Sustainable De Week Door 20: the economy is shrinking, more waste is needed

peter van vliet editor-in-chief Sustainability through the week

Striking news of the week viewed through the sustainable lens of Peter van Vliet, editor-in-chief of

Monday: Elon Musk does a Putintje

Elon Musk’s behavior is increasingly reminiscent of Vladimir Putin’s. He just shouts, regardless of the consequences, and then claims that he means the opposite. In the meantime, he feeds extreme elements that want to further disrupt society. To think about: for companies there are laws to prevent monopolies and abuse. But individuals can accumulate power and resources indefinitely and abuse them at will. How do you prevent that?

Tuesday: Hooray, the economy is shrinking

The headlines are alarmed that the economy contracted unexpectedly in the first quarter. The question is whether this is due to the economy or to the false expectations of the economists. Probably on both. Those who expect economic growth in times of great uncertainty are a bit lost. Consumers, whose incomes are being slashed by interest rate hikes and inflation, simply keep their purse strings. Less energy consumption, less unnecessary stuff, that’s good news for the climate and for the planet. And the fact that economists are once again surprised with incorrect predictions is also a nice bonus. The blind belief in their overestimated abilities could make way for common sense. Recession for one is progression for the other. It’s just what matters to you more.

Wednesday: Rabo also does not want to talk about the climate and formula 1 washed away

The top of Rabobank apparently has little interest in the climate. This was apparent from the way in which the major bank avoided talking to the Milieudefensie delegation. The highest paid and most responsible person in the club just didn’t show up for an urgently needed meeting with shareholders and socially engaged citizens about the bank’s sustainability. You would expect more cooperation from a cooperative organization for such an important theme.

It had to happen once that a world-class fossil event has to bow its head to the climate. Italy has the first for a Formula 1 race. In a completely flooded northern Italian region, holding a car race became impossible. Especially the influx of the many thousands of fans would only increase the risk of even more victims. But perhaps the incident will make the sport’s millions of followers worldwide a little more receptive to the climate message. If not, it might be a promo for a new climate show: Wal turns Schip.

Thursday: Rob Jetten’s emission castles

Climate minister Rob Jetten apparently no longer knows where to conjure up the reduction of emissions. In desperation, he seems to resort to building CO2 castles. Its building material is waste that is burned. In 6 years’ time, all CO2 must be captured and stored under the North Sea. But, as usual, there are still a few problems: there is no legislation, there is no infrastructure, there is no permission to build it, there is no proven technology on that scale, no location has been determined for storage and there is no time. Only the procedure preparation for such a project takes many years (and always longer than planned in the Netherlands). Another caveat: capturing CO2 + the rest also costs – a lot – extra energy, and therefore emissions. Why not start reducing waste right away? A hefty waste tax? Look at what happened to energy consumption when it became expensive. Or is that not allowed by the VVD?

Friday: The monkey out of the garbage sleeve

Digging a little further, it turns out that the Netherlands has a considerable waste legacy: it was once decided to burn waste and use the energy to heat homes. Twenty years ago, people warned that this approach would work against recycling and a circular economy. That is exactly what is happening now: we no longer have enough waste to fuel the ovens. So we just import the junk from other countries. Italy in the most recent case. And that will continue for the time being, because the millions invested in capturing and storing the CO2, whether that works or not, still have to be earned back. That explains Rob Jetten’s act of desperation a bit. He was saddled with a persistent climate problem by his distant predecessor Pieter van Geel. There is a good chance that the same thing will happen again: passing the mess on to the next generation. A large part of which is not yet allowed to vote, so they don’t bite politicians (yet).

Missed an episode? Here you will find the overview.

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