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Claire Falzone: Veolia's Startup ''Play'' For Smart Energy Solutions

Five Questions for the Head of Business Innovation at Veolia on the launch of its new 'Open Playground' program.

In partnership with: ChangeNOW

One of the world leaders in bringing innovation to the energy transition, French company Veolia chose changeNOW to announce the launch of its new Open Playground program. This initiative aims to confront the climate emergency by helping to build innovative, sustainable solutions by working together with startups committed to the environment. Veolia's Head of Business Innovation Claire Falzone recently told us more about it, and about the importance of co-creation in the urgent quest for new solutions.

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Suzy Amis Cameron: Shift To Plant-Based Diets, One Meal At A Time

Five Questions for the former Hollywood actress, turned environmental activist on how a simple (and modest) change in eating habits can have planetary impact.

In partnership with: ChangeNOW

If saving the planet feels overwhelming, Suzy Amis Cameron has a simple message: One meal. The former top Hollywood actress has committed her life to changing people's eating habits, one plant-based meal at a time. Together with her husband, celebrated director James Cameron, this mother of five went fully plant-based consumption in 2012. Her book The OMD Plan: Swap One Meal a Day to Save Your Health and Save the Planet, is a call to action to individuals to swap in one plant-based meal per day, as a way to begin to reverse the effects of animal farming on global warming.

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Bertrand Piccard: Profits And Saving The Planet Go Together

Five Questions for the legendary pilot, environmental activist and founder of Solar Impulse Foundation, supporting solutions that are profitable and protect the planet.

In partnership with: ChangeNOW

Environmentalist, Psychiatrist, Aviator, Explorer, Entrepreneur. Bertrand Piccard's many hats have made him a pioneer and leading voice on the themes of innovation, clean technologies and sustainability. He is the first person to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the globe, as well as the co-pilot of the maiden around-the-world flight in a solar-powered airplane.

Founder and Chairman of the Solar Impulse Foundation, the Lausanne-born 63-year-old has made it his mission to select 1000 solutions to protect the environment in a profitable way. He is currently United Nations Ambassador for the Environment and Special Advisor to the European Commission.

Ahead of the 2021 changeNOW summit, the world's largest gathering of innovations for the planet, where he will be sharing his vision and pioneering spirit, we asked Bertrand Piccard 5 questions about building a smarter future.

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How COVID-19 Is Changing The Meaning Of Borders

Coronavirus travel restrictions have been a wake-up call for Europeans, especially since nearly a third of the population lives in cross-border areas like France and Belgium's Eurometropolis Lillle-Kortrijk-Tournai.

-OpEd-

KORTRIJK — It's not an ideal, some thought thrown out there to create a stir. It's what I deal with everyday in the Eurometropolis Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai agglomeration, in my relationships with people and professional exchanges.

You may ask why I am telling you this? Because I do not believe, or no longer believe, in the mental, moral and administrative boundaries that humanity has erected. We see it every day, these borders, invisible to the naked eye, symbolized by emblems, flags or colors, no longer relevant to our reality. We move from one side to the other to maintain our social, economic and professional ties. Mental and administrative constructions fall and fade away as soon as there is talk of maintaining an exchange.

Shouldn't the border itself be reconsidered? Let's be honest, except in the minds of men and women — and to regulate their membership or to identify themselves — this border is not always acknowledged, neither by the river that crosses it, nor the drop of water that composes it, not to mention the clouds that float above. For them, there is no use for this border.

We share all this space without thinking. The elements around us know no such boundaries. We breathe the same air, share the same river, enjoy the same climate. We live the same fears, and suffer the same harmful consequences of pollution and viruses.

So why not reconsider borders, focus on their future, dare to take a step back and think about tomorrow. Let's reduce the mental weight of borders and dare to concentrate on their necessity. I notice that, on a day-to-day basis, cross-border management bodies will need to be strengthened. As close as possible to the citizens, experienced observers of life on said borders — initiators of action plans leading to collaboration between local entities on either side — these bodies should be more united.

In Éloge de la frontière, (Praise for the border) published in 2010, Régis Debray recalled this quote from French politician Christian Jacob: "A map is a projection of the spirit before being an image of the earth." I would add that building bridges between cross-border entities does not mean avoiding seeing borders or understanding why they exist, but rather going beyond the limits they represent. It is taking the high ground to forge ties, to nurture the future, to bring down walls, to take the future by hand by going beyond these administrative boundaries. It means maintaining sustainable, supportive and innovative borders.

Nearly 30% of Europeans live in cross-border areas.

The closure of borders following the coronavirus crisis has clearly given us the opportunity to reshape the role of a border and consider, in particular, how it affects those of us who are cross-border citizens. We are learning from this crisis, and from what went wrong. The future will require more cooperation, the setting up of joint projects and building a network of know-how on both sides of our borders.

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A police blockage at alternative border crossing point along the Belgium/Netherlands border in MarchPhoto: Benoit Doppagne

There is an urgent need to integrate cross-border territorial groupings into decision-making for economies, urban planning, regional governments, society, the environment and public health. Coordination can only take place if there is consultation between the different levels of power, from the smallest local unit to the highest national unit, which means talking to local, regional and national elected representatives on both sides of the border, even when it concerns several nations.

Territory should no longer be confined to a border, a demarcation line, but be considered a living area where states, regions and peoples coordinate around common issues such as health, mobility, education. Nearly 30% of Europeans live in cross-border areas. Millions of people regularly cross borders for work and family reasons. We must now move toward governance at all levels that takes into account the reality of European citizens.

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food / travel

Dining With Distance: Restaurant Innovation Adapts To COVID-19

For many, getting back to "normal life" means going out to eat. But people also want to be safe, which is why eateries — from Amsterdam to Australia — are experimenting with distancing innovations that might soon become the new normal in the field of gastronomy. So how will dining out look like in the post-pandemic world? Here are few glimpses:

• In Saxony-Anhalt, Robin Pietsch, the German state's only starred chef, is thinking about setting up small "greenhouses' in an open space at Wernigerode Castle, the German daily Die Welt reports. Each glass cubicle would accommodate two guests and protect them from other diners, and yet still allow them to appreciate the surrounding scenery.

• Pietsch says he was inspired by the "separated greenhouses' that a vegan restaurant in Amsterdam set up on the waterfront and tested earlier this month. The restaurant should reopen for the public in the beginning of June with other Dutch restaurants and terraces hosting up to 30 guests, reported NH Nieuws.

• Unlike its European neighbors, Sweden never enforced a lockdown, and bars, restaurants and cafés continue to serve seated customers, albeit with certain precautions in place. Many establishments decided, for example, to rope off every other table to make social distancing easier. But that's nothing compared to the approach taken by a new restaurant called Bord för En (Table for One), which opened two weeks ago serves just one customer per day, seated at a table in the middle of... a field! Not only that, but food is served in a basket attached to a rope. Offering seasonal and locally farmed food and drinks, the restaurant's owners also have a novel approach when it comes to the bill: It's up to the guests to decide how much they're willing to pay. "We're all facing difficult times," the restaurateurs​ told the Insider.

• The proprietor of a seafood pub in Ocean City, in the U.S. state of Maryland, have also found a creative way to keep business afloat while maintaining social distancing. Customers at Fish Tales, which is reopening its dine-in services, will once again be allowed to mix, mingle and much, but with one condition: They have to wear giant inflatable inner tubes on wheels. These "bumper tables' are six feet wide, and according to UJ City News, the owner intends to fit 40 to 60 of them inside her restaurant.

Photo: Fish Tales

• A café in northeast Germany came up with a similar idea, only instead of inner tubes, customers use swimming pool floats (water noodles) to maintain social distancing. The 1.5-meter-long noodles are attached to hats that customers at Rothe in Schwerin, as the café is known, don while dining, Euronews reports.

• In Spain and Italy, some restaurants plan to reopen with plexiglass screens separating tables or even individual diners. One restaurant in the town of Leganés has already installed the prototype screens to test the design, reports The Local. As part of a pilot test, it has also set up thermal cameras that detect the temperature of diners.

• In New South Wales, Australia, in the meantime, restaurants are back in operation, but with strict limits on the number of diners allowed. Eateries can serve no more than 10 people at a time. Concerned that some clients might find the relative emptiness a bit off putting, the owner of one Sydney restaurant came up with a crafty solution: Why not fill the empty chairs with cardboard cutouts? And because the faux customers can't, of course, talk, the proprietor also outfitted his establishment with recorded background noise that simulates the chatter of clients, 7 News reports.

•A restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand had a similar idea, but instead of cardboard customers, decided to go with stuffed panda dolls. Different strokes, as they say, for different folks.

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THE NEW NOW
Inès Leonarduzzi

Preserving Nature Is The Only Path To Preserving You And Me

Viruses spread, mutate and then become deadly because humans destroy the areas where wild animals live. We must learn from this, once the coronavirus pandemic is contained.

PARIS — Confined to our homes, we are discovering the limits of humanity. The planet is "closed" until further notice. Of course, a vaccine will be invented and deployed, but the virus will come back, year after year, more resistant and with new mutations. Pandemics are not new. They have been around since we started altering natural habitats. The fact is we lack the knowledge to understand what is happening to us, and to avoid future crises. Stopping pandemics requires the effort of all, and the right information.

The frequency of pandemics has accelerated in recent years. We have seen Ebola, Zika, SARS, avian flu, Marburg and Nipah. The trend will continue, exponentially. It is a systemic process driven by our lifestyles. We now know the causal links between the source of Ebola and massive deforestation. The virus appeared in bats from ravaged forest areas in West and Central Africa. Wild animals had nothing to do with it. It is the totality of our way of interacting with the environment that needs to be updated, as everything seems to leads us back to question of ecology.

We lack the knowledge to understand what is happening to us.

SARS-CoV-2, commonly known as coronavirus, is the result of a naturally occurring phenomenon: the mutation into human pathogens of harmless animal microorganisms (commonly known as microbes) found in wild animals . Living beings, including us, are made of a multitude of harmless microorganisms. But in an altered environment, they mutate and adapt in order to survive, sometimes becoming deadly pathogens. This phenomenon is called "crossing the species barrier." In this case, some researchers suspect the pangolin was one of links in the transmission of coronavirus to humans.

This phenomenon is nothing new: It arose in the Neolithic era when humans began to destroy natural habitats for cultivation. Mass agriculture requires deforestation. Humans have razed an area equivalent to the African continent to domesticate animals for slaughter. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 170 million hectares of forests will be cut down by 2030. In addition to species extinction and climate change, deforestation causes pandemics. We are in what can be called a "crisis of the living."

When bats lose vital habitats they are forced to find refuge in domesticated trees, in public or private gardens or on farms. The bats deposit microbe-laden saliva on fruit or tree leaves, causing contamination. Pandemics are born when humans force animals into our habitat. Another example is Lyme disease. In North America, the disease outbreak coincided with the massive deforestation of the Northeastern United States. This decimated the populations of opossums and rodents, the traditional hosts for ticks. To survive, the ticks adapted, taking their new neighbors — us — as their hosts.

In light of this, should we continue to believe in the viability of our models? What can we learn from this measure of global containment, economic recession and human loss?

Governments, together with citizens, must answer these questions. Perhaps the creation of a large-scale "ecological social plan" would allow us to implement two important measures.

The first is teaching the cross-disciplinary study of ecology and habitat and the principles of sustainable development. As early as elementary school, children should learn the meaning of a pandemic: How it's born, what causes it and how it can be prevented. Today, we only teach students to be efficient, effective and produce wealth. I believe that by integrating fundamental ecological values into national education, citizens will grow more aware than ever of the issues at stake now and in the future.

What can we learn from this measure of global containment, economic recession and human loss?

Secondly, we could focus on the future of agriculture and sustainable infrastructure. With the help of agricultural consortiums and the housing sector, we could rethink the current agricultural model: imagine how it can transform and adapt to current issues. These spaces for dialogue would be opportunities to define new modes of expansion, localized models of distribution and consumption that is both balanced and responsible. To do this, we could move towards vertical housing and agriculture integration, eco-design, reusing materials and respecting seasonal products. It would also allow us to address soil degradation, restore forests for the reintegration of birds and animals threatened with extinction and work toward a deeper rebalancing of natural ecosystems.

The human tendency is to dominate nature. But we must develop a "loving relationship" with the environment. We can reinvent our way of being in the world with a more conscious mindset. Sustainable development, in addition to the preservation of natural resources, is the preservation of women and men. Sustainable development is only achievable by making it everyone's priority. Quarantine is a survival method, better understanding the environment is a pathway to preservation. Let's stick around.

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