In 1942, Edith Hamilton wrote “we all need to find a silent sanctuary where we free our harassed and perplexed minds to recapture values that are the possession of humanity”.
One of those values is fresh air, clean water and natural food. We are what we breathe, drink and eat.
During my 15 years of biotech investing I learned the simple truth that most modified substances and chemicals that we put into our bodies cause more problems than they solve.
While the western world tries to clean up the mess in our ecosystem, Romania has a chance to get it right the first time. Socrates said “The secret of change is not on fighting the old, but focusing all your energy on building the new”. One way to see the new thing in Romania is on a weekend bike ride outside Cluj-Napoca.
Cluj-Napoca is the second largest city in Romania and home to 124 international IT companies. A 2013 European Union study of Quality of Life in 79 European cities ranked Cluj #16 in overall Quality of Life, higher than any other former Communist city. Cluj also ranked #1 in foreigner satisfaction. Here are some of the reasons.
Just a few kilometers from the city center are roads and villages that are uncontaminated by fossil fuels.
In fact, only northern Scandinavia has air as clean as the northwestern region of Romania (marked in light blue)
Even though villages have used European Union funds to build public water and sewage systems, most families still have water wells with abundant clean, cool drinking water.
And dark, nutrient rich soil, free of industrial farming chemicals, provides fresh produce that looks, smell and tastes like real food.
Most encouraging, young families that spend their weekdays making a living in the collaborative digital economy, spend their weekends far away from computer screens, televisions, shopping malls and fast food.
They are restoring the homes their parents grew up in.
Getting a gift from Grandma
Making new friends
Planting a garden
Sharing their harvest
Or resting in the shade with a flock of sheep
As I bike back in town, I am energized for the new week. Cluj is still in the multi-generation whirlwind of transition from communist tyranny to democratic values.
But rising from the hills of Europe’s most beautiful forests and countryside is a culture that knows how to create economic growth in the new digital economy while still treasuring the common sense values of family, healthy air, water, and soil.
How curious. The last people in Europe to experience freedom may be the first to use it wisely.