I saw today in my street the first butterfly this year. I so enjoy
to see waking nature! It’s wonderful to hear the loud strife of birds over good
nesting positions again, colourful shrubs bloom in the city, Japanese cherries
and magnolias, young leaves on trees. The air is clear and it is unusually
quiet. There is no that constant rumbling noise of traffic, no crowded streets.
The road traffic has fallen in both Italy and China and air quality in major
cities, otherwise number one human health problem we experienced this winter in
Zagreb too, has improved significantly. The cause is serious, but this
consequence is positive. I see an opportunity for change, for the
transformation of cities for the better, just like that white butterfly I saw
this morning has transformed from a caterpillar.
I breath, the air is clean
Imagine the air clean and fresh all year long and that you can
smell the scents of nature, hear birds, bees and swallows humming around.
Imagine the streets and facades are all covered by greenery, and only some
vehicles pass by on the main roads. Or better yet, there is only public
transport that is cheap, reliable and powered by electricity, the electricity generated
on our roofs. All roofs in the city produce the electricity we consume, while
the excess charges the batteries of electric vehicles.
Imagine that there are more people on the streets and squares
than cars, more children playing outside, imagine that cyclists and pedestrians
do not hate each other and collide because everyone has their own space to walk
or ride. Imagine suburban areas being connected with the city by high speed
rail instead of buses and there are no traffic jams.
The mood would be better and the air always fresh. Fewer people
would rush to the centre, more of us would live around the cities, and
epidemics like this one we are experiencing would be more difficult to spread
because the density of population in our cities would not be that high. I see
an opportunity to reorganize the city for the better, to ask for changes in our
general urban plan.
Virtual classrooms and offices, emissions from
traffic significantly drops
Tomorrow and the following days many of us do not go to the
office, the children do not go to school. But work and schooling will not stop.
We are embarking on an experiment of so-called distributed
collaboration. We will be connected by technology in virtual classrooms,
offices, meetings and conferences. It may not be perfect at first, but we want
to play safe and do not endanger our and others’ health. We will avoid a lot of
emissions from transport, which contributes to almost one third of our total
carbon emissions thus further warming the atmosphere and changing the climate,
in addition to polluting the air.
All conferences, meetings and trips are cancelled. By not going
to just one of three planned trips that I was supposed to go this month within
Europe, I will avoid 250 kg of carbon emissions. A quarter of a ton! If we know
that the total annual emission per inhabitant of the Earth should be no more
tonnes of carbon, because the carbon budget of the planet allows so much
and that is how much the planet can digest without overheating, then the
savings of a quarter of a tonne per trip is huge. Because travelling around is
huge and too much. I see the opportunity.
Imagine that all conferences and meetings you are invited to more
and more frequently, take place exclusively in the virtual space? We have the
technology to do this and it works great. Imagine how many tons of carbon would
be avoided and would not heat the Earth and how much time you would save. You would
be less separated from your family, you’d spend less time on exhausting trips
and spend less money in expensive bars on highways or airports! I see the
opportunity. It’s called virtual office and distributed collaboration. How this
is done in a structured way, learn from the Edge Ryders Distributed Collaboration Manual.
We need a system
change and it starts now
In an epidemic like this, I do not see an opportunity to
grant new government approvals to hydrocarbons exploration and exploitation
into seven new fields. Oil, gas and coal should remain permanently underground,
because the oil, gas and carbon that we burn today will remain in the
atmosphere for 20 years more and intensify global warming. We cannot just
launch new explorations in 2020, while we are in charge for the EU Council
Presidency and, as part of Europe, we are expected to move towards a
climate-neutral continent with zero carbon emissions in 2050. Zero means no
carbon, none. We cannot take pictures and shake hands with the leader of the Youth
Global Climate Movement and at the same time claim that we must explore new oil
and gas fields, refuse to ban disposable plastics and ignore warnings from
scientists about the dangers of climate change.
In the Spring of 2020 we can and we must start a total transformation
of the way we live. One small virus clearly shows us what does it mean – and unprecedented
change, overnight, and it shows that things can be done differently. Climate
change are much larger problem than this tiny virus, the scientists are warning
us for decades that we have to do things differently. And yet…
I see an opportunity for a system change that starts right now. I
see an opportunity for many simultaneous small changes going on, innovations
and improvements for the better that are collaborative and supportive. I see an
opportunity in each of us for the Spring 2.0. Transformation is possible, just
like finding a cure for a new virus is likely and possible, but we have only
ten years left before climate change becomes bigger then us and impossible to
manage or reverse, the change must begin now. How, let’s explore, learn and act
together. I see an opportunity for each of us to learn in a virtual classroom of
EIT Climate-KIC – the biggest European Climate Innovation Community – our platform
is available to all, accessible 24/7 and free,
Or, how it has been wonderfully put by my colleague from the Italian EIT Climate-KIC team: „Never waste a good crises. COVID-19 is an opportunity for a massive systemic experiment.“
By Sandra Vlašić, Terra Hub & EIT RIS Climate-KIC Hub Hrvatska
Photo by Yiqun Tang on Unsplash