Updated: Apr 21, 2021
Today, we pay the price for all our actions from the past. The real estate industry must take responsibility, knowing that the industry is the single largest contributor to climate change. Property Technology is not enough to fight climate change and other global challenges. We have to define earthshots and join forces.
Recently, I read the quote from Matt Powers: “People talk about CO2 like there’s no such thing as photosynthesis… If it doesn’t liberate the Oxygen from CO2 while sequestering Carbon in the soil, I’m not interested. Everything else is low-grade tech”, which made me think. We need CO2 for photosynthesis, because without oxygen life is impossible. Did you know that half of all oxygen is created on land and the other half by sea plants and algae in the sea (this means that we have to take good care of the sea and landscape, our planet as a whole)?
Do you know that an average person on earth emits around 4.4 tonnes of CO2 on an annual basis? An average inhabitant of the 36 richest countries emits twice as much as the world average: 8.9 tonnes per year. The average American emits 16 tonnes of CO2 per year, the average Chinese 8 tonnes and the average Dutchman 9.5 tonnes. China emitted nearly 30% of the world's total CO2 in 2018 (US 14% and EU28 9%). Prosperity has a price.
According to the UN, the real estate industry has one of the largest carbon footprints - it currently contributes to 30% of the world's annual greenhouse gas emissions and consumes about 40% of the world's energy. In addition, the real estate sector is also responsible 40% of building materials that ends up in landfills.
Nature is not for free
Recent research has shown that only 2.8% of terrestrial ecosystems are as intact as they were five hundred years ago. Today, 30 hectares of forest disappear every minute in the world. By 2020, 4.2 million hectares (4x the Netherlands) of native rainforest will have disappeared, according to Global Forest Watch. Most forests disappear for agricultural purposes. And for the production of paper, mining, construction material, and biomass.
Forests are also disappearing due to bush fires (in 2020, there were 16% more bush fires than in 2019) as have recently occurred in the United States and Australia. Natural disasters are of all times. Our biggest problem is that we treat nature as if it is infinite and free. Today, we pay the price for all our actions from the past. Remember, we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.
Why do we need trees?
Planting trees is the least expensive and most effective solution to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Studies (e.g. Science Maganzine) prove that planting trees (the right ones on the right place and the right maintenance) is the most effective climate change option available today.
· Trees convert CO2 into oxygen.
· Trees clean air
· Trees cool the streets and the city
· Trees conserve energy
· Trees save water
· Trees help prevent water pollution
· Trees help prevent soil erosion
· Trees combat climate change
· Trees reduce stress, lowers blood pressure and good for the immune system
· Trees shield children from ultra-violet light
· Trees provide food
· Trees reduce violence
· Trees mark the seasons
· Trees create economic opportunities
· Trees are teachers and playmates
· Trees promote unity
· Trees increase business traffic
· Trees increase property value
· And more ..
Investing in tree preservation and planting new right trees in the right soil is a very valuable investment. To tackle the climate change we also have to transform our economic model. In March 2021, the 52nd United Nations Statistical Commission has adopted the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting – Ecosystem Accounting. This is a giant leap forward. Now we can measure nature’s contribution to the economy and can be a game changer in decision-making.
“No longer will we allow mindless environmental destruction to be considered as economic progress” – António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Net-zero is not enough
The real estate industry must take responsibility, knowing that we have a significant negative impact on planet earth. Technology is not the only solution to fight climate change. We have to rethink our system to build capacity for self-sustaining abundance of life. Digital technology is not the only solution to fight climate change. Maintaining the status quo by doing less bad (sustainability) is not enough to reach for example net-zero cities. At least we have to heal past damage (restoration/ net-positive) and strive to build capacity for self-sustaining abundance of life (Regenerative).
We need to innovate and invest in the future. Not only in technological solutions, but also in low-tech solutions, system value creation models (from Business2Business to Business2Society and Business2Environment) and social innovation (from ego to eco to seva). Doing nothing is not an option anymore. We want to contribute in ways that are ambitious and achievable. Any effort can have a big impact. Everyone can do something and Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM).
Doing nothing at all: (1,00) to the power of 365 = 1,00
Making small consistent efforts: (1,01) to the power of 365 = 37,7
Restore our earth
We must at least restore our earth. A Chinese philosopher once said: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time to plant a tree is today". On March 19, PropTech for Good planted first 50 of 50,000 trees in cooperation with Life Terra Foundation. These 50 trees symbolise a 1,000 times greater goal. Planting at least 50,000 trees, by 2025. How will we achieve this goal of 50,000 planted trees?
1. Every year we plant trees for each partner. The number of trees depends on the size of the partner;
2. We include tree planting (in)directly in our activities and offerings;
3. And by inspiring our stakeholders and network to do the same for their own organization.
If not now. Then when?
On May 25,1961 John F. Kennedy spoke the famous words: “… before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth”. The Apollo 11 was the first crewed mission to land on the Moon, on 20 July 1969. Mission accomplished. Now, 50 years later, we have green and digital missions to succeed on planet Earth. So called, ‘earthshot’. An earthshot in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. An earthshot, supported by missions that offer solutions and opportunities, that are bold and stimulate cross-sectoral innovation and provide answers to questions we face every day. Missions which create a regenerative, responsible, resilient environment. Lets join forces!
About Life Terra:
Life Terra is a foundation with a mission to enable people to take impactful climate action now. We facilitate tree planting, educate future generations, and develop tree monitoring technology. Life Terra contributes to SDG 4, 8, 11, 13, 15 and 17 through its activities.
NOTE: For planting trees outside Europe, we are looking for partners.
- - - - -  Matt Powers (M.Ed) is an author, educator, seed saver, gardener, and entrepreneur focused on radically transforming the entire K-12 education system through the collegiate system as well as the economy such that it aligns with regenerative science, natural principles, and permaculture ethics: Earth Care, People Care, & Future Care. Matt, a former public high school teacher with a master’s degree in education, is the author of the first government accredited permaculture curriculum in North America (fully cited, peer-reviewed, & aligned to national standards), and his work continues to spread in schools, colleges, and universities globally with over a dozen books in 6 languages and 9 online courses.