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What is it to be ECO?

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ECO is the search for meaning. Volkswagen AG should undertake this simple task in the deepest crisis in its history, where linear thinking and action destroys economies. Things just can’t keep going on like this. This realisation will probably make many millions of people unemployed. Even the fines for the fraud amounting to billions do not hide the fact that the whole car industry is in a cul-de-sac or make us think that the problem would thereby be solved. The fines will be paid and then what? Money could be invested more sensibly, in healthy, sustainable jobs. If we want to imagine a sustainable life, then that life should contain less petrol consumption, fewer exhaust fumes, lower CO2 emissions, fewer traffic jams, fewer accidents and less stress. And it’s no longer about economic growth, but about a downward spiral of “less and less”. The solutions that have the most radical effect start in people’s heads, for example with the simple question: what is it all for? Why this huge expenditure of human intellect and resources to make mobility possible in the future?* How are ten billion people supposed to get around if not on their own two feet? There are quite simple solutions. It is only a small step from the madness of the self-driving car to the railway and the bus and a modern, collective transport system, which we have long had and just need to develop further. The car industry is steering into its deepest crisis at the high point in its history. It is also a narrative crisis. What other records should we report on? How many cars is there still room for on our planet? It is one of the great ironies in history that it was the very same Volkswagen AG that funded the Club of Rome’s study “The Limits to Growth” produced at MIT** in 1970.

ECO is part of the solution and not part of the problem, which is why ECO123 cannot take part in the greenwashing of the Greenfest in Lisbon. Sponsors may be an important part of a business, but why do the organisers invite Volkswagen and Portucel/Soporcel and not CP, CARRIS and TESLA for example? We need visions and simple ways of getting there. A long time ago, the car manufacturers (and they were not alone) decided on the path of more and more. They followed this path and not only lost sight of the goal, but also of the path. That is like hikers who have got lost despite having a GPS. For better or worse,, they have to walk the whole way back to the fork in the road and take the other path, the right one, to their goal. Portugal’s future is not based on oil, gas or coal, nor on eucalyptus and also not on intensive livestock torture and… not on mass tourism either. In our search for meaning, we must once again feel the earth beneath our feet, in a natural kind of life and at our innate speed. Depending on the terrain, that is somewhere between three and five kilometres an hour. Anyone seeking orientation would be well advised to leave their car behind and go walking. Your thoughts become sharper when you’re walking. Taking deep breaths in the forest, sensing your body, absorbing large amounts of oxygen, and emitting little carbon dioxide in exchange. People who go walking feel themselves. Walking makes people equal and walking holidays (without a plane) represent both climate protection and leisure in equal measure. And in the process, our country could become a paradise, if we were to replace the eucalyptus with a diverse stock of trees.

* Ulrich Grober, Publikation: Der leise Atem der Zukunft, Editora Oekom, Munique

*Cambridge/Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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