Will Groningen be part of Southern Scandinavia in 2050, or perhaps one of the Seven Provinces? Will the province become a man-made blue zone, where cows graze under locally produced solar panels? Will Groningen be the healthiest province in the Netherlands thirty-four years from now? During Max’s Table (de Tafel van Max) on 19 March, the topic Dreaming about 2050 gave rise to several interesting reflections. Here are a few of the subjects discussed at the table.
As King’s Commissioner, Max van den Berg has always enjoyed inviting people to join him at the table to philosophize freely on a whole range of topics. Max’s Table became an institution. For this very reason, the University of Groningen decided to organize a special Max’s Table in honour of his retirement on 31 March. With students, staff, managers and other influential people from Groningen as his table companions, Van den Berg was a guest at University College Groningen. All the guests contributed a personal message in a friendship book presented to Van den Berg at the end of the session.
Led by moderator Jacques Wallage, the participants discussed their own personal dreams for Groningen in 2050. A recurring theme seemed to be the need to find leverage – not to be intimidated by restrictive regulations, but to seek each other out and see what can be achieved together. Which values do people share and how can they meet each other halfway? Groningen could easily lead the way in the energy policy stakes, becoming a region of ‘blue zones’ and ‘energy prosumers’ (people who generate, consume and share all their own energy), but we need leverage to be able to experiment and people must be willing to work together. Paint a picture of what is possible and encourage people to share your dreams.
Groningen as an inclusive society
The huge transitions we are currently undergoing are a cause of great concern to some people. The risk of polarization between winners and losers, trendsetters and stragglers, highly qualified and unqualified, is real. In 2050, Groningen should be an inclusive society, where everyone has an active part to play. Don’t just follow the trendsetters; make sure that people who aren’t able to keep pace with change are included too.
Groningen as the healthiest region
Groningen is currently the region with the fewest healthy people. How can we turn this around? By taking the lead and actively promoting a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, you can’t prevent cancer just by encouraging people to live more healthily. But it is possible to persuade people to improve their health. A good way would be not to wait until 2020 to make school playgrounds smoke-free zones, for example.
Proud of Groningen’s diversity
Will there be any typical dour, level-headed Groningen locals left by 2050? The type of locals who are proud of Groningen just as it is, and would certainly have voted against the Groninger Museum given half the chance? Level-headedness is a strong quality, as long as it doesn’t interfere with progress or obstruct influences from outside. Walking across the Vismarkt in 2016, you encounter a lot more cultural diversity than you did 34 years ago, and thanks to increasing globalization, the trend is set to continue for the next 34. Diversity provides golden opportunities, particularly in the youngest city in the Netherlands, with a university that is increasingly attractive to students and researchers from all around the world.
Confidence in the next generation
In conclusion, Van den Berg expressed his confidence in the next generation, who now hold the future in their hands. He admires their pragmatic idealism and sees an important role for education. But to him, it is just as important to join together, stand side-by-side, exclude nobody and make a conscious effort to create a society that has room for everyone and can turn Groningen’s dreams into reality.
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