Stop eating the planet
Nobel Prize laureates, the great and the good of climate change experts and Hollywood action star turned sustainable development advocate Arnold Schwarzenegger will be coming together at i-SUP2012 next week in Bruges. The third edition of this biannual conference – its name stands for Innovation for Sustainable Production – is marked by the participation of Indian experts on climate change and sustainable development of rural areas.
A sustainable world via clean technology is on the table at a conference in Bruges
Nobel Prize laureates Rajendra Pachauri and Amartya Sen will speak at an India Night, which celebrates the country’s collaboration with Vito, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research, which has organised the event. For five days, more than 500 representatives from the academic, business and political world will meet to discuss the sustainable transformation of our planet with clean technology.
The organising committee of Vito is praying that all volcanoes in countries nearby remain dormant next week. Two years ago, the eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland prevented about 100 participants from attending the conference. “But this historic event also emphasised the impact of natural disasters, even in the western world,” notes Ludo Diels, research leader at Vito. “Recent natural disasters, such as oil spills and floods, accentuate the fact that we need to adapt to and mitigate climate change.”
Building a sustainable planet
Cleantech, short for clean technology, is key in Vito’s strategy to build a sustainable world. The term describes products or services that improve productivity and efficiency while reducing energy and resource consumption, waste and cost. Vito gathers international stakeholders in policy, business and research to design new energy systems, transport and mobility concepts, sustainable industrial processes for materials and chemicals and urban and rural plans based on sustainable principles.
“The i-SUP2012 conference is not a purely scientific event but also a networking opportunity to stimulate cooperation between the different actors,” explains Diels.
The keynote speakers will cover a variety of subjects. Lynn Frewer, professor in Food and Society at Newcastle University, will talk about the balance between agriculture, environment and land use, while Luís Maria Pérez, manager of GE Energy Services, will deliver a speech on CO2-neutral energy systems in cities. Durk Krol, director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Technology Platform at the European Commission, will explain the economic importance of sustainable chemistry.
Platform Flanders Cleantech Association will acquaint participants with clean tech initiatives in Flanders and worldwide, with presentations by, among others, former science and innovation minister Patricia Ceysens and tech company Melotte CEO Mario Fleurinck.
Economist of the poor
Movie star and former governor of California Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, will speak via video link. “As governor, he was a frontrunner in sustainable development,” says Diels. Schwarzenegger will talk about the non-profit organisation R20 Regions of Climate Action, which he co-founded in 2011. The R20 is a coalition of partners led by regional governments that promotes eco-friendly projects.
The highlight of the conference is the India Night on Wednesday. In an atmosphere of traditional Indian food and music, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, will discuss climate change. Amartya Sen, Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University, won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998. Known as “economist of the poor”, he will plead by video message for ways to provide development opportunities to all layers of society.
Vito will present its collaboration with the Energy and Resources Institute, the Indian research organisation headed by Pachauri. With the joint project “cleantech for transition”, launched in August last year, they stimulate sustainable development in rural areas of India via the introduction of cleantech. Vito will help research on biomass at a knowledge centre and lab in Bangalore. “With this example of international cooperation, we hope to inspire the conference participants,” says Diels.
Vito has chosen the former Oud Sint-Jan hospital in the centre of Bruges as the venue for the conference to ensure maximum accessibility by public transport and to have all facilities within walking distance. All necessary car trips are done in environmentally friendly cars, while a minimum of papers and bags are handed out. Even the carpet inside the exhibition tent will be recycled.
During the social event on the Tuesday, participants will visit places of interest in Bruges through walking, running, cycling or on a boat. “We want to be as consistent as possible in our eco-friendly message,” explains Diels.
Students of Group Design & Technology at Lessius University College in Mechelen have created an eye-catching installation for the conference: a globe surrounded by apples, which visitors can pluck. “The idea is that our planet is being exhausted by us all,” says Diels. “Hopefully this installation and the conference will make people aware that we have to stop eating our planet.”