Rethinking the city
Futures for everyone
Brussels for everyone
The future starts today
Rethinking the city
Futures for everyone
Brussels for everyone
The future starts today
BrusselAVenir makes futures stories with and for the people of Brussels, like for example 20:30 Bruxsels Talks, a radio show of the future in which we discussed in the year 2030 how Brussels has become climate proof. During a 5 days bootcamp in Slovakia, we will now make a futures story on the future of youth and relationships in Brussels and Bratislava in the year 2035.
2035 is the time when the babies of today will be youngsters. These babies grow up in times of pandemic, dominant presence of social media, and tons of uncertainties.
With many youngsters we have already discussed how this generation relates to their family, friends, and society, how they might bond and how they might love. We will put the ideas we have gathered into a story. The format of the story will be some kind of video, but what this will be and how it will look like, we will decide during our stay in Slovakia.
Do you find the future fascinating? Do you like to dream wild? Do you like to make things? Do you like working in group? Do you want to be part of bringing more futures thinking to Brussels?
We are looking for: Brusselèirs (living/going to school/working in Brussels) between 13 and 30 years old… with an interest in the future and arts with at least a basic knowledge of English
We offer: A five days futures story atelier in Slovakia, together with a group of Slovakians Travel costs, accommodation, and three meals a day are included, we ask for a €35 participation fee. Accompaniment of two team members of BrusselAVenir
Checklist before you apply: Are you between 13 and 30 years old? Are you free from 20th till 24th of August? Are you able to free half a day in August and at least 5 days after August to finalize the project? (Moments of encounter will be decided on with the group) If you are under 18, do you have permission from your parents to travel with us?
You can submit your application by clicking on the Google Forms.
Disclaimer: This article is a result of expert interviews, desktop research, and chat with the people of Brussels around the research question ‘How will young Brusselèirs bond in 2035?’. The aim of the research is to map the current state and to analyse the trends. We will use it as a base for our futures stories.
👶 Young people of tomorrow 🧑🎤 Young people of today 👭 Healthy relationships for young 📱 Global evolutions that might influence the way we bond 🔮 Futures?
Young people of tomorrow
You are the youngest capital in Europe and the youngest region of Belgium.
Did you ever think of the young people of the future in our city?
The young people of 2035 in Brussels, that means Generation Alpha, the babies of today, the kids of the Millennials, the younger siblings of Generation Z, … what do we know about them compared to previous generations?
They will be more
They will be more diverse in ethnic and cultural background
Their parents have them when they are older
They will grow up in smaller families
They will be the most educated, digitally savvy and most globally connected generation so far
They will live longer
To get an idea about being young in our city, let’s have a look at the young people of today in Brussels.
Brussels youngsters are connected to their peers, their neighborhood and their ethnic origin. The diversity within the generation is very big and there is a big difference among young people living in different neighborhoods.
So that’s Brussels. And what about youth in general?
Young people of today
They are a Burnout Generation. On the one hand there are more and new mental health issues (bigorexia and climate anxiety for example). On the other hand, there is more openness about the topic ( Stromae sings about it , Angèle talks about her struggles on Netflix ) as well as efforts to cope with it. Games, such as Depression The Game, that teach you to empathize with depressed people for example, or apps, like MOODFIT, that help you to think more positively.
Generational Battles. The mediatisation of generational thinking and intergenerational challenges led to a finger pointing from one generation to the other, connections with older generations are not that easy for Gen Z. Gen Z blames the babyboomers for ruining the planet, they make fun of Millennials wearing skinny pants, and they felt stigmatised when some of them misbehaved during the pandemic.
They are hard to grasp Multitudes. Conscious identity formation and the diversity of online and offline expression platforms led to a complex whole of layers of the self. Today it goes further than just having a rinsta and a finsta. They show up differently, talk differently, value different things according to the platform, or the niche corner of the platform where they are (because yes, besides Straight TikTok with dances and comedy, there is DeepTok with weird absurd things about for example beans and frogs or fake accounts pretending to be department stores).
The Good, The Bad And The Debate. In times that wokeness and activism prevails and there is no shared moral framework, judging and policing becomes part of daily life. Opinions glue and divide. Cancel culture is everywhere.
Fluid Relationships are the norm, experimenting with and redefining relationships and partners happens with a never seen openness. They are explicit about dating for money and BDSM preferences, they earn money on Onlyfans and fall in love with AI’s. And when done with you, they ghost you.
And relationships are exactly what we need to feel better though, no?
Are there any global trends that will influence the way we bond with each other in Brussels?
Global evolutions that might influence the way we bond
Growth of ‘non-Western’ cultural influences
The shift of cultural, technological, political and economic powers combined with global crises like climate change and wars, will influence our lives in Brussels. There are more than two billion young people in Asia alone which is double the youth in the rest of the world. Besides, Asian companies like TikTok will mediate our social interaction. Also, new refugee streams will influence our values and the way we relate to each other.
New virtual spaces for social life
A network of 3D virtual worlds like Facebooks Horizon Worlds or for the kids Roblox are designed as the next social media, where you hang out, work, learn, play, party, attend concerts and discuss policies as your self-created avatar. The metaverse has patented technology that could track what you look at and how your body moves in virtual reality in order to target ads at you. The platforms would be able to collect photos and personal information from their users and minors are exposed to graphic sexual content, racist and violent language, bullying and other forms of harassment in VR platforms. This will influence our capacity to decode true information, mental health and bonding skills in real life.
New tools to understand each other
Metamodernism is an integration of modern, postmodern as well as premodern (indigenous and traditional) cultural codes, and could lead to multiperspectivalism and cross-cultural/cross-historical understanding. All kinds of tools help us to better understand each other (e.g. real-time translation of speech, even through earbuds). Through future BCI (brain computing interface) technology, we’ll also be able to better communicate with people with severe disabilities and even achieve basic dialogue with infants, pets, and wild animals.
New tools to be intimate
By combining the best of physical and digital worlds you can create new experiences. AI, augmented reality, wearables, and digital environments will change the way we meet, interact, have sex and end our relationships. Holodeck-style environments and virtual reality combined with realistic devices and maybe even a Teslasuit, can create exciting new sexual possibilities, or even develop relationships with non-humans. This will influence how we will be intimate with other humans.
New tech to improve our social skills
Wearable and implantable technology will allow us to enhance existing or get new (social) skills. When we will use BCI (brain computing interface) technology, our minds will connect directly to the web to answer any question we come up with, a future version of the Internet may be formed through connecting minds instead of computers. Machine-learning systems can study facial muscle movements and detect lies, hack the brain and enhance personality. Technologies like drugs, transcranial electrical stimulation, brain implants, and genetic engineering can enhance connections between parts of the brain, to increase multitasking performance, attention, and working memory span. With neuromodulation surgery, we might get rid of mental disorders. But when BCI technology becomes commonly held, we will need to worry about future criminals hacking into our minds, stealing memories, implanting memories and mind control.
Considering the developments that we see happening, what do we have to figure out about the futures of bonding?
Futures of intimate bonding
Will we be matched and monitor our relationships based on values, interests, moods and biometric data?
Will love relationships be poly, pan, temporary, commodified, international, intercultural, interplanetary and/or interspecies?
How will tech tools and virtual spaces relate to analogue intimacy?
Futures of bonding with family and friends
How will we balance our time between our biological family versus our ‘chosen family of friends’?
How will we make friends and maintain friendships on the one hand and relate to relationships with differently-minded others on the other hand?
How will digital and analogue technology trigger and facilitate support, solidarity and shared experiences with family and friends?
Futures of bonding with society
How will technology bridge and divide and how will that shape how we trust each other?
How will young people contribute to their community and have meaning in life?
How will intergenerational, intercultural, interabilities, intergender, interlingual,… bonding happen in the city?
And most of all… what do we want?
Many questions popped up during this research. In a series of LabAvenirs we will debate these questions, and we’ll put the answer in a music piece, installation, performance,… of the futures of Brussels.
6 guiding principles for sharing Bruxsels amongst each other in 2030
For one year we have been talking to citizens and experts about the past, present and futures on our research question ‘How will we share the city amongst each other in Bruxsels in 2030?’. This happened from October 2020 to November 2021 with 482 people over 10 LabAVenirs, 5 Window Cafes, 40 one-to-one meetings with experts and partners.
We gathered many insights and statements that show us possible futures. Inspired by that, we framed 6 principles for sharing the city amongst each other in 2030. We presented these principles in an online experts lab, and refined them together. The 6 principles are the base for our futures stories.
Below some excerpts from the various conversations as ‘citizen testimonials’ and the principles that derived from it.
“I don’t want forced mixing or futuristic hybridisation” ; “Sharing would mean opening up my culture” ; “Going out of my bubble means negotiating my identity with the local identity” ; “To open up means none of the communities, not even the domestic ones, can pretend to have enough cultural rules to become the dominant culture in our society” ; “We need to question the dominant behaviour ruling in the open spaces” ; “Everything is too organised, it kills spontaneity” ; “Let’s do the opera in Molenbeek and do rap in Woluwe” ; “It’s not comfortable when there is too much intercultural; we need opening up of cultures but also maintain spaces where people can have their cultures” ; “Brussels is a melting pot, people here are not caught up in ‘this is how you do things’. We can appreciate the mixity here”
CROSS-POLLINATION BETWEEN GROUPS
Sharing the city amongst each other in 2030 is not only about coexistence but cross-pollination of groups. The idea is to go from tolerance to a true interest for other cultures and practices in a respectful manner. This would mean getting rid of stereotypes and of bubblification.
“It would be interesting to have temporary spaces around different cultures, communities, and practices to challenge our ideas. It’s a way for the city to evolve with its citizens.” ; “We can have zinnekeparade, car free sunday and a carnaval but with less preparations to lower the threshold for participation” ; “We need undefined spaces in the city that are designed for spontaneity” ; “We need more mixed housing” ; “We need everyday spaces in the city designed to host multigenerational, multicultural needs” ; “It’s not by expressing your own culture so much that you build bridges. Building bridges happens when respecting the boundaries of others”
“It is difficult to develop trust and solidarity with people different from you” ; “There should be no difference between expats and immigrants” ; “Diversity is foremost about acknowledging inequality” ;“There is a lot of fear around differences” ; “Everything is too regulated, I don’t see children climbing trees” ;“The over-institutionalised care limits us in relying on others” ;“So many people see Brussels as a transition city, this is hard for social cohesion” ;“It’s hard to connect with people who are in transition in Brussels” ;“How do you educate people about diversity who have just arrived and that might not stay that long”
EXTENDED MUTUAL CARE AND SOLIDARITY FOR EVERYONE
Sharing the city amongst each other in Brussels in 2030 requires us to go beyond the care and solidarity for only people we know. Solidarity is mostly based on familiarity, it is hard to be solidair with people who are very different from us or who are here temporarily. There is a need to emphasise on the common rather than differences. The individualistic lifestyle can give way to more interdependence and mutual care.
“One must be free of prejudice, free of clichés, free of ghettos” ; “We see a rise of solidarity among strangers because of shared struggles during the crisis. We can fake a crisis in the city” ; “Integration in Brussels can be compulsory and for everyone, it is an opportunity to become Brusseleir even if you are here temporarily. We can have different stages and more personalised approach to integration” ; “Educating newcomers about diversity and respect is a political act and it’s a matter of prioritising this” ; “Cultural activities and organisational life (volunteering) helps newcomers in building social networks” ; “We need low threshold open community centres where different people can come in and organise several activities”
“For me the question is: does everyone have to go to all the places in the city?” ; “If we talk about sharing the city, it seems that we are talking about cutting it up, drawing lines, and giving places to one another” ; “It’s not easy to find a flat in Uccle or Woluwe, people don’t want to rent a flat to foreigners. So we have to go to Molenbeek or Anderlecht” ; “We don’t cross the canal” ; “I wouldn’t feel part of any other neighbourhood in Brussels than the one I’m living in” ; “I feel safe in my commune” ; “Some neighbourhoods are dead. Places like youth centres should be developed everywhere, they make dead neighbourhoods lively” ; “I don’t romanticise the idea that we need to be “all together everywhere”. What we do need is better accessibility to different neighbourhoods. Today, if I want to go to Uccle, it takes me an hour”
Sharing the city amongst each other in Brussels in 2030 can build more literal and figurative bridges and connect different municipalities to get rid of the neighbourhood biases. People feel good in a neighbourhood when its characteristics bring a sense of familiarity but that often renders it unwelcoming for others. This creates a paradox between making sure that people should feel at home versus making everyone feel welcome. We don’t have to make everyone feel at home everywhere, rather they should just feel welcome.
“Feelings of safety can be stimulated by collectively going to different neighbourhoods” ; “We need a big polygamous marriage between different communes in Brussels” ; “We need more social housing in richer neighbourhoods” ; “Existing places such as libraries can act as bridges between communes” ; “More participative projects at the regional level can bring people from different municipalities together” ; “We need something like a Sister-city policy for communes where each commune has another sister commune for 2 years to do things together and then it rotates”
“Do I have to choose one or the other language in Brussels?” ; “The promotion of monolingualism in a multicultural city like Brussels is questionable while sharing the city” ;“I dream in Molenbeek of a beautiful hammam with mosaics, with a tea room,… a magnificent place that shows the Moroccan culture” ; “During Covid, we were in echo chambers online, and outside we were sharing the parks and fitness tools with strangers. It made differences very visible in the public spaces and it felt unsafe to be there” ; “The institutional view on diversity as a topic is still old school, often talking about diversity, we think of immigrants and vulnerable populations” ;“For 2030 we have to be ambitious. Will we still divide people by gender? Maybe there will also be bots with AI?” ;“The language conflict will grow because of the huge influx of migrants brought by climate change and wars” ;“Language is a barrier for people to be themselves and to connect with others. We can go beyond it by connecting through skills and interests.” ;“We should normalise issues like sexual orientation and let it be expressed in public . But you have to feel safe to do this. Ideally everyone should feel safe to express themselves. Super utopic”
Sharing the city amongst each other in Brussels in 2030 facilitates the plurality of lifestyles and identities. It is about welcoming the plurality of cultural expressions, languages, genders, perspectives and species. By making social and political space for plurality, we can make Brussels truly a lab for the future of cities. Education has an important role to play to teach multiculturalism and multilingualism.
“There is also a comfort in the fact that everyone is so visually different, you are not the odd one. Show how powerful it can be to be unapologetically yourself” ; “It is not just the education system but also the cities have a responsibility to teach plurality. If a young kid doesn’t find answers at school it would be amazing if they find these things in the city” ; “What if we can learn a language while cooking or climbing?” ; “We need to rethink the pronouns we use in our everyday language” ; “English can become an official language and we should be able to do admin work in any language” ; “We need collective celebrations of diverse festivals and through that display of different cultures” ; “The introduction and the democratisation of real-time interpretation devices can be a real game changer”
“In Brussels I need a person to help me get in and out of the metro. It’s a bit sad. It is time consuming” ;“The school books are white, not diverse enough. You see perfection everywhere” ;“We segregate people with a handicap, put them on a bus, in a social block, in a special school. Mix them with the others” ;“When someone has an assistant, people talk to the assistant, not to the person directly” ;“It would be amazing if I would be able to take the bus without planning and organising. That I can just participate with my friends that are already there, instead of coming to get me” ;“People lack education on differences as they are not confronted with the differences” ;“I would love to participate in the zinneke parade, but everyone is standing and looking up, I’m down on my wheelchair” ;“Dealing with opposing needs and desires makes sharing hard. Eg: party vs dement people, spontaneous vs taking handicaped people into account” ;“The behaviour in public places like sports places is gendered. The masculine sphere dominates over others”
Sharing the city amongst each other in Brussels in 2030 cannot happen without putting Inclusive design as a starting point of everything. In general if you need to make something accessible, you need to plan a lot. This kills spontaneity. Not if we have a multi-needs design panel from the beginning to imagine, plan and execute everything in the city. Multi-needs refers to not different physical or mental abilities but also other ‘handicaps’, such as not speaking local languages, cultural understandings, etc. Getting rid of taboos to discuss diverse needs can be a starting point. To provide equality of design and services that allows people to participate in a meaningful way in everyday life is important for the futures of cities.
“For people to meaningfully participate in projects, communication and information needs to be inclusive; in multiple formats, visual, audio; and brought by organisations that reach special groups. It benefits everyone, not only handicapped people but also newcomers” ;“Places to get away from the chaos in the city, like helmets or pods” ; “Designs that make you smile at each other” ; “Everyone should be trained with diversity so that people with special needs don’t have to pay a lot for assistance” ; “During processions or parades or events, it is necessary to have vehicles part of the parade, a place on a grandstand, adapted public toilets, support for senior citizens, babysit for kids to support mothers to participate” ; “To include diverse voices in participatory urban planning we need participatory credits”
“There is a strong tension between the official norm of ‘active citizenship’ and the bureaucratic integration of newcomers” ;“The integration process is frustrating for newcomers and it doesn’t fit their personal and professional motivations” ;“Not having an active role as a citizen makes most people not have a sense of belonging” ;“Diversity is seen as richness only by the privileged” ;“People of European origin (other than Belgium) living in Brussels are those who have the lowest interest in local politics (municipal and regional)” ;“The presence of distincts Flemish and Francophone reception agencies does not provide a unitary response service in terms of practices and principles” ;“Not everyone has the headspace to participate in the city malking” ;“So many families evicted in the last two years because of unaffordable prices”
A HOME FOR EVERYONE
Sharing the city amongst each other in Brussels in 2030 can happen if we leave no one behind and make everyone feel at home in Brussels. You can feel at home in a city if you live in a decent home. Access to decent housing for everyone is a priority. Followed by social activities and occasions where people can free themselves and mingle with others to build rich social networks.
“No one should be allowed to own more than one house” ;“Ultimate safety for everyone means a good housing” ;“Key party for homeless where we fill-up all empty spaces in Brussels” ;“Language learning can be a platform for exchange between people, exchange of information and the production of networks of support” ;“A culture where we don’t need police necessarily but everybody can tell each other how to be in a respectful way” ;“People who are temporarily here can vote on some matters if not elections”
Disclaimer: In the past months we crowdsourced questions about youth in Brussels in the year 2035. We went on the streets and asked people what they would love to know about young people in our city in the future. We talked to experts and gathered questions through an online campaign. After making sense of 270 questions together with our project partner Youthwatch in Bratislava, we chose to focus on the research question ‘How will young Brusselèirs and Bratislavians bond in 2035?’. In this article you can read a first exploration of the question, in the form of a Zoom talk between Brussels and Bratislava.
Bratislava: Hi Brussels, so good to see you. How are you doing?
Brussels: Hi Bratislava! I’m a bit tired of calls, I have to say. Due to all the telework of the past year and a half, I got a severe Zoom overdose.
Bratislava: True, I’m glad we’re getting back to offline life. Terrasses and bars are open again, everyone is back from holidays, and in the work rhythm again, young people are going to school. Slovakia is among the EU countries where schools were closed the longest during the first and second wave of Covid-19. So everyone is happy that they can go back to the school benches.
Brussels: That’s indeed one of the positive results of what we have been going through. Schoolgoing seems revalued, by parents and by young people themselves. The pandemic has left us with a few challenges though, concerning youth. I’m excited that we‘ve been paired up to work on the future of youth together.
Bratislava: Me too. Bratislava, Brussels, there are some benefits of being next to each other in the alphabetical list of capitals of Europe. So, the idea of this project is that we’ll explore ‘youth in the year 2035’ with the goal to strengthen the position of young people in our societies?
Bratislava: Cool. And by doing this with the youth of today we help them to discover their potential and immediately engage them in shaping our cities.
Brussels: Because of their crucial role in cities, we call them the Future Fertilisers of our city, right?
Bratislava: Indeed. They are not only the business owners, teachers, politicians and family heads of tomorrow. Already now, they have a fresh view on how things could be done differently. As Future Fertilisers they plant and fertilise the youth of the futures.
Brussels: And there are many young people in our cities. I have been rejuvenating since the 1970’s. I am the youngest region in Belgium and the youngest EU capital city. One third of my population is younger than 25. So yes, let’s dive into this group. Remind me, Bratislava, how do we define youth in this project?
Bratislava: Youth is the time when kids step by step become autonomous from their parents. It is the period in which they develop their ideas about who they are. This happens through relationships with others. The European Union defines young people to be between 13 and 30 years old, so this age category is what we’ll use for the project.
Brussels: Honestly, we are both more than 1000 years old. I’m not on TikTok and don’t invest in crypto’s. Keeping up with the youth has always been challenging, and the fast technological developments are not making it any easier. The young people of today, generation Z, (born between 1996 and 2010) is a hard group to define, a harder group to follow and the hardest group to imagine in the future.
Bratislava: But wait, in 2035 generation Z will be 25 to 40 years old, that’s not youth anymore, right?
Brussels: Correct. The youth of 2035 will mostly be Generation Alpha, the ones born between 2011 and 2025. They will be 10 to 24 years old in 2035.
Bratislava: So we’ll study the future of an age group from which some of them aren’t born yet. Will we consult oracles and astrologists?
Brussels: Haha, not really. There is information available that can help us to explore how they potentially might evolve. The times they grow up in and their material reality are very formative for a generation. The Silent Generation went through the Great Depression and World War II and listened to the radio. The Baby Boomers came of age in postwar economic prosperity and grew up with the idea that things would improve, and the news reached them via television.
Bratislava: Got it. And Generation X was shaped by difficult economic circumstances due to the second oil crisis, the cold war and the end of sexual freedom since HIV came up. They are the MTV Generation and had video cassette recorders and walkmen.
Brussels: And then we have Generation Y. They grew up with global issues like terrorism. The rise of the internet and social media shaped their lives.
Bratislava: So by studying trends and technological development that will influence the possible worlds of 2035, we can get an idea of what this age group might be like. And of course, we can study how they are as kids.
Brussels: And we can look at their parents, the generation they are raised by.
Bratislava: Most Gen Z members are children of the more pragmatic Generation X, and most Generation Alpha are kids of the dreamy Gen Y.
Brussels: Indeed. So the youngsters of today, and the youngsters of 2035, what do we know about them?
Bratislava: Gen Z grows up in a fast paced world, with global crises like the financial crisis, climate change and the crisis of democracy – think: the Arab Spring. They grow up with internet always everywhere accessible through different devices, constantly exposed to information. Social media influencers are their heroes, like the YouTuber PewDiePie or GoGo in Slovakia.
Brussels: And in Generation Alpha is growing up with even more chaos, complexity and contradiction?
Bratislava: Indeed. Playing with bots and mostly attracted to everything that has a screen. I’m curious what the impact will be.
Brussels: Their great great great grandparents in Europe grew up while innocent women and men were burning on the pyre. I’m sure the kids will survive smartphones and tablets, don’t you think?
Bratislava: Good point. I’m not worried either.
Brussels: Generation Alpha is said to become the most educated generation in history and the most tech-savvy. They will have to figure out how to deal with both the opportunities and challenges of technology.
Bratislava: Social media will be their dominant mode of interaction. Their friends might be robots, they might have nanotechnologie in their bodies that monitor their health, mind-reading devices or implants with whatever functions. Will they still be able to write or to drive a car?
Brussels: Or talk to a stranger without mask?
Bratislava: Did you hear that they are considering changing the name of Generation Alpha in Generation C, referring to COVID?
Brussels: Haha, no, not yet. Naming and juggling with generational stereotypes seems a hobby of some people. You are aware though that generational thinking has its pros and cons, right?
Bratislava: Sure. There are as many differences as similarities when comparing different generations and it is a drastic generalisation.
Brussels: And talking in general seems to become more difficult with each generation. Take generation Z. They grow up on the internet and nobody knows what they are doing there. Once they get out of their Disney movie obsession, they start a YouTube channel where they showcase their nail tattoo stickering skills, they get into Fortnite and Dinosaur Metal, after which they become a buddhist and they start communicating in memes.
Bratislava: You are right. Due to their creative and free identity formation, there is more diversity within one generation than ever.
Brussels: On top of that, I am the most cosmopolitan city of Europe and second in the world with more than 180 nationalities and more than 108 different languages spoken. Besides very diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, also the differences between youngsters of different neighbourhoods is big.
Bratislava: Unlike Brussels, I am not so diverse yet. We have small groups of international students and some ethnic groups, but they are all well integrated. We can talk about a growing diversity in opinions, values and mindsets though. Due to my open-mindedness I attract for example people from LGBTQIA+ community because they feel more accepted here than in rural parts of the country.
Brussels: For me, the diversity makes it difficult to grasp, to reach, and to engage them. My young people are very much connected to their peers, their neighbourhood and their ethnic origin, but their bond with the rest of the city is rather poor. ¼ of young people are unemployed and feel disconnected with politics and their city. Many feel left out on the one hand and stigmatised by the media and the police on the other hand. A sensitive but very actual topic.
Bratislava: In Slovakia as well, there is a lack of trust in politicians and institutions. 80% of young Slovaks think their voice is not heard. As a consequence we see the rise of extreme right as well as an increase in conspiracy theories. Even though many young people admire my current mayor Matúš Vallo, they don’t engage in public affairs. The system is failing to prepare young people for the future and they are not happy about it.
Brussels: So, if there is one topic concerning youth in the year 2035 that we should research… according to you… what would that be, Bratislava?
Bratislava: Just like you did, we did a lot of research, talked to experts and gathered more than 277 questions from citizens. A recurring and very actual theme seems to be the mental health of our youngsters, influenced by the pandemic but also the increasing role of technology in their lives.
Brussels: Interesting… Tell me more.
Bratislava: Adolescence is a crucial period for developing social and emotional habits important for mental well-being. There is an increase in mental issues, there are new forms such as orthorexia, bigorexia and climate anxiety, and most of the cases remain underdiagnosed and undertreated. In 2020, IPčko (one Slovak helpline) provided 52,682 times help to people that were not feeling well. In the same year, due to the enormous workload, 60,147 requests for assistance were not provided.
Brussels: We have a similar situation here. Already before the pandemic many youngsters were not feeling well. Gen Y is often referred to as the “burnt generation”, showing signs of high stress and frustration at work. Now, Gen Zers, who are still studying, are also feeling burned out, depressed and frustrated in their personal lives. One indicator are the suicide rates. In Belgium suicide is the most common cause of death for youngsters between 15 and 24 years old. Recent research showed that during the COVID-19 crisis 1 out of 4 youngsters between 18 and 29 has considered suicide.
Bratislava: These are worrying numbers. The times they grow up in aren’t easy. They have a lot of options and are responsible for their own success. Everybody with access to the internet can make it these days, right? But the paths to success are blurry, and often their parents don’t know how to guide them either.
Brussels: Indeed. Everything is possible and they can be whoever they are, they have a lot of freedom. On the other hand they also suffer from the lack of borders and certainties. And they do not know who to trust and what is real.
Bratislava: But as long as they have a good connection and full battery they find out on social media, no?
Brussels: Social networks are the place where they connect with their peers and find guidance in life – recipes on being cool, perform better or get their hair done. But to which extent these platform are a healthy place to hang out, is questionable.
Brussels: Correct. The whole debate on the ways tech companies manipulate our attention, is hot and happening. But so far, only the employees of the tech companies and their kids have left social media.
Bratislava: And it is via these channels that young people get bombarded with information on the terrifying state of the world. Think politics, human rights, climate, …
Brussels: … pandemics?
Bratislava: Indeed. That brings us to the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of young people. Planning the future became impossible all of a sudden. Being in lockdown with their parents, who in some cases are very controlling or not controlling at all, some even aggressive, led to harsh situations. Social life moved from party offline and online to fully online. Not being able to hang out with your friends is dramatic in this life stage. Gen Z experienced this very consciously, but for Gen Alpha there will be an impact as well.
Brussels: From the different causes of mental health issues, the importance of healthy relationships became a very noticeable one during Covid 19 pandemic. The Mental Health Foundation defines relationships as ‘the way in which two or more people are connected, or the state of being connected’. Recent studies from Ireland and the USA have found that negative social interactions and relationships, increase the risk of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation, while positive interactions reduce the risk of these issues.
Bratislava: So let’s take healthy relationships as a focus for our exploration of youth in 2035?
Brussels: Yes! The future might bring increasing digitalisation of our (social) lives, a bigger role for bots like ‘Her‘, more expanded relationships over the globe, and much more. So together with the citizens, we will analyse what it could mean to have healthy relationships in 2035. And how cities of the future can support the formation of healthy relationships for young people.
Bratislava: So our research question is: ‘good connection and full battery: how will young Brusselèirs and Bratislavians bond in 2035?’
Brussels: Yes. And we will explore this question with as many citizens as possible.
Bratislava: So this is a call for all readers: would you like to jump onboard on a wild journey? Then please, let us know!
Brussels: Locations – cultural centers or youth houses for example – could host our gatherings and labs and we can offer them exciting futures activities. We are looking for schools, research agencies, students who enjoy doing research on youth, on mental health, technology or on futures, who like to experiment with new methods and ways of spreading research. We would love to collaborate with media makers who want to co-create content about the futures of youth. And creatives and makers of all kinds are invited to step into the experiment of making a futures story.
Bratislava: Basically for everyone who wants, we will find a role. And we promise it will be fun!
Brussels: It will!
Brussels: Take care over there! And talk to you soon!
Disclaimer: This article is a result of expert interviews, desktop research, and chat with the people of Brussels around the research question ‘How will we share the city amongst each other in Bruxsels in 2030?’. The aim of the research is to map the current state and to analyse the trends. We will use this research as a base for our futures stories.
CONTENTS 💬 Intro: What is sharing the city? 👀 2030: Nine years from today 👹 Real reality: The four monsters 👊 Friction Fence: The six jumps 👂 Learn & learn: Best practices local and global 💘 Attention: Futures is under construction
Intro: What is sharing the city?
Dear Brussels, You are not a cake, we cannot cut you and share the parts among us!
Thank you Brusseleirs to stress this 🙏🙏
We want to share you, dear Brussels, by sharing the material and immaterial worlds you are made of – bus rides, spaces, celebrations, knowledge, information, care, rules, resources, cultures, identities, languages, time, and stories.
Why do we have to share the city when we can be happy in our bubbles?
The reason we move to cities is that there are opportunities and new experiences. In addition, we don’t necessarily have to assimilate unlike in a village.
Crisis like climate change, terrorism, and pandemic have put ‘life in bubbles’ in the city under question. These moments of crisis surface up our interdependencies and vulnerabilities. We rely on each other a lot to meet our basic needs, we need social interactions to combat loneliness, we need trust in others to feel safe and healthy.
Governments across the world have understood this. At the last Habitat III conference in 2016 by the United Nations, they all committed to the goal of embracing diversity and living together, among many other goals.
We didn’t want to rely just on official goals and promises so we consulted the people of Brussels in the streets. The people of Brussels want ‘living together’ in 2030 to manifest:
🎯 Solidarity across differences 🎯 A sense of belonging for everyone 🎯 Rich social networks 🎯 Display of cultural expressions 🎯 Active citizenship 🎯 Liveability for everyone 🎯 New shared stories about the city
2030: Nine years from today
2030 will be a special year for Brussels.
Belgium will celebrate its 200 years of independence 🎺 Amidst the 200 years of celebration, Brussels aspires to celebrate the spirit and the title of European Capital of Culture 🤞🤞
Brussels in 2030: What do we know? 🙈🙈
We will be more and we will be more diverse.
We will have many newcomers, thanks to the climate migration (more exotic food in Brussels).
The newcomers will be robots, mushrooms, other species along with other humans.
Some of us will embrace multilingualism (tough choice) and some of us will keep relying on translation tools (who can resist real-time interpretations).
Some neighbourhoods will welcome most of the immigrants making them denser and unattractive for others.
Brussels will have to grow vertically (end of the neighbourhood dynamics).
This will make Brussels overly dense and we might have to choose between ‘Nature in the city’ Versus ‘Nature or City’.
Over densification will force us to live and move too close to each other (ouch! the social distancing).
Over densification will impact more the poor and vulnerable populations (hmmm…).
Wait, we have social housing (where will we build the social housing, in the south or north?).
More housing will mean less space for the urbaners to grow their veggies in the city (the never-ending clash of the bubbles).
How about urban gardens on the roofs of social housing to promote mixity?
Won’t work-from-home policies brought in thanks to Covid-19 stay at least in the European institutions? We will have many (more) empty buildings in 2030.
Now all that could be fake news! (how will we trust each other in a superdiverse city like Brussels?).
We can go on speculating about the future… What is the real reality though?
Real reality: The four monsters
We are all very different in different aspects.
Sharing the city in Brussels amongst each other will have to be across: Cultures Bonds (newcomers vs old Brusseleirs) Communes Different needs Genders Generations Religions Socio-economic classes Species …
2. The north of Brussels ≠ the south of Brussels
We all notice how Brussels changes as you cross the canal. The city hosts the poorest and the richest municipalities of the country. Brussels is one of the greenest cities in Europe. Unfortunately, this is not true for everyone. The north and the south division in the city also reflects the rising socio-economic inequalities between municipalities.
In day-to-day life, certain sections of the Brussels population barely come in contact with each other. This de facto segregation is a challenge for the city’s liveability in the long term.
3. 1 Region, 2 Communities and 19 Communes: different goals and different visions
Institutionally, in Brussels, we have two communities (determined by two languages). However, in reality, we have many more communities – ethnic and cultural ones. There are around 164 languages spoken in the city. The way integration happens today ignores this plurality. Forget about all the other languages, as a newcomer one is put in a box of either French–speaking or Dutch-speaking bureaucracy and city networks.
Talking about bureaucracy, the second big focus of integration. We all diligently learn about the administrative work around identity cards and taxations. How about local politics and how can we contribute to making the city of tomorrow?
4. Sharing versus social distancing
Relations post-covid is a big question: will we be careful in interacting with strangers, will we hang out only with the people we know, and will we be open for spontaneous gatherings…
There are serious concerns that the public will reject public transportation in favor of private motor vehicles and bicycles. The stay-at-home policies may remain after the end of the pandemic; normalising in that way teleworking, online shopping, and distance learning.
Sharing the city with these circumstances will require relearning the act and meaning of sharing.
Friction Fence: The six jumps
In order to share amongst each other,
we need to open-up, adapt, adjust, tolerate..How can we motivate different communities to open-up?
we need to extend care and solidarity towards strangers and other species. How can we care and stand in solidarity with people we don’t know?
different groups living next to each other (from different neighbourhoods) need to interact. How can we build literal and figurative bridges?
we need to be able to access (means to go physically, have the right information and knowledge). How can we design for diversity in Brussels?
we need to be able to express ourselves comfortably.How can we welcome language, cultural and identity plurality?
we need to feel a sense of belonging. How can we make everyone feel at home in Brussels?
Learn & learn: Best practices local and global
Brass’Art cafe in Molenbeek, a community cafe that wants to break the barriers of the social and religious division and provide a space where diverse people from different cultural backgrounds can meet.
Le Manguier en Fleurs in Brussels, creates a space of engagement that serves as a platform for exchange between newcomers, exchange of information and the production of networks.
The House of One will be a place in Berlin where the coexistence of religions is lived peacefully. It brings a synagogue, a church, and a mosque together under one roof. This will serve as a meeting place, where worshippers and members of the public can come together and learn more about the religions and each other.
Queering the Map is a collaborative mapping platform and is run by a community. It digitally archives LGBTQ2IA+ experience in relation to physical space. The park benches, trees, gates all tell a story about a different reality that we don’t know.
The Sport in Favour of Inclusion and Citizenship for Refugees and Asylum Seekers programme in Strasbourg aims to support the integration of target groups through sports. Participants are engaged in concrete physical activities and are introduced to existing health schemes. This raises awareness around the rights of a citizen. Hence through the notion of wellbeing, they are empowered and learn to take care of themselves.
What do we learn from them?
There is no formula for living together in superdiversity, it needs everyday practical adjustments and conscious discussions.
The inclusion of many artefacts (objects dear to different cultures and communities) in a shared space helps different people to feel comfortable.
Showcase and promote hybrid practices around arts and culture in the city. It pushes more people to interact with someone different from them.
Promoting a year-round outdoor activity through design and programming for a variety of weather conditions, including rain-friendly public spaces, are vital for social interactions.
It is easy to gather very different people around a common need expressed by them (example: learning a language). Once they gather, a space must be created for exchange around the everyday life of the people. This is a key ingredient to build rich social networks.
Using visual formats like maps and diagrams gives you a different view and helps diverse people understand the diverse layers of society.
🚧 Attention: Futures is under construction
“Inclusiveness is not about organising something that appeals to everyone, but about making sure that for everyone there is something that appeals to them”.
Marie Umuhoza, festival coordinator from Underneath Which Rivers Flows
Keep an eye on our social media to read more about the building blocks that will influence the futures story and a futures story that will demonstrate the sharing in Brussels in 2030.
In the past months we crowdsourced questions online and offline about how we will live together in Brussels in the year 2030. Armed with mouth masks and alcohol gel, we traveled to Josaphat park, Bois de la Cambre, Scheutbos, parc de Laeken, Tour & Taxis, parc de Forest and Leopold park. After making sense of 280 questions with experts we chose to focus on the research question ‘How will we share the city amongst each other in Bruxsels in 2030?’
Brussels is a laboratory for experimenting new forms of living together. During Ramadan, beautiful traditions like iftar tables are shared by different cultures; Brusseleirs love sharing food from different cultures with cosy conversations; the streets of Brussels are shared by the Pride Parade, the Zinneke Parade as well as the demonstrations for Black Lives Matter.
These examples exhibit how spaces are used differently than usual, and where audiences are mixed. This, however, is not the case always.
With the research question, we want to explore how we can share the material worlds (spaces and resources) and the immaterial worlds (knowledge; cultures; languages; identities; care and stories) with different kinds of people. Sharing across diversity is an integral ingredient to live together in a city like Brussels. To imagine the futures around this topic we will have to navigate many complexities central to Brussels, such as sharing in hyperdiversity; sharing in a spatially divided context; sharing in an institutional maze; and sharing in covid times.
Brusselèirs already know how to share, so our starting point is to share ideas and views on ‘sharing the city’ in 2030. We will be facilitating this process in the next few months.
Keep scrolling below to read all the questions crowdsourced on the topic of living together in 2030.
Can we have car free city by 2030? How will the street and buildings look like to create more connection and shared spaces that are not packed? What tools do we have to connect with others that at first look we don’t see or feel similarities with? How can we overcome fear and turned it into trust? Can we have more presence and appreciation for what there is? How will we avoid conflict and stereotypes between the different populations in 2030? Will we be able to maintain a secular society and freedom of speech despite current political trends on both sides of the spectrum? Will the lingua franca of Brussels go from French to English, and will Flemish be further marginalized by this shift? How can we avoid segregation between linguistic and cultural communities going forward? What are good structures of houses that you can live harmoniously with other humans and livings while preserving your privacy? Will our social media and information bubbles already have exploded by then? Comment créer des liens sociaux entre les différents “ghettos” bruxellois? Comment les personnes pauvres vont pouvoir prendre leur place dans la société? Quid du lien intergénérationnelle à la sortie de la crise du Covid? Est ce qu’il y aura l’allocation universelle? Est ce qu’il n’y aura plus de sans-abri? Est ce qu’il y aura un accès faciliter aux droits sociaux pour tous? Est-ce que notre état veillera à protéger les plus fragiles? Ma rue sera telle encore si calme? Que sera la diversité en 2030? Aurons-nous pu entamer une vraie transition vers une économie locale et résiliente? Aurons-nous mis en place une forme de revenu universel? Quel sera la situation des migrants qui tentent de s’établir en Europe, aura-t-on finalement pu les accueillir comme il se doit? Wie zijn mijn buren? Wat is hun verhaal? Gaan we meer bomen zien, een groene stad, waar fietsers en voetgangers overal voorrang hebben? Hoe kunnen we in harmonie en met kennis en respect voor elkaar leven in een diverse samenleving? Hoe definiëren we diversiteit in 2030? Hoe hebben we de groeiende ongelijkheid kunnen omkeren? Hoe vrij bewegen we over grenzen heen? Zal het nog zo divers zijn als nu, of zullen armere mensen uit de stad verdreven zijn? Should Brussels become officially trilingual? Will Brussels ever become an independent state? Would they change the law so old Belgian houses can be tear down or at least restored properly so the city looks nicer? Will we dare to ask each other questions about cultural habits? Will we be open to learning new languages? Will Covid-19 pandemic amplify the inequalities in the city? Hoe kunnen we naar een niet racistisch en objectief politie- en rechtssysteem? Hebben we geld, ondersteuning of voordelige initiatieven van de stad om te kunnen leven en kopen in de Brussel? Wat is de rol van robots in de politiemacht? Will there be more cultural sharing? Comment sera la mobilité à Bruxelles en 2030? Peut-on prendre quelques exemples de villes françaises plus durables? Comment sera Bruxelles en termes d’espaces verts/faits divers, pourrait-on en trouver en dehors du centre-ville? Will Brussels continue to be multicultural? Me as a newcomer, will I be a part of the real Brussel? Will COVID-19 pandemic change the way social interaction is conducted? I notice that society becomes day by day more individualistic. Will it become even more in 10 years? Will mobility- transport be extended in the city suburbs so that they will have access to the city center? La ville aura-t-elle plus d’espaces verts? Will the prices get higher; therefore forcing some groups outside the city? Will public spaces have more elements that provoke more social activities open air? Will the city have spaces that remain open all day? How will i stop being afraid of other people that I consider unfamiliar? What will be the common point of reference between the groups of the city? Des moyens d’intégration différents sauront-ils disponibles? La diversité sera-t-elle toujours un “problème”, ou sera-t-elle enfin banalisée? La diversité sera-t-elle toujours une particularité, un enjeu, ou sera-t-elle acquise et devenue simplement “la norme”? La mixité sera-t-elle intégrée à nos manières de fonctionner ensemble, tout naturellement? Bruxelles sera-t-elle toujours une ville “record”, ou la diversité sera une donne présente universellement? Hoe gaan we zorgen dat mensen in de straat elkaar blijven kennen, helpen en bezoeken? Hoe gaan we polarisering tegen vanuit een bottom-up positie? Hoe inclusief en toch hoogstaand onderwijs organiseren? Hoe kunnen we polarisering (bv. op politiek en democratisch vlak) vermijden? Hoe zal geestelijke gezondheid vorm krijgen in een diverse samenleving? How will urban mobility enhance social interaction? Will public transportation aim at creating human interactions at the top of sustainable mobility? Quel rôle l’agriculture urbaine jouera-t-elle dans la ville? L’agriculture urbaine sera-t-elle une source centrale d’interactions sociales? L’interaction entre les différents groupes sociaux sera-t-elle affectée par les anciens modèles de relations entre les classes sociales? Comment la participation des citoyens aux projets urbains peut-elle être plus inclusive? Il y aura plus de plateformes en ligne pour atteindre un plus grand nombre de personnes? L’institution cherchera-t-elle à accroître et à diversifier sa participation aux initiatives ascendantes? Nowadays creative hubs are run mostly between companies and inaccessible institutions; therefore, they are exclusive and not interested in public participation. How can creative hubs be established in a more participatory way? How will music play a role in the expression of diversity? Comment la vie nocturne participera-t-elle à la création d’interactions entre différents groupes sociaux en 2030 ? How will the urban environment be linked to nature? How will the city/nature relationship be? How will people of the city experience nature? How will be possible to transfer social visibility from online to offline events? How dense will be the city? Will a new type of density enable a different set of social interaction? Y a-t-il possibilité d’établir un réseau centralisé de laboratoires et d’activités (peinture, céramique, poésie) dans les quartiers? How will the multiculturality of Brussels evolve? Considering the impact of covid on nightlife, how will that affect the way people meet each other in a long term? The city is moving away from car-oriented planning and more space is freed for public use; will that form the base for a new way of experiencing social exchanges in the city? In which way the need of the families will be met? Will families still moving out of the city in favor of a more comfortable suburban life or the city will accommodate families too? Comment l’urbanisme peut-il être plus ouvert aux initiatives publiques? How new ways of mobility and the related configuration of the space will change the quality of interactions in the space? Will some of the most iconic sights of the city be pedestrianized? Will be avenue Louise more accessible to pedestrians? How will the relationship between police and the public will evolve? Will the city be safer? How will the crime in the city evolve? How will the linguistic configuration of the city be in ten years? Will the city become multilingual in practice? Which languages will be spoken the most? How will circular economy initiatives change the relationship between public and private? La confiance sociale permettra-t-elle des initiatives de partage durable à plus grande échelle? Comment la technologie assurera-t-elle la médiation des relations humaines dans l’utilisation publique de l’espace et des infrastructures? Y aura-t-il plus d’écoles, plus de salles de classe à l’intérieur qui permettront aux élèves d’avoir une meilleure relation les uns avec les autres? Y aura-t-il une réelle participation citoyenne où même les citoyens bruxellois non représentés auront leur mot à dire? Des initiatives comme le jardinage urbain peuvent-elles améliorer l’interaction entre les citoyens? Is there going to be any chance for people to engage with redevelopment projects instead of having the companies deciding over as in the example of Heysel? Would acts as the creation of shopping mall be replaced by projects like Tour & Taxis, that include an open public space? Would it be possible to have a more of a neighbourhood dimension shops instead of malls? Will there be enough communication of initiatives and actions between the different neighbourhoods of Brussels? Y aurait-il plus d’activités gratuites dans la ville qui permettraient à plus de gens de participer? Y aura-t-il plus de subventions pour aider les communautés dans le besoin? Will the housing construction prevail and the creation of public shared spaces will disappear because of the economic development of the city ? Will there be more infrastructure for using bikes in the city in general? Will more people abandon the city because it doesn’t offer a natural environment anymore? How can diversity be experienced at school in 10 years? Will there be more physical interaction between people, or will it be done through the social media? Will sports play an important role on the social interaction of people with each other? Are there going to be more swimming places as public infrastructure? How will the garbage disposal will work in 10 years? Will the traffic problem be solved enabling other methods of transportation? Will Brussels continue to be a working place for many commuters or will the working people move to the city? Les petits magasins ethniques existeront-ils à l’avenir, ou seront-ils remplacés par de grandes chaînes? Is there going to be an alternative to car ownership freeing the space nowadays used as parking? Will neighbourhoods be bigger or smaller? Quel genre d’événements publics la ville accueillerait-elle? Seront-ils liés à la religion comme vacances de Noël? How will local culture be expressed? Will kids be playing on the streets of Brussels? Is there going to be more green space? Hebben we een duurzame plaats gevonden voor alles en iedereen? Will there be more systemic inclusion by then? If coexistence will be achieved, will crime be reduced? Is communication the primal mode that diversity and coexistence can be achieved? How can diversity in the workplace can be achieved? Hoe zal de digitale kloof gedicht zijn in 2030? Hoe kunnen we digitale toepassingen toegankelijk en betaalbaar maken voor iedereen? Hoe zullen de moderne communicatiekanalen voor iedereen toegankelijk zijn? Hoe zal ervoor gezorgd worden dat in 2030 de mensen elkaar makkelijker kunnen vinden? Hoe zullen er duurzame wijkinitiatieven bestaan, plekken waar er ruimte is om eigen initiatieven op te zetten? Hoe kunnen we de drempels tot participatie verlagen? Hoe kunnen we er voor zorgen dat mensen de verschillenden diensten gemakkelijker vinden en kunnen participeren naargelang interesse en eigen kunnen? Hoe kunnen we de drempel voor participatie voor nieuwkomers in de stad verlagen? Lage drempels helpen om te participeren waardoor je je talenten beter kan ontwikkelen, je erkend wordt,…? Hoe kan de verbinding tussen verschillende wijken verbeteren? Hoe zal er voor gezorgd worden dat je overal kan gaan en staan waar je wil en je goed kan voelen, dat je niet meer moet aarzelen om een “vreemde” winkel binnen te gaan? Hoe zal de technologie voor betere online vergaderingen zich verder ontwikkelen? Hoe kan meertaligheid vanzelfsprekend worden? Zullen we geen pandemieën meer hebben? Hoe zullen we met eenzaamheid omgaan? Zal de politie luisteren naar jongeren en hun rol als medewerkers in de stad opnemen? Zullen vrouwen kunnen gaan en staan waar ze willen zonder lastig gevallen te worden? Zullen de stadsdiensten toegankelijk zijn voor iedereen, ook voor mensen met verschillende beperkingen (waaronder ook taal, letterkunde)? Hoe zullen alle aanwezige groepen in de stad representatief vertegenwoordigd zijn in de maatschappij? Zal Brussel compleet autovrij zijn? Hoe zullen structurele drempels zijn weggewerkt? Hoe zullen kinderen keuze kunnen maken op basis van talenten? Zal Brussel zo groen geworden zijn dat we nu in de publieke plaats eten in plaats van in restaurants? Zal er geen politiegeluid meer te horen zijn? Wat zal de rol van praktijktesten zijn in de aanpak van discriminatie op de werkvloer? Zullen sportcomplexen gratis / toegankelijk zijn voor iedereen? Hoe zal “slow democracy” zich verhouden ten opzichte van politieke partijen? (bijvoorbeeld kinderopvang, brede school,…) Zal de stad veilig zijn? Zal er een nieuwe opleiding zijn, ‘HR’ in de hogeschool? Hoe zal de verhouding man – vrouw in relatie tot het kind zijn? Zal diversiteit worden gezien als een oplossing, en niet als een probleem? How will we share the city amongst each other in Brussels in 2035? Zal de politie geen wapens meer dragen? Zullen essentiële beroepen ge(her)waardeerd worden, op een financiële manier of op maatschappelijk vlak? Hoe zal de toegang tot de arbeidsmarkt ook tot hogere niveaus gaan? Hoe zal er ingezet worden op talentgericht aannemen i.p.v. te focussen op bepaalde diploma’s? Hoe zullen scholen de rol opnemen om in te zetten op talenten om zo het verschil in de rijkdom van de ouders te neutraliseren? Hoe kan er meer focus komen op mentaal welzijn, zowel op school als in de vrije tijd? Hoe kan de overheid een facilitator worden van de burgers; hoe kunnen de burgers en de overheid op gelijke hoogte komen, want de mensen zijn de changemakers? Hoe kan de mening van een grotere groep burgers worden meegenomen in het maken van het beleid. Hoe kunnen we optimistisch zijn, de systemen veranderen heel traag, terwijl de burgers veel sneller zijn? Past de overheid zich aan aan jongeren? Passen jongeren zich aan aan de overheid? Moeten jongeren zich wel aanpassen? Doet de regering genoeg voor jongeren? Hoe kunnen we diversiteit behouden en verbeteren? Hoe kunnen we het integratieproces tussen nieuwkomers en lokale bevolking verbeteren? Wat is het effect van media op jongeren en nieuwkomers? Hoe kunnen we de negativiteit van de massamedia filteren? Hoe kunnen we de lokale burgers culturele “bewustwording” bieden? Wat zijn de instrumenten om de visie van burgers uit te breiden? How could the city create more public spaces that are not a square? How can we fight deforestation? How will the changing in urban density affect our social relationships? How could it be possible to recreate the social places available on summertime for the entire year? How will police relate to diversity in 2030? How the relationship between youth and police will change in ten years? Will the police be more tolerant? Will police robots not be racist? Will people be happier? La pratique de la police sera-t-elle inscrite dans un nouveau cadre de pratique approprié afin de garantir l’ordre public? La mobilité durable prévaudra-t-elle? How will local communities and international communities engage in the future? Y aura-t-il différentes façons de comprendre les différentes cultures, à côté de la formation scolaire? Will the city be more flexible in the way it accommodates newcomers? Will newcomers have to adapt to the city or will be the city able to assimilate them without pushing them to standardized behaviors? How will multilingualism be in ten years? Will English be more integrated into the everyday experience of public services or will it only be a temporary “bridge” language? Will there be a way to provide the experience of diverse cultures without the spatial experience of the site where those cultures are performed? How can we enhance social exchanges and create places of interaction on smaller scales, instead of massive parks and public squares? Bruxelles sera-t-elle toujours aussi multiculturelle qu’aujourd’hui? Comment la ville pourrait-elle favoriser l’interaction entre les habitants et les nouveaux arrivants au cours de leur apprentissage linguistique? Comment fixer la fraction entre la communauté internationale et la communauté locale? How could it be possible for people living different social spheres to meet individuals with a different background? How can European institutions be more involved in deconstructing exclusive social clusters between their employees? How could bike infrastructures could car infrastructures? How the many temporary presences in the city could be integrated into a more meaningful system of interactions? How could temporary social exchanges in the city lead to a more long-term social effect? Zal racisme eindelijk een non issue worden? Kunnen we racisme uitroeien? Is de samenleving homogener of minder homogeen dan nu het geval is? Is er een sterkere mix tussen verschillende nationaliteiten, geloofsovertuigingen, … of wordt de bevolking juist meer gefractioneerd hierdoor? Heeft de huidige opkomst van extreem rechts in Vlaanderen een effect op de Brusselse politiek en samenleving? Hoe zit het met de aangrenzende Vlaamse gemeenten rond het Brusselse gewest, die ook steeds meer de Brusselse diversiteit reflecteren o.a. door het grote aantal mensen die werken in Brussel maar besluiten om net buiten het gewest te gaan wonen? Worden randgemeentes binnen x aantal jaar ook als (buitenwijken van) Brussel gezien? Zo ja, hoe staat de politiek hierover en houden deze gemeenten dan ook vast aan Nederlands als voertaal of evolueren deze op termijn eerder naar een tweetalige werking (zoals het oprichten van Franstalige scholen, etc.)? Is wonen nog betaalbaar in de stad voor jongeren? Hoe zorgen we ervoor dat wijk/jeugd/cultuur/sociale activiteiten en projecten niet aan de kant worden geschoven voor commerciële projecten? Is er nog plek en draagvlak om jeugd in eigen stad te laten experimenteren en dingen uit te proberen? Hoe zou de relatie tussen verschillende bevolkingsgroepen en de politie/overheid zijn gevorderd? Zal de media voor iedereen evenveel respect hebben? Gaan mensen meer verdraagzamer zijn voor anderen? Zal er misschien minder wordt gedacht in groepen? Blijft iedereen elkaar aanvaarden? Zou racisme de wereld uit zijn? Zal er meer gelijkheid zijn? Gaat er meer appreciatie zijn voor andere culturen? Hoe zien toekomstige families er uit? Gaat er meer verdraagzaamheid zijn en minder achterdocht? Hoe het staat met gelijkheid, duurzaamheid,…? Zullen we meer vredevol samenleven? Zullen mens en natuur harmonisch samenleven? Zullen we een meer divers publiek hebben dan nu? Is er minder discriminatie? Bestaat Vlaams Belang nog? zal racisme nog bestaan? Is er zichtbaar meer diversiteit dan 10 jaar geleden? Is er een diverse samenleving die in harmonie samenleeft? Is er nog racisme? Zijn mensen toleranter geworden voor andere culturen, klassen, soorten,…? Voelen mensen van andere culturen, klassen, soorten,… zich nog als een ‘buitenbeentje’ binnen de samenleving? Hoe gevarieerd gaat onze samenleving eruit zien? Diversiteit is iets dat ik persoonlijk heel belangrijk vind, maar zal dat niet voor nog meer culturele botsingen zorgen? Hoe gaan de verschillende culturen met elkaar verzoend zijn? Gaan mensen meer verdraagzaam zijn t.a.v. andere culturen? Zal er vrede zal zijn? Zal racisme en populisme toenemen? Gaat er meer tolerantie zijn ten opzichte van mensen met een andere geaardheid, etniciteit,…? Gaat er meer representatie in de media zijn? Zal de helft van de Belgische bevolking nog bestaan uit Belgen, of wordt de meerderheid buitenlanders? Gaat er in elk restaurant een speciaal gerecht aangeboden worden van een ander land? Wordt iedereen meer progressief en verdwijnt racisme op een gegeven moment, omdat men er niet meer onderuit kan komen? Hoe laten we mensen met totaal andere cultuur zich thuis voelen in een Brussel met totaal andere westerse progressieve ideeën? En omgekeerd, hoe zorgen we ervoor dat de progressieve Brusselaar geen frustraties krijgt tegen mensen die enkele westerse progressieve ideeën nog niet kennen? Hoe krijgen we pluraliteit zonder fricties tussen verschillende leefgroepen in Brussel? Zullen bevolkingen nog sterk gescheiden leven? Will there be more systemic inclusion by then? Will there be more green spaces apart from the center? How will we interact after Covid? Can art in public spaces act as a facilitator between different cultures? Is there a possibility to live together with natural wildlife in a city? Can we stop putting asphalt in our cities without harming our way of living? Is youth going to be included in the decision-making process in the future? Will it be easier to meet new people in public spaces in the future? How can we improve the interactions between international citizens and Brusselaars? Can we achieve a city where as little as possible is owned and as much as possible is shared: from cars, to bicycles, to lawnmowers? Is it possible for people from different cultures to get to know each other so that they can share with each other? Are people who have lived here for a long time (but not have the Belgian or double nationality) be allowed to help make decisions about the city (for example voting)? Can we make people their lives better by having some creative housing projects? Gaan er minder regels en formaliteiten zijn om iets fijn te mogen organiseren op openbare plaatsen? Gaan jonge mensen juist langer of minder lang in de stad blijven wonen? Heeft iedereen die wilt de kans om uit de stad te vertrekken? We leven duidelijk in een super diverse stad, maar hoe gaat die diversiteit blijven evolueren? Gaat de diversiteit stijgen, dalen of stagneren? Gaat corona een blijvende impact hebben op de manier waarop wij leven in 2030? Gaat er een grote taalbarrière blijven bestaan? Wat zijn creatieve manieren om andere wijken te leren kennen? Is het mogelijk om het verkeer in de stad beter te reguleren? Is goedkoop tot gratis openbaar vervoer in het centrum van de stad een mogelijkheid? Wat zijn kleine maar toch impactvolle acties die het algemene leven in Brussel aangenamer kunnen maken? Kunnen jeugdhuizen een belangrijke rol spelen bij het verbinden van wijken/buurten? Kunnen alle beter gegoede Brusselaars het verschil maken voor mensen die het minder breed hebben? Quelle sera la diversité de Bruxelles dans 10 ans? Est-il possible que les gens soient plus tolérants les uns envers les autres? Les vélos partagés joueront-ils un rôle majeur à l’avenir? La ville doit-elle prendre des initiative pour les personne étrangère? Comment le gouvernement peut-il aidée les jeunes étudiants à se développer ? Comment motiver les étrangers à étudier chez nous? Les étudiants étranger ont-ils assez d’aide financier? Quel aides financière peuvent il apporter? Que faut-il faire pour motiver les interaction interculturelles? Faut-il augmenter la fréquence d’exposition plus multiculturel? La ville devrait-elle encourager les maison de jeunes à éduquer leur jeunes? La ville doit-elle débloquer plus d’aide et subside pour les maison de jeune? Comment Bruxelles peut-elle stimuler et organiser des activités plus pertinentes pour les jeunes? La ville devrait-elle organiser plus d’activités public comme des marchés, foires etc.? Doit-on organiser plus de sujets scolaire autour de la diversité, pour sensibiliser et éduquer les jeunes? Doit-on organiser plus de sortie scolaire pour les jeunes basé sur la diversité? Les partie d’extrême droite ont ils leur place parmi le gouvernement? Comment peut-on empêcher ou limiter la promotion l’extrême droite et leur message? Le régime politique actuel est-il adapté au problème et défi des jeunes au quotidien? Le régime politique actuel est-il adapté au problème et défi des étrangers au quotidien? Que peut-on faire pour informer le gouvernement des problèmes des jeunes et étrangers? L’hygiène dans les espace public, est-il conforme au norme? La ville doit-elle investir plus dans les espaces publics? La ville doit-elle investir plus dans la propreté des espace public? Que peut-on faire pour sensibiliser les gens à la propreté des espaces publics? Sera-t-il possible d’éliminer le vandalisme par des pratiques d’intégration sociale? L’architecture permettra-t-elle plus de connexion entre les espaces internes et externes? Y aura-t-il plus d’espaces habitables dans les lieux publics? Les villes seront-elles plus reliées à la campagne par les transports publics? Y aura-t-il plus d’espaces pour les initiatives sociales bottom-up? Y aura-t-il plus d’espaces pour les initiatives de cocréation? La ville redeviendra-t-elle vivante et vivante en 2030? Are many people still going to work from 9 till 5? Est-ce que toutes les genres d’humains continuons de se faire la guerre? Quel place pour la nature à Bruxelles en 2030? Are people going to be happier? Is the rythm of life slower? Quel sera le moyen de déplacement privilégié en ville? Are the different cultures mixed? How will covid impact the future? What is going to happen around the concept of ecosystemic services? La ville sera-t-elle co-construite avec les habitants des quartiers? Y-aura-t-il toujours autant de voitures du Bruxelles? Est-ce que les quartiers seront de plus en plus mixtes socialement, ou à l’inverse avec de plus en plus d’écant? Est-ce que nous vivrons mieux? Is Covid still present? Est-ce que les schémà de vie peuvent changer? Are there still cars? Is there still so much concrete in the city? Are we going to need heat regulation systems? La crise du logement à Bruxelles se sera-t-elle tésorbé partiellement ou totalement? Vivrons-nous de manière plus durable et responsable? What is the situation of mobility in the city? Est-ce qu’il y aura plus d’initiatives collectives de petites échelles? Est-ce que j’aurais encore peur de la police? Est-ce qu’on devra toujours lutter contre le changement climatique? Do we produce all our own food inside the city? Est-ce que je participerais à la vie de mon quartier? Quels seront les transports en commun qui nous faciliterons la vie? Comment les gens vont pouvoir se nourir sainement? Is biodiversity increased in 2030? Est-ce que le vélo sera le moyen de transport numéro 1?
Monday, 7 October 2030 Today marks the start of the new school semester. In recent years, overarching heat waves have made it difficult for children to go back to school, causing summer holidays to be longer than before. The heatwaves have become an incredibly disruptive and difficult problem for many people in society. The worst case was the summer of 2024, when several people, mostly the poor and elderly, died in Brussels because of them. At that time, it was said that Brussels was one of the greenest cities in Europe. Unfortunately, this was not true for everyone. A lack of green shelters and a poorly designed information system for Brussels’ diverse citizens led to a series of unfortunate events that were directly caused by climate change. The city struggled to keep its basic services functioning, as foundational economy workers were among the ones who suffered the most during the heatwaves. To cope with these issues, a socio-ecological fund was established in 2026. The fund’s first initiative was to focus on street lights. By installing infrared sensors, street lights now only turn on when someone passes by. Gradually, existing lights were also replaced with more energy efficient light bulbs. This saved a lot of money which was then injected into the fund to support vulnerable groups by insulating their houses throughout the city. This initiative also inadvertently contributed to biodiversity restoration, as more bats and owls began to visit Brussels at night. Today, throughout the city, we have kiosks that emit cold mist during heatwaves and provide shelter in case of excessive flooding. These kiosks are also used by local governments to connect and interact with citizens by listening to their concerns and providing them with information and useful tips on how to face today’s challenges. This reimagining of citizenship has been crucial to combat climate change in the urban context.
Tuesday, 8 October 2030 There is a lot of movement throughout the city today now that people are fully back to school and work. Since car-incentives were banned in Belgium to finance and improve soft mobility infrastructure, more people now commute by bicycle or use public transport. There is generally a “no driving” discourse in politics, as well as in the media. To support this, young, old and lower-income population have access to free public transport. What has been surprising is the meteoric rise in the number of bicycle users. This can largely be accredited to safer infrastructure and special subsidies for electric bikes for people who do not own cars. Radjaa, a Tunisian-Belgian woman, always wanted to cycle but she felt it was not safe, especially with her child. After joining a neighbourhood group for collective biking in the city during the peak hours, she feels pretty comfortable in cycling now. Car sharing services are very popular as they are managed at neighbourhood scale and, by bridging the digital divide, they now reach a wide diversity of citizens. Despite Tuesday being the busiest day of the week, the city’s air is clean, noise pollution is low, streets feel safe and people are less stressed.
Car sharing services are very popular as they are managed at neighbourhood scale and, by bridging the digital divide, they now reach a wide diversity of citizens.
Wednesday, 9 October 2030 On Wednesdays and Fridays, everyone has a half-day, working only in the mornings. Salaries are not affected by this schedule, as it is part of a progressive government programme. These half-days provide a good opportunity for people to slow down and connect with their families, as well as contribute to community activities in their neighbourhood. So far, it has not only had positive impacts on the social fabric of the city but also on our joint carbon footprint. Back in 2019, a lot of pressure and scrutiny was put on citizens’ individual footprints as a means for climate action. However, instead of having a positive influence, it had a rebound effect of intolerance and polarised opinions. With the “climate neighbourhood initiative”, citizens now focus on the joint footprint of their neighbourhoods. This way people support each other in their neighbourhood by sharing knowledge and best practices. For example, this evening in Rue Malibran, neighbours have gathered together to help a new migrant family make their apartment more energy efficient. The family is not well educated nor familiar with the Brussels administration. The neighbours are writing a collective email to the Brussels Region’s socio-ecological fund to demand support for this migrant family. While this discussion is going on, the community also get to learn from new techniques from the family on how to conserve water, electricity and gas. After all, scarcity makes you creative.
With the “climate neighbourhood initiative”, citizens now focus on the joint footprint of their neighbourhoods.
Thursday, 10 October 2030 Back in 2012 we had ‘Veggie Thursdays’, today in Brussels we have ‘Fasting Thursdays’. What started off as hipsters hijacking a ritual from Brussels’ migrant communities has now become quite normal. Despite its origins, it has been a blessing for the planet. Many people who practice Fasting Thursdays, find themselves having a healthier relationship with food. In a city like Brussels, where there are 190 different nationalities, it was not very easy to change people’s eating habits. In the past, a lot of people bought ingredients that had come from abroad for their traditional recipes. This slowly changed when some avant-garde chefs from different communities started experimenting with their traditional recipes. They replaced the meat and other ingredients that were not locally grown in Belgium with other substitutes. The results were surprisingly tasty. We haven’t transitioned 100% to a plant-based diet but at least there is now less friction around the debate of meat consumption VS religious and cultural norms, which was a major issue back in 2020. Since people got creative in proposing alternatives and showing long-term health benefits, we now have the majority of Brussels’ population on board, ready to embrace sustainable eating. However, the biggest achievement of our city’s food consumption habits, so far, has been to transform 100% of our schools’ meals to locally-sourced and organic food.
Friday, 11 October 2030 It is the start of a long weekend but almost no one is flying abroad. Back in 2021, many people felt guilty for flying. Others were angry to see heavy taxation on flights as they were no longer able to afford them. However, neither guilt nor anger was helping the socio-ecological situation, as after all we had all become victims of a consumer culture that prioritised the individual self instead of the collective. Instead, what made sense was when people posed the question, ‘isn’t it ecologically greedy to fly too much and not leave any space for others to prosper, particularly poor people and the next generations?’ After all, we could only fairly divide what was left within the limits. The new unified media strategy in Brussels played a big role in helping people understand the problem in a language and format they could comprehend. The pedagogy campaigns on new solutions like slow travel, flight rationing not only helped people change behaviours but adopt a ‘responsible citizen culture’. The European Institution implied the EU MEPs in Brussels to adopt no flights policy as part of the Flight Rationing strategy. All EU employees are now given longer holidays to travel by train. As a result, we have an amazing rail network in Europe now with night trains at an affordable cost. We still take flights but with Flight Rationing in place, we have reduced the number of flights we take every year.
We still take flights but with Flight Rationing in place, we have reduced the number of flights we take every year.
Saturday, 12 October 2030 This morning in the Brussels northern quarter, a citizen council gathered along with the Bouwmeester of Brussels-Capital Region to discuss a recent influx of climate refugees and the lack of housing infrastructure to accommodate them. Tuning in to the radio show “20:30 Brussels Talks” to hear the conclusions, it is fascinating to hear citizens, refugees and the Bouwmeester coming together to share the collective conclusions that were drawn. As a next step, some of the refugees will be moved to empty apartments in Saint-Vide/Leegbeek, while others will be given temporary shelter until more housing is renovated in Saint-Vide municipality. In Brussels, the debate on increasing built area has been on fire. New construction plans are not easily approved, as the densification was leading to reduction in the green spaces. With the revitalisation of our empty municipality, “Saint-Vide / Leegbeek”, we can keep the essential parks and green areas intact, as it is much needed with climate change. In the urban development field, there are two main objectives today – energy efficient social housing and shared vegetable gardens. Thanks to community programmes on vegetable gardening, we see many shared gardens in public spaces and rooftops. For the first time last year, we saw everyone having access to fresh and organic food instead of just a few privileged ones who could afford it in the past. It feels good and above all we see a return of vibrant communities, cross-cultural knowledge sharing and wellbeing.
Sunday, 13 October 2030 This morning, many people from Schaerbeek have gathered in Parc Josaphat for a spiritual discussion. Today’s spiritual debates are very different from the new-age spiritualism that was on rise in 2019. Instead of individual transformation, we focus on communities and collective wellbeing. There is also a certain guilt in many Europeans today regarding what is happening in the global south. Climate change has hit the global south badly and people are dying due to floods, droughts and extreme heat. We hope to stay together and restore local resilience. Every Sunday, we also have solidarity Table d’Hôtes, where people are served free lunches cooked with fresh and local ingredients. It works with donations, those who can pay and those who cannot don’t pay. What is important is that these lunches gather a wide diversity of people under the same roof and demonstrate healthy relationships with food. This afternoon, the citizen panel is going to announce the final distribution of the budget (50% of the budget distribution is managed by citizen panel). Unlike last year, everyone feels the issue of “social cohesion” will decrease a bit as so many things have changed for good. However, the issue of “climate” still remains a priority. Our lifestyles are quite different today. We have not gone back to the middle ages but we do live more like our grandparents, as we now value things more and have healthier relationships.
How did we get here?
We had never imagined so much could change in Brussels in the last ten years. It demanded a collective shift of values, appropriation of solidarity and support, along with drastic lifestyle changes. The turning point was back in 2019, when it became clear that climate change is, above all, a question of social justice. While most carbon emissions were produced by a minority, the effects were felt by everyone, especially by the most vulnerable groups. On the other hand, many of the sustainable solutions proposed were only accessible to some, creating even more social injustice.
Only when both citizens and governments saw climate transition and social justice intertwined, we were able to take a leap to this eco-social future. This transition was the result of a shift in the collective mindset and action, without dictating individual choices but offering alternatives that fit people’s lifestyles. Though, each individual had to take their role as a citizen, instead of a consumer, to make the transition happen. The shift from “ecology as a punishment” to “ecology as a good life” was essential. Governments played a crucial role in making sure citizens did not have to choose between the end of the month and end of the world.
We are still far from completely saving the planet or removing social inequality from our city. But the movement has started and it cannot be stopped, there is no turning back.
2019 has been marked as a very important year in the eco-social transition at three levels – first, thanks to climate and social movements like Youth4climate, Extinction Rebellion and Gillet Jaunes, so many citizens were mobilised to pressure the governments; second, we made climate change personal in our life and started helping each other in this transition; lastly, collectively we imagined new futures that triggered us to take concrete actions.
Do you want to know more how we came to these future visions? Read more on ourMedium page.
Let’s be clear. We can’t ignore it anymore. Scientists have confirmed. Our planet is warming up. Humans are responsible for it. And the consequences are serious.
For those who are still sceptical: the proof is in the numbers, and more specifically the ones from the reports from the IPCC.
The planet has warmed up 1° since 1880.
95% of the climate warming is caused by human activity.
We can burn 1 trillion tons of carbon before we run the risk of causing dangerous climate change.
Eh wait, climate what? So this doesn’t have to do with recycling my trash? This movie refreshens what it’s all about…
And what about Belgium?
On the Belgian climate website (FR/NL) we learn that the yearly average temperature in Ukkel is 2,3° higher than in the pre-industrial period.
The 20 warmest years since 1833 are in the period between 1989–2017.
The frequency of heat waves increased since 1970 from 1 every 3 year to 1 every year.
The amount of days with heavy rainfall has increasedsince 1950 from 3 to 6 days a year.
The amount of rainfall in the winter increases.
So,… change is needed. And we need to act now.
But wait, Belgium already agreed to become more ambitious, since they have signed the Paris Agreement, right?
The goals of this agreement are challenging but necessary to fulfill: keep the climate warming below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °.
Well, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is technologically feasible and economically attractive. Many concrete solutions exist and are communicated.
Those solutions require a plan for transition, but again, many tools are made to help governments put priorities and take the right decisions.
Belgian politicians struggle to translate these ambitions into policy plans though.
And citizens protest. Youngsters do school strike. Companies gather forces. Artists speak up. Activists of all kind come on the streets.
One group of protesters seems different than the others though. The Gilets Jaunes have socio-economic motivations for protesting and claim rising fuel prices, high cost of living, and unfair tax systems.
They protest in a different way. Definitely. But their demands are interlinked with the ones of the other activists.
Climate change affects us all, but…
Climate change is unfair. The people who have benefited the least from our fossil fuel dependencies, and who are contributing the least greenhouse gas emissions, are suffering the most from the consequences.
Responses to climate change are also unfair. People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically or otherwise excluded or marginalized typically profit the least from environmental subsidies, low carbon transportation options, resilience measures and energy efficiency savings.
Tackling climate change and growing inequalities simultaneously needs everyone. And it is impossible to tackle climate change without also tackling inequality, and vice-versa.
How will everyone thrive in a climate-proof Brussels in 2030?
Everyone. We talk about Brussels. The most cosmopolitan city of Europe, with a highly diverse population living together on little space, and with many social challenges. 30% of the population lives under the poverty line, the climate isn’t really their first worry. Most families rent, so climate subsidies for renovation aren’t beneficial for them. And a big part of the emissions is caused by commuters, while the people that have to work in the bad quality air, are vulnerable groups.
It makes sense to look at solutions on a city level. The problems in cities are similar and there is a lot of knowledge to exchange.
Besides, cities are the drivers of change. Cities are 3 times more likely to take action if a goal or target has been established. And cities are close to their population. They know their vulnerable population and what the social and cultural challenges are.
So far the challenges, what about the opportunities?
Climate actions bring wider social, economic and environmental co-benefits, such as air quality improvement, low cost renewable energy andemployment opportunities.
Following a low-carbon and climate resilient development path can create a more inclusive urban society.
Inclusivity in climate action planning means:
engagement of a wide range of communities and stakeholders(inclusivity of the process)
fairness and accessibility in design and delivery (inclusivity of the policy)
wider benefits of action as equitably distributed as possible (inclusivity of the impact)
We can learn how to jointly tackle climate change and inequality from existing cases, from e.g. the Inclusive Climate Action report from the C40.
Just a few ideas:
Build plans that support everyone, and focus on the most vulnerable to climate change
Implement projects that address multiple needs and provide countless benefits
Build a diverse and inclusive steering group to ensure successful implementation
Create access and pricing structures that allow low-income communities to participate
Hire from local communities to create multiple benefits for residents and increase outreach Adapt your engagement methods based on the target audience
Use engagement to leverage buy-in from other levels of government
Create a central public engagement unit to pool resources
Reach out to the private sector to prompt action
The knowledge is out there. Let’s find a way to make the transition to Brussels 2030 not only green but also just!
It is urgent for cities to transition to ‘green’. Yet climate-friendly initiatives are also at risk of increasing inequalities. The yellow vests movement sparked from exactly this tension: endeavours towards ecological transition, that do not take into account their negative impact on ordinary citizens.
Do ecological measures have to be detrimental to less wealthy citizens — or can the transition towards a green city be an opportunity for all?
Smoothie recipes for ecological transition: “Green Detox” or “Green Disaster”?
Imagine Brussels in 2030. A green, eco and climate-friendly city. People have electric cars and houses are passive with solar panels and energy-saving windows. Most people eat healthy, locally-sourced foods. Connected citizens use apps to participate in politics and influence decision-makers directly.
Futuristic eco-cities are often painted as a green paradise.
But what if half of that paradise was a mirage?
What if, as fossil fuel cars are forbidden, poorer citizens have to abandon their vehicle despite living in zones that are not well-connected with public transport. What if strict passive housing requirements prevent the less wealthy from renovating, worsening unsanitary living conditions.
What if organic foods remain a privilege for those with a comfortable wallet. What if, while wealthy people still use over ten times more carbon than poorer people, they also still pay 4 times less taxes. And what if children in less privileged neighbourhoods have no knowledge of the apps that their privileged counterparts use to participate in society, influence politics and educate themselves.
As a result, frustration remains on the rise. A ruling elite is increasingly out of touch with a big segment of the population that feels left out of a privileged, tech-savvy, green smoothie revolution. The eco-revolution has not reached their neighbourhood. Only their wallet.
Instead of turning green, the yellow vests may turn red with anger…
Inequality is one of the factors that complicate action against climate change. Citizens with purchasing power have a much easier access to solutions such as electric cars or solar panels. Less wealthy citizens are often penalised in this game.
For example, a law that forbids old cars from entering the city may seem harmless. Yet most people owning old cars are low-income citizens. How can those that are not able to buy new cars or that do not live next to well-connected public transport continue playing on the same level playing field? Similarly, while the government might subsidise green energy investments, this excludes those who do not own a house or do not have enough savings to do renovations in the first place.
If unaddressed, the structural inequalities in terms of means and power that certain measures engender will inevitably lead to tensions and political unrest.
Beyond the hipster cafés: a green smoothie accessible to all
If inequality and climate change are interconnected, can we turn this into an opportunity instead of a problem? Rather than reinforcing inequalities, climate-friendly measures that follow simple principles, such as sharing, could benefit all and foster a city that is not only more ecological, but also lead to more integrated, connected and egalitarian society.
For instance, climate change requires that we consume less. Consumption in cities can be radically diminished through mutualisation of infrastructures. The optimisation of living areas require shared heating systems that can make energy affordable for all. Shared car systems can divide the number of cars in a city by seven. Obsolete parking spaces could be used to create more green areas, and ensure equal access to nature for all. But… they could also be used to build luxurious (eco-)buildings for the wealthy.
What kind of future will we choose?
Let’s envision a future together, and prepare the best smoothie Brussels has ever had!