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This blog is dedicaded to share ideas coming randomly from my experiences

Posts Tagged ‘ecology

For a Sustainable Planet

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70.000 people mobilized in Brussels to ask for political measures in favor of the planet protection.

Today we were around 70.000 people gathered in Brussels to manifest in favor of a political change for the climate. But it is not the first manifestation of its kind. In recent weeks, students coming from different parts of the country, inspired by the action of Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish student climate activist, skipped school and came in Brussels to manifest too.  On 17th of January, they were around 12.500. On 24/01, there were 35.000!  Such mobilization can only rejoice us, insofar as it is a part of a sustainable ambition and strong commitment.

Climate change is a real challenge for the coming years. We already notice negative effects of the human activity on the climate. But the challenge is much bigger than the climate change, it is the preservation of our earth.  To reach such goal, it is important to see concrete actions on different levels. First of all, there is the individual action. Each of us, we can contribute to preserve the nature by changing our habit, by thinking to have a way of live having less impact on our environment. But changes in our live are never easy. Most of the time, we see changes as constraints instead of opportunities. By minimizing the usage of our car and using public transports or a bike for our travels, by consuming more responsibly, by recycling our waste or buying products with less or no packaging, we can contribute positively to our environment. But such change is an incremental process. It implies to change our habit, to be more organized, and to be convinced that it is not only on an individual level we have to act but on a collective level. Each of us we have to be an inspiring example to motivate the others. That Is why I mentioned that to manifest for the climate is a good point but it has to be followed by concrete actions, and it is not just the business of the others.

But if the individual action is a good start point, it remains insufficient. A real political action is also needed. We can only contribute to build a better environment if the political authorities implement a real environmental politic. We can reduce the usage of car if we have efficient public transports networks, if we have a secure infrastructure for cycling paths, and also some tax incentives. The reduction of car usage in big cities doesn’t solve only the problem of pollution, but also the problems of mobility, having a negative economic impact. We can reduce our wastes or recycling them, if there is an organized and efficient system for collecting and sorting wastes. But it is always better to reduce as much as possible the quantity of waste. Political authorities have to be aware that not all people are equal facing ecology,  that it is also a social issue. It is more difficult for vulnerable people to adopt green measures and habits that requires investments, such as the isolation of the home. Vulnerable people cannot be excluded from that issue and considered responsible for not acting.

A third important point is the contribution of the industry. Industry is responsible for a big part of the pollution. Most of the time, financial aspects are more important than ecological aspects. Ecology is seen as a constraint instead of an opportunity. It is obvious that our natural resources are limited, and that we are consuming more than the earth can regenerate its resources. And to hide this reality is the result of a short term vision, and most of the time, short term visions lead to failure.  Same as for us, ecology is seen as a constraint instead of an opportunity.  If you are looking backwards, only companies facing changes and anticipating succeed. Investments in clean technologies are opportunities to develop new markets, to create jobs, to create a more sustainable environment. The concept of blue economy is interesting on that point. I will come to it later.

Nevertheless, technology is not necessarily the only answer to the protection of our environment. For instance, we are presenting electrical cars as an alternative to fuel cars, contributing to reduce the CO2 rejections. That is an attractive conclusion when you read the car characteristics in the brochure given by the car dealer. Now, looking more ready, the reality does not seem to be so …green.  The production of batteries is the main reason why electrical vehicles can generate more carbon emissions over their lifecycle. The batteries recycling process is also generating CO2 rejections.  Other question: how is the electricity generated? By gas plants, or by coal?  If we don’t consider the thing in its entirety, we can only miss the goal. Of course, it takes time to develop a new technology and to make it more efficient.  It is only by investing money in research and development that we can progress in technologies efficiency.  But before considering new alternatives, it would be interesting to focus on those that already exist. Instead to reduce the CO2 footprint by decreasing the number of fuel cars by replacing them by electrical cars, why don’t we develop more efficient public transport like tramways, trains etc. As already mentioned, you solve two problems: pollution and mobility. Of course, here is the responsibility of political authorities to implement coherent ecological politics based on serious studies and not on “green-washing” marketing.

Now let us come back to the concept of blue economy. Blue economy concept is based on the usage of renewable resources contributing to preserve the nature, and in some case to regenerate resources. Blue economy includes also jobs dimension and social capital. To summarize, blue economy is an economy having a neutral impact on environment and providing benefits for human being. This business model based on buy-use-repair or recycle, is totally disruptive with the actual business model based on buy-use-throw. How can we use our waste to produce new goods with minimum or zero impact on our environment.  It implies development of clean technologies development but also a locally based specific organization. For instance, export wastes to another country to recycle them is generating also carbon footprint, which is totally senseless.

The equation of climate change is not easy to solve and will be probably the most ambitious challenge the humanity has to face. That is what I tried to underline in this article. The task seems to be unrealistic to accomplish. But each process of change needs time and different steps to be reach. Resignation is probably the worst thing we can do. We have to act as responsible persons who have the power to change things. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and consider that manifest for the climate and claim ecological values, is totally senseless if concrete actions does not follow on a daily basis. What is important is to act as responsible people and not as victims, in a way to develop a power of conviction to move to a more sustainable way of life. We need to make militant choices that change probably drastically our life, but as a lot of things, when we are used to act I a way, what is a constraint becomes an habit that we finally accept, especially if it is in line with the values we defend. We do not have the right to blame others for doing nothing if we do not do anything ourselves. We have to be actors of the change and inspire people around us, and not only to be preachers. To act for the protection of our environment according to our possibilities, is probably the most important personal and collective commitment we have to take, to try to build a sustainable future for our planet.


Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

January 28, 2019 at 07:56

Development, a sustainable way of growth.

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BP's oil spill, an ecological disaster.

The United States of America are facing the worst ecological disaster since more than a month with the BP’s offshore platform accident. The flow was already categorized as the largest offshore oil spill in the American nation’s history, but the new figures are much higher than the previous estimates. President Barack Obama pronounced a speech, saying it is time to develop the field of new and renewable energies, cleaner for the environment.

But the question is to know if there is really a will to develop such energy field? There is a debate and different mind regarding oil reserves. The extraction of oil becomes more complicated as we have to extract it deeper. The development of more sophisticated extraction techniques shows that we are able to find new oil reserves. But this has a cost, not only on an operational level but also on the ecological level. Money is spend to develop more sophisticated extraction techniques, but have we the full control of the process in case of accident, and are the safety measures always followed? The present situation in the Mexican gulf seems to show it is not the case. As often, companies are focused on short-term profit, forgetting the risk management. Oil generates appreciable profits, but in the Gulf oil spill, the ecological and economical cost is probably much higher for the country, compared to the generated profits on the same period. The balance of such disaster is clearly negative, as the estimated cost amounts to 1 billion usd. This oil spill will have short and long term effects on an economical and ecological point of view.

I would like to make the following comment. Often, ecology and economy are considered as two distinct things, incompatible and with no links between. This is a wrong point of view. Each natural and ecological disaster generates re-construction costs and no added value. In the case of the gulf oil spill, it would have been more interesting to spend the lost money to the development of renewable energy technologies. Research and innovation are an economical motor. The development of sustainable and renewable energies resources provides long terms economical and ecological benefits.

In order to develop a sustainable economy, it is important to analyze the benefits and the risk of each choice, each alternative, but we have also to distinct the difference between growth and development. Let us take an easy example: the growth of the pharmaceutical industry in a country is a good deal for the economical statistics, but it means that the consumption of medicine is increasing, which means that people are not in good health. This is not a really positive situation. On the other side, if the building industry growth is increasing because you build new schools and empowered the education system, this growth contributes to development with future long term economical and social benefits.

Development is the key of sustainable growth. Each crisis we met is destroying values, and the time and energy we spent to recover the lost value, to be again on the start point is a pure waste. A growth based on sustainable value contributes to a long term development, where each step contributes to the next one. It means also that in a development process, each component needs to be taken into account, not only the economical side, but also the social and environmental components, and all these components need to be integrated on a long term view.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

June 20, 2010 at 10:27