Joining the pieces of the puzzle

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In the first plenary session of the day the speakers showed incontestable facts demonstrating that keeping business as usual is not an option that will allow our children to enjoy the same living standard we do. Beside showing the need to change, every speaker proposed it’s own approach on what and how to change.

What lacked was the connection between the different solutions presented. It was like looking at the pieces of the same puzzle – on sustainable resources management – but without seeing the whole picture.

It is not an easy task to address such a complex question in 15 minutes. Moreover the large amount of information provided by each speaker did not help the participants to gain a clear message to take home.

Several inspiring sentences of the speakers remained in my mind:

“Income taxes will not sustain us in the future, because European population is aging. We need to shift form income taxes to environmental taxes.”

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure. We need to track and measure the cost of environmental externalities.”

Jacqueline McGlade – Executive Director European Environmental Agency


“In the future only resource efficient countries will survive. Germany want become the most resource efficient country of the world.”
Katherina Reiche – Parliamentary State Secretary


“The values of the present society – greediness and selfishness – need to change into social and moral values to spread sustainable consumption.”

“Despite the economic crisis of 2009, the economic sector needs to learn a lot.”

“We have to think outside the box to move forward.”

Mohan Munasinghe – Professor of Sustainable Development Manchester University


Pay if you want us to change.” (General mind set of African policymakers)

“You don’t need to catch up with what you don’t want.”
Mark Swelling – Academic Director, The Sustainability Institute.

These sentences are somehow disconnected, like spread pieces of a puzzle. We need to join the pieces to see the picture of the puzzle. Working for the same goal individually is spread energy that will not lead to the radical change of mindset needed to effectively tackle the challenges of limited resources.

Examples of integrative processes focusing on communication, learning and common development of solutions for complex problems do exist. Transdisciplinary approaches or the natural step framework do accelerate change toward sustainability. Let’s include this kind of communication processes in conferences to discover new ways of finding solutions.

6 thoughts on “Joining the pieces of the puzzle

    • Dear Harriet,
      the Natural Step approach is not yet widely known in Switzerland, but is a worthy inspiration giving a guideline toward the development of a sustainable society. In his book Robèrt defines four core principles, which are illuminating the path of sustainability, as does a lighthouse in the dark sea.
      Exactly what is needed to move from words to actions.

  1. Thanks for the good point you are making about the need to work cross-disciplinary.
    The systematic change that we are all talking about, needs to be approached with a holistic perspective.
    Therefore the challenge needs to be seen from all sectors of society, including the individual consumer/voter.
    We need to understand the driving factors for individuals/ business so we can include their views and make the dialogue more relevant and accessible for a wider audience.

  2. “Income taxes will not sustain us in the future, because European population is aging. We need to shift form income taxes to environmental taxes.”

    – This is why we should support the initiative Energie statt Mehrwertsteuer by the green liberal party of Switzerland (GLP).

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