People blog

One project I really would like to share with you is the Ecotopia Biketour. An eco-mobile activist community on wheels pedalling every year through another part in Europe. A non-organisation based project, dependant fullly on voluntary initiative and existing already over more than 20 years! This year we cycled with a rough average of 25 people a day from Barcelona to Venice, visiting communities, collective gardens, squats and protest sites that were connected to this years theme: Degrowth. Check out the website to read about our experiences (blog with pictures, stories and video) and to get info about the growing plans for  next years tour!!

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Some months ago I was asked to give at TED talk in Ghent. I only had 6 minutes so I had to choose carefully about what I wanted to tell.
I thought it was a good idea to point out the sense of urgency, but also to give the audience a glimpse of how a sustainable future could be. Here you can see the result

Here is what I would do when I would rule the world. My submission to a column comptetion was selected by the jury as one of the 5 nominees BUT NOW IT IS OPEN FOR PUBLIC VOTING. You can read all five columns here (in Dutch) but I translated mine and if you like my column, please vote on it. ('stem' means 'vote').
If I Ruled The World ...
...I would replace multi-and bilateral development assistance programs with programs of debt restructuring. A troika from, say, Bolivia, Burkina Faso and Bangladesh would arrive every few months to Washington, London and Brussels to see if the ecological debts are paid off according to schedule and if not: no next slice of vital resources from South to North.

...I would rename it a large cooperative bank . One that is Too big to fail - with the consequence that climate change can not be allowed to assume catastrophic proportions. Thus, citizens and businesses will get Greenhouse gas (GHG) quotas. They start from the present average GHG consumption per capita or business but go down fast. For the personal quota they evolve rapidly towards the eight tons lifestyle: what every world citizen can use per year.

...then you would have a third credit card (next to the classic card and the carbon credit card): for your local currency. Regional currencies would flourish complementary to for example the euro and they organize a significant part of the local and regional market in services and products.

...then every citizen gets a basic income: a sum that in the region of residence can cover the real minimum: food, clothes, shelter, education and health. The market arranges everything above that basic income - but with some corrections: the pay gap between the highest paid and lowest paid in a company should never be more than 10. Anything above a modest maximum wage is taxed at 100%. Those earning more will get a sweet thank you card for their generous contributions to the public interest, with a personal signature of the Prime Minister.

... I would introduce a financial transaction tax and a ban on short selling: which boils down to making profit by spreading bad rumors about others. Savings and investment banks are separated and bankers who reap billions through cheating with interest levels or other financial hocus-pocus do not just go behind bars. No. We use their expertise in finding loopholes through making them part of the cell to find financial fraud. In the first year of internment they will get food stamps depending on the amount of detected fraud. From the second year and when good behavior is shown they can switch to a system with ankle strap.

...then Environmental criminals would also have a problem. The newly established International Environmental Court - in collaboration with Interpol - will arrest for example the top of Chevron, who after twenty years and several convictions refuse to pay 30,000 Ecuadorians for damages their company has caused. The bosses of the British Trafigura would - as an alternative penalty - receive 5 years of work in healthcare centers in Abidjan. Schmidheiny, a billionaire convicted in an asbestos trial in Italy, would be obliged to remove fasbestos plates from houses in the first ten years and then move on to ten years of work in palliative care - if he has not ended up there by then.

... then the education curriculum gets some updates with as required reading in every sixth secondary: Collapse (Jared Diamond), Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell) and The Age of absurdity (Michael Foley). Video material from The Story of Stuff is also raised and every year, every student goes on a week long survival trip. In fact: Government Ministers also go at least one week each year in nature. Compulsory leave outside the city. Their assistant takes up his or her affairs and the leader in question only takes with it what he or she can carry on the back. Alone or with family.

... then advertisements of unsustainable products are banned - such as printers that fail after x number of prints. The people that design such products are being sentenced to five years of community service on the garbage dumps of Delhi, Gambia or China. They may choose.

Finally, I would swing the ax to researchers who are engaged in a search for geoengineering or planet B. Or at least in their grants.

Water. On this rainy autumn day it feels slightly odd to write about the glorious pleasures of using less water, but let's start with the pragmatic reasoning of checking your water bill. Not only to remind ourselves that the water we use is not an everlasting gift falling from the sky but a resource with a pretty complex chain from collection to dump. Thus I discovered that I pay a fixed amount for the days I am connected to the system, an amount to deliver the water, a sum for the cleaning of water and another sum to get rid of the dirty water. I'm not paying for the water as such - as we seem to have enough here in belgium - but for the chain that gets it to and from my tap. And that appears to be 200 euro for my family. What a bargain! If you think of the infrastructure to get all that stuff running around, the purification stations, the energy needed to fuel them, the guys fixing leaks, I mean; this list could be endless. I also travelled long enough in places like Nepal where hotelkeepers in Kathmandu are forced to first plead or bribe water companies to get their water tankers to their hotel first and then pray that there is no transport strike, fuel shortage or homeless people tapping of the water from the truck as the drivers takes some rest. No, we just open our taps every day, pay one bill at the end of the year and that's it. Few us can imagine how lucky we are to be able to just do that.

But despite being happy to pay 200 euro a year for something so precious, I asked myself: how much water does my 200 euro a year actually represent or in other words: how much efforts do I ask from the whole water system to get my daily magic? Turns out my family of three is using a whopping 62000 litre a year! Ashamed of this astonishing figure I looked on the internet for reassuring figures of the average family of 3 household in Flanders. Which turned out to be 137000. Few! So not having a car to wash or a bath to fill has already halved our water use compared to the average family of three in my region. But 62000 litre is still a lot of water so can't we cut that further, save money, cause less strain to the system and have some sort of fun along the way?

Together with some friends I recently launched the Ministry of Ideas. You could see it as a local version of the Everyday Stories.

The Ministry is showing good examples of ecological and practical solutions from young (and elder) entrepreneurs. We work together with the Television station ‘VIER’ so every Monday a minister is presented to the broader public in a program called ‘plan B’.

The site of the Ministry is in Dutch, but the movies of the Ministers are showing nicely the different projects.

22nd September is car free day, celebrated in many cities around the world, although nothing new for those of us who cycle on a daily basis, we can at least enjoy a healthier and happier city. Many activities were held related to bikes and sustainable transports, but I decided to attend an event of a different matter, from the time when I didn't cycle yet, but  I became aware of veganism. So I went to a vegetarian, mostly vegan pic nic, in one of the greatest greens areas of Porto. I spent time with friends of many years and more recent ones. My bike leant against a tree was a sucess among the amateur photographers that joined a photographic marathon that was also happening there. maybe the "one less car" sticker had something to do wit it?... In another part of the city, a vegan cuisine workshop was beign held by a friend and animal rights activist. So many nice things to do on a Saturday, much more interesting that going to a shopping center.

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Time flies when you're having fun! Everyday Stories is 1 years old, and in this past year we've met so many inspiring and interesting people, and have shared 14 stories online. In order to celebrate this past year, we have made a video combining excerpts from all the stories online to date. Also, we have this brand new blog. On this blog you will get to stay more up to date with the people whose stories we are sharing.