Samstag, 19. Dezember 2009

Copenhagen and Money

The results of the Copenhagen summit are disillusioning. It seems that international diplomacy can't be relied upon to produce tangible results, as long as national and short-term economic interests are more important than the planet's common good. (Short-term economic interests, mind you, because it's by now well established that cleaning up the mess will be a lot more expensive than it would be no to produce it in the first place.) For the time being, it looks like it's up to us, the end consumers - you, me, everyone - to act responsibly and use resources in a considerate way.

On a slightly different note, it is also worth giving a thought to who you provide your resources to, in the form of money. Do you know what exactly your bank does with the money you put into your account? Frankly, I don't. However, there are banks which do allow you to choose which kind of projects are financed by loans taken from your deposits, giving you more transparency about where your interest payments come from. My favourite option, as you can guess, are renewable energy projects. If you're interested, have a look at Triodos Bank (UK, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium), noabank, GLS Bank, Umweltbank or Ethikbank.

Donnerstag, 5. November 2009

Dienstag, 16. Juni 2009

Green Energy

Some good news, at last: a number of major European companies, headed by Munich Re, are teaming up with the ambitious vision of building a major solar power plant in the Sahara. A 400 billion € investment and an area of 130 by 130 km would be necessary to supply 15% of Europe's power by around 2020, according to today's news. The project, named Desertec, would rely on solar heat rather than photovoltaics to generate electrical power. The vision is bold, but it holds great promises: a sensible way to invest in the midst of the economic crisis, the promise of CO2-free unlimited renewable energy, and economic support for African countries. Sounds so good that I think Desertec deserves full support.

In the meanwhile, you can demonstrate your support for renewable energies by switching to an eco-power supplier. I've done it, and it was incredibly easy: firstly, get informed which suppliers there are. Once you've chosen one (I opted for "Lichtblick"), just go to their website, fill out a form with your data - and that's all. They take care of ending the contract with your old supplier, you don't notice any disruption, you just start getting your bills from someone else - someone who promises to only feed renewable energy into the "electricity lake" from which everyone "drinks". The more people buy eco-power, the more renewables flow into the lake, the cleaner the mix gets. It's not a single cent more expensive, in my case, and was a matter of five minutes once the decision for the supplier was made. So, what's stopping you?

Dienstag, 2. Juni 2009


Here's a movie that looks like it will definitely be worth watching - if you can't be bothered to go to the cinema, you can even see it on youtube for free at home. I'll be sure to give it a look!

Dienstag, 12. Mai 2009

Sneak Preview

Haven't seen this video on TV yet, but it's funny enough...

If you live in Europe, don't forget to vote on June 7 (or whatever the date in your country is). Whatever your choice, think long-term when making it.

Sonntag, 12. April 2009

A psychological point of view

Perhaps one of the trickiest problems at hand is that of our own psychology. To understand what I mean by that, it is worth taking a look at the theory of cognitive dissonance. It states that we find it unpleasant if there is a mismatch - a dissonance - between two of our thoughts, or between our beliefs and our actions. In order to reduce this dissonance, we will - perhaps subconsciously - try to change our beliefs or our actions, or to find some sort of justification for them. As an example, if someone who likes smoking reads an article about the risks of lung cancer, he will tend to take it much less seriously than a non-smoker.

What, now, is the relevance of this idea for us? Of course, it applies to the way we think about our economy and our lifestyle as well. In this blog, I am putting forward ideas that fundamentally challenge the way we live today. Nonetheless, most readers of this blog are presumably not fundamentally changing their lifestyle, because that is no easy thing to do, and the life we live is, after all, until now quite convenient. (The same applies to me, by the way.) If you do believe that we have a problem in terms of sustainability, this is, of course, a dissonance. In order to alleviate it, since leading a completely different life is far from easy, I would suppose that our subconscious will try to play down the seriousness of the problems we're facing. At least I find myself unable to continually be seriously worried about the future of the planet and at the same time not lead a much more modest life. For now, I am managing by being less worried. (There's just this nagging feeling that in a couple of decades, it might turn out that the better alleviation of the dissonance would have been the other way round...)

So what can we conclude from this point? If we take the idea of cognitive dissonance seriously, it may mean that we can't just count on everyone realizing what the problem is, what needs to be done, and acting accordingly (what I dubbed the "bottom-up" approach). In the end, the most effective trigger to get people to change their behaviour will probably be simple financial pressure. For example, I suppose that the amount of mobility we are enjoying today in industrialized societies is not sustainable, and I expect our mobility to decrease in the long run. Nevertheless, I am enjoying it as well, and am not keen on giving it up (thereby feeding back on my own beliefs - "Hey, holiday trips around half the globe aren't that bad after all..."). If, on the other hand, unlimited mobility just got unaffordably expensive, that would probably foster a more sustainable attitude of "Pah, who needs to travel 10.000 miles for a vacation, it's nice near home as well!".

What I therefore deem necessary is a reconciliation of economy and ecology. What is unsunstainable must become expensive (if it isn't already), and what is sustainable needs to be economical, too. While I am not knowledgeable enough to propose a framework that would guarantee this, I see at least two aspects that it should incorporate: Firstly, the price of every good and service should fully and without exception reflect all the energy and raw material costs that were incurred in its production. (This is probably already true to a large extent, but it should become completely true without any dilution by subsidies/lower taxes for energy-intensive industries, marketing-related price lowerings, and the like). Secondly, it must not be possible any more to "externalize" negative effects on the environment, e.g. emissions, without them being reflected in the price of a good. Means towards an internalization of such external costs can be trading CO2 emission rights, and similar measures.

While I'm in no position to single-handedly work towards an implementation of such approaches, I am hoping that there are politicians who see the problem, are strong enough to fight their own cognitive dissonance, are willing to do the necessary, and able to convince the people of its necessity. As stated before, 2009 is an election year. Whoever does the best job adressing these issues in their election campaign has a good chance to win my vote.

Montag, 23. März 2009

Comic Relief

For want of time, this posting contains but the link to Jorge Cham's perception of the topic.
Bear with me - I still intend to write some more, the only question is when...