Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Are we all Ecomodernists now?

Two weeks ago a group co-ordinated by The Breakthrough Institute published the Ecomodernist Manifesto (EM). Among its 18 authors there are some who co-authored the Hartwell Paper which advocated a specific approach to climate policy, and which was featured several times here on this blog (yours truly being one of the Hartwell authors). The EM goes beyond climate policy, addressing the broader question of humanity’s place in nature, and history. There is a dedicated website for comments which has some very useful and thoughtful posts.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mike Hulme dismisses divestment as "feel-good campaign"

Mike Hulme explains in The Guardian why "fossil fuel divestment is a misguided tactic". He lists diverse arguments: divestment is not a policy tool; it shifts focus on the 2 degree goal only and thus supports a naive narrative, and climate change is not only about fossil fuels but it is a wicked problem. Finally, there are the killer arguments "this does not work for India" and "this is feel good campaigning".  When reading this,  I got stuck with the argument of  "feel-good campaigning". What exactly is meant by this, and why is it used as a derogatory term?

Mike Hulme once mentions Vattenfall in his article, and this reminded me of an annual campaign here in Hamburg against Vattenfall: "Lesen ohne Atomstrom"  - "reading without nuclear energy, the renewable literatur festival". It is a high rank cultural event in its fourth or fifth year. It started as a counter-initiative to a campaign by Vattenfall that once had promoted literary events in Hamburg to improve its public image. Today, "Reading without nuclear energy" is an anti-nuclear, pro renewable energy and climate change campaign with considerable political influence; after a public vote last year, the Hamburg senate had to repurchase the power grid from Vattenfall.

Can you apply here Mike Hulme's arguments? (surprisingly, Vandana Shiva will represent India at this event). In my understanding, Mike Hulme's critique maybe does not fully cover the relevance of such a  "feel good" campaign. From an anthropological point of view, this is one of the many ways how climate change  and energy issues come to matter in public life. Events like "Lesen ohne Atomstrom" are part of emerging climate change cultures, where science-based knowledge is translated into vernaculars. Here, wicked problems like climate change, energy use, neoliberal politics, regionalization etc. are brought together and are negotiated, and I hesitate to judge this prematurely from a purely distanced science- and expert point of view. What Mike Hulme might disqualify as "purely symbolic" sometimes bears hidden political power. For example, Nina Hagen will recite Bertolt Brecht and thus provide a German "capitalism vs climate" moment that is both place-based and rooted in history.
(slightly changed 22.4.2015).

Be afraid, be very afraid

We are all aware of the dire situation facing earth as we know it in the face of climate change, with dangers lurking in the not too distant years.  How do we know?  Well, there are outspoken scientists (no names – and there are only a few remaining) who seriously take it upon themselves to warn us.  There are well known prominent scientific journals (no names) that publish accounts of the coming doom.  And then there is the media and their frequent short horror stories – doomed if you do and doomed if you don’t.

I recently came across a small film, which, if we deconstruct it (all the rage these days) is a wonderful metaphor of what might await us.  The film depicts the battle between humans and nature.  High stakes, high uncertainty, stakeholder involvement, it is all there – in just over 2 minutes. Nature appears as a continually changing force, a torrent to be reckoned with.  Humans appear helpless in its wake.  Only a concerted effort diverts disaster.

While the film has nothing to do with climate change, a deconstruction allows us to see the conceptual similarities of what we might face if we continue doing as we do.  It is only a very short film but it is necessary to watch it until the bitter but happy end to catch the full metaphor.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Das Umweltbewusstsein der Deutschen

Das Umweltbundesamt (UBA) hat einen Bericht veröffentlicht, der die Ergebnisse einer repräsentativen online-Umfrage enthält. Die Autoren der Studie sind Dr. Gerd Scholl und Maike Gossen vom Institut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung; Dr. Brigitte Holzhauer (holzhauerei); sowie Michael Schipperges (sociodimensions).

Die Daten wurden vom Institut forsa/Marplan vom 8. Juli bus 6 August 2014 erhoben. Es wurden 2.117 deutschsprachige Personen ab 14 Jahren befragt, die in Privathaushalten in Deutschland leben. Die durchschnittliche Interviewdauer betrug 40 Minuten. Die online Erhebung wurde teilweise mit Interviews kombiniert, um eine Vergleichbarkeit mit früheren Datensätzen zu ermöglichen. Die Fragen wurden durch Focusgruppen erstellt, mit Vertretern von sechs 'sozialen Milieus'.