This is about you. Look. You are here. In this place, in this city, on this planet.
This is the space you use. It provides housing, produces food and generates power; it supplies the raw materials for our economy. This space is a precondition for the prosperity you enjoy. You consider it the norm to have your own car parked outside the door, your food individually packaged in the supermarket, and for water and gas to be readily available when you turn on the tap. But it isn’t. You have inherited a lifestyle that is not realistic. The raw materials have almost been exhausted. Just like the space. This planet is finite and its treasures have been distributed unequally. Things will have to change.
You know it as well as I do. We are rational beings. Yet, we do not adapt. The change that is coming is so drastic it is frightening. We simply cannot imagine the future. What qualities and prosperity will it offer us? It seems crazy to have to reinvent everything, to leave behind all the certainty and comfort. The future is not realistic. Not for you, not for the economy, not for the politicians.
Look. You’re here. It is 2018.
Also your future will be radically different. This is something we established in solemn promises and agreements, in the smallest city and with the whole world. We are combating climate change and poverty, making the transition to renewable energy, and reducing CO2 emissions, on the road to a circular economy. The milestones and promises have been set for 2020, 2025, 2030 and even 2050. They are approaching at lightning speed.
You invest in solar panels, your next car will be electric, you buy your fruit and vegetables locally, and you take your own shopping bag with you. You sort your waste into an ever-increasing number of different coloured bags. But whether you are truly convinced or just want to appease your conscience, you also read the newspaper: these minor efforts are not enough.
There is a huge gap between the modest experiments and the ambitious goals. We know exactly what we have to do, but we do not know how. That is the missing link.
You’ve reached a deadlock, just like me.
I am the World Trade Center. I have been here a while now. I was erected in a district that did not always belong to me. An entire neighbourhood was razed to the ground to make room for me. I am a remnant of 20th century urban planning, the first milestone in the ambitious Manhattan project. I stand in a business district and car city in the centre of Brussels. I was the proud product of a new world that would bring prosperity to everyone.
The utopia is gone. Global issues that sometimes appear remote and abstract are becoming harsh reality here. At one of the most accessible parts of Brussels, near the North Station, two times three lanes lead lease cars to the underground car park. The natural watercourses and marshland have disappeared beneath the asphalt. Along the canal, once the industrial artery of Belgium, ever-taller residential buildings take the place of business premises and workplaces. Today asylum seekers camp at my feet. It is hard to admit, but I know I am part of the problem.
Here I stand now. Empty.
I have had a turbulent past. My future is still uncertain. However paradoxical it may sound: this is precisely the situation that offers opportunities. I am ready for new life. I know that now is merely a point in time. Change will happen in any case. This is the time to choose. How and in which direction.
I claimed space, and now I am giving it back. I am making room for forces to be bundled and the future to be shaped. I offer a moment and a place to momentarily cast off the fear. I lead you along a route that brings together diverse ideas, places and practices, which forges new links, which facilitates new coalitions. Here radical futures are devised, and new methods for achieving them are conceived and tested. I offer a methodology. With the people, the insights and the tools. Here, the future is realistic.
It is 2018. The clock is ticking. We will want to have jointly changed something by 2020. Claim me as a new centre, a workplace for the district, for the city, for the delta of the Low Countries, and for the world!
Be my guest.
You are a citizen, lawyer, cabinetmaker, civil servant, engineer, farmer, CEO or CFO, scientist, politician, student, philosopher, secretary general, entrepreneur, anthropologist, banker, volunteer, marketeer, street worker, artist, IT professional, teacher or architect. We are thinkers, dreamers and doers. We are confronted with the greatest creative process of our generation. We desperately need each other.
This is an invitation. Come and join us to set up a project.
We must face up to it. We cannot and will not achieve the goals if you and I do not have the courage to drastically alter the way we live, work and move around. Today, the growth of our cities and landscapes revolves around fossil fuels, raw materials and space, which will soon be depleted. Let’s turn things around, and transform our streets, buildings and districts in such a way that shared mobility, healthy farming and renewable energy become the new norms.
We have work to do. If we bundle the forces and insights of hundreds of actors, we can translate major goals into workable changes on the ground. Learning by doing. We will call for and actively include anyone that faces the same issues or harbours the same ambitions. We will share knowledge and replicate the changes in numerous places at the same time. Like a particle accelerator.
You are here.
I am the World Transformation Center.
We are on our way.