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#2 Broad prosperity
Congratulations, this week, to Meta Knol, director of Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden. On Wednesday, it was announced that Meta will become temporarily the director of Leiden 2022, European City of Science. The appointment is recognition for Meta’s work on the recent redevelopment of the museum, which went beyond delivering an award-winning building to include finding a new and central role for the museum in the city. I’m also a big fan of inviting cultural professionals to take on challenges outside of the sector and connect art and science more profoundly than adding an A to STEAM.
Yesterday, a fantastic team of colleagues put together What Matters Now, a live, global, freestyle, make-up-as-we-go online event. Presentations, performances, poetry, even a DJ! It was a great way to end the week and to conclude the first half of 2020 somehow. You can watch the live stream of the event on YouTube, which I recommend you do later this weekend or when you have a 2-hour break in the coming days.
(YouTube is updating the video to remove the first minutes where you see the event team prepping, but for now, that’s a great way to see the happy faces of some of the people involved in putting this together: Mike, Larissa, Zak, Jane, Lauren, and a whole team of others.)
Apologies for the broken link in the last email, which was the #1 clicked link (of course). #MuseumsForFuture lives at www.museumsforfuture.org.
In their annual Global Energy Review, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated the ‘positive’ impact of the COVID-19 crisis on carbon emissions:
Global CO2 emissions are expected to decline by 8%, or almost 2.6 gigatonnes (GT), to levels of 10 years ago. Such a year-on-year reduction would be the largest ever, six times larger than the previous record reduction of 0.4 Gt in 2009 – caused by the global financial crisis – and twice as large as the combined total of all previous reductions since the end of World War II.
Before we all book our celebratory flights, we should know that to limit the global temperature increase to 1,5 degrees, we need to continue this reduction for another decade. And, as the IEA warns:
As after previous crises, however, the rebound in emissions may be larger than the decline, unless the wave of investment to restart the economy is dedicated to cleaner and more resilient energy infrastructure.
Clearly, #MuseumsForFuture — and all the other #FridaysForFuture spin-offs — will remain relevant for years to come.
The Global Footprint Network has also guesstimated the impact of COVID-19 on human consumption patterns. They concluded that changes in carbon emissions, forest harvest, food demand, and other factors amount to a 9.3% reduction in the global ecological footprint compared to the same period last year.
Today, 11 July, is Earth Overshoot Day in Romania. This means that Romania has now used its share of ecological resources and services for 2020, and their demand exceeds what the earth can regenerate. Romania does well for a European economy. The Netherlands had its Earth Overshoot Day on 3 May, Denmark on 28 March. Elsewhere, Canada and the USA had theirs before Spring. Globally, the date is 22 August.
Interestingly, if you compare the Human Development Index (a combination of social and economic metrics) with the (limited) ecological Earth Overshoot Day index, they seem to be each other’s inverse. The richer and ‘more developed’ a country, the higher its footprint. Positive exceptions are countries such as Ecuador, Cuba, and Uruguay, which combine a good HDI with a relatively late Overshoot Day.
Wednesday, we organized the first online SDG Café. I joined this network and its core team earlier this year after I’ve been to a couple of their physical meetups, which dynamically explore sustainable development. My mission is to invite more artists, designers, entrepreneurs, and cultural professionals to participate in the cafés and sustainable development in general.
The frame for this week’s meetup was beautifully summarised with a quote by Jean Pisani-Ferry:
If anything, the division between those who care about the end of the world and those who care about the end of the month will widen.
Then, the Dutch Bureau for statistics presented some highlights of Dutch performance on the SDGs and some initial data on how COVID-19 affect sustainable development. For the past few years, the bureau of statistics uses the concept of ‘broad prosperity’ to report on our development:
Broad prosperity is about more than just our income, economy, or growth. It also concerns liveability and safety, quality of the environment, social cohesion and level of facilities, education and the labor market, climate and energy, nature and agriculture, accessibility, and the housing market. Broad prosperity is also seen as the balance between our economic, natural, social, and human capital. (source)
Broad prosperity looks at a society’s performance through three lenses: the here and now, later, and elsewhere in the world.
I’ve head the idea of broad prosperity mentioned a couple of times last week, sometimes in one breath with the Doughnut model. The political party that I feel closest to uses it as an organizing philosophy instead of identifying as traditionally ‘left-wing’ or ‘right-wing’.
So, how are we doing? In the here and now, the Netherlands is doing well, especially in human and economic capital. COVID-19 also doesn’t necessarily make that worse, yet. But the here and now isn’t great for everyone and on topics such as poverty reduction and reduced inequalities we’re getting (slowly) worse. Also, not everybody benefits equally — women, people with a migration background, the elderly, and people without a high level of education fall behind.
When it comes to ‘later’, we’re performing terribly on natural capital. Our prosperity in the here and now comes at an unbearable cost to our natural resources and our future prosperity.
Worse still, our prosperity in the here and now comes at a tremendous cost to the prosperity elsewhere in the world. We’re using too many resources and are damaging the environment in other countries for our benefit. In other words, while we care (or not) about the end of the world, because of us, people elsewhere have to worry about the end of the month.
To conclude all the reflections on consumption and prosperity, I calculated my footprint. I expected this to be bad, but the result still shocked me. My Overshoot Day is 22 March (almost my birthday). This isn’t entirely fair, as for years we’ve been offsetting the emissions of all our transportation and energy use, but still demands a radical change of lifestyle. Sorry.
Finally, I finished the Wind of Change podcast this week. In the podcast, Patrick Radden Keefe explores the rumor that the CIA wrote the famous power ballad Wind of Change by the Scorpions. While Patrick Radden Keefe tries to get to the bottom of the story, he meets an incredible set of characters in the USA, Germany, and Russia. The show is also a testament to the potential of music (and art) to change lives and history.
I do not care much about glam-rock, if that’s even the term for the music bands like the Scorpions make. But… Bon Jovi makes an appearance as a side character in the podcast, and when I looked at the YouTube footage of that appearance at the Moscow Peace Festival in 1989, I want to get on stage like that once.
The podcast is inconclusive, as many of the best podcasts I’ve listened to recently are: The Missing Cryptoqueen, Death in Ice Valley, the Last Days of August. Full of plot twists and turns and unique characters, their stories may not have an end, but they’re fulfilling nonetheless.
Thank you for signing up for this newsletter. I’m blown away by the reception the first newsletter received. Thanks a lot for your comments and responses. I answer all my email, always, so feel free to reach out whenever you want to.
I didn’t write about Coke Stevenson, What Art Can Do, a melted disco ball, local politics, or the power of networks. All that, and more, next time.