The means of transport we use are responsible for a quarter of the carbon emissions generated in the world. Carbon is a gas which contributes to climate change, and more than three quarters of it is generated on our roads. This means that the cars and trucks that we use every day to deliver our goods and to go from one place to another are leaving a significant negative impact on our air quality.
It is estimated that the number of cars around the world is at around 1.3 billion, and this is anticipated to continue to rise to 2 billion by the year 2050. The same can be said for the demand in the transport of goods, which is expected to grow to three times current levels by the same year.
Therefore, the challenge that we must address is how we are going to meet this demand for transport in the most sustainable way possible. Urban mobility is crucial in all of this. This is because, together, we need to find new solutions that will lead to a dramatic decrease in the impact of transport on the environment that we live in every day.
If one had to carry out research on the transportation of goods in our towns, one would find that many vehicles very often have goods compartments that are not entirely full, or even have more empty space than used space. In addition, a lot of the time, these vehicles are stationary. Therefore, it is important that a serious study is done, together with all the relevant stakeholders, so that the potential of this method of transport is maximised, as well as to think of better ways in which goods can be transported, with less impact, and with more efficiency.
There are various things we can do as individuals to reduce this negative impact. We can start by avoiding the use of cars, where that is possible. This means becoming more accustomed to virtual meetings in our life, making more use of bikes and scooters, and even walking. Making more frequent use of public transport, or sharing a taxi ride with different people. If you had to take a look at the other vehicles sharing the road with you, or when stopping in traffic, more often than not you are unlikely to find more than one person in the car travelling alongside you. You will generally be hard pressed to find a car that has three or four persons in it. This results in a stuation where the average occupancy for each vehicle on our roads does not exceed one and a half passengers. This is very low when we all know that each vehicle can carry four people. With a bit of effort, and arrangements with colleagues, we can easily reduce two or three cars for each vehicle on the road.
Another thing that we could do when travelling by car is to use smaller vehicles. Ones that consume less fuel, that have less emissions, and which help in reducing the amount of traffic on the roads. Obviously, we can go one step further and use hybrid cars or electric cars.
When it comes to online shopping, as consumers, we can choose to not opt for urgent or expedited shipping, and thus allow time for them to be delivered along with other products coming to the same destination. Certain online sellers offer the option of delivery to collection points, so that there is less risk of failed delivery when you are not home, and thus avoiding unnecessary extra trips. Decisions like these, although small, can also make a big difference.
Article by Mario Fava – President of the Local Councils’ Association
It feels great when you do something that you’re normally told you cannot do.
When we were young, we heard these countless times; “Watch how you cross the road”, “Don’t play with the ball outside because you’ll get run over by a car”, “You can’t ride your bike on the road because you’ll get hurt”!!
Unfortunately, now that we have grown older, our children not only do not ask the questions that get them these answers, but rather take it for granted that they should not ask these questions to their parents in the first place, because they understand that it is simply impossible to do so on our roads.
It’s so lovely then if our children can do what we could not do and what they didn’t expect that they would be able to do. What am I saying?
More and more cities all over Europe, and even in the rest of the world, are taking initiatives, even radical ones, where during certain days and times, residents are given free access to principal roads to do exactly what they cannot do in normal circumstances. Roads are closed to private cars and are freely accessible for those who would like to walk, do exercise, use a bike, go out with their scooter, play with a ball etc.
When we speak about equality, when we speak about quality of life, when we speak about children’s joy and contentedness, when we speak about the ways in which we socialise, when we speak about illness and the conditions that are brought about by mental health, when we speak about children who have conditions such as attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder, we rarely think about things like open spaces, accessibility, and equity for those who do not afford to buy a car and who have every right as those who do afford one to enjoy the roads and spaces of their community.
What does equality mean within the scope of accessibility? Equality within the scope of accessibility means that everyone, independent of their financial income, has the same opportunity to enjoy what the state provides for free. That if someone affords a Ferrari and enjoys making use of our roads and spaces by cruising in their car, another person who does not afford to buy a car also has the same right to make use of our country’s infrastructure in other ways, in a safe manner and without the fear of possibly getting in an accident that would leave them confined to a bed for months.
This can happen if the plans that are made for our towns and villages prioritise people, as opposed to prioritising cars. We need to start reasoning, thinking, and acting in different ways, so that our priorities are different. Priorities which will allow us to start thinking about how we want to live before we begin planning our towns. The main point should no longer be what type of transport we want to use, but what type of life we want to live. On the basis of this, we will plan and design means of transport, roads, and public spaces.
How does a city like Amsterdam, in which around two million people live, have 40% of people travelling by bike? You might tell me, “but there are no hills there”. In the centres of our towns and villages there are no hills either, and despite this, we still go fetch our carton of milk in our private car, we still go buy newspapers in our private car, we still don’t go to the pharmacy on foot.
The difference between towns
What is it about our towns and villages that makes us want to live in them? To begin with, not everything is completely good or completely bad, but something one definitely does before buying a house in a different locality is checking or finding out how the other residents of the locality live, if there are play areas for children, if there are places to go for walks with their dog, if there are spaces where one can meet up or socialise.
These are the elements that distinguish one town from another, and not whether there are enough parking spaces. Because what makes a town or village beautiful? Is it the town that has the most parking spaces? I don’t think so. It is the town where one can go out and meet people. And so, how can an architect behind a desk draw a plan for public transport or for new roads without considering all of this? How can an architect, simply because they are an architect – without consulting what the residents of that town or village want – design a project that would split the locality in half? Shouldn’t the people’s and residents’ voices have weight before we even begin scawling on the drawing board?
When people go shopping, where do they choose to go? To a place where there is a road full of cars and to go from one shop to another you have to keep your eyes peeled to not get run over while crossing? Or to places where between shops you can find somewhere to stop and have a coffee, have a chat, sit down and have a snack? And if we are not going to make better use of our spaces that already exist, how are we going to improve people’s quality of life? What kind of quality of life is this, when we are frantically running around in cars to keep up with life, instead of finding the time to use the spaces that exist in localities and making use of the services that are already present in our own locality?
Walking is a right
People want to walk, not to live, but to be content. The children I mentioned previously, with the conditions I mentioned, want open spaces, not just to look at them but to play and calm their nerves, and so, their parents can have the peace of mind that their children can play and burn up their energy in a safe manner. If animals in forests want space to run, if birds want space to fly, don’t people want space to live? Humans were created with two legs to walk, and our first thought should be to provide places for humans to walk. This is the most sustainable means of transport from every aspect. Human beings were not created to fear leaving their house when they turn sixty or seventy because they might fall on the pavement, which has been blocked by a garbage bag that has been lying there for hours waiting to be picked up. An elderly woman did not turn seventy to walk on a pavement that is full of ups and downs depending on how many garages there are on the street, or to slip from a pavement because the material it is made from becomes slippery after a few months exposed to the elements.
What I’m saying is not something you can prove scientifically, but it is something that you feel within you. If one had to ask; What do you prefer; walking on a pavement of one metre or a pavement of two metres? Obviously, there is no theory that says you will walk better on a pavement of two metres. This is because a sole person can walk on a pavement of one metre. But when you walk on a pavement of two metres and there’s a buffer between the cars passing on the road and you, a buffer made up of trees, it is obvious that you will feel better and have more fun walking. It is likely too that that difference would be enough to give you the courage to stop using your private vehicle to carry out errands up to a kilometre or two away from your home, and to start doing them by walk. This is the quality of life that we need to talk about. This is like when you need to have a meeting. You could do it in a classroom between four walls and you could do it in a small theatre room that gives a better sense of space that will result in more participation from the participants. If you carry out the meeting in a small dark room, without any natural light, the participants will probably complain, even if just to themselves. The same can be said for our towns and villages. You can have that locality where anything goes, while, on the other hand, you can have a locality that gives aspiration and a greater sense of community, together with a sense of membership amongst residents, that makes them proud to live there and not in some other locality.
The social aspect
From the dawn of time, humans were created to meet and mix with other people. How can this happen if we are not providing places for people to meet? People want to be in contact with nature, with trees, with greenery, with water. The town or village that is suitable for persons with a disability, for people who are vulnerable, such as the elderly or children, that is accessible for those who have a low income, is the town or village that is good for the whole population. We cannot plan towns and villages that lead to the exclusion of part of the community. We cannot only think of large shopping complexes with designer brands, places where people of a certain income can go for their outings. We also want places where those who afford a walk will also find a place where they can go.
When we say that citizens are all equal in front of the law, this is a very powerful statement. Since this is the case, the common good should be placed before private interest. This makes a lot of sense when looking at public places that have become privatised, such as beaches, parts of paths to the sea, and others. Especially when these are in urban spaces, they should never be given to the private sector for exclusive use by the owner, with residents then having to pay in order to make use of them or to access them. If they are to be given over for business purposes, and I understand that this should sometimes be the case, public access must be kept open.
This all requires a change of mentality, in our culture, in our priorities. I shall close with the following as I believe it leaves a lot to think about;
The problem in all this is that we have become so accustomed to the idea that this is the only way that we have to live by, that we have taken it for granted that things cannot change and that we have to be reactive to what is happening today, instead of working to be proactive with regards to what we can leave our children for the future.
Article by Mario Fava – President of the Local Councils’ Association
“Hugged nature” reminds of the connection between environmental issues and the fashion industry
A new campaign for collecting clothes has started in Burgas, which will then be used to create an ecological art installation. The campaign runs until 15 June.
“Hugged Nature” is the name behind which a future art installation will be made with the support of the Municipality of Burgas. With this work, the young artist Bozhana Slavkova will raise questions about “fast fashion”, the felling of urban trees and forests, as well as the relationship between environmental and social issues and the fashion industry – the second largest polluter on Earth.
Nature and art connected in one
Through the artistic method of yarn-bombing, which involves dressing elements of the urban environment in specially knitted “clothes” – in this case, the trees on a main street in the seaside town.
Residents of the city and anyone else who wishes can join the initiative by sending their non-usable clothes, especially if they are colourful, to be used for this project. All colours without black are welcomed. Knitted materials will also be accepted, such as cardigans, sweaters, blankets, duvets or crocheted tablecloths. Old fabrics, yarns and ready-made knits will also be accepted.
Those who have the time can prepare yarn from old materials, which will help the initiative. The participants do not need to be from Burgas to participate in the collection of materials. But those from the city can get involved in the whole project as volunteers.
The installation is expected to be installed in Burgas on 1 July, and at the end of August the clothes will be removed from the trees.
The organizers welcome citizens to participate in the project to show concern for nature, create urban art and get rid of unnecessary old clothes. The duration of the installation may vary depending on its condition. The organizers will constantly consult with an expert opinion so as not to cause any damage to the trees.
It is not clear at this time what condition the “clothes” of the trees will be in, but if they remain in good condition, they may then be placed on trees in other cities or sent to people who wish to put them on. When their lives come to an end, the clothes will be given for recycling.
Do you have an idea that can potentially reduce the effects of Climate Change? SeedGreen is your chance to obtain assistance so that your green idea becomes a reality!
As part of the #ClimateOn National Campaign the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Planning together with the Junior Chamber International Malta and the support of Malta Enterprise has launched a program for those individuals wishing to develop their idea into a start-up or potential project.
Starting on 19 April, it will be freely open for viewing
Vertical gardens and foliaged walls are increasingly becoming a common architectural solution in search of marrying environmental harmony and architecture – a way of bringing nature back to our urban lives. But how about letting nature indoors, too?
That appears to be the proposal of Santander’s newest addition – an interior vertical garden inside the Castilla-Hermida Civic Centre; a garden that is reportedly the largest of its kind in all of Europe. As of 19 April, between 8:30 and 21:00 anyone can visit the centre and admire the installation without a need for previous registration or entrance fee.
Nature aesthetics to bring a green therapy benefit
The project was part of the reconversion of the old Tabacalera building in the northern Spanish city into a modern civic centre. Last year, part of this transformation was the design of the vertical garden by FDA Arquitectos. The size of the installation is almost 600 square metres (17 metres in height and 32 metres in width).
In order to make the garden a reality some 22 300 plants from 26 different species have been planted. Given the size of the wall some planning, and adjustments needed to be made in order to make it work. Plants that are nearer the top can enjoy natural sunlight thanks to the glass ceiling but those placed in the lower half will be aided in their photosynthesis with artificial lighting.
The foliage is rooted in a semi-hydroponic textile system, which has been designed at the University of Seville, and which allows for optimal aeration of the roots without losing necessary nutrients.
The mixture of different plant species from different climate zones has been thought out so that no matter what season it is there will always be some plants that are blossoming, in essence creating an ever-changing mosaic.
Santander officials are of the opinion that this blurring between the boundaries of nature and interior design will increase the attractiveness of the city for tourism.
The Government of Brussels will be simplifying the regulations on catering terraces, making it easier for restaurants and bar owners to install them and extend their establishments. The approved guidelines will be in effect in 2021 and 2022 and are regarded as key support to local entrepreneurs, helping them to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Terraces will have a key role in the revival of the sector
Once the pandemic situation improves and the restrictions on non-essential commerce are lifted, Brussels residents and tourists will be able to enjoy more space for outdoor meals and drinks. According to the new regulation, flexible, modular, multifunctional and movable terraces will not require a planning permit, as long as they provide a free passage of at least 1.50 m. Terrace furniture can be stored outside if it is placed together in a secured way.
“We provide clear and simple rules that are the same for everyone. In this way, many terraces will appear in Brussels this summer. Our bars and restaurants are going through difficult times and this way we are providing more perspective,” Mr Smet commented on the occasion.
The goal is to extend the space of catering establishments, allowing them to receive more clients since, due to the pandemic, indoor capacities have already been dramatically restricted.
Some rules to observe
Now, many more bars and restaurants in the Brussels-Central region will be able to install a terrace, without requiring a permit, through the transformation of parking spaces. However, there are certain rules to follow. These concern the timing and maintenance installation.
Among other things, terraces are seasonal (1 April – 31 October and/or during the holiday season). Their size is limited to the existing parking spaces and cannot exceed 50 square metres. They must be easy to dismantle, which should be done at least once a year.
The rules do not apply to protected sites, which require a planning permit. Catering licenses from the 19 Brussels municipalities remain mandatory.
EkoSkola, run locally by Nature Trust – FEE Malta, is an international programme for schools, helping them towards Education for Sustainable Development through a seven step process. Eco-Schools is the largest global sustainable schools programme – it starts in the classroom and expands to the community by engaging the younger generation in action-based learning. It guides students and all school stakeholders towards leading a sustainable lifestyle involving the whole community. The Eco-Schools programme caters for students of all ages providing guidelines, explanations, resources, activities and lesson plans all related towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) is an international programme coordinated by Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and represented locally by Nature Trust Malta. The programme empowers young people to take an educational stand on environmental issues they feel strongly about and gives them a platform to articulate these issues through the media of writing, photography or video. The programme develops participants’ skills and knowledge about the environment, enhances communication and citizenship skills, individual initiative, teamwork, critical analysis, social responsibility, and leadership abilities. Students follow the four step methodology: investigate, research solutions, report and disseminate. Apart from the annual competition, students also have the opportunity to work with foreign students, report international conferences and acquire international certification. Integration with the school curricula is also highly encouraged.
YRE Website: www.yremalta.org.mt YouTube Channel mPower4Change. Updates and schools inputs can also be followed on the dedicated Facebook page Youngreporters Malta
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