Football Fever


What better way to bond with your EUR colleagues than to watch the Dutch team win its opening match in South Africa. On 14 June from 13.30 until 15.15, university life (as we know it) seemed to stop. 

I don’t know about you, but I came into work that Monday especially to watch the game. Wearing orange and filled with nerves, many of us gathered in boardrooms, or lecture halls (e.g. T3-05), or better yet sitting outside In de Smitse watching with a drink in hand in the sun.  Watching football is a collective and egalitarian activity. Cleaners mixed with students and with management team members, all of us squeezed together with a common intent. Fabulous. 

During the match, a professor said to me, “I think the whole Dutch economy has stopped to watch!” And why not? It isn’t often that the World Cup happens. And who wants to make a tough business decision when you know that there is still no goal after 30 minutes? (But take heart, the economy of pubs and cafes must have picked up the slack).

Aside from being an avid football fan myself (and I confess to an emotional tie to the English side), I know that football is increasingly concerned with being green. The Dutch team are wearing uniforms made of recycled plastic bottles by Nike, along with Brazil and Portugal. 

In advance of the tournament, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism estimated the carbon footprint of the 2010 world cup to be 2.8 million tonnes of CO2e (that’s all greenhouse gases combined into a CO2 equivalent figure). The study was conducted with the Norwegian embassy in South Africa and estimated the direct footprint from travel and accommodation of players and those they travel with, the construction of buildings, the energy used at stadiums and fans travelling. That breaks down to 230g of CO2e per fan-hour. 

This number doesn’t include the energy we emit by watching TV. But that’s an easy part to tackle: the best way to reduce our footprint is to watch it together in a big Public Viewing on EUR campus: we don’t need all these little rooms with people watching separately. Let’s erect an outdoor cinema screen and all watch the World Cup together: a great way to reduce our footprint and increase our sense of community.



As the 2009-2010 term ends, there still seems much to do. Finish making (and marking) the resit exam, organize September teaching, finish the EM column, submit that paper, buy flipflops (recycled Ipanemas), book flights home, arrange a birthday party, attend a PhD defence, give input on the Master plan for the new campus (how sustainable can we be? do we have to cut down the trees?), find a parka for a trip to the Arctic sea, get recycled business cards, respond to a request from the US embassy, fix the kitchen sink (literally), attend parent-teacher night at my kids’ school, finish marking papers, buy new sunscreen before the sun leaves again, decide on whether to buy a Blackberry or an iPhone (I am Canadian after all), and finish that EM column (did I mention it’s now overdue)? 

I also need time to call the guy from Dutch Spirit about the eco-business suit, download the new Laura Marling CD, and meet that student about biofuels. These are things that I really want to do, but… where does the time go? Besides the realization that I said pretty much the same thing last year, in the same period, and in the same magazine, I will admit that while not much seems to have changed, one thing has: I have a plan. A plan to identify when to breathe (and do nothing else). 

When life speeds up, a common piece of advice is to stop and breathe for a moment. We all know this. But I, for one, don’t actually put ‘Taking Time to Breathe’ into my Outlook agenda. Maybe I should. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein paraphrasing William Shakespeare, a breathe is [not] a breathe is [not] a breathe. It really matters how we breathe. If you breathe right (e.g., using full capacity), experts say that you will be more successful, become healthier and have more friends (Actually, I don’t know if they really say this because I don’t have time to check; but it sounds plausible). Plausible or not, just imagine saying, “I can’t meet you at that time, I’m busy breathing.” Or “I can’t come to the phone right now because I’m breathing.”

We take breathing for granted – but should we? I remember in grade school my French teacher telling the class to breathe deeply, to completely fill our lungs – she found it essential for the learning environment. Maybe she was right. So next time I’m late, or you can’t reach me on the phone, imagine it’s all just part of the plan.

A Good Holiday


A good holiday is about forgetting a few things: like work, responsibilities, stress. A good holiday is not about the last day. Because if you focus on the last day, then you might forget the fact that you had a good holiday.

On the last day of this year’s family trip to Sweden, the weather changed: dark clouds, cool winds, rain. On the last day, we had to pack up, clean the summer house, vacuum the rental car, go for one last swim in the suddenly ice cold water, say goodbye to the kayak, throw out food, find the passports and e-tickets for home, stop our kids from fighting and get harassed by our rental agent for various unclear reasons. Needless to say, the last day made us all forget that we had a good time. Our kids yelled, “We hate this holiday!”

I nearly agreed. And then my husband and I remembered all the great things: the deep woods of Sweden, the brackish water of the Archipelago, the loan of a vintage 1933 canoe, Swedish hospitality, close up encounters with deer, the invasion of the slugs, time to re-read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and so much sun that we looked like we had gone south. 

But on the last day, a good holiday is vulnerable to disruption and emotional reframing.  And that was the point we were at on Vindö (Windy Island), about 40 minutes east of Stockholm. Then we decided enough is enough: let’s just go out for dinner.

When you’re on a small island you don’t expect to find a great restaurant. Mostly, you just expect to find nature, and outdoor sports. But as luck would have it, we encountered a small restaurant. We pulled into the parking lot with kids screaming in the car. My husband courageously took them onto the terrace while I decided to stay in the car. At that moment, I really hated this holiday.

However, a good waitress can save the day, and the holiday. After I finally pulled myself together and joined them on the patio, Monika-The Wonderful-Waitress, asked me how was my day. When I replied that I’d really had enough of this holiday, she asked me if I’d like some wine with a smile. She then proceeded to recommend great food, put on great music, and generally just looked after us. Even the kids had a good time.

A good holiday doesn’t need more than that.

Copenhagen Calling


One of the first questions students have at the beginning of a course is how to pass the final exam. Some even want to know how to get a good grade.  To address this issue, I try to give examples during class. For example, in the opening lecture, I asked my second year undergraduate class this question:

“Who’s going to Copenhagen in December?  List four reasons why a business executive should go.  

1. _______________________________________________________________.

2. _______________________________________________________________.

3. _______________________________________________________________.

4. _______________________________________________________________.

Not many knew the answer, and a few thought it was a joke. But I was serious. This was a really good final exam question for December. Finally, someone said, “Isn’t that where the climate summit is going to be?” Yes, Copenhagen is calling us. Not just because it’s a wonderfully cultural design-oriented city. But from December 7-18, Copenhagen is the host of COP 15, the United Nations Climate Change Conference.  

This is not just any conference – it is the last chance for the world’s political leaders to determine how we can address the growing threat of climate change after the Kyoto Protocol expires. Copenhagen can’t do everything. But it will be decisive on the next global approach to climate change. Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief, says “If Copenhagen can deliver on [these] four points I’d be happy”:

1.    How much are the industrialized countries willing to reduce their emissions of greenhouse         gases?

2.    How much are major developing countries such as China and India willing to do to limit           the growth of their emissions?

3.    How is the help needed by developing countries to engage in reducing their emissions           and adapting to the impacts of climate change going to be financed?

4.    How is that money going to be managed?

Business executives already know that Copenhagen is calling. They visited the city en-masse in May, and many will return for December. Global business executives also issued a “Copenhagen Call” on May 26 after the World Business Summit on Climate Change. They agreed that the world needed to take drastic measures to reduce climate change and deal effectively with climate adaptation.

By the third class, I had students asking me how they could go to Copenhagen.  I thought it was a great idea! An EUR student delegation in Copenhagen. Now all we need is some funding for the hostel.

More information

Eco Economics


Elinor Ostrom is the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics, shared this year with Oliver E. Williamson.

Not only is this a momentous break through the glass ceiling, but Ostrom is also a renowned political scientist working in sustainability. Her path-breaking and detailed case studies on natural resource management in many parts of the globe have convincingly shown us that there are more sustainable routes to development than the tragedy of the commons. She has also developed sustainable design principles for our shared resources that can help guide future development: she challenges the world to think beyond the simplistic choice of either government regulation or free market privatization.

In their October press release, the Nobel committee said that “Ostrom’s work teaches us novel lessons about the deep mechanisms that sustain cooperation in human societies.” Her research shows how the active participation of local users of common property can avoid overexploitation of resources if there are identifiable boundaries, strong paths for communication, and incentives for individual action and group monitoring and enforcement of self-organized rules.

At the end of September, I was lucky to have lunch with Professor Ostrom and a few of her colleagues on a small island off the west coast of Canada. We were attending a meeting of the Resilience Alliance, of which Ostrom is an active and renowned member. A grey-haired scientist in her 70s, Lin (as she is known) was charming, down-to-earth and endlessly curious. She presented her latest research and actively illustrated how sustainability is about informed choices within dynamic non-market institutions, while acknowledging the difficulties in governance, transparency, and the limits of cooperation.

Part of her brilliance is her ability to bring these questions down to the local level. For instance, at a presentation at the Pacific Biological Station on Vancouver Island, she wanted to know how a consumer could tell if the fish they buy in the supermarket in Arizona was sustainable or not, which choices were more or less harming to the commons. She remarked that while she carried a card outlining sustainable fish choices, she was not sure if and how she could act on this information at the grocery store check-out.

This question is easy to ask but not easy to answer. So if you’re looking for a sustainable thesis topic, you might consider walking in the footsteps of Ostrom and Nobel.

I Will


I will is better than I won’t. I will is a positive promise of action – something that most of us find exciting. I won’t can be an important statement when we need to delineate our boundaries personally or professionally. But it doesn’t have the same motivational energy as I will.

Having just finished teaching a special class for RSM’s new marketing campaign, I can attest to the educational power of I WILL. For RSM, this is a global announcement that it is the first business school that thinks, lives and communicates in the future sense. That’s a big promise, but even if we take only a part of this into our educational approach, we might be onto something.

Today in Trompenburg Gardens and Arboretum (, we taught a special class on business and climate change to nearly 80 undergraduate students. Together with a team of 5 faculty members and lecturers (Luca Berchicci, Ingrid de Vries, Ismaela Stoteler, Li An Phoa, and Shanti Kalicharan), we tried to convey the message that “I WILL Hug Trees and Still Do Business.” It was filmed live and broadcast via satellite globally.

An important part of I WILL is to be provocative, experiential, and innovative. That’s why I thought it would be an ideal fit with business education on climate change. During today’s launch session, we gave students two exercises: they discussed the business case on climate change for a multinational forestry company and prepared recommendations for the CEO.

Students also had to analyze if the forestry company was doing enough – what was their strategy for Copenhagen? How would they help save the world, and their business?

Forestry is essential – we need robust and resilient forests to help regulate global and local climate. We also need forests for our own lifestyles. The trick is to try and balance these needs and to see how multinationals like Stora Enso can help to save the world, in a just and equitable way.

The second exercise confronted an oft held stereotype that those of us interested in sustainability are just “tree huggers.” So what we did was just that: we hugged trees. Why would we do this? Because it helps break us out of our comfort zone, to learn how to experiment, and to reconnect more directly with “natural capital.” It also fit with our forestry case.

Even with preparation, students found this case challenging and faced time constraints. And that is realistic: There is no easy answer to climate change. It will require us to change the way we produce, consumer and organize ourselves. And we have to act fast without all the right answers. The time for action is now: Join the movement and go to the website. Tell RSM what you will do to help deal with climate change. (You can also see our tree hugging class J).



Spending a week at an isolated cabin with no heat, or running water doesn’t appeal to everyone. In fact, Wikipedia argues that ‘Cabin Fever’ is a common yet negative reaction to this type of situation. But getting back to basics, can also be a great way to carbon-cleanse. For example, I recently stayed at our friend Marianne’s cabin, two hours outside Stavanger, Norway. I went with my 7 year old son Max and he learned how to light a fire in the wood stove (our only sources of heat), gather buckets of water from a mountain stream (our only source of water for drinking and cleaning), and light candles (our only source of light after it got dark). The air was fresh, and there was snow on the mountain tops.

We didn’t get any cabin fever, although Max did start to crave a pizza. We found the positives outweighed the negative as we learned how to play new games, hike, tell stories and paint the landscape in order to pass the time. We also found out how easy it was to massively reduce our footprint (if you don’t count our transportation to get there). We didn’t need a lot of things, and we were still happy.

This is exactly what No-Impact Man found when he chose to try to live in New York City for one year with no environmental impact. His popular blog proved that many people are curious.

During the week that we were in the hytte, the Huffington Post coincidentally launched a one-week ‘No impact’ campaign. “The focus of our program is to help you live a happier life that will result in a happier earth. And so, this manual is about you….Think of this guide as your personal trainer for a week… Each day builds on the day before, so by Friday you are not shopping for new goods, not making trash, only traveling by sustainable transportation, eating locally, using less energy, and wasting less water.”

The fact that using less can bring more happiness is not new to Norway. Norwegians call this ‘hytte lievet’, which holds an important place in the cultural landscape. Norway has 400,000 cabins and 4.5 million people, which means that almost every family has a hut they can retreat to (or a friends).

Thanks to Marianne and her family, we learned that a carbon-cleanse is fun. No-Impact Man shows that we can experiment with cabin fever — even in the city.

No-Impact Guide is available here



It’s a long way to hitchhike – 818 km. That’s the distance from Erasmus University to Copenhagen.

As many of you focus on +5,5 (passing final exams), a brave group of students have their focus set on 818. True, it’s a long way to hitch a ride, especially given the likelihood of rain. But the students of GreenEUR and RSM want to raise their voice for climate justice – they are part of the growing part of society demanding that the world acts fast enough to deal with climate change. And we need this force because the international deal does not look all that promising.

From December 7 to 18, the Danish government will host COP 15, the UN Climate Change Conference. Politicians have already conceded that is unlikely that there will be binding agreement on reduction targets, especially since the US Congress has not passed their domestic climate bill. To save face, Obama and others are hoping to sign a political agreement in Copenhagen, with binding targets agreed upon later in 2010.

But time is running out, and emissions keep rising: In 2008, CO2 emissions were 29 percent higher than in 2000. This is 41 percent higher than 1990 levels (the base year for the Kyoto Protocol which Copenhagen hopes to replace). We need to break through the political delay.

The university can help: for example, RSM will co-host of an official side-event on Climate Justice, and RSM professors and students will conduct research on climate policy and social movements. EUR students also believe that research and teaching is not enough – they want to join the massive protest on the streets in Copenhagen.

There are many ways to get there: by train, by plane, by car or electric scooter. Thanks to Stijn Otten (an RSM alumni), I will be on the Kopenhagen Express along with Ministers Kramer and Koenders. But for Johannes, Dennis, Barnabé, and about 20 other students, they will carbon-share their way to Copenhagen by hitchhiking. They will offer carbon-hugs in exchange for the free rides, and pay for carbon offsets for the length of their journey. They will also make a film about the journey. Once in Copenhagen they will join the tens of thousands of citizens of the world demanding action NOW.

All they need is a little money to pay for food, accommodation, and the carbon offsets. Adopt an 818 student today and donate what you can: contact GreenEUR.

Super Hero


As kids, we probably all read comic books filled with the action adventures of Super-Heroes. At EUR, we now have one of our own: Super SustainableMan.

While you may not have read about him in American comic books (or at least not yet), he is beginning to make his mark at the EUR. Like all Super-Heroes, Super SustainableMan has a strong moral code and is dedicated to protecting public interest. In this case, he’s not fighting street crime in Gotham City, or a dangerous anti-hero.

Super SustainableMan is fighting a bigger more complex injustice: climate change. And he’s going to Copenhagen to try to use his super powers to make the world’s super powers (China, US, EU, Russia, India, Brazil and so on) listen up and listen up fast. The Copenhagen Climate Summit unfolds from 7 -18 December. And Super SustainableMan will join tens or hundreds of thousands of activists in the hopes of making a difference.

Super SustainableMan recently visited the EUR campus collecting climate wishes along with our Dutch Sinterklaas. Many of us wished for a better world, and more action on climate reduction. But the world’s leading climate expert, Dr. James Hansen who is head of the Nasa Godard Institute for Space Studies in NYC, has a different wish for Copenhagen: he hopes that the talks are a complete failure.

No, he hasn’t changed his mind about climate change just because of a few leaked emails from U of East Anglia. Hansen says: “The whole approach is so fundamentally wrong that it is better to reassess the situation. If it is going to be the Kyoto-type thing then [people] will spend years trying to determine exactly what that means.” And we don’t have time for that kind of political delay.

The good news is that the world’s biggest emitters (US, China, EU and now India) have announced proposed cuts. But a number of key issues are still hugely problematic – how to fund the plans needed by developing nations to reach their reduction targets, how to move from 450 ppm of CO2 to 350 ppm (the real magic number) and how to move away from a far too heavy reliance on the illusory magic of carbon trading.

Super SustainableMan has his work cut out for him. Stay tuned for more on his action adventure from EUR campus and the RSM I Will website.

Copenhagen shut-out


It’s hard to imagine being in prison over Christmas and New Year’s Eve. But for the “Red Carpet 4” that’s exactly where they landed. Who is this illustrious and dangerous gang? What crime did they commit? No jewellery heist. No hijacking. They simply crashed a red carpet affair at the Copenhagen Climate Summit and hung up a Greenpeace banner demanding action on global warming.

Unlike the two socialites who crashed Obama’s White House dinner a month earlier (and became celebrities), the Red Carpet 4 spent three weeks in a Danish jail with no charges. And they are not the only peaceful protestors that spent the holidays this way. While most of us ate Christmas dinner, marvelled at the snow in Rotterdam, and spent time with family and all our new toys, these folks were imprisoned for their beliefs.

Copenhagen was, for me, the low point of the last decade. Not that I believed that a legally binding deal would emerge, but I was unprepared for the complete shut-out of civil society and academia. I was in Copenhagen as an official observer, with a registered side-event in the Bella Centre. You would think that that meant I could actually get into COP 15. I assure you, this was no easy task. I arrived in a low-carbon way via the special Kopenhagen Express with the Dutch delegation, Minister Kramer, and Ingrid de Vries, our Greening the Campus Coordinator. We were off to a good start.

But on the first day I spent eight hours standing in line outside the conference centre in freezing weather, no food, no water, and no toilets along with thousands of other registered observers. COP 15 decided to shut people out, and it was NOT just any kind of people – mostly civil society and academia. NGOs like ‘Friends of the Earth International’ were targeted and all were barred from the conference despite official registration. When José Bove, Member of the European Parliament, questioned the UN security on this, they tried to throw him out too despite diplomatic immunity. I saw this happen.

By Thursday almost no-one except politicians and their friends could get inside. A German industry observer said to me, “They’re treating the NGOs like dogs.” EUR students got first-hand coverage of the protests and police action. These students were brave and should be applauded. Luckily none were arrested, though many others were.

Originally, I wanted to leave this column blank as a protest at being silenced at COP 15. But an explanation is in order.

More snow!


Not everyone would agree that Rotterdam needs more snow. But I come from a cold country, and I love the snow. During the eight winters that I have lived in the Netherlands, I have never had so many snow days. Yeah!

Benefits of snow (over rain) include: more beautiful landscape, ability to throw snowballs, make snowmen, more bright light during the day (from snow reflection), gives the possibility of sledging or snowboarding (at Outdoor Valley), and you can finally feel connected to the winter Olympics. And, I would add, snow gives you the possibility of learning how to give up control to good old Mother Nature.  

Yes, snow can wreak havoc on your travel plans as trains and planes stop or get delayed, and traffic jams pile up. But what’s the hurry anyway?  Snow gives you a good reason to stop and play outside. I remember this well from my childhood in Canada – deep snow, crisp air, and bliss, the possibility that we would get snowed in and school cancelled. No work! Just play! We haven’t (unfortunately) had that much snow here. But with over forty “snow” days so far, this is a real winter in the Netherlands.  

For some of my acquaintances who come from warm places like Egypt, Spain, Zambia, or Brazil, the cold this year is just too much. They didn’t relocate to the Rotterdam for its snow. In general, the warming effect of the Gulf Stream means that the Netherlands has a moderate climate. Amsterdam is pretty much on the same longitude as Calgary, Warsaw and Irkutsk in Siberia. Without the Gulf Stream, there would be a lot more snow. And that might be what is happening – climate experts argue that when the arctic ice melts, it changes the salinity of water, which changes the direction of the Gulf Stream, which can mean colder temperatures in certain regions and more extreme weather events. Over the long term, this may not be good news.

But in the short term, if you can find your flow within snow, you’ll be a happier person.

Waste not want not


Old proverbs are usually a bit boring, but often a bit useful. I don’t know about you, but I seem to be facing a mountain of waste: at home, in the office, in the world.

What is waste? Wikipedia defines it as “unwanted or unusable materials”. Ray Anderson, founder of billion dollar company InterfaceFLOR defines it as unnecessary: both as a financial expense and as an irresponsible use of natural resources. InterfaceFLOR created Mission Zero which “is our promise to completely eliminate the negative impact our company may have on the environment by 2020”. Since 1996, the company has reduced waste globally by up to 76 percent and saved 405 million dollar.

At the EUR, we have lots of waste. In fact, we have tonnes of it. For instance, in 2009, the EUR community generated over 2500 tonnes of waste (2.5 million kilos), with a total budget expenditure of 55082.28 euro. The biggest contributors to waste are paper, cardboard, followed by glass. Unfortunately, waste is not measured for each faculty.

The central facility at EUR is actively trying to green our waste and signed an agreement with van Gansewinkel, a Dutch waste management company. But there is a collective nature to the problem: waste is produced by all of us, and its reduction requires the same commitment. Waste just isn’t that inspiring: when we’re finished with something – a plastic cup for coffee, a draft copy of a Master’s thesis, our leftover food from lunch, our can of Fanta, we routinely throw the waste “away”. But there is no “away”. Waste ends up some place. Even if we recycle it, it ends up some place, often not a good place (despite rumours to the contrary, Roteb in Rotterdam doesn’t take out aluminium cans from garbage before they burn it: go on the plant tour if you don’t believe me).

On campus, there are more recycling facilities. But user behaviour is inconsistent. In a random test of RSM green practices, paper recycling bins on different floors were investigated in the T-building. Was our paper waste being recycled properly? In some cases, yes. But people often recycled incorrectly – e.g., throwing in plastic thesis covers along with the paper (why do students use those plastic covers anyway?). A small mistake but the reality is that the entire bin will be thrown away as “garbage”. The biggest shock was the discovery of a microwave oven wrapped in a plastic garbage bag and thrown in with the paper recycling.

Who did that?! Maybe we need to offer a reward to help catch these “waste cowboys”. Or maybe it’s time for EUR to be bold: adopt its own Mission Zero and provide incentives for each faculty to waste not, want not.

The Inspiration of Friends


“If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse, however if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Even if you haven’t read Faust (I haven’t), chances are that you’ve probably heard of Goethe’s fame. While I don’t know the details of how Goethe’s friends contributed to his success or vice versa, I do agree that the inspiration of friends is essential to intellectual, emotional and creative well-being. Sometimes a friend can bring you back to your roots and your core values. Sometimes a friend can challenge you to grow in a new direction.

Sometimes a friend simply demonstrates through their own superb performance that the ‘next level’ is possible. A good example is my friendship with Gabriele Jacobs, Associate Professor at RSM. A German psychologist by training, Gabriele is an expert on leadership, identity and change. She has recently won the largest EU grant that RSM has ever received for COMPOSITE, a multi-country study on change initiatives within European police organizations. Incredibly, she will coordinate multi-millions of research funds!

She chose this topic not because of its fashionable appeal, but rather because she found it to be interesting and important. According to Gabriele, “police forces in the EU face serious challenges. Integration in the EU has increased the need for cross force collaboration. Technology has created new capabilities for criminals but also possibilities for the police. Changes in the public opinion and in political expectations have created extra challenges. Responses to these challenges…require major changes to the culture and structure of police forces…So far, change management in police organizations has not been addressed in a comparative interdisciplinary study with a European scope.”

Gabriele is a friend that follows the sound of her own drum, and does so at a very high level with very little ego. She also believes strongly in the capabilities and potential of those around her: She teaches us that we too can reach for the stars. After spending two days together at a leadership course, I can confirm how inspirational this is. Goethe is right. It is good to have a friend like Gabriele.

All Eyes on Cochabama


Cochabama is a city in the middle of Bolivia, roughly the same population size as Rotterdam. Once home to the Incas, Cochabama has repeatedly been recognized as a powerful global actor. Centuries ago, the city’s riches played an important role for the Spanish (the surrounding area supplied Spain with mineral wealth throughout the 17th century). More recently, the city was the site for civil society protest (the Water Wars at the start of the new Millennium), and on Earth Day (April 22, 2010), Cochabamba will become the global hub of climate solution-seekers.

In 2000, Cochabamba gathered world attention when thousands of people took to the streets over a four month period to protest the privatization of the city’s water supply. Bolivia had been asked (or forced, depending upon your perspective) to seek privatization when the World Bank threatened to withhold financing unless the government complied. Multinational company, Bechtel Corp., was a key part of the privatized consortium who were to control and charge Bolivia’s citizens for water.

The poor of Bolivia revolted (they couldn’t afford the high charges), and many took to the streets for violent encounters with the government forces and police. Eventually, the protesters won. Evo Morales, then a congressman and activist, won popularity and eventually became the first Indigenous president of Bolivia.

Cochabamba is again gathering our attention. After the failure of the Copenhagen Climate Summit, the President of Bolivia and U.N. Ambassador Pablo Solon invited governments and interested NGOs to a conference, on April 20 to 22, 2010, to discuss the “Structural Changes for the Environment”.

The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth isn’t just another NGO gathering. Governments have specifically been invited to join in a deep and practical conversation about how to resolve structural barriers to dealing effectively with climate change. Ten heads of state are expected, and representatives from over 100 governments (hopefully the EU) are thought to be attending.

BBC reporter, Richard Black, says (on his blog): “[Morales] wants us to use a wider sense of Mother Earth and our guardianship of Earth, and derive policies on issues such as climate change from a deep ecological understanding rather than from Powerpoint presentations in hotel conference rooms in places such as Bonn.”

On 22 April, 2010, the EUR will host its own Earth Day event – a launch of the new film Oceans accompanied by a panel debate. At the same time, all eyes should be on Cochabamba.

Urban Eco Action


Most of us live and work in big cities, and we like it this way. We like the things cities offer: clubs, museums, architecture, restaurants, friends, fashion, and yes, universities. But it doesn’t take a scientist to realise that city life puts strain on well-being, whether the root cause is a neighbour partying too loud and too late, a vandal breaking into our car, someone stealing our bike, or air pollution choking our lungs.

I love cities when there’s lots of great things to do, and people to meet. I hate them when I can’t find an easy place to put my kayak in the water, or can’t find a green space without a café. I also know the world can’t live without cities, and that they are the front-line in sustainability. Cities consume 75 percent of the world’s energy, and produce eighty percent of all GHG emissions. Cities also provide opportunities to green our world and can provide efficiencies in transportation and other sectors that reduce per capita impact.

Major cities like Rotterdam have taken bold steps in committing to reduce their carbon emissions by fifty percent by 2025. But it’s a tough job. Organizations like the Rotterdam Climate Initiative play a critical role in building new eco networks and encouraging sustainable innovation. Companies also have a part to play.

Take the example of Cisco and the Urban EcoMap, available in San Francisco and Amsterdam, two cities with similar population sizes but different residential footprints. Most of Amsterdam’s emissions come from energy use (50.0%), while most in San Francisco come from transportation (78.1%). And despite Amsterdam’s significantly lower residential CO2 per capita (4.3 tonnes vs. 8.2 tonnes), some neighbourhoods perform better than others (e.g., Centrum is the worst and Westerpark is the best). That’s the beauty of this pilot:

“Urban EcoMap gives every person the ability to see the collective results of individual climate change actions, while also motivating people to make responsible environmental choices and creating competition among neighbourhoods to reduce their carbon footprint. Urban EcoMap provides information on carbon emissions from transportation, energy and waste among neighbourhoods, organised by ZIP [postal] codes.”

Cisco’s strategic consulting division hopes that it will lead to real change in alternative-fuel vehicle ownership, recycling, and reducing household energy use. Let’s hope so.