Determined not to teach by precept alone, 256 researchers on environmental issues from all Belgian universities announced on Monday that they have decided to lead by example and change their habits for the planet’s sake. Under the slogan #WeChangeForLife, the researchers have put their efforts and testimonies together on an Internet site to form a source of inspiration accessible to all and to draw the attention of political decision-makers.
“To change the world, you have to begin by changing yourself,” is the message they have sent out to the public, as experts but also as citizens “like everyone else”. Their aim? To show that everyone can be an actor of the ecological transition through simple daily gestures.
“A first solution accessible to all and good for the pocket is to consume less and better,” the researchers suggest. Cathy Macharis, a professor in sustainable mobility at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), said she issued a challenge to herself last year: to buy no new clothes or shoes for a year.
The textile and fashion industries require, in fact, huge amounts of water and they also have an enormous environmental impact in terms of producing greenhouse gases and waste, according to various reports published in recent years.
A second solution, the environmentalists say, is to eat less meat. “In Wallonia, less than 10% of the cereals produced on our lands is destined to be eaten by humans, whereas almost 50% is used to feed the animals we feed on,” they point out.
“I also opt for local, seasonal food,” adds Martin Vastrade, biology researcher at the University of Namur, who said he had decided to transform the age-old refrain “if they don’t care, neither do I” into the more positive “if they become involved, so do I.”
Transport, isolation, renewable energy, waste management and awareness building are also among the issues raised in the testimonies that can be read on the site. The contributors, experts in climatology, geology, law, psychology and history, also described the difficulties that beset their efforts, “some of which will be resolved only by political decisions taken at the level of our society.”
Giving one such example, Marie-Clotilde Roose, philosophy lecturer at UCLouvain university, noted that “Many small railway” stations have closed down, making cars necessary” outside city centres.
“We are very worried at the state of the environment and the evolution of the situation,” stressed climatologist Jean-Pascal Ypersele, former vice-president of the Intergovernmental Panel of Experts on climate change, who co-founded #WeChangeForLife with biologist Caroline Nieberding and Lucette Flandroy of the Public Health Department.