The EU is Not Enough

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Are you afraid of flying? To some degree everybody is. Does the thought of turbulence make you fasten the seat belt that little bit tighter? The sky is not the friendly place it used to be decades ago and it will grow angrier and angrier with time. Studies reveal that instances of heavy to extreme turbulence will be more and more common as global temperatures rise, as pollution and harmful emissions reach the stratosphere. Can we pacify the skies? Can we tame the winds? We can. It’s not too late.

Prevailing instances of heavy turbulence happen not only in the sky but everywhere in nature. Look at the state of our oceans. Look at the garbage we produce and look how we run out of space to dispose of it. And look what happened to our lives! Plastic in our food, violent outbreaks of deadly diseases, desertification and floods, not to mention the new category of refugees, fleeing climate change-related disasters. At a glance, the world looks like it will implode if we don’t act. Luckily, here, in the EU, we are acting. And it all starts with acknowledging the problem and setting about solving it.

As gloomy as all that sounds, there has never been a better time to be alive. How different was our world 30 years ago? Or 20 or 10. With unprecedented access to information, healthcare and social support and inclusion, our world is better off now than it has been throughout its history.  And Europe is at the forefront of this progress.

A construction that started a little more than 60 years ago became the prime example of how team work should be defined. Throughout its history, the EU has grown into what it is today – a global powerhouse, making and leading the trends in every aspect of human life and activity.

United in diversity we created a set of rules and regulations, of wills and wishes that transformed our corner of the world into the safe and prosperous place it is today.

Changes for the better are happening as we speak. I am proud to have chaired the Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety in the European Parliament at a time when so many vital pieces of legislation are passed. The EU is now at the forefront of fighting global warming. The EU has a new and comprehensive package concerning waste which includes waste management and the circular economy. The EU is leading on the front of cancer research and it is the EU that revolutionizes now the cleaning of the world’s oceans not least by banning a range of single use plastic products.

Yet, EU is not enough. We lead by example but we are also here to help.

While EU is well off, it is the rest of the world that remains a concern and a work in progress where work has to be done for the progress to continue. To the poor farmer in China or the squat dweller in India the concepts of reducing emissions or selective collection are totally unknown. Indeed, the planet comes second when tomorrow is not certain. So, I guess our fear of flying becomes such a first world problem when all over the globe people die of malnutrition, lack of clean water and zero medical care access. This is where we must intensify our actions. We must provide more help, we must raise more awareness, we must be wiser in choosing how we spend aid and development money all over the world.

Of course, many things need to be fixed inside the EU. But we can never forget that we are not alone on this planet. We should never be self-sufficient and ignore or treat superficially what is around us. EU is now a global superpower but its super powers are limited in the global context. Calamities and natural disasters have a way of transcending any kind of border. Even the ever so secured borders of the EU.

In the fight against global warming humankind should be united. Setting an example is simply not enough. Continuously trying to multiply that example is the way forward. We have to make sure our fight is an economical success if we want to convince other major players to follow our lead. It’s not only EU’s voice that needs to be heard today. It’s EU’s actions and deeds that will move the world forward.

We do not hold the absolute truth but I am proud that we are awake and in touch with the rhythm of nature, its phases and its cry for help. We are willing to share our best practice so some mistakes will not be repeated. We are concerned and we want the rest of the world to take action. We need togetherness now.

And until Mr. Musk will colonize Mars, this is the only planet we have to live on.

A planet where some are littering the oceans with plastic, while others try to get rid of pesticides, where some are barely getting by, while others are afraid of flying. We do not want it perfect but we certainly would like it healthy for the generations to come.

Adina Ioana Vălean has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2007, where she currently chairs the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). She has previously served as Vice-President of the same institution.