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Looking back on: Springtij 2021

By November 20, 2023 No Comments

Together with 750 delegates of Dutch Sustainability, our colleague Iris Visser attended the Springtij festival on Terschelling. She reflects upon her experiences in this blog.

After 1.5 years of working on a sustainable world from behind my laptop, I was looking forward to exchanging thoughts with 750 professionals from governments, business, knowledge institutes and civil society about solution-based directions for the sustainability issues we face. On Terschelling, we outlined the first contours of what a more sustainable world would look like and what it would take to get there.

Take the sessions around “Water & sea.” Using great yet uncanny imagery, Kadir van Lohuizen, with his photo series “After us the Flood,” showed  how we are already facing climate change and rising sea levels. An undeniable reality that occurs all over the world. On top of that, the most recent IPCC report showed that we are not going to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees if we continue to move within our business as usual scenarios. This doesn’t mean however, that we should let inertia take over. On the contrary, it indicates that we must utilize all the tools at our disposal to combat climate change. At the same time, we must prepare for the various IPCC scenarios and take measures to deal with the effects of climate change. During the “Water Castles” session, we explored three future perspectives for Dutch cities: the “strengthened city” in which we further raise the dikes and flood defences, the “migrating city” in which we move from the low-lying areas to the higher sandy grounds in the east, and the “offensive city” in which we move seaward and create islands in the North Sea. As of yet, these scenarios seem utopian, we must however, take a rigorously different look at future living and working conditions in order for it to not become reality. Additonally, it is time for new spatial planning approaches. Instead of desperately clinging onto the status quo,we should  dare to give space to nature. If we don’t, we’ll end up partaking in a fight we cannot win.

At Springtij, it was but a small transition from the water sector to agriculture. Farmers have been assigned an important role in the transition to sustainable practises and there is increasing pressure from politics and society to change the current way of working and adapt a more nature-inclusive workflow. Much is asked of the farmer, but we sometimes lose track of the reality that farmers have to deal with. Think low prices for their products, high land prices and complex regulations. During the session “Farming with Nature,” we explored promising revenue models for regenerative agriculture; familiar territory for Naturesquared. We shared our knowlegde on methods of fair pricing, marketing ecosystem services and tapping into new markets. Among other things, we were able to bring in lessons from a project in which we are developing landscapes for growing crops for the biobased industry; landscapes that contribute to challenges around soil quality, subsidence, climate adaptation and biodiversity. The core lesson here: there is no “one size fits all” model, as is so often the case in life. Every farm is different; therefore we have to carefully examine the context of the landscape and the characteristics of the farm to determine which intervention works best.

From economic growth to economic flourishing

The last session I attended at Springtij proved a nice addition to all content based sessions I’d been part of before. Rather than diving into the matter, we addressed the vulnerabilities that we experience in our quest to make impact. This coincided nicely with the theme of this Springtij edition: “Listen to the voice that is not heard”.  By interacting with your surroundings, the space and movement necessary for change is created. Dutch artist Typhoon formulated this as the 70/30 division which is based on the presumption that one sould reserve 30% of thoughts and feelings to be inspired and amazed by others.

After three days of Springtij, the 30% of open space in my head was occupied by encounters and insights. These three observations are the most prominent”:

  1. We are running out of time and must pull out all the stops to avert a biodiversity and climate catastrophe. We cannot continue on the same footing and must dare to think radically differently. This means that we must not wait for a new methodology, but get to work and develop these novel methodologies ourselves from experiences like the ones at Springtij.
  2. This requires new ideas for designing our landscape, our cities and our food system. It also requires guts. Companies, banks or governments have to do dare to do things differently and to steer on uncertainties
  3. That this transition is necessary is clear. But we should never lose sight of the people in the process. Engage with different parties and include them in the process. Listen to them, learn to understand their various interests and also show them what kind of world we are ending up if we keep on acting in bussiness as usual scenario’s. It is important to show those concerned stakeholders on the fence how inertia would affedct their lieves and livelyhoods. This takes time, obviously, but resistance from dissatisfied stakeholders will only lead to more delay of the necessary transitions. And that is exactly what we cannot afford.

Terschelling, thank you for the knowledge, art and nature and if possible, until next year!