On the 27th of March 2017, the Barcelona CommUnity organised a TED Talk Discussion Session, after the format proved to be successful and well-praised in the Paris CommUnity. Students from the different InnoEnergy Master School programmes, along with InnoEnergy staff and friends came to the highly-rated Belgian Bar IMPRFCTO, in the city center.
Around fifty attendees were there, all driven by the idea of having a positive impact in the sustainable development of society and the energy field. The evening began by the greetings of Max Dopchie, the owner of the bar. He was delighted to have people with a sustainability-driven mindset in his bar, as one of his heart’s passions is thriving for a more sustainable world. After having worked several years in the finance and business world in Belgium, Max started an NGO called GreenCaps, where he promotes changing everyday behaviors while encouraging that “a more sustainable way of living is possible, and it can be achieved while having fun”. Some examples are “October without heating”, “July without beef” and “February without waste”. After seeing the success it’s had in Belgium, especially October without heating, Max wants to take it European-wide. It was truly inspiring and special to hear Max talk about how he ended up starting GreenCaps and how successful it has gotten today.
After Max’s introduction, we watched the first TED talk, which was by Simon Anholt, a policy advisor who has advised 53 presidents and prime ministers in the last 20 years. During his speech, he spoke about his quest to understand why people admire Country A and not Country B. The talk, titled “Which country does the most good for the world?”, describes how most people find it more important that a country be good, rather than be rich, beautiful or powerful. “And being good is nothing more than considering the common good as much as considering its own citizens”, Mr. Anholt stated. In an ever-globalised world, “countries still behave as if they aren’t connected; they still measure their performance entirely inwards, and the population is to blame, as it isn’t requiring its policy makers to act differently”. After several years of research, Mr. Anholt and his team built “The Good Country Index”. In 2014, Ireland was declared the “goodest” country in the world, and as of 2017, Sweden tops the ranking. The link to the Index can be found here. As the video ended, the conversation began. With people from so many countries together, many different insights came into discussion. Despite not being directly related to energy, the participants agreed that in a globalised world, cooperation and common good will aid sustainable development. Nonetheless, with a majority of rich countries topping the list, some major questions arose. “How can some countries contribute to common good, when there’s famine and poverty inwards?” A shared perception of various participants was that it was not easy to gain reputation when there are humanitarian crises within your country, yet international cooperation is not only intended for aiding others but for receiving help, and with greater cooperation, many crises can be overcome.
The second TED Talk shown was by Mónica Araya. Born in Costa Rica, Ms. Araya spoke about “a small country with big ideas to get rid of fossil fuels”. Being a country with no army, Costa Rica had moulded its own history into a country whose electrical system relies nearly 100% on renewable energy resources. “Yet, it hides a paradox, which is that nearly 70 percent of all our energy consumption is oil”, Ms. Araya noted. As outlined by some participants, this was not a unique reality in Costa Rica; power production accounts for 20-30% of a given country’s energy demand, whilst the other 70% is required for transportation and heating, among other human needs. Ms. Araya envisioned a transition towards electric mobility, where the current generation of young people would let go of fossil fuels for good, as Costa Rica did with its army in the 1940s. During the group discussion, the participants agreed that there must be a transition in the current energy system. The great reliance on fossil fuels is certainly triggering climate change, and a transition towards more sustainable resources must be sought after. However, transitions come with important ethical concerns. Mexico, for instance, has multiplied its proven reserves of oil. Is it fair to a developing country not to be able to exploit its resources for its community’s well being? Not only Mexico, but other developing countries with economies driven by the development of their fossil fuel industries can ask this same question. Diversification of the economy was mentioned, and as if the first TED Talk were intended for the second one, the words “international cooperation” and “common good” came from the participant’s discussions.
All the insights were certainly very interesting, with several participants quoting experiences of their home countries and opinions about policy, among others. Once the talks ended, what was at first a group discussion soon became a dozen different conversations of participants meeting each other, discussing about the TED talks and other topics they were interested about. The session had finalised in Barcelona, but it was a good experience, worthwhile to be held once again.
David Duque Lozano - Barcelona CommUnity
The CommUnity Post