UE: put grit, go from this ... to this!

Publish date 25-11-2021

by Carlo Degiacomi

Do you know the Peanuts?
The strips with Charlie Brown as the protagonist.
In his style he says: «Sometimes at night I dream and I ask myself: is life a multiple choice quiz or a true and false test?
»… And I hear a little voice that replies:« we are desolate, but life is an essay of at least a thousand words ».
On this basis I wrote, with others, the text of an interactive didactic game (an exhibit) on climate change and the ecological transition for children aged 10 to 99. We started from a true or false to explain that the issue is much more complex and we called it Mission 2050: a journey into the future to understand what to do today. It was presented at the Legambiente National Festival in Grosseto.
Try to submit this incipit to your friends, after having tried it yourself.
The weather. Climate change is a problem that does not concern us because it will only have consequences in the long term, on people who have yet to be born. True or false? Space.
Climate change has and will have consequences for areas far from where we live: "there and not here". True or false? The culture. Climate change to be understood, assessed and tackled requires widespread, scientific and even specific knowledge in many disciplines.
True or false? The denial. Climate change is ignored by some people because it would force them to face serious problems that are easier to deny. True or false? Immobility.
Climate change also requires solutions that change behavior and habits, which many want to get away from. True or false? Superiority. Climate change is not caused by man who is at the center of nature and who will continue to exploit it as much as possible for his needs. True or false?
From the titles of each question you understand that I actually followed the pattern of a cognitive dissonance. Difficult term that actually describes what we have practiced for a long time (and many still today) in the face of Covid.
In the coming months and then in the next few years, in the face of an intensification of the debate (COP 26 - United National Climate Change Conferences in October) and the need to make decisions on environmental issues including Climate change, the same psychological removal will be triggered. Main reflection: ignoring and erasing a problem that seems unsolvable to us, especially if it is presented to us as something dramatic and without solutions, which calls into question our lifestyle, traditional sectors in which many are committed to defending because it represents the current source of income, trying to postpone any change instead of planning it.
Better not think about it, throw it back in some corner of the brain. This dissonance is the major basis of individual and collective resistance to a real action of contrast and choice for the near future.

Now let's take a leap: let's ask ourselves when we could discuss real issues, each in their own sphere and in their ranks of friends and acquaintances. On the other hand, there is a risk of restarting in Italy, as with a broken record, with the sole discussion of whether the environmental crisis as faced for now by Europe, with courage, planning, and appropriations, will be punitive and regressive for some sectors. Immediately there are lobbies and public opinion that have the aim of delaying, sabotaging, watering down any decision.
To initiate the real fight against climate change, it must be combined with the theme of ecological transition or green tradition. This is also a difficult concept, but which has its origins in the European Commission chaired by Ursula Von Der Leyen, who also placed it at the center of economic and political issues starting from December 2019, when it launched the European Green Deal and then Next Generation EU (allocating funds).
Ambitious but determined central objectives for a more sustainable future of the European Union. Decarbonisation, that is the reduction of emissions from fossil sources. The circular economy that seeks to replace the use of new resources with reuse and reuse, new products by taking care of their design and life cycle in order to increase their sustainability. The protection of the integrity of ecosystems with a new approach according to which human beings are an integral part of ecosystems for which the protection of these must be a priority. Europe shows us that this is the way to economic growth and to create new jobs.
Our individual and collective behaviors are important for this path, but they are not enough.
This is why I insist on the need to also find new technological parameters.
Technology does not solve all the problems we have on the environment and the depletion of resources, but it cannot be ignored to dream of returning to the past as many do.
For these goals we need a lot of new culture, training, research, innovation, forward-looking entrepreneurial spirit, ...
The three main areas, in a technological and humanistic mix, close to us, towards which we would like the attention of the new generations to be placed are: helping citizens, especially if urbanized, to be informed, aware, able to choose; train professional people in their fields with a mix of science and social sciences capable of concentrating in their fields (public institutions, organizations, companies, activities) on the things that can be done immediately with existing technologies; research with innovative parameters for new technologies in all sectors, especially manufacturing, agriculture, energy, transport, evaluating their social impact as well as their technical effects.

An example of various new job opportunities and commitment for young people, who are certainly not in the traditional sectors.
High competence is often required. Technological and product innovations: developing new products, services, technologies, sustainable tools aimed at various markets and attentive to the territorial dimension.
Additional green costs: carry out cost-benefit analyzes of the actions taken and to be undertaken to lower the additional costs of green choices. Funding for green choices: finding funding to support the introduction of ever greater changes in environmental sustainability.
Investments in research: increase investments in training and research where different disciplines converge (biology, chemistry, physics, political science, economics and engineering, etc.). Organizational innovations: innovating together with technologies and digital, also "the way of doing things", the organizational and system aspects of the company, following the example of the circular economy. Incentives for dissemination of innovations: asking institutions to adopt policies that help innovations to become reality, to spread.
Wouldn't it be better to identify and democratize the debate / choices in which we would all like to participate? Participation must not be a tool to always block everything, but to accelerate the transformation, which does not happen without it.
Some points available in the area near us: a- the hundreds of service companies (utilities) managed by local authorities are focused on the energy and ecological transition; b- which incentives and reliable reward mechanisms are put in place for those who reduce their environmental impact; c- set aside a certain parochialism towards one's own land (which is often not love at all) which prevents from making alliances in other coordinated investments, scale projects, concrete, in favor of one's own territory even if it is a territory today without great resources , but capable of enhancing what it possesses and attracting new energies; d- Arpa and Universities and Polytechnics, operating in large territorial areas, can use their skills and seek others for less improvised political decisions, implemented with control mechanisms; and to think a priori, as an act of prevention, measures capable of reducing the consequences of necessary and rapid environmental choices, which affect in terms of income and reduction of opportunities for those who are blocked on traditional sectors. It is a track that can be stretched.
I stressed this aspect because how is it possible to carry out ecological reconversion without the planning vitality of municipalities and mountain communities, without the bet of municipal companies, large and small utilities, urban service managers? Giuseppe De Rita speaks of implementing poverty in no uncertain terms: descending institutional channels do not work starting from state administrations. External consulting firms are sought that do not always know how to deal with public administration processes.
We use the tool of tenders that try to identify those who have ideas, projects, desire to do, but perhaps only large municipalities and large companies are able to present themselves as adequate.
The planning capacity will be tough, but the implementation capacity and spending capacity will be even more difficult.
Do you carefully observe whether the Italian political class today offers spaces and solutions?
There is little in the media. The big question is "like a house".
You risk finding yourself unprepared.

Here too we make examples to understand each other.
The government, using European funds, appears to be committed to plans for an intelligent national electricity grid, capable of managing fluctuating renewables and then the use of electric cars. Then spread of control units for electric cars (6 million electric cars by 2030). But also to replace the 12 million heavily polluting cars with new cars (regardless of power supply). To go in the direction of changing the energy system, huge numbers of renewable source plants must be installed, with bureaucratic simplifications.
The target seems to be 72% of electricity produced with renewables in Italy by 2030 (this means 8 gigawatts per year). In 2025, the end of the use of coal. Other points are to be defined.
Eg. Each area or region will have to install waste recycling treatment plants in order to be autonomous. As well as water purification plants and anaerobic managers for the treatment of organic waste separation, agricultural waste and purification sludge. And then a territorial policy of attention to the soil and to situations compromised and at risk by meteorological events.
With what information and quality of the projects? There are also legal and legislative changes to be introduced to incorporate new parameters. For example, how to carry out effective and consistent environmental assessments, without being a hindrance that slows down the economy, but at the same time being able to introduce environmental effects into the activities to avoid the fallout that has led us to big trouble in too many situations today .
Technical evaluation committees have been set up to understand the impact of European environmental measures on traditional economic sectors (at least 1/10 of those employed in the private sector) that will have problems in different times and ways. They are already used by many to unleash extreme populism in the face of real problems. On the other hand, those who are more responsible are placing themselves within an approach that says: we cannot stop the rapid change that has already begun, we need to organize ourselves so as not to suffer it, and to take advantage of its opportunities in the best possible way.
But we are not as ready and quick as for the Olympics. We must tell ourselves that we are late and that a strong push is needed to define the policies of relocation, training, industrial and consumer policies, which must be taken, albeit with judgment.
Of course: all these examples tell us that it is much more difficult than reducing the world to true and false.

Carlo Degiacomi
NP August / September 2021

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