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A Sad Situation by Rein Zwart

Our new ´Talking Cityzen´ is Rein Zwart. He has almost completed his study ‘Climate & Management’ at The Hague University. According to him, immediate transition to more sustainable energy sources is crucial. Internships at the Municipality of The Hague and for the Dutch parliament have only strengthened his conviction. Rein Zwart: ‘Let’s talk about sustainable development. Sustainable development is a challenge for the future.’

At this moment in time our development is not sustainable. Currently, we do not develop in a way future generations will also be able to. We now, as a western society, as a whole, actually develop in a way which really harms the survival chances of our children. There are many reasons for this, but two are the most urgent. Number one is climate change, number two is the fact that we are running out of fuels for energy. Make the notion that we depend on the climate that we live in, and we depend on the energy we use in the way we live. There is one solution: a transition to sustainable energy.


Transitions aren’t simple. A transition to sustainable energy is a complex, hard, long-term process. If we want to make such a transition happen, we have to really, really want it. So it is good to ask the question: what should motivate us?


I have written this blog to create some awareness; we should not take our energy supplies lightly, just like we should not take climate change lightly. Climate change may even result in the potential extinction of the entire human species. That’s not nice news, but it is the news which science actually gives us. This is something which should frighten us. And we should spend our money, and make an energy transition happen with this in mind.


That said, a transition to sustainable energy should be made where the most conventional energy is used. These are urban areas. Most people live in urban areas, most CO2 comes from areas, and a lot of energy is wasted in urban areas. With an energy transition in just rural areas, we are not going to be able to stop climate change. I have done an internship at the municipality of The Hague. This was an incredible journey. Basically we brainstormed about all kinds of innovative solutions to create an energy transition, with the little money that the municipality had to offer. I was really thinking out of the box with my solutions.


The problem was, that there actually was a box, there were some borders that couldn’t be crossed. We literally couldn’t place a windmill in the sea. However, we could contribute to a sea wind park in Belgium. Cities have many stakeholders; it is hard enough for a municipality to convince them to help the transition to sustainable energy. It is the task for bigger governments such as the Dutch national government and the EU to shape the conditions which make an energy transition possible. Because transitions, will, naturally, only actually happen on a local level.


In this case, the Dutch national government did not shape the conditions for a transition to sustainable energy. My internship at the municipality of The Hague was in 2010, since then, little has changed. Some big cities in the Netherlands (the municipality’s and their stakeholders) are ready for a transition to sustainable energy, but on a national level we do not give them the opportunity to make it happen. It is a sad situation.


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