Christmas and the European Forum Alpbach.
Certainly two of the most recurring incidents in my yearly cycle. Usually, both follow strict traditions. Not so the EFA. This year, they dared to change its usual trajectory. Kudos to Feri Thierry, Andreas Treichl and the team for trying to be more interdisciplinary and interactive - as, in times like these, we don't have time to continue with business as usual.
This is also why I was super excited about another session I got to co-host in Alpbach this year - for SIGNA Group of Companies on how to support a green transition in the construction industry - in perfect unison with the fantastic Luise Fischer who is not only one of the most climate-conscious people I know, influencing my own life big time but also one of the most thoroughly educated experts in the field on how to turn cities climate neutral. Hence, she started us off with quite a kick in the a...stonishing complexity and size of the problem we're dealing with:
- According to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Impact, we could have 3.5 billion (!) refugees by 2070.
- Without radical changes, we risk losing one billion species currently facing extinction.
- The built environment generates around 50% of annual global CO2 emissions.
- Still, the building stock is expected to double by 2060 - equivalent to adding an entire New York City to the planet every month for the next 40 years!!
Phew. So how does that feel? Let's take a deep breath into these horror scenarios together. And feel overwhelmed. Cause quite frankly, how are we ever gonna be able to solve these issues? There is no simple answer. But becoming aware of the complexity is a good starting point. So that's what we did.
On the hike up to the beautiful Zottaalm, we discussed our blind spots in 1:1 conversations as a starting point for the discussion between Werner Sobek, Andreas Trisko & Kristian Villadsen, led by Luise.
It was Alpbach at its best: crammed into one of those tiny old restaurant rooms, the group was eager to talk, and the debate was heated, controversial, diverse and hopeful.
Werner Sobek thought no building material to be good or bad per se, taking their availability, transport, energy use etc. into account.
Andreas Trisko called to bring emotions in the discussion as "we all know it in our brains but not in our bodies".
And Kristian Villadsen - involved in a brand new urban development programme by SIGNA in Korneuburg that aims to give room for 1500 people - added their ideas on energy self-sufficiency and sustainable building materials.
In the end, there certainly was no less overwhelm. But there was a very warm room full of people who do not ignore it and continue with business as usual. There was a room full of people who could sense that we all want to head in the same direction. And that in itself gives me reason to stay optimistic.