A conversation with Dr Millán Millán, director of the Centro de Estudios Ambientales del Mediterráneo (CEAM), about restoring the small water cycle, why the summer storms and rains have disappeared and how this turned out to be connected to massive snows in the UK, and massive floods in Central Europe and much more.
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This episode is part of the Water Cycles series, supported by The Nest, where we interview the dreamers and doers who are using the latest technology to figure out where to intervene first. They are making or trying to make the investment and return calculations. so what is missing, what is holding us back? Maybe we lack the imagination to back them and try regeneration at scale.
Learn from one of the key researchers in the water cycles space! Trained in Canada, aeronautical engineer who came back to his home land Spain, Millán Millán was tasked by the European Commission to research why the summer storms and rains that used to fall everywhere around the Mediterranean have now disappeared. And how this turned out to be connected to massive snows in UK, and massive floods in Central Europe. This we knew in the seventies, the eighties, the nineties and definitely in the two thousands. What needs to be done and what can be done? Why has not been done? Learn from the frustrations of working with large political institutions like the European Commission that don’t have a muscle memory, a political memory or a solution memory anymore. They keep reinventing the wheel, they keep asking the some questions over and over again. Learn what Millán would do with a billion euro. How would he invest it? How would he put it to work and what effects could that have?
BUYING DEGRADED AND ABANDONED LAND JUST BEHIND THE TOURISM HOTSPOT OF THE SPANISH COAST IS THE BEST IMPACT STRATEGY
According to Millán, one of the solutions in Europe, in the Mediterranean and that was discussed extensively at the European Commission back in 2010, was that there are a lot of abandoned lands inland, which could be reforested or re-vegetated. It is possible to calculate how much area you have to reforest to get the storms back.
”If you know what you’re affecting inland, you could compensate at the same time because some of those lands are abandoned. So, you could buy them for a very low price and with a reasonable amount of investment. Plus, the fact that the European Commission would probably cooperate because of the climatic impact of those changes.” – Millán Millán
”So, the message to the people that have the funds is they should make sure that a big sinking body, which in this case was the European Commission, at one time, should be there to guide the actions. And you can discuss with them like we did at one time to say, okay, you want development, but do it in a wise way, make sure you interrupt the water cycle, the least possible, and if necessary, invest a little bit long term to recover the system in some place where now is totally abandoned. And then you will have everything you want, in the short and in the long term. But if you only think short term, you are in for trouble” – Millán Millán
‘If I had enough money and a few years less, I will be buying up every single piece of land that has been abandoned, many of them are difficult to buy, because they’re in the hands of the heirs of people who left three generations ago.’ – Millán Millán
FARM WATER AT ITS PROPER SCALE
In Europe, particularly in Southern Europe, there is no natural system present anywhere. In the last 2000 years, beginning with the Romans, everything has changed. All the vegetation was changed to get logs for the railroad tides at one time. The old forests of beach and some of the other things are now gone.
‘I presented these at the European Parliament twice. Once in the year 2009. After I made my presentation with all the data, there was some parliamentarian from Austria, who told me that what I was saying about the Mediterranean was over interesting, but that there were some directives that should be applied. And of course, I thought about it for a second. I told them very nicely in these words I’m afraid that you don’t have a fucking clue of what you’re talking about. Okay. Do you eat chicken? He was very embarrassed at the time. He said yes. So, do you go and hunt chicken every morning? No. Are there any wild chickens left in Europe? Two or three species and that’s it. But you eat chicken, don’t you? Yeah. Somebody invented the chicken farm. So much land, so much food, so much water, so many chickens, so many eggs and so many chickens for me. If you all of a sudden had a large banquet, and you eat all the chickens in the farm the following day, there are no eggs. The message is that you had to farm water at its proper scale. Okay, watershed by watershed. And in southern Europe, you had to do it in the small watershed.’ – Millán Millán
‘We’re actually trying to figure out ways of financing the recovery of all these abandoned lands to recover the hydrological cycle. And the European Commission, the people I work with, they were willing to get the funding to do that. So, for a fellow working in any area, let’s say or culture or housing, he could make a little side investment, long term supported by the European Commission, actually he could be making money by buying abandoned lands, and putting them to recover the hydrological cycle as they did in China.’ – Millán Millán
OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED
Koen and Millán also talked about:
- Why are there no summer storms anymore
- How has the landscape changed
- Investing in the long term
- How do we get more rain
- Neal Spackman – Why it is so difficult to get truly regenerative water and ecosystem restoring projects funded
- Alpha Lo – What if water is more important than carbon
- Zach Weiss – Climate change is a symptom of watercycle disturbance and we can fix it
- Water cycles series
- Maddie Akkermans on changing the weather systems in the Middle East through regeneration at scale
- Judith D Schwartz on why our current economic framework is completely inadequate for regeneration at scale
- Stef van Dongen – Regenerating a 100.000HA watershed in Spain while preventing the forest from burning and people from burnouts
Feedback, comments, suggestions? Reach me via Twitter @KoenvanSeijen, in the comments below or through Get in Touch on this website.
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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.