make way for the new (low-carbon!) economy

27 sep 2019, pauley van rixtel

Innovative consulting company Greenfish gathered more than 250 like-minded people in the centre of Brussels for the third edition of the Green Mind University, which took place this year. What are we like-minded about? Each one of those 249 passionate men and women believes, like I do, that the transition to a low-carbon economy should and can be quicker. During the event, numerous innovative ideas were exchanged concerning sustainable mobility, energy and the circular economy. And guess what: many solutions are already in place to speed up the transition.

growth and (crossing) limits

Our modern economy is characterised by an endless desire for growth. We always want to do more and better, at any cost, overstepping limits. And where has it taken us? We’re well on our way to a world citizenship with a global trading market where the sky’s literally the limit. But as soon as an obstacle emerges, nobody assumes responsibility. We point fingers at each other or collectively shut our eyes to both the cause and the consequences.

I think it’s remarkable that there are still climate change deniers running around on our planet. Civil engineer and social activist Olivier Vermeulen rightly calls for a mindset shift: we shouldn’t try changing the climate, we should reform our economic system. And that begins with acceptance. To put it in Olivier’s words: ‘We forget that we have limits we need to accept.’ We should accept our limits and focus on degrowth, questioning consumerism and striving for social and ecological added value instead of pure financial profits. By working together. By working with and for each other, respecting the limits of our planet.

not alone but together

Let it be clear that no one can make a transition to a better, more sustainable world on one’s own. It seems so obvious, but it’s not obvious at all. ‘To win or lose the climate game is a question of mindsets and the innovation power in boardrooms and executive suites’, says Erik Rasmussen, CEO of consultancy firm Sustainia. As in: Leadership is essential to change – but not only by the traditional leaders such as managers and directors. Striking students such as Greta and Anuna are leaders too. And they might have set more people in motion than any CEO or politician has.

As Lennert Rasking of construction multinational Besix beautifully puts it: ‘Impact on a scale is a combination of actions.’ Each individual has the choice to do something. Something within their possibilities. We must keep believing that every little bit helps. Each step in the right direction is a good one.

‘To win or lose the climate game is a question of mindsets and the innovation power in boardrooms and executive suites’ - Erik Rasmussen, CEO Sustainia

when economy and ecology become one

Climate change doesn’t have to cast a dark cloud over our future. With the right mindset and enough initiators, we can turn the climate problem into chances and create a huge number of opportunities. To do so, we should share knowledge and come up with solutions together. At the Green Mind University there was a strong plea for a holistic approach, in which people and companies work together towards a sustainable future, with respect for one another and for nature.

Sven Jense calls it the new nature economy. Nature managed to survive long before we arrived. ‘Regenerating nature is reversing climate change.’ Sven founded Project Drawdown, a world-class research organisation partnering with entrepreneurs and investors to restore the balance of the carbon cycle and stop global warming.

ReNature, the foundation promoting more sustainable agriculture and forestry, also believes that nature itself provides us with solutions. Their study of the natural forest ecosystems led to regenerative agroforestry: an agricultural system that restores nature and combines several crops, livestock and trees instead of clinging to monoculture. ReNature’s agroforests do not only increase biodiversity, but also improve the quality of the soil and the crop’s yield.

Other start-ups and organisations make grateful use of all the crap we leave behind on the earth. With its waste-to-energy approach, the French Plastic Odyssey, for instance, makes vessels and fuels from plastic waste found in the ocean. Market accelerator Shecco helps companies turn CO2 into energy. Belgian waste-to-product company Renewi recycles residual materials into raw materials, supporting the circular economy.

And I could go on like this for a while. If we are prepared to take action, we can really make a difference. We can continue the chatter about climate change, or we can choose to look forward. Take risks. There are so many innovative and scalable solutions out there. Have a look at platforms like Goexplorer.org, Ecco Nova, Solar Impulse and Project Drawdown and be inspired. They find, connect and support innovative solutions that already exist. What are you waiting for?