European Commission (DG Environment) / Agricultural engineer
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As teenager I read “The limits to growth” from Club of Rome and realised that we couldn’t continue living as we did. Since World War II, our development has completely become petrol-dependednt – transport but also food, chemicals, heating and cooling systems, etc. – causing global warming. Natural resources are being extracted at an unprecedented rate to respond to our unsustainable production and consumption modes.
We can change: my eldest daughter was 10 when she encouraged me to buy a hybrid car to reduce air pollutants and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Now I walk to my work, I live in a commune, Watermael-Boitsfort, where there are many grassroots initiatives popping up: urban farming, collective henhouses, collective compost, participatory grocery shops, bulk groceries, Repair Cafés, Voitures à partager, nature conservation field work and educational activities, etc. I try to eat as much as possible local, organic products and far less meat since the family is flexitarian. My current objective is to be “zero waste”. The most difficult challenge for me is to reduce my flights since I travel a lot both for work and holidays (I have many friends abroad).
Politically, I found outrageous that the cost of pollution and GHG emissions is not reflected into a fair price. How to explain to a child that food produced far away with chemicals, which require a lot of energy to be produced and transported, and are harmful for the environment and health is cheaper than local organic food? How can flight tickets be so cheap while planes consume so much jet fuel? Why are the most vulnerable and poorest populations the most impacted by environmental taxes, while 50% of GHG emissions are due to 10% of the richest? Why are we still valuing so much the accumulation of material goods, and not services and well-being?
In our current economic system where the price remains the main tool to influence production and consumption patterns, we urgently need to internalise externalities and have the impact on environment and health fully taken into account in a fair way. We need to rebalance social vis a vis economic wealth, initiate deep rooted transformations, stimulate innovation and imagination, and project ourselves in another future.
Fortunately, the youth has waken up and reminds us very vocally that it is urgent to act now and live differently!