It’s time to think of New Year Resolutions and our list includes Saving the Planet. Here we talk with ACB member, Daniel Monteleone, about his arrival in Brussels from the USA and how he is working on environmental matters throughout Europe.
Daniel with his wife Carlotta Isabella; How the ELO is Saving the Planet
Daniel, growing up in Santa Clarita, California, just north of Los Angeles in the 1980’s, did you ever imagine that you would move to Belgium in 2018 to live and work here -and now travel throughout Europe to help Save the Planet? How did all that come about?
Well, it’s been more satisfying than I could ever have imagined - to now be working with the European Landowners’ Organization (ELO) in Brussels these past few years, travelling throughout Europe. I have travelled in Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland. In each country, the ELO works with stakeholders in agriculture, the environment and rural activities to help promote and maintain a sustainable, prosperous European countryside. My take-away from my travels is that there are good people everywhere and, for me, Google Translate helps to communicate and to really connect!
How did you actually end up in Brussels?
This journey began when, as a student at California State University Northridge, I was studying the politics of Latin America, the Middle East and Public Administration, and I attended a Model United Nations conference in New York in 2006 -there I met Carlotta, who is now my wife, who works in the EU. Before moving to Brussels full-time, I experienced her family’s warm welcome in Rome several times, and the unbelievably delicious food in Italy.
Coincidentally, my great-grandparents left Italy before WWI to travel to the U.S. through Ellis Island. They slowly made their way across-country to live in the San Fernando Valley, CA. I thus have American- Italian dual citizenship, which made my integration into Europe smoother than I could have imagined.
You had previously worked as an Agricultural Statistician at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Des Moines, Iowa (2013-2018.) Now, here in this part of the world, how are you and the ELO helping farmers to play their part in Saving the Planet?
We meet face-to-face with farming communities and stakeholders in each EU country. Farming is very hi-tech now and the ELO has created eNatura2000, an online teaching-tool to connect European land owners and farmers with Land Managers to help cultivate better land management practices. ELO’s online training modules also assist farmers with the EU Farm to Fork strategy and the European Green Deal, which aim to reduce some of the negative impacts of food production on the environment.
One of my favorite projects is Water2Return (W2R) which removes the unfortunate side-effects of slaughterhouse waste and turns it into clean water, clean energy and bio-fertilizer. As long as we eat farm animals (cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, etc.) there is waste, but W2R turns negatives into positives.
Other ELO projects help young farmers to enter agriculture as a profession, or help to protect pollinators like bees and butterflies.
Why did Flanders Pig Farmers drive their tractors en masse through Brussels in December to highlight their plight? What reforms are they hoping for?
As with many sectors, agriculture was heavily hit by COVID-19. The farmers, to my knowledge, were seeking to bring attention to the situation they face. They hope for not only short-term increase in funding, but a long-term solution in a restructuring of the industry.
As ordinary citizens, are we, in Brussels, playing our part to Save-the-Planet?
Well, at a local level, walking, biking, using public transportation and recycling helps. Also, advocating for greener practices like reduced plastic, energy efficient homes and workplaces – all of these are within our control and can make a big difference.
How are you coping with how life has changed due to the Pandemic?
Netflix helps, and having more family time helps; I am actively involved in Democrats Abroad Brussels.
What are three things that you love about Brussels?
- 1. We love the international feeling everywhere in Brussels – but not the weather!
- 2. It’s near many great cities – and close to Rome and Paris.
- 3. It’s a perfect location to interact with EU institutions, to impact policymakers and stakeholders.
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