Last Saturday I joined the ‘Urban Food Daytrip to Amsterdam’ to visit inspiring initiatives in urban sustainability and food production. It turned out that the people realizing them were even more inspiring than the projects themselves.
First I met an enthusiastic bio-dynamic farmer who started an organic fruit farm near the Schiphol airport. He lets Amsterdam citizens come and pick the fruits themselves, and even eat them as they pick, as long as they ‘declare’ how much they ate. That is what I call trust in mankind! Then, I met a group of cooks-art school students and a student from the Amsterdam program ‘future planet studies’ (sounds great, doesn’t it?). They embarked, without previous expertise, in the production of ALL ingredients of 1000 ham-cheese toasts, on a small piece of industrial land in Amsterdam. Finally I met a group of students and professionals that teamed up to restore a poisoned ex-wharf in Amsterdam using halophytes plants. They also set up a lovely café and a small experimental clean-tech urban village. Old house boats, floating like Noah arches above the disaster of a polluted ground, are rented as ateliers for companies.
Why am I telling about these people? Because they strike me as innovators, of a kind I hardly see in Wageningen. None of these people waited for an approval of their feasibility study: they just made it work. All of them were taking risks and pursuing the design or principle of their idea, at the cost of the idea’s feasibility, instead of sacrificing design and principles to feasibility. Thus, they seem freed from the caveats that affects many Wageningen researchers. Some of us, throughout the day, realized that Wageningen is missing the hands-on, reckless and idealistic experimentation. One may say-“eww, reckless: that’s not the way science proceeds!”. I would reply –“But that’s how innovation does”.
Einstein warns that ‘we cannot solve our problems by using the same thinking we used when we created them”. This is easier said than done. Yet, that spark of subversion against the status quo will bring you, unlike many feasibility studies, close to a good idea.