went to better capture the energy that comes our way every day from the beautiful fusion reactor above our heads, we would be much further in that area too. We do have to be very careful about the ecological impact of certain "renewable" energy sources. Hydroelectricity in particular (the energy produced from dams) is often very problematic and has already caused enormous damage by improper planting of dams. In addition, ironically, hydroelectricity is a major source of greenhouse gases, forming reservoirs of decaying organic matter at the bottom of reservoirs. This biomass at the bottom of reservoirs is a significant source of methane, a greenhouse gas that is much more powerful and dangerous than CO2. So there, too, a lot of good information is crucial: not everything that seems "renewable" at first sight is actually. And a switch to renewable energy also leaves the question open as to whether it is possible, desirable and necessary that we all continue to deal with energy in this way, and whether a completely different energy management would be possible. A question with far-reaching implications. 8. Buy as little clothing as possible, wear it for as long as possible, and wash it as little as possible. The global clothing industry is one of the largest net sources of CO2 emissions (more than all global air traffic and maritime transport combined) and one of the largest consumers of a precious commodity that is becoming increasingly scarce: potable water worldwide. Choose to buy less rather than buy cheap. Let your producers know that the ecological and social cost of their products is an essential element in your choices as a consumer. “How we handle clothing also creates a gigantic mountain of waste. The average American is estimated to throw away about 37 pounds of clothing per year. Globally, an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste is produced every year, and about 84 percent of the clothing produced worldwide ends up in landfills or incinerators. "Fast fashion" has increased this problem exponentially, sending as many as 10,000 items of clothing to landfill every five minutes, equivalent to a value of $ 155 million per year. ... The amount of raw materials used to produce the items is also wasted this way. Clothing is also a source of microplastics pollution: washing clothes release 500,000 tons of microfibre into the ocean every year - the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. Many of those fibers are made from polyester, a plastic found in an estimated 60% of garments. Polyester production releases two to three times more carbon emissions than cotton, and polyester does not degrade in the ocean. A 2017 report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated that 35% of all microplastics - very small pieces of plastic that are never biodegradable - in the ocean came from laundering synthetic textiles such as polyester. It takes about 700 liters of water to make a cotton shirt. That's enough water for one person to drink at least eight cups a day for three and a half years. About 2000 liters of water are needed to make jeans. That's more than enough for one person to drink eight cups a day for 10 years. That's because both the jeans and the shirt are made from a very water-intensive plant: cotton. In Uzbekistan, for example, cotton cultivation used so much water from the Aral Sea that it dried up after about 50 years. Once one of the four largest lakes in the world, the Aral Sea is now nothing more than desert and a few small ponds. Fashion also causes water pollution problems. Textile dyeing is the world's second largest polluter of water, as the water left over from the dyeing process is often dumped into ditches, streams or rivers. The dyeing process uses enough water to fill 2 million Olympic swimming pools every year. All in all, the fashion industry is responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution worldwide. Some apparel companies are starting to counter these trends by joining initiatives to reduce textile pollution and grow cotton more sustainably. In March, the UN launched the Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, which will coordinate the efforts of all agencies to make the industry less harmful. ” (Source: But for now the message remains: buy as little clothes as possible, wash them as little as possible, and wear them for as long as possible. I myself have two pairs of jeans for fall and winter, nothing more. I buy skate jeans because they are practically indestructible (designed for heavy use), and I do with one pair for many years. I don't get rid of them until they are worn to the thread. For warm spring days and summer, I also have two pairs of light pants from The North Face, with detachable legs. These are also indestructible and I have been using them for many years. I also have one light cotton summer pants and one waterproof pants from The North Face for walks in the rain. I buy t-shirts from organic cotton, which is produced with less water than regular cotton, and I wear these too until they are worn to the thread. I have had many of my shoes for 15 years and they are still fine! Resistance to a new look or a different style can be one of your biggest contributions to a livable future! For more info: 9. As far as your budget allows, buy food from organic farming, preferably small-scale and locally anchored, with the shortest possible supply line. The supply lines aspect is very important here: it is absurd to transport wine from Australia halfway around the world to here when we have great wine in abundance in Europe. Classical agriculture is a form of chemical warfare against the planet, one that is partly at the root of the massive extinction wave that is now hitting our planet. Popular opinion holds that we need industrial farming with monocultures and pesticides to feed the world, and that organic farming would have too little yield. But nothing could be further from the truth, and not only can small-scale, locally anchored organic farming perfectly meet the world's food needs, it can also be the key to capturing CO2. Regenerative agriculture would be able to capture and store in the soil all current CO2 emissions caused by human activity. Several years ago, a panel of hundreds of United Nations experts concluded that the world urgently needs to switch from industrial monoculture using fertilizers and pesticides to small-scale organic or regenerative farming. According to the UN report, major changes are needed in our food, farming and trade systems, recommending a shift to local small-scale farmers and food systems. “Farm diversity, reduction in fertilizer use and other changes are badly needed, according to the report. It also said global trade rules need to be reformed to work towards these goals, which is unfortunately the opposite of what mega-trade deals like the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the US-EU Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) aim to achieve. The Institute noted that these ongoing deals are "primarily intended to strengthen the hold of multinational corporations and financial firms over the global economy ..." rather than the urgent need for a shift in agriculture, described in the new report. ” Even global security could be at stake, according to the report, as food prices (and speculation on food prices) continue to rise. "This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high external input-dependent industrial production to mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also significantly improve the productivity of small-scale farmers," the report concludes. You can read an article about this report on this page of the UN website: This report barely received any attention in the mainstream press, like so much news that is inconsistent with our dominant paradigm. Conventional agriculture is a gigantic business worldwide in which a few players have power over life and death, and a very powerful lobby that keeps governments worldwide in a tight grip. But conventional agribusiness is also one of the largest sources of CO2 emissions, destroying the biodiversity and habitat of plants, insects and animals on a large scale. Monoculture is completely unnatural and a permanent chemical warfare against the planet, of which insects are the main victims. We are well on the way to eradicating our pollinating insects, the honey bee in the first place. Pollinating insects are essential to about 35 percent of our food production. Three-quarters of the world's flowering plants depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. More than 3,500 species of native bees help increase crop yields. The widespread use of pesticides, especially neonictinoids, is responsible for massive bee deaths, endangering our food production itself. Efforts to ban these products are met with strong opposition worldwide from powerful lobbies of manufacturers such as Monsanto and Bayer. Insects are an essential link in all ecosystems on land and in the air, and form the basis of many food chains. In many places, up to 90% decrease in insect biomass has been registered. This is a disaster that cannot be overestimated and a problem as pressing as the climate crisis. So choose the future: organic, and preferably from small-scale, locally anchored, organic or regenerative agriculture if you can. And pay attention to the country of origin of what you buy. I myself no longer buy foodstuffs from the other side of the world if the same is produced here anyway, such as wine or apples. It is a bit crazy that the supermarket around the corner offers apples from New Zealand, in addition to apples from Belgium. Or that salad dressing is sold in another supermarket that is made in the state of Ohio in the US. Don't we make salad dressing here? Or is Ohio's so incomparable and indispensable much better? Transport is a major polluter, so consume as much as possible in a way that makes less transport necessary. 10. This point may just as well be number one: if you have children, give them the space to grow up to be independent, free, happy, balanced adults, who can think critically, communicate well, are in close contact with their feelings , being able to make independent choices, not afraid to leave the beaten track, not primarily concerned with acquiring property or social status, being tolerant and open to different points of view, being able and daring to question old truths and paradigms, are empathetic and socially sensitive, and who are permeated with the interconnectedness of everything and are strongly aware of their bond with their environment. Most of the problems we face as a species originate in our head, in our heart, in our consciousness. There is nothing wrong with the earth: everything was and is there to create the earthly paradise for every living person. Why we fail to do so after hundreds of thousands of years of development is entirely up to us, especially our own ignorance, our fear, our lack of self-knowledge, our lack of love, our tendency to laziness and laziness (American author and psychiatrist Scott Peck calls laziness man's biggest problem and I tend to agree). And don't worry too much about overpopulation, and don't let that worry stop you from giving birth to children. Birth rates are falling spectacularly around the world, and the most recent projections suggest a massive decline in the world's population by the end of the century, with the population halving in 23 countries. In itself very good news for the planet, but that process will of course also bring a lot of problems in the transition phase until the world population stabilizes at a new level. It will be necessary to rethink everything from social security and retirement to health care and migration. You can find more information about this phenomenon here: But overpopulation is not the primary cause of our current dramatic situation, although of course it is not helping. Shifting the 'blame' to overpopulation, especially in developing countries and Africa in particular, is also a form of shifting responsibility: the vast majority of the problems are caused by the Western industrial countries, while the countries where the population is currently fastest growing, have only a limited share in greenhouse gas emissions. The logging of tropical rainforest is also mainly done for the production of export goods: soya for animal feed for Western livestock farms, and palm oil for the transnational food industry (Unilever, Nestlé, et al). These exports are then necessary to obtain hard currency to pay off (non-repayable) debts to the same industrialized countries. In other words, we almost cut down their last rainforests in many countries. If everyone on Earth lived like the average Sierra Leonean, the planet could "tolerate" some 18 billion people. If everyone lived like the average European or American, only about 1.5 billion. So regardless of whether a population of 18 billion people would be a good thing for the planet, there is no need to blame our current problem on the "irresponsible" population growth in developing countries. First and foremost, we have to look at our own industry, agriculture, energy policy, transport and personal consumption patterns. And the biosphere crisis should certainly not stop us from giving birth to children, although we should certainly not try to counteract the decline in the world population by bringing a great many children into the world to prevent that decline. compensate. By bringing free and happy individuals into the world, we make a fantastic contribution to the future society, increasing the chances of those future societies to reverse the decline of our planet and find a new balance with our habitat and the other living things. beings with whom we share this planet. Finally, I will share the individual choices that I myself have made over the past 20 years to limit my impact on my environment. Maybe it could inspire some of you to make similar choices. Possibly (probably) there are also people among you who have made far more far-reaching choices or who have also made choices that have not yet occurred to me. I also learn about all this every day, and my behavior is also constantly evolving. I also claim absolutely no perfection in this, and will not pat myself on the back: my choices sometimes leave a lot to be desired, and I will sometimes choose something that is not really "planet friendly" out of laziness. I still have a car and a motorcycle, and I will take a plane some time. I sometimes choose food products in "single use plastics". I also know that my carbon footprint will be too big all my life, whatever I do. Balancing our ecological footprint with that of other continents and in harmony with what the planet can handle is something that will take many generations. But we can already do a lot to reduce our C02 footprint, and that naturally means that our entire ecological footprint is already somewhat smaller. These are the main choices I've made in this area over the past 20 years: • Seventeen years ago we insulated our house, installed highly insulating glass, and installed a high-efficiency natural gas boiler that is linked to a solar boiler. This solar boiler supplies approximately half of our sanitary hot water on an annual basis. • Also about seventeen years ago we switched to a supplier of 100% green electricity. • I started working by train for ten years. When that became impossible due to a changed work schedule and a changed train schedule, I kept limiting my speed on the highway to ninety or a hundred kilometers per hour on my daily car journey from home to work. The difference in fuel consumption (and therefore CO2 emissions) is enormous: at ninety kilometers per hour my car uses 40 to 50 percent less fuel than at 120 kilometers per hour. Now that I have maintained this for fifteen years, I believe I have achieved a reduction in my CO2 emissions during commuting by about eighty percent. All the more because I was able to reduce the number of weekly trips to and from work from ten to four. At the moment I no longer always adhere to the speed limit for commuting because my schedule has become a bit tighter and because my new car is much more economical at higher speeds, but for other trips by car I usually still stick to the 'hundred per hour 'rule. Also on my motorcycle I do not adhere to this restriction, because on a motorcycle it is very dangerous to drive slower than the traffic flow. (I ride a motorcycle for reasons important enough to me to do so, but I hope to be able to switch to an electric one next year. For now, I'm only covering very few miles) • For many years I have severely restricted my meat consumption. Beef, something I ate very little anyway, I definitely removed from the menu about a year and a half ago. In recent years, if I still ate meat, it was usually chicken or fish. • Since March of this year, I became a vegetarian (or earlier: "pescotarian"): I no longer eat meat, only certain types of fish, making sure that this fish is caught or farmed in a sustainable way. I also consume very little milk, eggs and cheese, so I already eat vegan about half the time. If I still eat dairy, then only from organic farming. • About two years ago, I started to be careful not to buy food from the other side of the world if a similar product is made here in Europe. For example, I no longer buy wine from Australia or South America, or apples from New Zealand. • I have renewed my intention to stop using the plane for journeys within Europe, if I can reach this destination by ground transport (even if that means that the journey will be much more expensive). I've never been a frequent flyer, but like many people, I've succumbed to a dirt-cheap flight to the Venice Biennale in recent years, for example. We are an international family - my wife is from Hungary, two days' journey by car from here - and it will probably be necessary to take a plane for family reasons. But I will strongly try to avoid that. If possible, I will use the night train again for transfers to Hungary, as my wife Agnes and I often did a long time ago. I may still take a plane to other destinations outside of Europe, if the reasons for going to that destination are important enough and there is no other option. So I am not going to completely renounce traveling by plane, but I will limit it as much as possible, and I will only take another plane after careful consideration. • For many years I have kept my clothing purchases to a minimum. I myself have two pairs of jeans for fall and winter, nothing more. I buy skate jeans because they are practically indestructible (designed for heavy use), and I do with one pair for many years. I don't get rid of them until they are worn to the thread. For warm spring days and summer, I also have two pairs of light pants from The North Face, with detachable legs. These are also indestructible and I have been using them for many years. I also have one light cotton summer pants and one waterproof pants from The North Face for walks in the rain. I buy t-shirts from organic cotton, which is produced with less water than regular cotton, and I wear these too until they are worn to the thread. I have had many of my shoes for 15 years and they are still fine! • I have been buying almost exclusively organic food for many years. To keep it affordable, I will still do that mainly in supermarkets such as Albert Heyn and Colruyt, not the best option (that is small-scale, locally anchored agriculture, so the organic farmer in the area) but better than ordinary food from those same supermarkets. • For many years I have been limiting my consumption of just about everything from electronics to books to utensils of all kinds. My previous laptop was eleven years old when I replaced it a year ago. I have a second-hand smartphone that has been around for almost five years now. I never buy CDs or DVDs and rarely buy books. The electronics I buy are usually for my artistic projects or for my work. I do have a new car, which is not unimportant for the trips to my wife Agnes's homeland and back again. I also have a bike with which I currently only cover very few kilometers. I will continue to ride it mainly as an exercise: in one of my future photographic projects about the climate crisis, I want to use an electric motor to move around Europe. I therefore hope to be able to switch to an electric motor within a year. There are probably still a few things I'm not thinking about right now, but these will have been the most important choices I've made over the past two decades to change my relationship with and impact on the planet. I do not see myself as a role model in this, and when I took Babette Porcelein's 'ecological footprint test', it turned out that if everyone on earth lived like me, it would still take thirty earths to make all now living people like that to be able to provide a standard of living. This test result dates from before I gave up eating meat altogether, I could possibly score a lot better now. But there is no doubt that even after my choice to cut meat from the menu, my ecological footprint remains too large. If you have already been able to make more and better choices, please let me know. If you are not that far yet, one of the above choices may seem like an option to you. But as I pointed out in the first part of this essay, I believe that contributing to the rapid emergence of very strong public support for profound and rapid social and economic change is the greatest contribution that any of us can make a rapid transition to a different society. But personal choices and behavioral change are inextricably linked to this, which is why I cordially invite everyone to think about all possible ways in which we can contribute to the great upheavals we are facing. Spread the word.


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