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Climate adaptation

Date:01 May 2018
Author:Joey Koning
Gerrit Hiemstra at DOT
Gerrit Hiemstra at DOT

Have you ever tried explaining to your grandmother what virtual reality is? Or what nanobots do? I challenge you to explain what it is that Ben Feringa won his Nobel Prize for. The world is changing so very quickly that it becomes difficult to keep track of all the new developments sometimes. We live lives that would be hard to imagine half a century ago and deal with issues that were unheard of back then. In this fast-paced world, a quote by Charles Darwin comes to mind: ‘’It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’’ In the early 21st century, we’re struggling with one of the largest threats to our survival so far: climate change. As time moves on, it becomes clear that some of the consequences of climate change are unavoidable, and so we’ll have to learn to adapt.

Friday the 20th of April we, the Green Office, attended the kick-off event on climate adaptation by the municipalities of Groningen and Ten Boer in DOT. The focus of the event was on the urgency to change the environments we live in to better cope with increasing temperatures, more intense rainfall, water level rise, and other effects of climate change. None other than Gerrit Hiemstra, a well-known Dutch weatherman on national television, came over to Groningen to explain to us why we should be worried and take action. Luckily, he brought all kinds of solutions along with him to help us move forward, ranging from making gardens and public spaces greener to building more water bodies to absorb the heat and rainfall during summers. He emphasized that mitigation is also an important form of adaptation, as the more consequences we can prevent right here and now, the less change we’ll have to adapt to in the future.

As representatives of students of the University of Groningen, we asked Gerrit how we as students can contribute to climate adaptation in our city. In most cases we don’t have any gardens to make greener, any rights to make sustainable alterations to our student houses or any currency to invest in local sustainability initiatives.

Although Gerrit is not an expert on this topic - he is more experienced in the analyses of climate than the adaptation to it - he had several thoughts on this. First, he expressed the importance of educating ourselves on this topic. We are just at the start of our lives and the knowledge and experiences we gain today will last a lifetime. Although we might not possess a house or garden right now, it will be important to make the best possible decisions once we do! Second, in often indirect ways, we as students also contribute to the problem of climate change. By making more sustainable decisions on what we buy, where we travel and how we live, we can help reducing the impact of climate change here and now. Lastly, as a student, you have more influence than you think. Try to educate people around you and create awareness on this topic. You might not be able to make any changes to your house yourself because you rent it, but if you collaborate with roommates, you might be able to pressure your landlord into buying those double -or triple!- glazed windows. Whether we want to or not, we are the generation that will have to live with the consequences of climate change, so we should take responsibility as much as we can!