Biking in Amsterdam for a weekend can open your eyes and mind to re-think of renewable sources of energy, an economic sustained growth, and a green and less polluted environment. All coupled up with sports and human well-being.
Sustainable development is the key word when we are talking about the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and warming up for the new Sustainable Development Goals that will enter into the scene Post 2015. Goal 7 of the MDGs covers the environmental sustainability of the planet and its limited resources, encouraging national governments to develop and implement strategies for sustainable development, i.e. incorporate the use of a greater amount of renewable energies in the production and consumption of food for instance, or in limiting the emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for factories and multinational companies among others.
If it all starts from where we are, we should be thinking of the kind of sustainable life we all want, both for us right now, but most of all with a forward-looking horizon by setting up and creating a sustainable future for the next generations to come. In this framework, special attention should be given to the atmosphere, to our surroundings and our cities. The question is where we wish to live and how we wish to live. Life conditions, quality of life, emotional ties, income, taxes, social and health services, they all play a role in the choice of the continent, the country, the region, the city, the village we want to live in. No doubt that smarter and greener cities can increase our willingness to live, stay, work and contribute to the economic development and social progress of the region we are in. And the Dutch seems to have understood it quite well.
Recent research on bikes associated with both environmental and health benefits show that life expectancy increases, as well as acting as energy booster, building up on personal empowerment and community building. Let's not forget that biking, along with walking, represent two major non-fuel-consuming, non-polluting forms of transportation in the whole world. By far the greatest environmental benefit of bicycling is that it bypasses the fossil fuel system we all have become addicted to. By using less cars and motor vehicles, we enable our societies to reduce consumption of fossil fuels and the associated pollution and other environmental damage. And we get happier and healthier about it along the ride.
The Rio Declaration of 1992 on Environment and Development has set up the first principle around human beings as "at the center of concerns for sustainable development" highlighting our inalienable entitlement to a healthy and productive life "in harmony with nature". Poverty eradication goes hand in hand with sustainable development: when people live in a society that assures equal opportunities to all, living standards increase and societies improve (economically, socially and environmentally). Planet Gaia is protected and its health is restored.
In assessing the advancement of the millennium development goals, the progress to date and the gaps in the implementation of international conventions and commitments of major summits on sustainable development and closing the gap between developed and developing countries, the Netherlands sets the tone in green economy and environment protection, challenging its population to move and come up with innovative and entrepreneurial ideas to creatively rethink our world, engaging in the talks for a better future and creating an enabling environment where time, organization, efficiency, commitment, respect for others, rule of law, safety and security rule.
I have seen and experienced the care of the Dutch population. Transparent and accountable for their actions, ecologically-aware and responsible citizens, they are excellent Europeans who can show us the way in finding smart solutions for a fresher and greener places. All of it, starting from a group bike ride talk.
For more information on green economy and topics related to climate change, poverty eradication and sustainable development, a great source for dialogue, research publications and policy papers is the World Centre for Sustainable Development (Rio+ Centre), a center set up to keep the commitment to sustainable development alive in both actions and ideas, guided by the outcome document of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development The Future We Want.