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  • Nicoleta Talpes

Climate Change Champions Spotlight - interview with Hans Van der Loo, Chairman IIER

The ecological education platform is a partner of the Climate Change Summit, the first and largest event in Central and Eastern Europe dedicated to climate change, and brings to the public's attention a series of interviews with key guests of the Climate Change Summit, an editorial extension called Climate Change Champions Spotlight.

In the Spotlight: interview with Hans Van der Loo is Chairman of the Advisory Board of IIER, CEO of the Blue Cooling Initiative and Ambassador of the EU STEM Coalition

Intersectionality emphasizes the interconnectedness of various social and environmental issues. How do you see the concept of intersectionality playing a role in addressing both climate change and economic sustainability and what practical steps can businesses take to embrace this approach?

Nature & Climate Change are both CAS (Complex Adaptive Systems) with many feedback loops. They are by definition holistic. Hence it is logic that our response should be holistic as well.

Logic as in ecologic, rather than economic. It is good to look at the core meaning of these words of ancient Greek origin.

• Oikos means household.

• Nomos means naming, measuring, managing or the governance (of the household).

• Logos means logic, know-how to manage (the household).

What we have seen in past few decades is that the management of the household, was done without full understanding & knowledge of how to manage the household. Economic sustainability is not possible without ecological sustainability, As our economy is but a small part of overall reality.

Intersectionality should not be restricted to different issues. It also applies to intergenerational considerations and across time (understand the past, understand the present (our excessive consumption and throw away articles, future) in order to know what is – and what is not – possible for the Future.

Today a minority interest group of ‘the currently living’ take decisions that will determine the fate of humanity for thousands of years to come. (see final remark by Sir David King

I see 3 basic conditions for business, government and civil society to make this happen.

Communicate : We need to find ways for sections to come together. In France they organize ‘consultations citoyens’, these were sessions organized locally where they invited different speakers, which was followed by debate amongst the citizens of the community. A report was made and submitted to Paris, where all the findings and recommendations were collated, so better understand what citizens understood and wanted.

In some countries companies help schools by letting pupils see why the competences they learn at school are needed in practice. This provides a meaningful context to pupils, that sometimes teachers find difficult to give. In other countries, teachers spend time in companies to be able to share what they learned with their pupils. Open University programs for adults is yet another form of communication (and education) to foster appreciation for different sections and hence facilitates intersectionality.

Cooperate : it is important to have a shared overarching goal/objective. In the globalized world we live in, this objective must have granularity at multiple levels: individual, community, region, country, Europe, world. Moreover, we now must learn to think in terms of humanity, and not only the minority interest group of the currently living. Our ABC (Actions, Behavior, Choices) have implications for us, for the world-climate & eco-system and for future generations. In practice this will be done as regional level or by sector. But ideally comprising enterprise, unions, schools, etc., best facilitated by local government.

Educate : for all this to work – and indeed democracy to function properly - we need well-educated citizens, that have both the inter-generational consciousness and intersectional awareness of how their ABC impacts the framework conditions of the human eco-system. My experience is that even young children naturally understand this. But somehow our educational system - and the media - seem to put on blinkers as result of which we turn RealityBlind (see also my narrative here : )

In that case it will be difficult to have societal support for government policy, if there is no understanding of how the announced measures will work. If they do, people may still be uncomfortable – because it may imply changes to what we are used to – but provided politicians also ensure that things are done in an equitable way, this at least enlarges the probability that there will be societal support for changes.

In your experience, what are some of the key barriers or challenges that individuals and organizations encounter when trying to embrace intersectionality in their sustainability efforts, and how can these challenges be overcome?

When a culture prevails that prefers building walls over building bridges that is a big handicap for progress. Fear for the unknown is another handicap. US President Roosevelt rightfully said “There is nothing we should fear more than fear itself’. Because fear has a laming effect. People want to hold on to what they know, and not jump towards something they do not know.

Overcoming this mindset can be done by exchanges at another school (Erasmus) in another country (international assignment) or for employees to work in a different department, of for a civil servant to work at a different Ministry. Thus fostering a breadth of perspective, willingness to cooperate and acknowledgement that several different perspectives can co-exist.

Hence enabling and encouraging people to exchange perspectives is necessary to overcome barriers. Literally we have to build bridges over the barriers, so that they are no longer barriers.

Looking ahead, what role do you see intersectionality playing in shaping a more sustainable and equitable future, and what advice or insights would you offer to those working towards this vision?

The very words sustainable and equitable imply a notion of balance. And balance is always in relation to something else. Which is intersectionality. This can be growth relative to resource use, consumptive spending or structural investment. Education brings little immediate benefit but is priceless in the long term. Hence the importance of long-term vision. It takes ten year before a 12 year young girl is a 22-year-old engineer. Thereafter another ten years before she is an adviser at a Ministry or in a company. Big things that have the capacity to last, typically take time to grow or develop. But with Complex Adaptive Systems, be they the Earth’s Climate or the Global Economy, without intersectionality, i.e. reacting feedback loops, they can not function. Be aware that even walking is continuously pushing yourself over until you nearly fall and then prevent it by putting the other leg forward. Only to push with the other leg to do the same again. This sounds easy but requires an astute sense of balance and timing.

Exposure to different perspectives gives people a richness of perspectives which enables them to have a sense of balance. Be it for the equitable use of energy & resources, a fair division of labor or costs, and an equal distribution of opportunities. An intact biosphere and a resilient society are like the hull of a ship. Economic deck activities cannot last without a watertight hull.

About Hans Van der Loo

Hans Van der Loo is Chairman of the Advisory Board of IIER, CEO of the Blue Cooling Initiative and Ambassador of the EU STEM Coalition. He has studied at Nyenrode Business School in Breukelen, at ESCP in Paris, and in Oxford and Düsseldorf as well. He has also worked for McKinsey, Royal Dutch Shell and for World Business Council for Sustainable Development. He has lived in 9 countries and worked in over 50 countries all over the world. As Retail Innovation manager at Shell, he initiated Choice Fuels (V-Power, Pura etc.). And as Shell representative for the EU, he introduced multi-stakeholder joint advocacy platforms. Mr. Van der Loo is also the author of several articles, and has co-authored a book about resilience. He is a frequently asked-for speaker at international for a such as Bilderberg Conference, COP21 Paris, European Business Summit, World Economic Forum and he lectures at various Universities. Join us at #ClimateChangeSummit2023 and get to find out more about Intersectionality and its importance in finding solutions for climate change from Hans Van der Loo.

The ecological education platform is a partner of this initiative and brings to the public's attention a series of interviews with key guests of the Climate Change Summit, an editorial extension called Climate Change Champions Spotlight. Interview conducted by Nicoleta Talpeș, Guerrilla Verde.

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