Monday, 09 December 2019 16:24

Circularity and the water system. What to consider in policy-making and coordination activities within EUSBSR?

Written by  A.M. Faasse

One of the principles of circularity – at least as I see it – is the local or regional dimension, A.M. Haasse writes.

 

The 10th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) was held under the theme “Reuse, Recycle, Rethink” on 13-14 June 2019.

The main objectives of the EUSBSR are: “Save the Sea”; “Increase Prosperity” “Connect the Region”. The challenging thematic sessions were about “Going circular – a pathway to wellbeing in the Baltic Sea Region; business-driven approach to circular economy in the Baltic Sea Region; and “Demography and circularity in the Baltic Sea Region; interdependent or disconnected”.  The Forum provided the participants with a lot of interesting insights and things to think about or even better, work on.  

Following the Annual Forum the Stowarzyszenie ”Pomorskie w Unii Europejskiej” organised a mini-conference on October 22nd on the topic of  “Climate – water – people New Challenges”. I had the privilege to deliver a presentation about the principle of circularity and the connection with the water system in broad perspective. The EUSBSR, as well as the mini conference, are important to facilitate the connection of people to bring interest and shared actions together.

 

Rethinking

“Rethinking” is best done in a process of encounters of different opinions, disciplines etc. combined with actions. The necessity of rethinking our economic models seems to be clear. In a blog prof. L. Enneking* wrote: “Western prosperity is partly generated by the fact that one does not charge the real costs”.  

In her book Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth puts a lot of question marks to the present (dominant) economic (linear) theories. Due to our addiction to economic growth we step over the boundaries of our planet.

With our linear economic models and actions the present levels of degradation of the environment, loss of biodiversity, huge levels of water pollution and climate change are caused.  Though (or maybe because) being a lawyer I am a strong advocate of rethinking our economy and of renovating our present education (not only economic education) on all levels. 

If we want to change we have to educate the people (Lao Tsze). Conferences like the EUSBSR play a role in this education but need to have a follow-up and an integration in actions accompanied by education on all levels.

 

“Going circular”

Circular economy will be the number ONE priority of the incoming EU Commission. Circularity can bridge half of the gap towards the 1.5 C target. To establish such ambition and to realize this, there is an urgent need for education, education, education.

One of the principles of circularity – at least as I see it – is the local or regional dimension. For the purpose of my presentation/article the Baltic Sea Region can be considered as this regional dimension and/or the scale of a city or metropolitan area as well. All the countries around the Baltic Sea share huge interests in the health and wellbeing of the Baltic Sea. The cities of Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia f.e. share mutual interests when it comes to water in the region.

“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better” (Einstein). These words inspired me for my presentation. I took the natural water system – in broad perspective – as my starting point. Being part of the General Assembly of the Water Authority in Leiden (NL) I am working on understanding nature compared to our water management on a regional scale and try to find answers to questions as water quantity; how to deal with heavy precipitation and with periods of drought.

 

 

Our present systems are mainly (linear) designed to move heavy precipitation out of the area as soon as possible. We do not understand (enough) that natural water cycles need to be obeyed or learned from. Our dominant ways of thinking about water systems are not resilient, flexible, adaptable regarding periods of drought or heavy precipitation.

The essence of my message was and is to be careful with the use of freshwater, to prevent waste of drinking water, to prevent water from being polluted (by daily as well as by industrial use or negligence) and to understand the natural water cycle.

Briefly, nature takes care of water by a cycle of evaporation, precipitation, water storage (on-site/in the region by trees, rivers, soil etc.) This is helpful to a balanced distribution of water over time. (For the purpose of this article I suffice with this very brief description).

In order to understand how such a cycle works in practice, I used an interesting example from the Netherlands. The water company Waternet together with the City of Amsterdam, scientists of different universities, and a lot of other parties and disciplines developed the project Amsterdam Rainproof. Rainproof wants to link citizens, entrepreneurs, knowledge workers and public servants in ongoing projects and new initiatives. “When we work together, we can transform Amsterdam into a city that uses smart solutions to make the best of heavy rainfall…”

The organizations and people involved in this project work on a broad range of topics, varying from green rooftops to water storage in buildings as well as public spaces, green public spaces, open water systems, facade gardens, infiltration strips in the public space, water squares etc. They learn step by step. This is not only interesting from the point of view of economic activity, it also adds to quality of life, a higher value of property and a better understanding of the water system. The overall aim is to keep water in the urban areas, to use it more in accordance with nature and to provide answers to f.e. city heat islands and other climate-related matters.

My strong recommendation is to combine the knowledge  and interests of scientists, entrepreneurs and local governments to create such a project in other cities across the Baltic Sea as well, meanwhile educating a broad range of people and organizations on this topic. It can be done, it needs to be done to meet the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN in this field and to establish a liveable city.

 

*Chair Legal Aspects of International Social Responsibility, Erasmus University Rotterdam Blog dd 21.10.2019

                                                                               

The author Mr A.M. Faasse is “green” entrepreneur; member of General Assembly Water Authority Rijnland; biomimicry practitioner.

The article was written for the Let’s Communicate! project that functions as the EUSBSR Communication Point.

 

 

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