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“I’m an optimist, but sustainability is very difficult”

Green Day at UCM

MAASTRICHT. To make the world more sustainable, people need a new mindset. Whether we can actually achieve this new mindset is something the panel members at UCM’s Green Day debate ‘Moving beyond the blah-blah – Putting Sustainability into Practice’ have different opinions on.

“We need a new city”, says Albert Nuss, Maastricht alderman for sustainability, early on in the debate. “Just creating laws is not enough. For instance, in twenty years’ time everyone should be taking care of their own energy.”

“We need a new world”, says Jap Hoogenboezem, lecturer in Public Administration and Political Science. He’s not very hopeful that such a change will happen soon – unless things get really out of hand. “A bad environment is not something that hurts us right now. In China, they’ve just started thinking about pollution, only because in some cities people can’t breathe normally anymore. They need face masks. That’s how long it takes for people to become aware of a problem.”

Ileen Kok, community coordinator at the Green Office, is more optimistic. “There are so many initiatives. I think all small things add up to the big scale. You can already do a lot by turning down the radiator. There’s much to gain by educating people.” Ron Cörvers, associate professor in Governance and Sustainability at ICIS, is not convinced. “I wonder if consumers will make a difference. Sustainable products are still niche. People prefer to spend their money on leisure activities.” That said, he agrees that education is important. “Without basic knowledge, you’ll never feel involved.”

Wynand Bodewes, senior lecturer at the Maastricht Centre for Entrepreneurship, thinks the problem has to become more visible. “I recently installed a Watcher device in my house. It shows how much energy you’re using. Now my two children can see what happens if they leave their phone adapter in the power point. Say you could have such a thing for this building. People don’t usually care about how much energy they use in their offices; they don’t pay the bill.”

Either way, all panel members agree that there is still a long way to go. “People don’t know what others are working on. Combining our efforts is the greatest challenge”, says Kok. “I think the day will come when Maastricht is CO2-neutral, but I doubt we’ll reach our goal of 2030”, says Nuss. “I’m an optimist, but sustainability is very difficult.”

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