Valerie (30) and Arnaud (38), Belgium
As I was marveling at the majestic views from the top of Mount Pico, I encountered a couple from Belgium. They clearly love the earth and their words and thoughts on the value of nature and the craziness of globalization were moving.
What is your favorite part of living in Belgium?
We have great affordable and high quality health care. We manage to do this in Belgium without too much government. In addition to beautiful landscapes, we have a good economy and jobs.
What is your least favorite part of living in Belgium?
We have disagreements between the governments in the Flemish and Wallonia regions. We are a small country with 3 languages, 3 communities and 3 parliaments. None of these overlap. The Flemmish are extreme right and the Wollomia left. The inability to compromise is wasting resources. We voted in May and we still do not have a government. Infrastructure funds are not equally distributed. We have terrible traffic jams simply because the regional governments can get along. This is not efficient and wastes taxpayer resources.
What is your favorite restaurant?
Not KFC, Burger King or McDonald’s. We really do not have a favorite and we enjoy exploring new places and cuisines. The tiny Lebanese place we tried recently was delicious.
Do you see the weather changing in Belgium?
The changing of the weather seems to be just beginning. Summer started in March this year. We have a migratory butterfly, the Moro Sphinx. Maybe it is a species of Moth. Normally it shows up in May but this year it appeared in February. Flowers are blooming earlier and there is not as much snow. It is really noticeable when you pay attention to both nature and the weather. Unfortunately so many people are caught up in city life that they do not take the time to pay attention to nature.
Recently the lack of rain has been striking. It was cloudy but there was not rain. Our aquifers are low and we have water restrictions. We really worry about that.
Do you think climate change is man made?
It is difficult to know how much normal cycles and human are contributing to the changes we see. We may be in a heating cycle but it is most likely some of both. The way we live is not likely to be positive for the planet and our children. Globalization is bullshit. As an example we catch shrimp off the coast of Belgium, ship them all to China to be cleaned, and they come back in plastic packaging. It could be different if people we willing to work for less and pay a bit more for shrimp. They would likely be fresher, taste better and part of the increase in cost might be offset by less unemployment aid.
I am both Canadian and American. Is there anything you would like to ask or tell me?
We do not understand Trumps fear of social medicine. It works great here. People are happy about it. We get great affordable healthcare. We have a similar fear of outsiders by the far right groups in our country and it worries us. We do not think Trump is a good leader and that he puts too much weight on economic growth and does not think enough about the consequences to the earth. Better mileage cars would be a good thing and we do not like fracking. Clean water is important. We think he underestimates the consequences of climate change, including the economic impact.
It was not surprising to me that two people I met hiking love nature. Their words about being in tune with the changes to the natural world we heart warming. Their knowledge of what is happening in America was amazing. They were really inquisitive about the upcoming election and concerned about the direction. They implied that the direction America takes is important and hoped that America would again set positive examples through our environmental policies.