It was in the middle of the meadows of De Hoge Rielen, a camping park in the Flemish region of Tielen, that we discussed a just transition to a sustainable world. Under the shade of a circus tent that protected the people from the unusually scorching sun, all participants of the camp organized by Broederlijk Delen – parents, teenagers and representatives of different CIDSE member organizations – gathered for this inaugural talk with Caroline Durieux.
Caroline is part of the transition movement in Belgium and is a regular public speaker about the movement. Along with the transition movement Caroline calls for a different society, more creative and open to new solutions that could contribute to a sustainable world. By starting to evoke all the pessimistic speeches that are widespread on the media, but also in conversations with our closest friends and family – e.g. that it’s practically impossible to revert climate change, that in a digitalized society our jobs are meaningless – her intervention readily turned into an exciting approach on how each and every one of us has the power to instill the change that this world needs.
A very important idea highlighted by Caroline is that fear lessens creativity: when one is startled, basic instincts prevail, not imagination – precisely what is needed in such a troubled era. A just transition, according to Caroline, requires the capability to see different ways of doing the same thing; this is very relevant in a country such as Belgium or Portugal (the context I’m familiar with), where cycling and using public transportation is still overlooked by mostly everyone. Thus, we went from the silly but meaningful exercise of “How many things can you do with a cup?” to concrete examples of initiatives within the transition movement. My favorite will always be a group of neighbors from the same building who decided to pay for a parking space outside their doorstep just to set up a table, some chairs and a minibar where they can hang out at the end of the afternoon. The message they conveyed is twofold: that people should have more means, occasions and spaces to get to meet their neighbors and, obviously, that it is urgent to reduce the number of cars in the city. The police did not react well but eventually recognized this group’s legitimacy to dispose of their parking place. This significant provocation worked out.
Also, the discussion was very enriching. Answering some skepticism from the audience, Caroline insisted that the transition movement’s initiatives are just as political as governmental action, principally because they implicate the institutions themselves and often contradict its premises and frameworks, as the initiative did. It is a patient kind of revolution. A just one. Addressing the parents participating in the camp who do not have the time to dedicate to such an organized movement, she stressed the importance of small gestures, particularly taking into account the urgency of environmental protection.
As far as I could detect, Caroline’s enthusiasm infected everyone. With this enthusiasm, these five days of discussion and preparation for CIDSE’s joint action at COP24 went far beyond that agenda: it also reconnected us with the human side of the just transition we call for and strengthened our sense of being part of a much wider picture. With this enthusiasm, we will change for the planet and care for the people.
By Pedro António Franco
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