Déjà vu

Column Anja de Groene, Associate professor sustainability and water 2000 - 2009

In my bookcase stands the Aula pocket "Rapport van de Club van Rome. De grenzen aan de groei", ("Report from the Club of Rome. The Limits to Growth"), by Dennis Meadows from 1972. Also, in my book case is my thesis, "Beheersen of beïnvloeden. De respons van bedrijven op milieuproblemen" ("Mastering or influencing. The response of companies to environmental problems") from 1995, as is my 2003 HZ lecture "Bewustwording en betrokkenheid. De rol van hoger onderwijst in transities naar een duurzame samenleving". ("Awareness and involvement. The role of higher education in transitions to a sustainable society"). That was all a long time ago, but when I browse through them everything comes back to me once more. We did so many great sustainability projects at HZ with partners in and outside Zeeland at the beginning of this century!

After a seven-year detour, I returned to HZ in 2016 to develop the master’s programme River Delta Development. It surprised me how much was happening in the field of sustainability and climate in Zeeland. Then, I had even more of a déjà-vu feeling. At the beginning of this century we already did research into the design of a residual substances register in the Kanaalzone (one of the first graduation projects I supervised), now I hear people talk about the circular economy, which mainly manifests itself in the Sloe area and the Kanaalzone, where companies increasingly use each other’s energy, residual and waste flows. Has it taken that long? A Green Office was also launched at HZ last year. Did we not already discuss a healthier canteen, sustainable mobility, etc. in the first sustainability week in 2003? Déjà vu!

Last year, Jan Rotmans, professor of transitions and transition management at Erasmus University Rotterdam, held a lecture during Standplaats Zeeland about the transition process that he set up 14 years ago with HZ and ZMF and twenty pioneers from the Zeeland society. This resulted, among other things, in the report "Zeeland op een kantelpunt: moet, wil en kan Zeeland veranderen" ("Zeeland on a tipping point: should, will and can Zeeland change?") and later in "Watermerk, de eerste Zeeuwse transitieagenda" ("Watermark, the first Zeeland transition agenda"). Last year Jan Rotmans looked back and noted that in Zeeland steps have been taken regarding energy transition (wind!) and the biobased economy. But he also advocates the need for a clear and ambitious action plan, the ultimate task of which is a coherent climate, water, nature and energy policy. So, a transition agenda! Déjà vu….

I am writing this column in the middle of the corona crisis. These days I hardly read anything about sustainability, climate and the Green Deal. Let's hope that after this corona crisis, the money and energy for rebuilding the economy will mainly be invested in a sustainable, climate-proof economy. It would be so great if we could make the transition to a climate, water, nature and energy resistant Zeeland at the same time as rebuild the economy!