Lectori Salutem! Sustainable solutions to safeguard the future

Even if we don’t know each other yet, I greet you most cordially, I’m very pleased to get the opportunity to tell you about my journey in discovering how we are able to make our future and that of our descendants.

Make our future?!? Isn’t it very arrogant to pretend that we can make our own future, in the midst of the mess in which we live today? Well, so it seems at first sight, but I was quite pleased to find a fellow supporter of this idea in the Dutch poet and psychiatrist named Kopland. He wrote: “One of the most stunning features of our mind is the possibility to look ahead, the possibility to create a future and to be guided by it”.

The older I grow, the more I’m convinced that we are to a large extent the architects and the sculptors of our own lives – that is, when we want to be so, it is a potential.

I myself am not Dutch, I’m Belgian, more precisely from the Flanders region; but it is true that we share our language with the people from Holland. I was born and bred in the beautiful town of Antwerp, home town to famous painters such as Pietro Paulo Rubens and Anthoni Van Dijck, amongst dozens of others. I have French and German blood in my ancestry and that is probably why I felt urged to learn those languages too. Being multilingual was rather common when I was a youngster; and then I was always fascinated by languages, even the ones I didn’t understand at all.

In the course of my life and my career, languages opened many doors. They opened books first: often when I was spellbound by a translated book, I would fetch the original and try – often with painful effort – to read it in the original language. At the end I only read books in the original languages, as I felt that only then I could come in touch with the genius of the book. Even for technical books the language gave me something like a hidden entrance to a better understanding. I was 22 in ’68 and we wanted to change the world. We thought we could. I still want to change the world. I still think we can. Looking back it seems to be quite simple: you start to think, feel and act along this idea some day and you don’t stop doing so any more.

A handicraft an artistic training opened my eyes for the possibilities that lay hidden in the use of primeval plant based, animal and mineral materials instead of the fossil based ones that were at the top of the agenda in those days (coal, mineral oil, uranium). I became increasingly aware that this was quite complex; it is not possible to just stop using fossil raw materials and only use plant based ones. Consider two facts:

  • The surface of arable land that we would need, not only for producing food, but also medicine, cosmetics, detergents, clothing, furniture, housing and the myriad of commodities we need in our daily lives when we would take all we need from farming . There simply isn’t enough of such arable land on this planet for seven billion human beings – and growing.

There never has been a situation like this on the planet before. No philosopy, no political conviction, no science, no religion, no technology – not one single soul has experience with it, which is clearly demonstrated by the mess we created around us. We will have to rethink and reinvent a large part of the raw materials, products and processes we need to assure that our children and grandchildren will still be able to live on this planet.

Is that feasable? Sure it this, but it’s not easy and it can’t be done overnight. Since the end of the 19th century we hardly did any development outside of fossil raw materials. We simply did act as if they would last forever. And look: about one century later we’re scraping the bottom of the supplies, and we suffer from all the neglected consequences of liberating such a mass of fossil CO2 in living nature.

That was the half-conscious reasoning why I started, somewhere in 1972, to scratch my way into solutions that could – at least partially – provide future proof solutions for our day-to-day needs.

The expert

Peter Malaise

Ricercatore belga e consulente per la sostenibilità dal 1972, è fondatore e Amministratore Delegato di Meta Consort Partnership, che aiuta le imprese e le ONG a livello mondiale nello sviluppo pratico di prodotti e servizi su base sostenibile. Nel 1976 Peter ha co-fondato Meta Fellowship, organizzazione no-profit per lo sviluppo e la promozione di “soluzioni…

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