One planet living

Marcin Gerwin
Thursday markedthe penultimate day of this year’s edition of the Visegrad Summer School. This year has undoubtedly been the most successful year in the events history and today certainly reinforced these sentiments. Opening the day, Marcin Gerwin delivered a relevant lecture on ‘’Ecology and international relations’’. From the outset this lecture set the tone for a day that would provoke many differing reactions from the audience and provide many impressive perspectives on an assortment of pertinent issues. Mr. Gerwin opened his lecture by examining the outcomes of the recent climate change summit in Rio. He explained how the recent summit achieved nothing of consequence and the world’s leader’s once again failed to come up with concrete solutions to the issue of climate change. Moving on from the ‘’failed’’ summit, Mr. Gerwin proceeded to give a fascinating lecture on a range of critical issues facing the world’s society today. One of the most topical issues in all levels of society is oil and here Mr. Gerwin dealt with many issues including the concept of peak oil. Explaining the background to this theory, he outlined how the resource of oil had peaked and solutions to combating this occurrence were needed.
Moving swiftly on from this topic after provoking a lively debate from the audience, Mr. Gerwin, dealt with the ever present challenge of the greenhouse gas effect. He explained that the world needs greenhouse gases to survive, but stressed not at the levels that are currently threatening the world’s longevity! After finishing his narrative on this topic, he moved onto the relationship between the environment and politics. Here he linked political life and the need to be elected with the effects specific policies have on the global environment. He gave countless examples of mislaid pledges on the environment that were sacrificed when a politician’s election was in danger. He offered his own theory that local societies hold the keys to combating the harmful effects many have placed on the world’s environment. He emphasized the success of Transition Initiatives across the globe as illustrations of people finally uniting to bring about a pronounced change in society, but warned that more must be done to tackle the global climate crisis before it is too late. He gave a wonderful insight into personal projects he has been involved in and concluded the lecture by recommending books that delved further into this topic. Clearly a sensitive subject, Mr. Gerwin offered a thorough and thought provoking lecture that left all in attendance with much to ponder.
Krzysztof Görlich, Andrzej Kamler, Karol Szyndzielorz and Łukasz CiochThe next matter of the day was a debate on Sustainable Urban Technologies. This debate featured Krzysztof Görlich, Andrzej Kamler and Karol Szyndzielorz and was expertly moderated by Łukasz Cioch. Opening the debate, Mr. Cioch welcomed all participants and swiftly asked the crowd what their own personal interpretation was of the word sustainable. Given the opportunity to give their own perspectives on such a broad reaching word really encouraged the participants to give a range of different but phenomenally revealing interpretations of this term. Moving on from this, the debate opened with Mr. Szyndzielorz going over sustainable projects within Europe. As he is an advisor to the Executive Board of Siemens Polska, Mr. Szyndzielorz had a profound knowledge of the subject area and proceeded to give a fascinating account of sustainable development within Europe today. Analyzing the chances of countries becoming more sustainable, he utilized statistics from recently released reports to form much of his argument. He provided the audience with a revealing statistic that over half the world’s population live in cities today, which appeared to surprise many within the crowd. However, the critical point Mr. Szyndzielorz made was in relation to Germany and nuclear power. He explained the parameters of the debate and highlighted the cost that Germany will bear as it has now taken the decision to close all of its nuclear facilities by 2020. This will encourage a renewed focus on sustainable development and the possible scenarios this may bring about were discussed forcefully.
The debate continued apace and another subject all three speakers spoke sensibility on was transportation, which undoubtedly is one of the key factors in any city today. All three agreed that in many instances transportation had gained preference over environmental matters and the impact that these decisions will have on future generations could be quite severe. This part of the debate evoked many responses and questions from the audience all of which were answered with clarity by the esteemed debaters. Both Krzysztof Görlich and Andrzej Kamler spoke at length on the issue of shell gas exploration and the various dynamics involved in such projects. Their insights provided the audience with knowledge that certainly would not be attainable without speaking to experts in this field such as the aforementioned debaters. Going back to the question of energy all three men agreed that Germany now faced an issue of competiveness that will be a major matter when their nuclear stations are finally closed.
The various players involved in this debate contributed to its free flowing nature, none more so than the moderator Mr. Cioch. One of the more noticeable elements to the debate was Mr. Cioch’s continued efforts to involve the audience on all aspects of the debate which arguably made for one of the more intense but stimulating debates to have taken place at the VSS during its long history. The debate moved to examine the issues concerning sustainability across the globe, which led us to Bradford, England. This part of the debate featured a presentation by Mr. Kamler which identified this city as an example of how renewed technology had revitalized this town. Crucially the technology dealt with water management, and Mr. Kamler utilized examples to highlight where the old technology had failed as a means to avoid sustained flooding. He used vivid images of the project in Bradford’s main square to highlight to the crowd the sustainable opportunities that were available throughout the world today. This part of the debate facilitated a worthwhile investigation into the old system of dealing with floods, with the new system as shown by Kamler offering proper solutions to these problems. All three debaters than mentioned the European Law scheduled for introduction in 2015 that will have a positive effect in such cases.
Once the issue of sustainable water management had been dealt with the debate neared its conclusion. However, prior to finishing the moderator wished for each debater to offer some positive messages on the viability of sustainable projects across the globe today. Their answers were once again detailed and offered honest assessments of our future in a ‘’sustainable’’ world. Ending the debate by thanking the contributions of the three debaters and the audience Mr. Cioch proclaimed his satisfaction at the nature of the debate and reiterated his desire to return to the VSS in the future. Which lectures were least informative and interesting?
The final lecture of the day was delivered by Grzegorz Piątek on the topic of Eco design. Certainly this lecture did not embody many of the characteristics of the lectures in previous days of the event but it was nevertheless both engaging and interesting. Opening by providing an explanation of what he felt Eco design was, Mr. Piątek continued to deliver what was an insightful and thought provoking lecture on this subject. Primarily focusing his presentation on architectural projects in Warsaw, he used a range of images to reinforce his message to his audience. He outlined how he was against nostalgia, and Warsaw was a suitable example for him to focus on. He explained how 80% of the buildings there had been chronically damaged during WWII and the need for a revitalization of the city was obvious once the war had concluded. Using the football stadium as his principle example for Warsaw, Mr. Piątek described how the stadiumwas constructed from the ruble of WWII. This revelation certainly surprised many within theaudience and undoubtedly drew more attention to the subject as a result of this.
Moving on from this, he continued using Warsaw as his primary example, stressing how it was strange that some churches and synagogues were the only building s left standing after WWII. He then proceeded give a brief overview of recycling and its relationship with architecture. This part of the lecture focused mainly on graphical elements as he used an array of images to highlight his fundamental points. Following on from this, Mr. Piątek turned to the relationship between greenery and architecture. This was particularly interesting and again involved the use of numerous images to highlight the effectiveness of nature in unison with buildings. He lamented Warsaw’s policy during the 1950s of build, build, build and praised the architects who didn’t sacrifice their beliefs for monetary gain. Concluding his lecture by warning of the dangers of urban sprawl, Mr. Piątek outlined his belief that architects bear a responsibility to all of society as every building comes from them. He concluded by thanking the audience for their participation and answered questions before departing to a rapturous applause.