November 2015.
URGENDA, a Dutch environmental NGO, organized a 30-day walking tour from Utrecht (the Netherlands) to Paris (France), a distance of 580 km. Goal: meet up at the COP 21. Would this event be a walkway to our new future? I attended this walk for two days, joining in between Breda and Brasschaat. It was a highly interesting experience. I met a great number of great and very concerned people and we were one in our objectives for this international conference: we need to act now!

We, participants, and not only those who participated in his tour, but all groups from all over the world dream to work on solutions for a sustainable  world to live in. This world, our planet, should be in balance and we should nog take more than we can give back to it. Circular economy, cradle to cradle, neutral energy building constructions, E-automotive, local agricultural initiatives, no carbon emissions. What can we do, consumers of our  planets capitals as we are?

Let us sincerely hope that all many thousands of politicians, representing almost all countries in the world, leading business people and many NGO’s, gathered in Paris these days will come up with solutions, plans and agreements to limit the CO2 emissions. We need to act to such a level that no islands will be flooded, that no species will go extinct, that we do not harvest anymore tropical rainforest, etc., etc.. The maximum raise of the global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius is the goal. Based on this plan we, passengers of the globe, can continue to walk to a better future.

Gerard Baars, a walking passenger on this globe, December 2015.

I wrote the above in November. The conference has ended and results look promising. All 195 countries involved came to an agreement that the maximum raise of temperature in the world should be restricted to 2 degrees centigrade and preferably even to 1,5 degree. This sounds very promising. I doubt whether the politicians will indeed bring this agreement back to their own countries parliaments and make it work. Politics is very slowly! Very happily (this time) a lot of representatives of multinationals stated that they see the need as well. This can only mean that there is obviously a profit making reason for them to join in. And we all know that when the big companies start dictating progress, they will. Hopefully this time in the right direction.

Gerard Baars, December 18, 2015

Please see my thoughts and account on the next pages.
Participants, ready to start the hike

When I looked at the website of Urgenda ( ) I saw the announcement of a hike from The Netherlands to France that wanted to draw the attention to the COP21, the big Climate Conference of world leaders in Paris in December 2015. The Urgenda agenda appeals to me already for some years, but I hesitated to join in. I thought about International Bear Foundation and our goals. What do we have in common and do we recog-nize some mutual bottlenecks? That kind of questions.

Finally I decided to join in for two stretches (etappes)/two days out of 30 days. I want to tell you about my ex-periences those two days. Anyway it is very important that we come to a mutual agreement about how to cope with the situation and how to improve it so we can come to a more sustainable world. The problem at the moment is that there is a lot of competition, even jealousy and envy between people and organizations about how to solve the most urgent and essential questions about our planets future. How long can we sustain here? There is no easy ‘hopping over’ to other pla-nets. Our planet is vulnarable, irreplaceable and certainly not inexhaustible!

urgenda-miles-walkDay 1, November 6, Breda (Holland)- Essen (Belgium), 26 km
A little strange I have to admit, starting at 7.10 AM on train station at Gouda and taking the train to Breda, where i twill all start. What can I expect? Will I meet dye hard protestors with beards and banners, soft people on what we caal in The Netherlands ‘on wollen socks’, shouting chorusses? Anything is possible. I had no special equipment or clothing, just some water, appels and bread. On the train station of Breda there were no signs whatsoever of a big demonstration, no instructions, no banners and no people who looked as if they were going to join me.

But yes, I saw an older gentleman walking around with long wild and white hair, hiking shoes and a rain jacket. Could that be one of them? Yes it was and it turned out that I was on the wrong side of the staion. On the other side we heard music, a choir and drums. But still no signs of banners, or anyone of the organisation committee. Also some people, mid-dle aged, obviously well educated in small groups or alone. And all of a sudden someone shouted ‘welcome at the Cli-mate Miles of Urgenda!’. Good, I didn’t end up in a group of people with the destination of some Christmas market so-mewhere in Germany. Relief!

Finally at 9.15 AM some 175 people set about the hike southwards through the centre of Breda. Aftre some 5,5 km. we had outr first break with coffee and cake. In the next stage all kinds of small groups formed and lots of small conversations started. Subjects: did you start already in Utrecht?, are you going the whole track to Paris?, great!, what do the Climate Miles mean to you?, what is sustaina-bility to you?. Etc.. Very interesting? I added of course my part in the discussions. I exchanged business cards with poeple ‘in between jobs’, a kind of monk, foreigners from new Zealand, Australia and the US. All had exciting stories about their reason to joint the Climate Miles. One thing was clear, my contribution was only very small in comparance to what most of these people were doing. But we are all con-cerned about the future of our planet, we can’t migrate to somewhere else, can’t we?
Then, in the middle of a forest, we had to wait for Peter Derks, a well known Dutch comedi-an who had invented a way too erect the daily ‘Mile’ (every day a special ‘Mile’ was going to be erected by a famous person with a text to reflect about). His tekst didn’t convince me because he stated that we humans are clever enough to find solutions. To my opnion that was a little too easy said, and many with me. The hike of November 6 lead through the forests and farmlands of the south of the Province of Brabant. Then 10 Tesla’s stood waiting for us and electronically we whizzed through the forests on old smugglers paths. I couldn’t think of any bigger contrast. But we were greatful and accepted it voluntarily.

At night we had a ‘walk talk’, lead by the ‘boss’ of Urgenda, Marjan Minnesma, about ‘values of everyone about his or her actions in daily live’. it gave a lot of people an occasion to start new discussions and reflections. Then we had to shut up and sleep, which we did.

Day 2, November 7, from Essen to Brasschaat, both in Belgium, a hike of 22 km.
I had had a good sleep, but felt my legs, which I hadden’t expected, I walk/hike regu-larly. Will it train today? The first ones to join breakfast were obviously the ‘professional hikers’. Some blisters were treated and not everyone woke up fresh and fruty. But every-one wanted to persevere. So we started in a good mood with some extra lunch at hand. We walked trough Flanders, the region north of Antwerp that resembles very much to Dutch Brabant, aparet from the often huge houses, almost castles, that are so typical for Belgium.
It was going tob e a short and beautiful hike.

Al of a sudden we stood in front of a huge signpost that mentioned a LIFE-EU project. Almost none of us knew about this. So I could tell about it and explain that it concerns …..
I had strong concerns about options to obtain EU subsidies like EU-LIFE projects and about the actual re-orientation of several EU Direc-tives (e.g. Bird & Habitat Directive and the Zoo Directive).
Both on EU level (Mr. Timmermans), as on Dutch Administration level (Mrs. Dijksma) there is a tendency to downgrade the impact of the ruling Directives. The argument often used is that the Directives have been quite successful in the last 20 years, and to do some-what less will be okay as well. This attitude to downgrading should give a more flexible inter-pretation and for agriculture, industry and other fields of activities it will create more flexibil-ity.
IUCN already has laid down its vision that any slowdown is unacceptable as we have not yet reached the goals set. The loss of biodiversity is enormous and the incidental successes we have scored are fragile.
This information was new to my co–hikers and their reactions ranged from: ”What can we do?” to “Is this actual policy?” and “How can we stop it?”. I suggested to meet as many EU members of Parliament and the country’s delegates to inform them. But even the URGEN-DA delegation did not receive a positive reaction to meet with EU delegates during their stay in Brussels. Anyway: we created rumour to contact the press and to contact various dele-gates as IUCN already did, in order to keep pressure on the undesired developments to “downgrade” the running EU Directives.

For Urgenda and all participants on the Climate Miles, this should be a point of interest and action. But alsof or our own foundation IBF, while climate change has for instance a great impact for Polar Bears. Less ice means less hunting grounds and thus starvation and there-fore extinction of the Polar Bear in due time. But what tot think about tropical species as for instance the Malasian Bear that lives in tropical forest that is disappearing rapidly. Adaptati-ons take many hundreds of years and dozens of generations. I was highly surprised by the ignorance about these subjects of my fellow participants. But akay, about other subjects I am behind in knowledge.

It surpridsed me how many of my co-hikers are busy looking for opportunities fort heir own in the field of sustainability. I met an entrepeneur who wanted to replace asbestos roofs for sunpannels or someone who makes paper from agrarian waist in India and Columbia and in the mean time starts all kinds of social projects overthere. Or energy projects in slumps, or a holiday parc that makes its own energy, etc.. It is interesting to realize that we can achieve loads of things if we focuse on the good solutuions. An dit has always been like that. That became my ‘Leitmotiv’, my inspiration, these days. Together we have to transform from a linear economy to a circular economy.

A short summary from the Dutch Urgenda site: Traveling to COP21 in Paris by foot.
Urgenda director Marjan Minnesma and all the participants of The Climate Miles walked to Paris, where the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) is held. By walking The Climate Miles, Urgenda is calling attention to the action needed to avert dangerous climate change and the solutions already available to keep the planet safe for future generations. The Cli-mate Miles entailed a 580 km long route through the Netherlands, Belgium and France and finished on 28th of November. You can watch a compilation of The Climate Miles in English here. Read more


Climate miles of urgenda: Hiking between Utrecht and Paris