Rethinking the city Imagining futures Futures for everyone Brussels for everyone The future starts today Rethinking the city Imagining futures Futures for everyone Brussels for everyone The future starts today

Hello Brussels 2030!

  • ##Question1 #Climate #SocialCohesion #2019

City Observations

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 our Medium page.

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