Why would Europeans, who for the most part are much further down the road towards sustainability than we are in the United States, ask a TreePeople representative from Los Angeles for advice?
That was the question in the back of my mind when I accepted the invitation to speak at Bioneers Global in the Netherlands, and Rework the World in Sweden last month.
European nations, unlike the United States, signed on to the Kyoto Protocol in l997 to meet goals to reduce greenhouse gasses. Many European countries have made huge progress. Germany has passed laws to double its use of renewable energy, to 30%, by 2020, for example, and the Netherlands is the world leader in adapting to climate change and sea level rise.
Despite these worthy efforts, the Europeans have run into the same glass ceiling that has pushed us at TreePeople to move towards an ecosystem-based approach to sustainability. Ecosystems are the ultimate example of the efficiency of being connected. When government sets lofty sustainability goals, it's usually blocked from reaching higher-level breakthroughs because in government, as in business, philanthropy and frequently even medicine, everyone is operating in their own little silos; the systems are disconnected. Finding frustration and barriers, Europeans are hungry for a better way.
How can we really do this? That's the question the Europeans are asking, especially with regard to cities. Without the ability to manage urban areas with whole system solutions, they can't reach their goal. The parts are competing and conflicting. Resources, cash, human energy and time are wasted, and the big wins remain elusive.