Archive for October, 2012

Picture 138

Our focus countries – part 3

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The introduction of our focus countries has reached its third act. This week we will share some information about Bulgaria, Hungary, Moldova, Poland and Romania. As usual, you can find details regarding many interesting aspects from these countries in the Wiki section of our website. Bulgaria is located in Southeast Europe, in the northeast part of the Balkan Peninsula. It is a European, Balkan, Black Sea and Danube country. Bulgaria shares its borders with Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and the Black Sea. The capital city is Sofia. The natural landscape is diverse, consisting of lowlands, plains, foothills and plateaus, river valleys and mountains of varying elevations. Three national parks have been established in the country: Pirin National Park (a UNESCO natural heritage site), Rila National Park, and the Central Balkans National Park. There are also 11 nature reserves. Bulgarians have developed their culture and enriched it over the millennia, and they preserve it and continue to develop it to the present day. Rose picking is just one of the many Bulgarian traditions that are kept and cherished by locals. The Rose is the symbol of Bulgaria. Hungary is a landlocked country located in Central Europe, bordered by Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. The capital is Budapest, a Danube city. Hungarians speak a language and form a culture unlike any other in the region: this distinctiveness has been both a source of pride and an obstacle for more than 1100 years. This is the country: where 2000 year old Roman ruins and 400 year old Turkish monuments can be found side by side; where Central Europe’s largest fresh water lake – Balaton – is located, providing natural paradise for its visitors; where hundreds of therapeutic mineral springs gush up from the depths; where one of the most famous wines originates: the Tokaj wine. The Republic of Moldova lies in the central part of Europe in the north-eastern Balkans. On the North, East and South Moldova is surrounded by Ukraine, and on the West it is separated from Romania by the Prut River. The capital of Moldova is Chisinau. Although it has a small area, the Republic of Moldova has an unusual diversity of landscape and unique geological monuments of European and world value. Moldova’s agricultural and picturesque countryside offers great opportunities for nature lovers, while the rich cultural heritage invites tourists to discover its treasures. Over centuries Moldova has gained rich traditions of growing grapes and wine production. There are 142 wineries in the Republic of Moldova and visitors can enjoy this experience by exploring the underground cellars and towns, the wine storage facilities, the wine processing factories and of course, tasting the final product. The best known wineries are Cricova, Milestii Mici and Purcari. Poland is located in Central Europe. It is bordered by Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and the Baltic Sea. Its capital and the largest city is Warsaw and it is located upon the longest Polish river, the Vistula. Poland’s landscape is very diverse. The Carpathian and the Sudety Mountains stretch in the south, lowlands and uplands occupy the central part of the country, while the northern part of Poland, comprising Pomeranian and Masurian Lakelands, is gently undulating, relatively well forested and covered by hundreds of lakes. Still further to the north are the sandy beaches of the Baltic Sea coast. Thus Poland’s natural environment offers a real medley of varied attractions: incredible rocks, rare plants and animals, shifting sand dunes and extensive bogs and marshes. National Parks cover a mere 1% of Poland’s territory. Attractions include bison observing, the shifting sand dunes or the tree beneath which King Jagiello once rested. Poland has also a rich cultural heritage which breaths through its old towns, castles and palaces, including 13 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Romania is situated in the south-eastern part of Central Europe and shares borders with Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Republic of Moldova and the Black Sea. Romania’s territory features splendid mountains, beautiful rolling hills, fertile plains and numerous rivers and lakes. The Carpathian Mountains traverse the country, bordered on both sides by foothills and finally the great plains of the outer rim. Forests cover over one quarter of the country and the fauna is one of the richest in Europe including bears, lynx, chamois and wolves. The legendary Danube River ends its eight-country journey at the Black Sea, after forming one of the largest and most biodiverse wetlands in the world, the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Danube Delta. Romania is a dynamic country rich in history, art and scenic beauty. Visitors attractions range from the Danube River and its Delta to beautiful, intact medieval towns in Transylvania, like the Sighisoara citadel; from the vibrant capital Bucharest to the Black Sea resorts; from breathtaking Carpathian Mountains to the world’s famous painted monasteries in Bucovina or to a centuries-old village in Maramures.   Sources: Photo credits: Livia Minca, taken at Retezat National Park, Romania

Get involved – advocate

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Posted by Nikos Sorensen (with the help of Wikipedia)   To advocate means to speak, plead or argue in favour of someone else. An advocate is (therefore) one that argues for a cause, a supporter or defender, one that pleads on another’s behalf. Having this in mind, we could all be advocates, we could all advocate for causes we feel strongly about. We could all participate, contribute, add value, help, inspire.  We could all be a part of change, we could all make a difference. Just think how amazing is that! Advocacy is a political process by an individual or a group, which aims to influence public policy and resource allocation decisions within poliical, economic and social systems and institutions. Advocating can be motivated from moral, ethical or faith principles or simply to protect an asset or a principle. Advocacy can include many activities that a person or an organization undertakes, including media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research or polls or the filing of an amicus brief. Lobbying is a form of advocacy where a diect approach is made to legislators on an issue which plays a significant role in modern politics. Nowadays, advocacy groups are using social media to facilitate civic engagement and collectivve action. Advocacy represents a series of actions taken and issues highlighted to change “what is” into “what should be”.
FEEDBACK formed by keys of a computer keyboard

Friday round up blog: Getting Feedback

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By Yula Pannadopoulos

Friday! Another busy week is behind us and we got great feedback from different countries with regards to the information we sent them on the project / innitiative. Governmental and non-governmental entities from Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Czech Republic and Montenegro expressed their interest in the project, and as we keep disseminating the information to other countries as well, we are starting to engage in a real, constructive dialogue.

For ll those interested in becoming a part of this project we are organizing a WebEx Conference Call on November 6th (Tuesday) at 5 PM Central European Time.

Also from this week:

We are already excited about what the upcoming week will bring! Stay tuned!    
behaviour change

Changing mindsets: direction Sustainability

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Yesterday we participated in a webinar hosted by Bob Doppelt, executive director at the Resource Innovation Group, as part of their Climate Access Programme. The aim of the webinar was to highlight how sustainable thinking differs from the way most people think and act today, and describe the fundamentals of methods to motivate people to move through the normal “stages of change” to embrace sustainable thinking and behaviour.

The discussion was focused on three main themes: why we need to change our thinking and behaviour, what is it we want to change to and how we can actually do it. To address the first theme, the speaker started by mentioning that the sustainability problems we face today are not a consequence of political or economic models, but they stem mostly from a wrong way of thinking, a failure to understand how our planet works. So this is the first thing we should try to address. Social change cannot happen overnight and it needs a sufficient number of people to get involved before anything can come about. As people gradually start to adopt behavioural changes, support for public policies will increase as well. Moreover, in addition to policies and new technologies, changes in behaviour will also directly contribute to reduce emissions (for example by switching off lights and heating or buying less meat).

To create an image of the desired state that we want to reach we first have to understand that there are limitations to our activities and the planet itself is our border. If we look at a picture of the Earth seen from space we realise that there is nothing else we can use besides the resources contained within this planet and all the waste we produce has nowhere else to go, but on the same planet. The last hundreds of years have marked a huge development for humans and the impacts our activities have are no longer confined to our local grounds, but have become global. Therefore, the transition we want make is from a Take – Make – Waste approach, where we don’t see or don’t think about limitations to a Borrow – Use – Return approach, where we understand that we have to use our resources wisely, as to let other users, whether humans or not, whether now or in the future, benefit as well.

In order to achieve this, Bob Doppelt suggested people should realise and abide to five natural laws, each coming with a commitment to be taken and some practical skills and competencies that are already available to those who are willing to adopt them.

Natural Law


Practical skills/competencies

Interdependency – we are all connected on this planet

See and understand the system we are part of

Systems thinking, whole systems mapping

Cause & Effect – everything we do has an impact, sometimes in another place or on other people

Account for all consequences of our actions

Life Cycle Assessment

Moral justice – our actions should not provoke any harm

Adopt the moral / ethical percept to “do no harm”

Carbon neutral, zero waste

Trusteeship – we have to do even more than not harming

Adopt the moral / ethical percept to “do good”

Biomimicry (copy the way natural systems work), green chemistry (use natural substances), 100% renewables

Free will – we have the capacity to change

Choose our own destiny by thinking and acting sustainably

Pyramid of change, sustainable governance, innovation

Finally, in order to be able to make the changes we want, we must first identify in which of stages of change we are. Five possible stages have been outlined during the webinar:

  • the Disinterest Stage: “I won’t change” – it is the stage where we should try to open ourselves to the possibility of change;

  • the Deliberation Stage: “I might change” – it is the stage where we weigh pros and cons of what a change might entail;

  • the Design Stage: “I will change” – it is the stage of making a plan for change and announcing public commitment to do so;

  • the Doing Stage: “I am changing” – it is the stage of breaking the old habits and adopt new ones;

  • the Defending Stage: “I have changed” – it is the final stage, where we stick to the new habits and encourage others to do the same.

In each of these stages, specific change mechanisms can be used to help make the transition to the next one. In the first two stages cognitive and experiential mechanisms are of better use, such as disturbances from the normal status, awareness building, choice expansion, emotional inspiration by close persons, supportive relatives, etc. In the other three stages, where a decision has already been made, behavioural mechanisms are more effective, such as commitment, reinforcement, substitution, structural redesign, etc.

When it comes to changing our behaviour to a more sustainable one, having the right information is not enough and some of the above mentioned mechanisms are needed as well. It is very important also to choose the ones appropriate for the stage a person is in, otherwise they might actually slow, halt or even reverse change. Unfortunately this is what has happened with the global warming debate: people have been asked to act before they were convinced of the benefits of change. This has resulted in many turning away altogether from the very possibility of making one.

Motivating change is often a challenge but there are three keys that can help the message get through: creating sufficient dissonance (generating tension in a person so that he/she will want to start the change in order to alleviate that tension), building sufficient confidence that the person can eliminate the dissonance and building the pros, while minimising the cons of that change (generally for a change to be accepted a ratio of 2:1 between them should be established).

As you can see, we learned a lot during this webinar and we are happy that we could share it with you. We thus conclude this post with the very recommendation we got from Bob Doppelt. Change is hard, but it is definitely possible. At the end of the day this should not be a burden and a constant pressure; it should be fun and easy and come naturally. So put a smile on it, see where you stand and whether you are willing to give it a try.

Image source:

Picture 319

Our focus countries – part 2

Written by admin on . Posted in General Information, News

We continue this week the presentation of our focus countries, now moving towards the Balkan region. The protagonists this time are Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, FYRO Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia. A brief description of their specific features can be found below, but more detailed information pertaining to many different topics is available in the Wiki section. Nestled in between Greece, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Montenegro, and across the Adriatic from Italy, Albania boasts blue and turquoise seas, beautiful beaches, snow peaked mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests. Albanian history and culture is fascinating. Butrint, one of the world’s archaeological wonders – and a UNESCO World Heritage site – in the south of Albania provides a glimpse of Mediterranean civilization from the Bronze Age through the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman periods. Home of both Mother Theresa and the great 15th Century hero Skanderbeg, Albania today is quickly evolving in a myriad of directions. Bosnia and Herzegovina is situated at the heart of the Balkan Peninsula in southeast Europe. It borders on Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and the Adriatic Sea. The capital city is Sarajevo. Bosnia and Herzegovina encompasses both Mediterranean and Alpine climates, landscapes and henceforth some of the richest flora and fauna found in Europe. Here eastern and western civilizations met, sometimes clashed, but more often enriched and reinforced each other throughout its long and fascinating history. From the beauty of the mountains’ various landscape (like the Sutjeska National Park) to the calm of the Adriatic Sea (at the Neum seaside resort), from citadels and castles (like the one in Travnik) to peaceful monasteries, this small country has many things to enchant those who pay a visit. Croatia is located in the heart of Europe on the beautiful Adriatic Sea coast, bordering Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. The capital city is Zagreb. Some of the best-known resort towns along the Dalmatian coast are Dubrovnik, Split, Porec and Trogir, all of them listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Northern Adriatic resort of Opatija, known for its long tradition in hospitality, was a popular destination among European nobility. Croatia is a country of more than 1,185 islands, islets and reefs, of which only 67 are inhabited. The largest ones are Krk and Cres. Almost 9% of the country is protected as part of a national park or preserve. Out of eight national parks, seven are situated directly in or very near to the sea. The eighth one and also the best known national park in Croatia, Plitvice Lakes, is also listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Macedonia lies in the centre of the Balkan Peninsula, in between Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. The small and beautiful country offers its visitors a unique blend of natural wonders, traditions and culture. The scenic landscape of its valleys, forested hills, mountains and numerous lakes (of which the tectonic Ohrid and Prespa lakes are the best known) is attracting more and more tourists each year. The Republic of Macedonia is also a treasury of culture and art and home to a large number of historical monuments, icons, monasteries, archaeological sites, mosques, old books and other artefacts. Kosovo is situated in the centre of south-eastern Europe, in the central Balkans. It shares borders with Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro. Prishtina is the capital city. After the 1999 Kosovo War, the UN Security Council passed UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which placed Kosovo under transitional UN administration (UNMIK). In February 2008 the Republic of Kosovo declared its independence and over the following days, a number of states announced their recognition, despite protests by Russia and others in the UN. As of February 2012, 88 UN states recognise the independence of Kosovo. Kosovo represents a treasury of ethnic and religious heritages from various historical periods resulting in a mosaic of cultures. These heritages were influenced by a variety of historical, social, economic and religious circumstances. The entire artistic value as a heritage belongs to various styles, as Albanians and other peoples were inhabitants of this region. Montenegro is a southern European and Mediterranean country and lies on the Balkan Peninsula. With only 411 km of state borders, Montenegro opens towards Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania Croatia and the Adriatic Sea. The capital city is Podgorica. Numerous civilizations were drawn to both the fertile plains and the coastal zone of Montenegro. Each of them left their mark of existence. On a small territory, colonnades and aqueducts of antique civilizations join minarets and Turkish spas, while the remains of the Ottoman Empire meet the medieval Christian architecture and painting. The natural setting enchants by its beauty, mild beaches, clear lakes, fast rivers, and gorgeous mountains. Given the small size one can literally wake up along the beautiful Adriatic coast, have lunch on the banks of Skadar Lake, and enjoy an evening walk in the Montenegrin mountains. Serbia has connected West with East for centuries – a land in which civilisations, cultures, faiths, climates and landscapes meet and mingle. It is located in the centre of the Balkan Peninsula, bordering on Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The capital is Belgrade, a Danube city. From the agricultural regions of the Pannonian Plain in the north, across the fertile river valleys and orchard-covered hills of Šumadija, the landscape of Serbia continues southward, gradually giving way to beautiful mountains rich in canyons, gorges and caves, rivers, lakes as well as well-preserved forests. The cultural and historical heritage of Serbia begins with prehistoric archaeological sites and its legacy from classical antiquity. Perhaps its greatest riches, though, are in the many mediaeval Serbian churches and monasteries, some of which are included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Statistically, the most-visited tourist destinations are the cities of Belgrade and Novi Sad, the mountains of Kopaonik and Zlatibor and the spa towns of Vrnjačka Banja and Sokobanja.   Sources:,20 Photo credits: Livia Minca, taken at Budva, Montenegro

Sustainability: what will the future hold?

Written by admin on . Posted in General Information, News

During the past seven weeks we tried to put a spotlight on sustainability, by looking into several sectors, from education and agriculture to energy and policy, and highlighting how they all can and should relate to the notion of sustainability. In this last post of the series, we will try to draw a line and add up what we have so far, trying to imagine how sustainability will be shaped in the future.

Certainly the world, and obviously its sustainable development, is confronted with many problems. In every part of the system we can find examples of how wrong we have dealt so far with our resources, whether we talk about burning ever increasing quantities of fossil fuels, over-fishing our oceans, polluting our rivers and lakes, producing and dumping huge quantities of waste or even pretending to fix things by enacting inefficient, lopsided policies. In previous posts, we have discussed the effects implied by a growing population and its predisposition to overconsumption at a certain point in time. And certainly many of these problems are directly linked to some very human attributes, such as greed, self-interest, laziness or lack of involvement.

It is therefore easy to understand why some people are quite pessimistic with regard to our possible comeback as a responsible entity, willing to pay for its mistakes and take real steps towards a sustainable lifestyle. In fact, when considering the other seven billion people on the planet, a single person’s actions might not be seen as meaning too much – therefore many people get stuck behind the mindset that their actions don’t count. Furthermore, failure of major policy commitment on the issue of sustainability (such as the Rio+20 Summit this year, to quote just the most recent one) is surely not an inspiration.

However, there are also many achievements, and certainly the first step has been the acknowledgement that something was going wrong, that the environment was suffering due to our unsustainable activities. Many measures have since then been put into practice, with varying degrees of impact: from banning of some dangerous substances to encouraging renewable energies or finding new ways of recycling waste. The development has also brought to the front many new technologies that can help reduce our burden on the planet. On the other side, several of these technologies are feared to unleash other possibly harmful effects, some not yet known.

At the other end of the scale there are the optimists, who believe there is still hope for us and our planet. They are encouraged by the numerous alternatives available today that could help us reverse the damage we have caused. The interconnectedness of today’s world requires a holistic approach. There are things that can be done at global level, like policies limiting CO2 emissions level, while others may have a better impact at country level, like protecting a particular habitat. And then there are the smaller things that each person on the planet can do, from riding bikes to planting trees or buying responsibly. The optimists are positive that their efforts, together with the ones of many others who think alike, will definitely make a difference. And actually even individual actions can turn into global movements (for instance, see the Billion Acts of Green Campaign).

However, beside their general belief that we will be able to save the planet, optimists agree on two things: there is still a long way to cover and action must be taken now, without delay, both at individual and at country/global levels. The fact is that we are now at a turning point: we are faced with choosing to live sustainably and abide the changes that this entails versus collapsing as a society under the burden of our unsustainable use of resources. It only depends on us to make the right choice. And learning about sustainability, as well as starting to take action (in our homes, in our communities and our countries) are of foremost importance.

Find out more:

Some of the questions and topics referred to above (and in some of the posts that will follow on the same issue) have been raised during the course Introduction to Sustainability, available at the University of Illinois. They certainly generate a lot of discussions and this is why we decided to explore them further. The statements made in this text are not meant to offer any answers and do not pretend to cover all possible aspects of a subject. They are merely an invitation to discover various facets of the sustainability debate, of which we believe all should be aware and a part of.

Image source:


Summarized info: Sustainable Living

Written by admin on . Posted in General Information, News, Publications

By Yula Pannadopolous

Information is great, but summarized, digested information is even better. It helps us focus, it helps us learn.

During the implementation phase of this project we will publish over 20 different publications, and this year we start with five:

  • Sustainable Living
  • The History of Sustainability
  • Sustainable Schools
  • Sustainable Cities
  • Sustainable Food
The first one, Sustainable Living, we present to you today. It is a compilation of information from different sources, and we did our best to present it in a coherent manner. The publication is free for you to use online, or download to your electronic devices and use whenever you want.  
Disclaimer: Any data presented in the Sustainable Living publication has been compiled from different sources found on the internet. We do not own (copyrights of) the information presented; we just collected, compiled and edited the information. The internet sources of information are explicitly stated in the articles. That said, we are not responsible for inaccuracies or factual mistakes, should there be any.   This post’s photo credit: Nektarina Non Profit, taken at Evian les Bains, France