ESD columns Texel week

How to create my imaginary world

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Working with a group of around 30 people on one final product was quite challenge, but we did it! The bubble week in Texel was a great experience. I learned a lot about socio-technical systems, pathways, transitions and how to design for this. Everything from the last weeks came together and we took it to a next level. I also learned a lot about presentation techniques and communication, which was very valuable to me. Besides this we had a lot of fun of course!

 

One topic of last week I would like to address in this column, namely that Texel is regarded as an area to conduct pilots to move towards sustainability and self-sufficiency. One the one hand I think Texel indeed can become a great pilot area; it is an island, the boundaries are the water and already a lot of sustainable/local things are going on like the salty potato, the Jut project, De Verzamel Post, TexelHopper, Texelse Kost, etc. On the other hand I understand that the inhabitants of Texel are not always very enthusiastic about this, they just want to live their own lives without being bothered or limited by these pilots. During a brainstorm we even had the idea to create an island next to Texel, a kind of Texel 2.0, on which the pilots could be conducted, which later could be applied on Texel if successful.

 

Let’s imagine that Texel is the pilot area to create closed loop systems. They succeed and Texel is 100% self-sufficient. Let’s take the sub-system of food as an example, this means that all food on Texel is locally produced and consumed. This successful pilot now needs to be scaled up and transferred to the mainland and the rest of the world. However, Texel is an island, the boundaries are clear. If this will be transferred to the mainland, we would need to create ‘islands’ as well. These are no physical boundaries like the water, but boundaries for the closed loop systems. Municipalities would need to change their borders in order to have the most effective closed loop system, to have sufficient variety in the food that is needed. As mentioned by Texelse Kost, around 20ha of ground is needed to provide food for 500 people; we could take this as a guideline for the new municipalities or communities. The country borders might need to change as well, we even could go back to many years ago, when there were no borders.

 

However, it might be the case that for food 20ha is needed for 500 people, but for example for water or waste, this could be more or less to have an effective closed loop system. This is a very complex case. Designing for a 100% self-sufficient Texel was already very complex, up-scaling and transferring it to the mainland would be even more complex. Questions like where the new borders will be and who is going to decide on this need to be answered.

 

To conclude, the challenge is again: how to get there? This was also our challenge during last week, when we used two pathways to define how to get to a 100% self-sufficient Texel. Looking in my imagination, I think it would be great if we would live in a world in which we have small communities with closed loop systems, and we could easily travel between these communities. We would live happily together without having to worry about the green house gasses, fossil fuels, wars, etc., because these problems would not exist anymore. It is a good feeling that during this course we learned a lot about pathways towards a new situation, so I could actually contribute to create and move towards my imaginary world!

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Biking in the darkness

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Along with a group of colleagues, I spent last week in Texel, a very special island in the Wadden Sea. Early every morning and late every evening I biked 4km between the Campus de Potvis (our accommodation) and the Verzamelpost (our workplace). Although most of the days I made both journeys with the entire group, on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning I biked by myself through the grasslands of the island.

On Wednesday evening, it was already dark when I left the Verzamelpost. While I was biking through the outer streets of Den Horn, most of the road was still lightened by the houses, a few cars and a few bikes. It came to my mind that once I had left the town, the darkness would make it hard to find my way back to the Campus de Potvis. However, the experience was completely different. In every part of the way, houses, towns and roads had sufficient shine to show me the way. Interestingly, their shine was not coming from house lighting, car lights, or public lighting, it was coming from the stars.

Later, on Thursday morning, I took the way back to the Verzamelpost. This time I had no concerns. I waited a few minutes for dawn because I was curious to bike the road in the daylight. The experience was equally impressive than last night’s. I could hear all kind of birds waking up, water in the canals slightly moved by the wind, and a few sheep doing sheep things. No car engines, no city noises, only nature’s voice and my rusty bike chain.

After Wednesday night and Thursday morning, I felt happy and calmed, although at the time I did not realize why. After thinking about it, I finally understood that I had had a privileged experience. I had been able to enjoy the nightlights. Not those coming from the city but those coming from the sky. Something probably very close to the Dark-Sky Association’s standards.

I had also been able to hear a few of nature’s many voices with no background noise. No cars, no engines, no machines, no nothing. Only, wind, water, birds and sheep.

Lastly and perhaps the one that impressed me the most, I had been able to bike in the middle of the night with no fear. A woman biking in a dark road in the middle of the night, alone and feeling no fear. It became clear to me that the bike trips had made me experience much more than nature. They had made me feel free. Now, I like to think of freedom, local and global, individual and collective, personalized but inclusive, current but long-term, and dynamic yet stable freedom, as another way to imagine sustainability.

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Students of Delft left their save Bubble!

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Last week I lived together with thirty students in a bubble called ‘Texel’. A week ago we left our own bubble called ‘Delft’. In our Delft bubble we researched the Texel context. From behind our computers we wrote smart reports about the people of Texel. The reports sketched a possible future for the Texelaar, a bright happy sustainable future in which the Texel people would be totally independent from the mainland. We invented smart solutions and ideas for the Texelaars to start this development right away. Once arrived in Texel and speaking to the locals, these solutions appeared to be not quite new for them…

In delft I worked in the food group in which we designed two pathways to arrive at the goal of a self-sufficient food-system. I pitched our idea the first day at Texel: a food platform that brings together the consumer and producer like the Allerhande magazine. Valerie, our amazing host of the week, told us that she liked the idea but that this was already there! She actually started the platform herself and also organized several other activities related to food. I was pretty shocked that we actually never heard of this and also a little bit ashamed.

Later that week I met several amazing locals who were real sustainable entrepreneurs in the field of food. The farmer of the Novalishoeve taught us everything about the closed loops on his farms and how he achieved them. The initiator of the Salt farm where potatoes and carrots are produced on salt land taught us everything about innovation in his niche market and how hard it is to deal with cultural beliefs. No one in the world believes we can produce food on salty land, so people don’t trust his products. But, we tasted the potatoes and they were great! Again I was ashamed we did not written anything about these two great locals in our report made in Delft before.

 I think the most inspiring person and the person I was most ashamed of not knowing before was the Food Community guru of Texel: Marieke Mast. Marieke Mast is the initiator of Texel Kost. She had the idea for a local, sustainable and fair food collective when she saw a milk float being transported off the island. Marieke thought it was really strange that the milk was collected on Texel, processed on the "other side" and then was coming back again in packages to the island. Only then more expensive and with much more mileage than if they could decrease immediately. That idea was the basis for the emergence of Texelse Kost.

This week truly taught me, next to the fact that it is apparently possible to work together with thirty different people and produce one kickass product (to quote the alderman), that for understanding the context of your research it is extremely important to leave your bubble and go into the field! Experience the elements of the surrounding, speak to the local people, watch, analyse and ask all questions that come up. Only by this way of working you will truly understand the local context and therefore the problem, which you like to solve. Whether it is a social-system problem, a technical problem or an architectural problem: understanding the context is crucial, no matter in what kind of discipline you are working in. 

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Working in our Bubble

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Last week was the Bubble Week where we worked with 30 students on one task: making Texel a sustainable, self-sufficient island in 2065. This Bubble was created at ‘De Verzamelpost’ in Den Hoorn, where we worked day in, day out, the whole day long and where we even had our meals. The only time we left our Bubble was in the evening, around ten o’clock, when we departed to our sleeping places at ‘De Potvis’, 4 km away. There was only one moment in the week where we left our Bubble in the afternoon for a few hours, doing field research in the surroundings of ‘De Verzamelpost’. This intense Bubble Week was a huge transition compared to the seven weeks before the Bubble Week. The seven weeks before consisted of one lecture of four hours a week, doing 10 hours of research and making a report with a group of three to four people.

What are actually the advantages of working in a Bubble? And what are the disadvantages?

Working at the same place at the same time

Working in a Bubble on one place with a whole group of people makes everyone focused on the same job. Together we had one job and one ambition. By working on the same place we all had to put the same time and effort into the project to reach a good result. Communication and working together is made much easier when everyone is at the same spot at the same time. By focusing so much on this task we had almost no time to think about other things anymore.

Multi-disciplinary team

Our group in the Bubble consisted of different kinds of people from different studies with different kinds of backgrounds and nationalities. This created a multi-disciplinary group where everyone could use his or her own qualities.

Facilitated process

Our process was facilitated in such a way that breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks were offered to us. We did not have to take care of that by ourselves, which gave us more time to focus on the task.

The sleeping places were at another building which created a distinction between working and free time. Therefore the mind had some rest.

Contact with Texel

The idea of working in a Bubble on Texel is next to the group process that you are at the place of your case. This makes sure you get to know the principles of the island and the people living there. This was mainly ensured by the people coming to ‘De Verzamelpost’ offering a guest lecture to us. However, it would have been useful to have stepped outside of this Bubble as well. Then we would have had time to visit the island and talk to more people of Texel, than only during the fieldwork. I am lucky that I have already been on Texel several times, but mainly the international students have not seen much of Texel this week.

Contact with the group

Stepping outside of the Bubble would have been good for the group as well. Now it was only about working together on the task of sustainable Texel in 2065, but it would have been good to get to know each other better. We did not even know each other’s names at the beginning of the Texel week. How should you work together without even knowing something about the people you work with?

More free time in general would have been good. The working hours were way too long which made the productiveness and communication less efficient. It created some frictions as everyone was tired. It is good to have free time for contemplation. But it is anyhow good for your personal development as you learn how to deal with such a situation.

Crises

Because of this hard work and the not always sufficient communication by the teachers we had a few crises, which led to discussions and finally a good end result. It was funny that we proposed such a structure with disasters for our future plan for Texel as well. Crises make sure that things change.

End result

In the end, the result counts. We made a great story and presentation with the group, which I would have never expected. This good final result made me forget about the negative things of the week. I learned a lot from it.

Out of the Bubble

It can be concluded that working in a Bubble is good for the process and the end result, but it is sometimes important to get out of that Bubble and go into the big wide world as well.

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Food Waste

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The Christmas holidays ended a few weeks ago, and Christmas generally means spending time with your family. This usually ends up meaning emptying out your fridge for a several week absence. While doing this, I was surprised at the number of groceries I owned that I simply didn’t manage to finish before they were past their due date, or that I wouldn’t be able to finish in time before leaving

If just my tiny fridge had so many foodstuffs past their expiration date, just how much food do we throw away all together? Numbers say the Dutch consumers throw out 2.5 billion euros total every year, or 50 kilos. Supermarkets double this amount, by throwing out another 2.5 billion euros of food [1]

There’s this ideal that the supermarkets send the food that’s almost over the expiration date to food banks, but in reality only 2% of all the food is send there [2]. This is not entirely the fault of the supermarkets, as strict rules set by the food and goods authority prevent these food banks from accepting any foods that aren’t rotten, but are over their due date such as fish, meat or dairy. So all these foods go directly into the trash.

Another great possible source of food are concert venues. In fact there was a concert from Anouk that was cancelled due to illness. All the food prepared for her fans, containing 7000 sandwiches, 400 tins of sushi and 240 kilos of gyros meat had to go somewhere. And in this case that ‘somewhere’ meant the trashcan. Besides the difficulty of transporting all these foods, the foodbank is generally closed by the time these leftovers could be transported, and the strict expiration rules forbid this transfer from taking place the next day [2]. And in fact since there have been absolutely no issues from food poisoning happening from these foods even after the due date has passed, these rules seem even more superfluous.

While the government says they want to reduce food wastage in the future, these rules paint a different picture, setting such strict rules for the transfer of food that it’s not worth the time of the supermarkets to do this. There are however examples of what a government can do if they stimulate the relation between supermarkets and foodbanks, such as can be seen in France. Fed up with supermarkets pouring bleach on garbage bins filled with still edible goods, the French government passed a law forbidding supermarkets from wasting food. If they are not sending it to a food bank, they are required to recycle it in other ways [3]. If it is this easy implement, I wonder why the Dutch government can’t do this.

I was reminded of my Christmas holidays preparations while spending a week on a project on Texel. Food was included in this trip, but by the end of the week we hadn’t managed to eat all of it, and there was quite a bit left, still with a few days to go before the due date. We also spent this week trying to live as sustainably as possible, and throwing this food away wouldn’t fit into that ideal. Instead the organizers on location told us they wouldn’t waste this food, but would instead sell it at a discount to other people. Such small interventions are so easy to achieve, and a large amount of our food related problems would be solved if we could think about doing this more often.

 

 

 

[1] Rijksoverheid. (2016). Voedselverspilling. Retrieved January 2nd, 2016, from https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/voeding/inhoud/voedselverspilling

[2] Van der Giessen, G. Langer houdbaar dan 2014: over de Nederlandse norm tegen voedselverspilling. Retrieved January 2nd, 2016, from http://www.trouw.nl/static/nmc/nmc/varia/longreads/voedselverspilling/index.html

[3] Chrisafis, A. (2015). France to force big supermarkets to give unsold food to charities. Retrieved January 16th,, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/22/france-to-force-big-supermarkets-to-give-away-unsold-food-to-charity

[Image] Morrish, L. (2015). The Altruistic food Waste Revolution is Now. Retrieved January 16th, 2016, from http://www.konbini.com/en/lifestyle/altruistic-food-waste-revolution/

 

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acupuncture points

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Friday, we presented our final products for our vision Texel 2065. After the presentation, we got the question from our audience: " What about acupuncture, where to place the needles in the web to reach this goal in 2065?"

Of course my answer was clear, we already designed these nerves point before coming to Texel. The milestones from all sub-systems are the point that settle the new pathway to follow. The follow link Texel research, will guide you to our subsystems when clicking on a sub-system you can find all chapters all students have written in the past weeks, chapter 4 is about the pathways and milestones.

Well, said the guy from the audience; "but where to I need to start investing 2 million now to start this whole process because I cannot invest in all sub-systems?"

I told that man, that there are 2 main points to start investing in. To do inventions and start-up processes people need to be educated. So, investing in an all connected school would be a very good start. The school should combine professionals, companies and students from all levels with each other. While educating children, youngsters, adults and elderly a large knowledge is gained in all kind of different topics which can influence the whole system. For each innovation knowledge and combined spirits will raise the total outcome. 

The second topic is named "call me local" people need to feel bonded with their Island. Most people on Texel already do that. But, the population need to be brainwashed with entrepreneurs. We call it enterprising. People need to be inspired and motivated to become just as good or even better. In this way, the sustainable level will raise like a competition among each other. 

So by investing in the local feeling, entrepreneurs and education, the pathway to a sustainable Texel in 2065 will start. 

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A "last Nature" experience

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Last week at Texel was a different week in many ways. It did not only lead to exciting pathways towards a sustainable Texel at 2065 after intensive work in our own bubble, the VerzamelPost, together with our group of 30 people; although our schedule did not include spending much time outdoors, I was lucky enough to experience Dutch nature in a way I had not experienced before. Enjoyment and moments of awe but also of uncomfort in front of nature’s power, were what these days on Texel endowed me with.

Biking in the dark every morning before dawn and every late night from “De Potvis” to the VerzamelPost and back, was a daily routine. I cannot recall another time in my life, travelling on a road so quiet and dark, without cars or street lights, in a place empty of any sings of noisy human presence; just you under the light of stars in endless land fields, till the point your eyes can reach. It almost felt like going back in time.

Stronger than that however, was my little “adventure” on Tuesday night. The unfortunate news of the 5 sperm whales washed ashore on Texel’s coast reached our ears while working on our assignments and the excitement for a chance to see these unique creatures beat all the body fatigue I was feeling after biking 15 km a few hours earlier. Joining a group of 9 people, I was going to feel like an …aboriginal Texelaar! After Biking for 15 minutes in deep darkness, with heavy rain hitting my face and strong wind making biking more difficult, we entered the dunes zone. I cannot estimate how much it took us to reach the shore, most probably another 15 minutes, but it felt like ages. It was amazing; I could see nothing around me but I could feel the pureness of the surroundings. The same feeling came back to me after we reached the beach while standing in front of the water, descrying only the dark figures of three whales struggling in shallow waters; I could not really see them but I could feel them. Indeed, the untouched landscape was revealed to me under the light of the sun next day in my second visit to the coast, this time to see the sperm whales laying dead on the beach.. It is strange, but this feeling would come to my mind some hours later at the VerzamelPost, when the term “last nature” was being introduced as a key term in the group’s future vision for Texel.  

Although I had to face the consequences of bringing my body endurance to its limits (or the consequences of not being a Dutch biking expert I guess), experiencing Texel that way was among the most valuable things I took with me while leaving the island.  And maybe this feeling is what makes Texel unique and beautiful, not only in the eyes of its inhabitants but also in the eyes of the thousands of tourists coming to visit it every summer; this more human way of experiencing life, closer to nature and away from intensive rhythms, with qualities that have been forgotten in the dizziness of evolution.

 

 

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Communication & Sustainability

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The past ten weeks I followed the course Engineering for Sustainable Development, with as goal to design a 100% self-sufficient future for Texel in the year 2065. During one of the workshops the question arose as to how all this research had influenced your personal life, did we make changed in our behaviour? How sustainable are we actually living? And I’m ashamed to say that it hadn’t, at least not that much.

 

This question, how sustainable are we actually, came to me once more the night before we left for Texel. I was actually packing my bag and I kept staring at the pile of clothes on my bed. Wondering what on earth I should take with me and of course the how much? I kept thinking about that study trip to Berlin I took last year and seeing some people only travelling with the smallest of the smallest suitcases, wondering how do they do that? For me that was the first thing about this trip whether I questioned if I could improve on this. Of course the logical thing to do is find clothes that can mix and match. And that’s exactly what I did, but I also think I still took more than necessary because I have a certain amount of space in my suitcase. And why not fill this?

 

The second thing that comes to mind was the actual trip towards the island; all of which was done by either public transport (bus, train and ferry) or by bicycle. Both sustainable options, except for the fact we accidentally got back into the Texel hopper on the boat and therefore got out at wrong place (Den Burg). Instead of walking towards either Campus the Potvis or de Verzamelpost we waited for the bus to return to take us back to the boat where we would rent our bikes. The trip itself, if communication had been better, could have been even more sustainable.

 

Together with three other students I researched the subsystem of food on Texel and amongst our conclusions were not only reducing the amount of meat one eats, but also focussing on eating locally produced foods. Personally I like meat and I think it would be hard for me to give eating it up all together, but that does not mean I eat it every day.

 

Focussing on buying and eating locally produced foods is something I don’t do (yet) and I think this is for the same reason it might be hard to implement this on Texel. Currently it’s often more expensive to buy these foods and as a student I simply don’t have a lot of money to spend on food.  During the field research we asked some locals and we came to the same conclusion; that it’s overall a bit more expensive. And with a large group of low income residents making this change to solely locally produced foods is difficult.

 

This was also translated in the meals we ate during our week. It’s hard to say where the products used in the lunches and dinner came from, but those for breakfast were products you can buy in any supermarket in the Netherlands, not locally produced foods and this was as mentioned before (partially) a budget problem.

 

Something that was decided upfront was the fact all meals would be vegetarian. As said before, I like meat, but I didn’t mind not eating it. It’s not like I really missed it, there were enough options to choose from, but once again communication proved to be a bit lacking. What does one consider to be ‘vegetarian’, is this just no meat, or no meat and fish? Where our perceptions of vegetarian in line with those that took care of our meals? And I’m not writing this to criticize, but there were two occasions on which ‘fish based products’ (tuna salad and prawn crackers) were served.

 

Looking back at this week in Texel, I think we tried to be as sustainable as possible, but of course improvements could have been made. I think besides the willingness to change your mind set on of the things we realized was how important communication is. Not just between us as a group of thirty students and organization, but between the locals as well. I believe the first step in becoming more sustainable is improving communication. Exactly what we defined to be the current ‘crisis’, the lack of it.

 

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Sperm whales vs. sustainability

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During our final week of research on how to make Texel self-sufficient in 2065 we actually went to Texel to do some on-site research and make one shared plan as a group. Some special news came to us during our stay: six male sperm whales, who probably had accidentally chosen the wrong way back to the south, had washed up on the shore of Texels’ beach. When I did some more research on these huge sea creatures I found out that they have a positive influence on our environment as well.

 

Sperm whales live in groups and in the spring, the males head to the north. In the late autumn and winter they go back to the south. When the males come back, they have two choices; through the North Atlantic where they have enough space to swim or through the much more narrow North Sea. This second route could get them into problems since sperm whales orient themselves with sonar,  the gaps between the Waddenislands prevent the echo to go back.

A recent study from a PhD student from Flinders University in Australia shows that in the Southern Ocean the combination of sperm whale manure and Phytoplankton can be very beneficial to the environment. The study finds that manure from a sperm whale is rich in iron. The sperm whales defecate on the Phytoplankton, which on their turn uses this iron to grow and trap carbon. The carbon is not released until the plankton plankton dies. Then the carbon sinks down deep in the ocean. According to the study, the sperm whales from the Southern Ocean offset approximately 400,000 tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year. On the big scale; it is very important that we have phytoplankton in general, since it accounts for half of all photosynthetic activity on earth.

Not only alive they help us towards a more sustainable environment: next to fact that it is very sad for those animals to wash up and die, they do provide us with essential research material. The dead animals are for example tested by the whale team from research institute Naturalis and the Dutch Wildlife Health Centre on their general state of being, possible hearing problems and their cause of dead. The results of the different tests and research that is being done on these animals could possibly also lead to the prevention of more animals choosing the wrong route and washing up.

However, not everything about the life and dead of these six animals is beneficial for the environment: during our time on the island, the sperm whales were already being cut and sawn into smaller pieces. These pieces were brought to the harbour of Texel with (polluting) trucks and later on shipped to Harlingen from where they were being transported to a company in Noord-Brabant, all the way on the other side of the Netherlands.

 

Concluding one could say that the washing up and dying of these six sperm whales is indeed a sad event, however, it is part of nature. Although they are very beneficial for our environment during their life, them washing up provides us with a lot of essential material for research and prevention of more animals dying (unnecessary) in the future. By doing this extra research on sperm whales, for now, my only question is: couldn’t we have handled the transport of these animals in a more sustainable way?

 

 

 

Sources:

http://www.nu.nl/binnenland/4198847/potvissen-van-strand-texel-gehaald.html

http://www.nu.nl/weekend/4197896/potvissen-stranden-omdat-ze-verkeerde-afslag-nemen.html

http://www.nu.nl/binnenland/4196678/vijf-potvissen-aangespoeld-strand-texel.html

http://www.nu.nl/binnenland/4197288/naturalis-onderzoekt-dode-potvissen.html

http://inventorspot.com/articles/sperm_whale_poo_and_phytoplankton_help_offset_carbon_emissions_a_43641

http://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/saltwater-science/why_whaling_why_save_the

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Communication as the key to success

Collaboration is everything

This week approximately thirty students, including me, were disconnected from society by living on the island of Texel for a week. The project was about a sustainable Texel in the year 2065. We worked on different subjects within this topic for about six weeks in advance. For me it was hard to know what to expect because my view on this week was a bit vague. There were some lectures during the week and at the end we would present a ‘plan’ to the municipality. What this plan would look like was something we had to work on. I experienced that working together with thirty people is rather difficult. Last week we did and sometimes we struggled but I have to say that the result was surprising. The following are some of those experiences that form the basis for optimal teamwork and end product.

-The main goal is set.
Very important. Everyone has to aim for the same otherwise chaos cannot be prevented. This week we worked a long time on something no one knew what it was. The result of that day was very little.

-A leader who is accepted by everyone. 
Be sure to explicitly choose a leader before starting the discussion. This person is the one who will have the overview, lets everyone speak after each other and prevent disorganisation. At the end of a meeting, the leader needs to conclude and make sure everyone has a task. When someone undermines the authority of this leader, others have to correct this or choose another leader (Note: If everyone undermines the leader, please choose someone else). The bigger the group, the more ‘sub’ leaders you need to steer smaller groups within the whole. Besides, the leader should not be involved with the product too much, this makes a good discussion possible. If the leader is involved too much, it could be he/she can misuse the role.

-Not everyone can be happy.
People have to listen to each other and accept that there is not always room for their ‘brilliant’ idea. Recognize the situation that another comment or ‘new’ idea will confuse the process. The group has priority over an individual.

-Keep it light and stay friendly.
A nice and happy environment will get the most out of everyone. People can be more creative and will be able to work longer. Also, try to relativize. This project is not your masterpiece and failure is an option. Have a good time!

When the previous terms are met, only then you can start the conversation about the subject. So, pay attention at the start of collaboration. Last week, I did not have this knowledge, so it did not went well all the time. Now I know how important those things are and how difficult it is to work together on the same goal with a lot of people. I understand that getting something done in the real world as, for example, a government is difficult. Maybe this explains why until now little changes towards a more sustainable world are made, relative to what mankind would be able of. On the other hand, force people to work together by locking them up. You can be sure there will be a result at the end!

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I love it when a plan comes together

Last week, we have visited the beautiful Island of Texel with 30 students to develop and present our entire vision of a sustainable Texel in 2065. Apart from all struggles regarding the difficult scenario’s which we were trying to sketch covering a period of 50 (!) years and the background literature that goes with that, it seemed that the highest threshold to overcome was communication. 30 students, all with different backgrounds, 4 tutors, all with their own way of steering and of course the local inhabitants and guest speakers, each with their own point of view and individual gains to look after. How sustainable has the collaboration been within this project and how much can this influence the final result?

Last week, we have visited the beautiful Island of Texel with 30 students to develop and present our entire vision of a sustainable Texel in 2065. Apart from all struggles regarding the difficult scenario’s which we were trying to sketch covering a period of 50 (!) years and the background literature that goes with that, it seemed that the highest threshold to overcome was communication. 30 students, all with different backgrounds, 4 tutors, all with their own way of steering and of course the local inhabitants and guest speakers, each with their own point of view and individual gains to look after. How sustainable has the collaboration been within this project and how much can this influence the final result?

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From our analyzed subsystem, sustainable entrepreneurship, I have learned that a very important part of this system lays in the literal sustainability of the business, which describes the essence of insuring long term profits. If for example, a business idea has a very noble and sustainable vision to thrive for, this can only be attained if the business is financially stable and therefore ensures a future for itself. This in order to eventually fulfill this noble vision, which in this way will be double sustainable (economically and environmentally).

In my opinion, a similar scenario can be drawn by evaluating our communication over the last 10 weeks that this course has been ongoing. It is not only the great and amazing goal of a sustainable Texel in 2065 that is our goal, but just as important (and maybe even more) is the way it can be established and how important communication is within that. Group work amongst approximately 30 persons is in my opinion a very interesting representation of for example discussing climate laws amongst several political parties. Without a very clear and defined goal and without proper internal meetings, this can easily lead to a time consuming chaos.

I for example had the idea that it has not been very clear what the end goal was for the entire course and it was certainly not on the same level amongst other students. Apart from time being wasted, people got irritated and found it difficult to discuss with each other, since main goals were not the same. It seemed to me that when bottom was reached last Wednesday afternoon, a eureka-moment during one of the (few) well organized group meetings led to a common vision and a very acceptable end result on Friday.

I do believe that a better structure of communication could have increased the quality of our end product, although sometimes it seems best to hit rock bottom before you can reach higher grounds. For me personally, this week has been very educating in many ways. Not only have I gained a lot of pure knowledge, but I have also learned how to work within groups and how to put common goals before individual goals. I take all this with me, and it makes me stronger both in personal and professional way. This week has shown me that there is far more demanded from a future sustainable engineer than just a nice vision, and I’m very keen on getting there.

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Storytellers in Texel

I will start by saying the bubble week in Texel was a lot of fun, surprisingly. To be honest, I was not really looking forward to spending a week biking in the rain and surviving on Dutch food. But I did it and loved it!

Now onto what I learnt in Texel. First thing that comes to mind: coordination is everything when working in such large groups. I found that all three groups (STS, tourist and inhabitant) had great ideas but they were just not aligned. I enjoyed my time as one of the tuners. It was a great experience relaying an idea from my group to the others and vice versa and observe how the pathways would change. The iterations were frustrating but informative and satisfying at the same time.

Secondly, my interview with the artist Maria Roelofsen. Maria is a Texel based artist that collects plastic and wood waste that washes up on the beaches of Texel along with her “fans” and turns it into artistic models. We were interviewing her to understand the constraints that the people of Texel faced regarding managing their waste. She told us one major constraint was space. Households just did not enough space for three different waste bins for segregation. I then asked her if Texelaars would accept a financial reward in lieu of greater segregation of waste. Maria answered in the negative, she told us that Texelaars must be intrinsically rather than extrinsically motivated. Her answer surprised me because such incentive based mechanism were great successes. Like I said in one of our group meetings, to me, at the end of the day, value for money always beats sustainability. People are not going to choose sustainable options unless it is subsidised. It was therefore, surprising to hear Maria say that this would not work on Texel :/.

Thirdly, It is not easy to transform a scientific analysis into a relatable story. It was difficult for many of us to comprehend why we were working on a dreaming up a future for Texel rather than convert all the data and theory concepts that we had collected into a scientifically accurate report. I for sure did not read all those articles to dream of floating buildings in 2065! But then, it started making sense to me. We were there to inspire not really to make a report. I understood we had to create sort of a bed-time story to plant ideas and images in our audience’s minds. A story that had crisis and suffering but also hope and innovation. I realise now hoe much work goes into creating stories.

In a nutshell, I am glad that I made the trip to Texel. It was a pretty charming place that I wish I could have seen more of. On the plus side, I met a lot of interesting people and learnt so much.

 

 

 

       

 

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Nudging behaviorial change

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Peter on Texel

Let me start with a story. Peter is a real carnivore, eating meat every day, just like his parents do. He takes part in the course Engineering for Sustainable Development which includes a project week on Texel. That is fine with him, until he understands that all food provided will be vegetarian.

After this week with a vegetarian diet, Peter admits that you can survive without meat. An all vegetarian diet is too much for him still, but he now considers to skip meat for one day a week.

This anecdote shows that making a change in behaviour is much easier when you have already experienced the new behaviour yourself.

Theories on behavioural change

Theoretical approaches relate to this realization in the following way. The first theory is about self-efficacy, which is the belief of people in their capabilities to perform certain tasks [1]. The experience of Peter of not eating meat for 5 days teaches him that he is capable of living without eating meat, at least on the short terms. This causes his belief to grow that he might be capable of eating no more meat, increasing his self-efficacy regarding following a vegetarian diet. As a result, Peter might not continue his vegetarian diet, but chances are that he will reduce the amount of meat he eats per day, or he might skip meat in his diet every now and then. Without the project week on Texel, this would perhaps not have been the case.

The second theory I want to address is the transtheoretical model, uniting four concepts related to behavioural change. One of these concepts is the stage of change [2]. Five stages of change are said to be passed through before completely changing ones behaviour:

1)      Precontemplation (i.e. not even thinking about eating no more meat),

2)      Contemplation (i.e. seriously considering starting to skip meat once a week),

3)      Preparation (i.e. beginning an experiment to skip meat once a week),

4)      Action (i.e. skipping meat once a week for 6 months or less),

5)      Maintenance (i.e. skipping meat once a week for more than 6 months).

The paper says that self-efficacy, as described above, supports the individual to either move to the next stage or to fall back into previous stages. Generally, self-efficacy increases when the individual progresses towards further stages.

In our case, the behaviour of Peter does not match the five stages at all. Beforehand, Peter was in stage 1; not even considering to reduce his meat consumption. Being forced by his social environment, Peter experienced a vegetarian diet for five days, which is an extreme version of stage 4 of the theory: action. My interpretation of this theory is that due to relatively good experience with the vegetarian diet (although Peter would not prefer to become a full vegetarian), his self-efficacy increased. This brings him from stage 1 to stage 2 in his daily life, from where it is unknown what the future development will be.

Conclusion

To conclude, the example of Peter’s experience is a nice way to illustrate the concept of self-efficacy; the belief you have in yourself on performing a certain task. Regarding the transtheoretical model, Peter illustrates the fact that not all behavioural change follows the order of the five stages. Behavioural change from intrinsic motivation might, but clearly external motivations can disturb the process.

PS: Peter, can you update us with your progress over the next 6 months to see whether you reach stage 5? ;-)

[1] Usher, E.L., Urdan, T. (2016). Self-Efficacy, Encyclopedia of Mental Health, second edition, 75-79.
[2] Callaghan, P., Khalil, E., Morres, I. (2010). A prospective evaluation of the Transtheoretical Model of Change applied to exercise in young people, International Journal of Nursing Studies, 47(1), 3-12.

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Designing with disasters

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Last week, we, as a group of students from the TU Delft, designed the future of Texel over a timeframe of 50 years.  The results have been presented to the people of Texel. They were surprised, but still content. The biggest surprise was a flood happening in 2031 that would completely destroy a part of the island.

Of course, this flood isn’t based on a calculation, but it’s nice to have such a disaster in a 50 year plan. Why? Well, nobody is able to see 50 years into the future. Anything can happen, which means something bad is sure to happen. By taking such a disaster into account beforehand, the result becomes more realistic.

In this specific scenario, the flood turned out to be a good thing. A disaster can completely destroy the social structure, making room for a new infrastructure that is more up to date with the ideals of the local community and the zeitgeist. Secondly, it can set people into motion. People who didn’t have a sustainable mindset might get it after their house is destroyed by global warming. It might be the final factor that is needed for people to take action.

The next question that arose, took a different turn. If disasters can turn out to be a good thing over the course of 50 years, shouldn’t we create an artificial disaster? An interesting concept, but we should make sure that nobody gets hurt. If we know one thing, it is that “acting as God”, might end up with a different effect than we actually planned. Who should be the person to control this artificial disaster? How do we make sure this person doesn’t have too much power? These are important questions that need to be answered before we start thinking about an artificial disaster.

Perhaps the idea of an upcoming disaster can be enough. Perhaps people get scared by the idea a flood might be upcoming in 2031 and start acting on it now. So, dear person who is reading this, why don’t you turn to your neighbor today and convince him or her a big flood is coming in 2031. 

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A Crisis To Make Change

What I didn't understand 10 years ago.

What I didn't understand 10 years ago.

An Inconvenient Truth

A crisis to make change, it was the motto of the EFSD excursion at Texel. With 30 students we designed a future scenario of 50 years, in which two crises would happen. We didn't want to make it more 'interesting', we didn't want to animate the Teselaars or the municipality of Texel, but we needed to create future innovations. There was more than just these two created crises, though. The week got his crisis too. Working for 5 days together with 30 students, discussing all day long for 10 hours a day about what the sustainable future of Texel will look like, a crisis was inevitable. The enormous effect of a crisis, reminded me on something that happened to me ten years ago.

Ten years ago, I went with my parents to the Louis Hartloper complex to watch the movie An Inconvenient Truth. I still can remember the feeling afterwards. I was so shocked and felt so confused. In one way I strongly believed that we (and I)  had to change our life's immediately, on the other hand:  what could I do? The graphs of changes over the years and visuals of the consequences convinced me totally. My parents (and also others) were still so relaxed, while I had the feeling that we couldn't wait. Now a couple of years later, the climate change doesn't  drive me that much anymore. What did the documentary do to me by then?

It was the crisis Al Gore sketched what succeeded this documentary. The detailed visualisation of the future touched people their feelings, instead of their mind. People already knew what was going on, but this documentary made it real. I remember how the movie helped me to change. The things my father told me to do before, like turning of the lights, showering not too long, taking the bicycle instead of the bus, were things I accepted from afterwards. My father telling me what were good or bad habits for the environment, and knowing this, didn't really make a change. Being confronted with the affect of the climate change, the crisis it will lead into, made me motivated to change myself.

It was not that from that moment, my life changed totally. Why I mention this memory is to show, how this worked for me and probably for others as well. Furthermore I believe Al Gore his documentary was really smart. It was not that Al Gore researched and discovered the environment issues. He did a good job in the representation of research results to the normal world. He succeeded in convincing the world and motivating people to change. Al Gore affected people by the sketched future scenario, including the climate crisis. This tactic was something that came back last week at Texel. Last week I understood that the documentary made use of a strategy and after last week I am even more convinced that this strategy really works. 

Published by Hanna van der Ploeg

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Zoom-out

Zooming out to picture the two pathways

Zooming out to picture the two pathways

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If I had to describe this week on Texel with two words these would be ‘zoom out’. We have been zooming out like when you shorten the focal length of a camera to capture a broader view in a picture.

We have honoured creativity in our own bubble, in which we allowed ourselves to think beyond present and create future, imagine ourselves as an oracle and even judge the impacts of ‘futuristic’ designs. In which we allowed ourselves to think beyond technology, since technology is embedded in a society with a local culture and identity. In which we could be Creators of future history inventing crises as a catalyst for re-generation and positive change. In which we talked about sustainable business models where economy can be blue and about sustainable relationships; about fostering the local potential and valuing quality, community and uniqueness; about innovation or creative destruction in a connected world; about decisions in the form of pathways. After this experience, I plan to push the boundaries of my imagination more often: it raises ambitions, avoids taking assumptions for granted… and is simply fun!

But here it comes: the left side of the brain, the logical one. The broader the view… the more abstract and complex the picture becomes. After this week, I understand sustainability as something vaguer than I did when I was ‘zooming-in’ my subsystem. And why not: more utopian. It appears to me now as a balanced state in the long-term future; in which the weighting scale of my first column manages to keep ‘people, profit and planet’ in equilibrium over time as a result of a new common mind-set. But my left side of the brain suggests that this fully balanced state is not reachable in practice. We are subject to constant change that breaks the balance. Crises trigger evolution but they also bring a sense of urgency for survival, which focuses on immediate results for the short-term future. So, how to do? How to reach a balance between zooming in and zooming out? Between individualism and community? Between the ‘nostalgic’ and ‘utopic’ Texel that they described us, where there is both restauration and innovation?

My plan is to embrace and keep the feeling I had when biking in complete darkness, when hearing complete silence in the dunes, when listening to the initiatives of locals or when imagining and creating future as part of the group. And then… let this feeling inspire my (zoomed-in) daily actions. I am curious about how Texel will be in 2065. If I am able to experience it with 73 years old I wish I can still feel the beauty of its nature.

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What is in my back-pack?

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So this is it: this course and the Texel project have come to an end. We, the students, spent five days in the island sharing daily life, thinking and being inspired about sustainability and working long hours to develop a final product for the municipality. A lot of things were new for me: the intensity of the work, the Dutch and the Texelaar culture, living in a studying environment with people that have similar interests, working in a multidisciplinary and international team... Undoubtedly, it was a new experience and I think I learned a lot. But what is it that we have learned?

During the final evaluation of the week, which was (again) dominated by the stress of the clock, it was difficult to put words on the learning we had done. Probably it was too soon and we were still too close to the work to get the general image. However, I still believe that the most valuable thing that I take with me from these days in Texel is difficult to be expressed in a column and it has to do with the interaction between the students in the group. In my opinion, there was a very special mix of creativity, discipline and common sense that is hard to find in a technical environment. Usually, I’m used to make a distinction between what is “uni” stuff, which is good because it exercises my brain but a lot of times can be boring or too bounded, and my personal life, in which fun, expression and emotions fit. In Texel, it seemed that these two separate worlds could come a bit more together and that the coexistence of expression and rationality was in some degree possible. This was in part caused by the not-so-technical job we were doing, which required exercising our imaginative skills, but also because the people that gathered in the island are—in my opinion—more creative, self-thinking and non-conformist than what is found on average in a technical university.

On Friday afternoon, when we were going out of the bubble, some of us thought that it was a pity that such synergy of the team working together was going to be missed as each of us will continue with their own academic work separately. In my case, my Erasmus exchange programme in Delft is also coming to an end. So for the next semester I will be back in my hometown; this southern European country where the impact of the economical crisis is very much felt on numbers young people unemployed and the segregated political situation makes very difficult steering the wheel towards sustainable development.

Who knows, perhaps in the future some of us will meet again for other interesting projects. For now, what is going to be in my back-pack is the aim to become more conscious about the consequences of my actions in the environment and the will to work towards a more sustainable way of living in this world.

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Brainstorming to build a united system for the future of Texel.

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Last Monday we arrived on Texel with 30+ people, aiming to spend a productive week working on our proposal for Sustainable Texel 2065. A warm place, properly arranged for teamwork, was waiting for us to fill it with our energy, ideas, laughs and hope for a better future.


The first day we were asked to think about what could bring the people of Texel together, so that they will think, act, produce together and prepare a sustainable future and a cooperative society. For example, to think about developing the actions of the Verzamelpost and come up with ideas about activities, functions, concepts that can potentially attract the citizens of the island. At that specific moment, this call appeared to be one of our small tasks for the week. However, looking back someone could say that this has been the main topic!


Brainstorming on shaping a sustainable future on a span of 50 years, where all the sub-systems (organic waste, inorganic waste, sustainable lifestyle, mobility, entrepreneurship etc.) would be integrated we, all together, realized how hard it would be to come up with a final product that Texel would find it reasonable to support and to use as a map to work on for the future. Soon the focus was shifted from interrelating the sub-systems, which have been developed through teamwork, so that they will all be integrated in common pathways, to the invention of “milestones” (facts and decisions that will potentially change the reality of Texel) that will become the driving forces for the development of the island.


How many different opinions existed in the group of thirty people? Probably as many as the people, but due to the limitation of time we needed to keep the speed up, make points and conclude our thoughts. The matter of communication has been crucial, as we were divided in three teams that should work on the same track for the purpose of creating the Sophie movie, the documentary and the final report. The function of the “tuners”, two people from each of the three teams was very effective in creating focused and valid communication.


The word of the days was “crisis”, as the integration of environmental and technology crisis in the pathways to 2065 were considered to be the ways to raise the audience’s sensitivity and interest for their piece of earth. The goal was not to impress, but as it has already been addressed, to make people think differently about what they believed so far. We all develop our small sub-system, so that we can live and grow in convenience. A crisis though can have such a huge impact that every part of the community will inevitably be rearranged. In that case there are more chances that the community will survive if people act together for one chosen goal, rather than independently. The ideas of constant development and adaptability, that are taking place in the pathways, in between the crises, show that no matter what happens, humans will be moving forward, and so will Texel.


Stronger than all the sustainable technologies and practices is the realization of the people of Texel that they will experience the future together and therefore they should build it together, choosing their milestones and guidelines, just as we did. We are not only students in a course, but also in real life.


I could say that the ideas above are the very brief conclusion I can make for the product we created during the Bubble-week. To close-up, co-operation and communication go together with self-expression, friction, the process of rethinking and coming to an agreement. This is an answer to the question “How to get there” and does not have to do purely with sustainability principles.


All in all, on Texel we came across the complex situation of bringing the ideas of thirty people together, in one reasonable and strong plan. We shared all the moments, both the painful and the nice ones. As always, if we would do it again we would do it better ;) .

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Man-made crisis, man-made change

Often in history, a catastrophic event has caused us to change our behaviour. Inevitable if you do not see it coming, but this time it is different. Global warming has been proven for a long time, and it will definitely change our planet for the worse. So, let us open our eyes betimes and change towards a sustainable community.

Often in history, a catastrophic event has caused us to change our behaviour. Inevitable if you do not see it coming, but this time it is different. Global warming has been proven for a long time, and it will definitely change our planet for the worse. So, let us open our eyes betimes and change towards a sustainable community.

ClosingEyes

A great week it has been, the Bubble week that we’ve had with the whole group on Texel. From Monday until Friday last week, we have stayed in the city of Den Hoorn on Texel to finish our project. By being on-site, we have been able to listen to Texelaars by having guest lectures from them, but also by going into the field ourselves. It has shown us that many Texelaars are busy with sustainability, initiatives are wide-spread, and many have the right mind-set for change. It seems as though all the necessary ingredients for a change towards a sustainable community are present and yet it isn’t changing the community much at the moment. Maybe it just needs time, but maybe it needs something else which is not worth waiting for…

 

Often in history it has been a certain event, affecting all layers of society, which caused change, a crisis. Crisis changes the situation of people so drastically that they will have to divert from their normal way of living. Either man-made or by nature, a community is faced with problems that make them adapt. Sometimes, this crisis is sudden, such as a flood or a hurricane, but it can also have been luring around the corner for already a long time. Think of the financial crisis around 2008 of which the world is still recovering. It has only been after such a financial crisis, that extra regulations have been set in order to prevent this from happening again.

 

At this moment, I feel that something similar to the financial crisis is happening. Only the impact it will have will be much larger, affecting everyone on this earth and striking on all levels of society. Scientists have proven that global warming is genuinely happening and sea level rises are actually already a fact [1]. If we continue the way we are living our lives, an environmental crisis at a global scale will be a fact quickly. Probably already in the current generation, but definitely in the one to come. It is almost a pity that the environment has been able to cope with a lot of man-made disruptions, because it hasn’t taught us how badly we are treating our own environment. Also, it is proven that the result of the emissions, has a time-delay. Even if we would completely stop emitting greenhouse gases at this moment, the temperature rise peak would happen after around 5-10 years.

 

Therefore, I would like to ask you the following. Please do not sit and wait until a new crisis comes banging on your door. It is already far ahead up in the streets and you can see it coming. If we change now, we will be able to stop this crisis from growing in size. Every major change start with one person, but real changes happen if you can let others join. So please come together and make a change altogether, before we get wet feet.

 

[1] NASA, ‘Vital Signs of the planet: Sea Level’, read on 20/01/2016, http://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/sea-level/

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Dear sustainable Engineer just imagine,

just imagine, source: https://www.csgoteamfinder.com/

Several months ago I was selected to join the course Engineering for Sustainable Development. According to the description, the course offered complexity, tension and dilemma’s that come with sustainable practices. To indulge in such end results, however, commitment was required. Thus, for  six weeks I wrote columns, followed various workshops and researched the current Texelaars’ lifestyle. In total, I consistently worked for 16 hrs/week on the Texel Project.

This process culminated in a visit to the beautiful island of Texel itself, last week. During this so called Bubble week we (a group of 30 international and multidisciplinary TU students)  intensively worked together, sharing our thoughts and research data we had acquired over the previous weeks. It was our responsibility to analyse the (im)possibilities of a sustainable future of the island and to design two pathways of transition to sustainable futures. These could give us insight about the intricate relation between engineering, environment and society.

As clear as is this goal was at the start of Bubble week, halfway through, with only 2 days to go, it seemed more vague than ever. Both teachers and students envisioned themselves living in Texel in the year 2065. On the one hand, we (the students) came up with middle-of-the-road ideas for promoting sustainable lifestyles. Think of magazines, festivals and (online) platforms. These can be summarized as fairly predictable, though relevant and straight-forward. To the contrary, our teachers tried to convince us of floating houses, flying people, virtual holidays – truly creative stuff.

Thus, Wednesday night, our fun night out, was cancelled and we had a crisis meeting. We were struggling with the predictions of the future Texel. A big mistake, for we were not supposed to predict,  but to explore what may take place in the future. A plausible future - imaginary - and not a truly probable future. 

It appeared that we’d totally forgotten about the fact that things change more quickly than we thought it would. Current boundaries are not the same as future ones. These  unexpected things should be taken into account. When that contingency is respected, planning for the (distant) future becomes a more creative process, freed from our engineering, strict and dominant ways of thinking. Yes, it was about multiple crazy pathways and system thinking and not about the linear, one-to-one approach… It took time to get everyone to adopt the same line on matters but, as the evening progressed, a general consensus was reached.

The result? In a way we did, we tackled the problem. We got our creative brains in a cross-fertilizing frenzy, (like Lennon's Imagine told us “It’s easy if you try”) suddenly producing fantastic ideas all over: Why not design a flood in 2031? Why shouldn’t we mention a virtual crisis and lets built a floating university! And so it was. 

Thus, at last, the course description was right. The Bubble week on Texel was complex, tense, we had to overcome dilemma’s and create new ways of tackling our conditioned and institutionalized minds. 10 weeks ago I had never heard of it, by now I can proudly present our striking Pathways towards a more sustainable future!

 

 

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The people factor

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Us, as the young designers and engineers are taught to think about strategies, plans or designs of something; in case of course Engineering for Sustainable Development about future vision of sustainable Texel in 50 years. While working on the topic for several weeks, we have come up with many strategies and plans of how such shift towards sustainable future could happen. However, as most of us students are enthusiasts about the topic of sustainability, in most of these scenarios we assumed, that other people will also be caught very easily about the thought of sustainability and will follow our visions without much effort. How wrong we were… During the bubble week in Texel it became very obvious, that while designing, we often tend to forget a very important aspect of the design; the people factor.

Interesting to notice is that different actors have different motives and behavior and sometimes it is necessary to critically deconstruct the truth behind their statements. For example the municipality most of the times stands for big visions, plans and strategies of the whole area of their power. However, often the implementation of these visions is the weak point and sometimes the visions stay only visions and never become reality; although usually the governmental body would not admit it easily.

Entrepreneurs and businesses are another interesting group of people. In their case we tend to rely on the fact, that such people could be the drivers for the sustainability movement, mostly due to their willingness to try new things and not being afraid of uncertainties and risks. Some of the entrepreneurs are indeed like that; they think in social and environmental terms, they do care about the community and the nature around them and they try to come up with new innovative ideas to strengthen the resilience of these things. But, most of the businesses and entrepreneurs have been and still are only profit driven. “What’s my profit from it?” is the usual question…

 The common people, in other words the residents, are usually assumed to come on board of any visions, which strive to improve the lifestyle of the area, with ease. We could say that sustainability visions are of this kind, as the happiness of people is an important aspect of such visions. However, we tend to forget, that common people prefer the known areas of their comfort zone and basically tend to oppose any radical changes, because they do not trust they will work as planned.

All the thoughts about different types of actors in our scenarios lead to one simple conclusion: while designing strategies for sustainability, we cannot rely on the enthusiasm or willingness of people. On the contrary we need to focus in our plans on how to convince the people about the benefits our plan brings and also about the possible incentives for the various stakeholders. We need to be able to answer the question “and what is in it for me?” to each and every one of them in order for our strategy to succeed in the reality.

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Willie Wortels Unite!

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Willie Wortels unite!

Last week, me and some thirty-odd other students went to Texel in order to finalize our vision on a sustainable Texel in 2065. Our aim was to present this vision about what Texel would look like in 2065 and how inhabitants and tourists would live and interact with Texel by that time. Of course we were not there just to tell the Texelers that there is a chance that by that time, their cows and sheep will be connected to the internet to be readily available for a dinner request. Or that Texel would own a floating university. Or that a disastrous flood will likely destroy half of Texel in about 20 years.

These all sound like just some random future hoo-ha that anyone could come up with, and maybe that is true. However, we did present this story, and many other potential scenarios, to Texel. And we did it with a reason. We have realized that the Texelers are a really ambitious group of people living in a unique community. Furthermore, Texel's municipality has decided in 2008 that its electricity supply should be 100% sustainable in 2020, and this seems to be supported and widely appreciated by the Texel community. However, we have also discovered that this might not become reality if things go forth as they are going right now.

There are a lot of interesting innovative projects going on in Texel that are directly related with sustainability (though not necessarily with energy supply). One example that comes to mind is Frank Gorter, who is supposedly known as the local "Willie Wortel" of Texel. He runs a farm that he aims to be sustainable as soon as possible. For that, he has already built his own wood gasification system and he raises his cattle without the use of antibiotics. That's pretty impressive! However, Frank has also made us realize that there is still a lot to improve when it comes to cooperation between different people on Texel. Because all of these projects are scattered around the island and lack a common vision or purpose.

And that is where we come in. Why did we put Texel through such horrible scenarios such as a devastating flood? Because generally, action is not taken until it is too late. And by envisioning such scenarios, hopefully we made Texel aware of the dangers that lurk out there in the sea. A positive climate for innovation is needed to propel Texel into a fruitful future without care for floods or other forms of crisis. If the Willie Wortels on Texels can unite and be supported to start more initiatives, this can lead to great things!

Thank you Texel for a wonderful experience!

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Promoting sustainable transport

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Last week we had our Bubble week at Texel, one full week of working hard and talking with each other about making Texel self-sufficient in 2065. We talked about several subjects like waste, food, educaton, but also mobility. We had visions about traveling in a bubble around a floating university. But this is still far away, to make this big change, first smaller steps have to be made. We mentioned the transport of goods at the Island at the moment. For processing of food, but also waste, the goods have to travel to the mainland or even further. It is sometimes possible to process on Texel, but because of regulations or economic reasons, the transport is a more suitable solution. In a lot of cases it is cheaper to transport the goods, but it would be wonderful if the transport is not needed anymore. The transport of course brings damage to the environment, but a first step in this can be changing this unsustainable transport into a sustainable version.

By changing the regular diesel trucks into sustainable trucks, the costs are around €40.000, - more expensive. The province of Friesland, one of the northern provinces of the Netherlands, came up with a new subsidy for more sustainable transport. Frisian entrepreneurs can receive subsidy for transport with cleaner fuels such as LNG and Green Gas, Pure Plant Oil (PPO) and dual fuel. This subsidy is introduces on the first of January of 2016. The additional costs of renewable trucks or ships are quite considerable. The subsidy gives €8000 per truck to entrepreneurs.

This subsidy is a good step in making entrepreneurs aware of sustainability, but I think this subsidy is not enough to make minds changing, it is only a boost for the entrepreneurs who already think about sustainability. The step is still quite big to change the transportation of the goods into a sustainable solution. I think the entrepreneurs have to be more aware of the emissions they make. To make them change their mind, the costs for transporting with polluting trucks or ships should be much higher. The subsidy is a good first step, it is helping the ones who are already thinking about being sustainable, but it would be good to challenge the ones who are not thinking about this issue. It is good that this subsidy is a possibility for entrepreneurs to be sustainable, but it is still better to transport as less as possible.

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Change in my daily life

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Since at Texel we have been talking a lot about change and the willingness for change I have been thinking about it a lot myself. To me most subjects didn't ask for change in my case. Talking about eating less meat, I have been a vegetarian for more than half my life already, talking about using less plastic, I use only my own bags and go to the market every week to save packages (and money). To me that is just the way I have been raised and therefore I ever had to put effort in changing my behaviour towards a more sustainable lifestyle. 
At Texel we have been talking to all kinds of people, people who want to get new (more sustainable) initiatives on the road and people who have been living a certain way all their life and don't feel the need for change and everything in between. Especially the second type of people were the ones we wanted to address. One of my objectives of the week at Texel was always involving the people and trying to get a grasp of their way of thinking. But although the willingness was there to understand those people I noticed that I found it really hard to understand why they did not want to change (or couldn't). 

Different ways of setting a transition process in motion were discussed during the course (bottom up, top down etc.). I found it very hard to relate to these methods and apply them in a daily life situation. Until I got back working again after being away for the week. 

You have to know that I am not really a morning person and normally this means that I am not good at being in time in the morning. So it was Tuesday morning again and unfortunately I arrived half an hour past the time I wanted to be there. I got mad at myself and my colleagues asked how I managed to get up at Texel everyday much earlier. Which finally provided my with the link with the need for change in my daily life.

I know I have to go to bed earlier, I know I need to get out earlier and I know it takes 10 minutes to cycle to the TU instead of 5... but still I don't. The easy way out is of course saying that it will never change and people will just have to accept the fact that I won't arrive in time. But I think that I have finally found a subject where I can apply those models towards change and look for the proper incentive that will make me be in time again (I did hear though that people who tend to be late are just optimistic because they overestimate the amount of things they can do in a given time, but maybe that is just me looking for an excuse again).... and about the question how I managed to get up that early at Texel the whole week.. I have no idea. 

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Lessons learned of the ESD course

I think it is suitable and worthwhile to use the last column to evaluate the ESD course. What have I learned, what can be improved?

During the course, I grew sceptical. Studying an island where one has never been before, on a system level, with a group of 5 people, in the form of a course of just 5 ECTS, I found very ineffective. It resulted for me in disinterest, the first 6 weeks felt as a time burden for me. In hindsight I can say that about 5 % of everything written down in these 6 weeks was usable for the bubble week. The rest was blabla.

The lectures however I found very interesting; these were mostly not about the situation of Texel.

As a result I started the bubble week sceptical and disinterested in the content. To my believe the whole thing was to vague, to far away, to much 'blabla'. However, something luckily changed during the bubble week. I grew a bit more interested in the situation of Texel, mostly thanks to the lectures given by the guests. When we started talking about things happening in 2050 I lost interest however. So the interest in the content was kept quite low. However, I found the process of collaborating with 30 students towards one end-product fascinating to witness. Where some people started taking leadership roles and gradually during the week began to step down, others emerged in these roles. Most of all, I learned a lot from seeing Caroline at work, getting a whole group agreeing on one vision. Amazing. 

So in the end, besides getting a bit more knowledge about non-energetic sustainability issues, I learned something about group processes, how this relates to creativity and effectiveness and how one can manage that. Also, I realise now that this form (a week at location with the whole team) of education works really well. 

One improvement to consider for this course should be to change the first 6 weeks. Working in groups of 4 students on a vague concept of a place where you have never been before does not ignite interest. Maybe start with a long weekend in Texel, do research and follow lecture in Delft, end with a week in Texel? For the research part: quite the group work. People perform better when they are responsible. Let students do individual work, then collaborate in Texel.  

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Island days, Island ways

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It was almost five o’clock in the afternoon. The golden red sun seared our necks as it was going to its dusk, and our feet ached from the non-stop cycling. As we steered our bicycles around the island, we fell in love with the mesmerizing scenic beauty of Texel.  

Up green hills and down flat land, along the dunes of the coast and through the forests of the inner part, we travelled alongside each other. There was an eerie feeling of solitude. As far as we knew, there is always the hum of people and cars during summer. But that winter, grey day, there was nothing. There was no one but us and the sound of the birds twittering on the trees. The whole island seemed from another world, made out of a winter fairytale.

Trying to take the short road back, a side path we followed. Our bicycles sunken into the crumbling earth made ridding such a difficulty. I remember I turned carefully to the left as not to slip in the piles of dried leaves and branches. Little by little we made it to the main bicycle line again…A small church on our right, standing alone, the memory of another time…

And then, a muted rumbling in the distance caused me to look up from my bike for the telltale signs of another storm. And yes, there it was, the inky black clouds lining the horizon, ready to pure down heavy rain...

By the moment we got to De Verzamel Post we were wet to the bone! I remember the frost nipping at my frozen feet, the water dripping from my hair….But what a relief, there was soup for dinner to heal our trembling bodies…

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Five days X thirty people = one vision.

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Even for our group of students it was hard to put all this math together, but in the end we managed. All it took was to forget to face it as a math problem, but as a creativity one.

We started the week thinking how to make Texel self-sufficient in 2065 by the eyes of 2016, we thought we were doing quite well, until we proposed what we aimed to do and understood that it was not possible. We could not solve the problems of the future thinking that they would face the same problems of the present. It took some days until we noticed this, but we finally did it.

I learned in Texel a lot about group work and synthesis, and I believe those were very valuable lessons, on how a team can get to an objective if everyone is dedicated to it, even if they are 30 different persons, having different backgrounds and ideas. This is a lesson that goes beyond this bubble week and I think many of us took it back to the mainland. Regarding synthesis, we had to put all this work together, and in two days we could materialize everything, quite impressive. Even more if you consider that we had to change our presentation approach, to transmit our ideas to anyone, independent of background.

But most of all, this week made me remember to aim always further, aim for the unexpected. A friend of mine said once something I never forgot: “If you aim for throwing a stone five meters away you will probably make it, but you will never go further; however, if you aim for one hundred meters you may even never get there, but you will probably make it until 30, 50 or 70”. This week in Texel made me remember to set my objectives further almost at an imaginary level, maybe I will not accomplish them, but in the way there I will get a lot done.

For all these reflections, I would like to thank here all my colleagues and tutors. Texel has taught me a lot, it was a very nice island by our bike lights, I hope to see it by daylight in the future.

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