Sepsis is a major cause of mortality. Therefore, early detection of sepsis is of high importance. Antibiotics constitute a powerful antidote. However, the application of antibiotics without need, i.e. for purely risk reduction in general, has side effects in antibiotics losing their effectiveness later on.
The paper published in The Lancet Digital Health by van der Weijden et al. (2024) reports on the effort to provide an open source access to a calculator of early onset of sepsis (Link). The Neonatal early-onset sepsis calculator developed by Kaiser Permanente builds on the use on the risk carried by mothers like time since membrane rupture, regional infection risks of mothers per 1000 population and the infants presentation at birth. It is important to point out the combination of risks put into the calculator. New systems of artificial intelligence might equally make predictions or recommendations about the application of antibiotics implicitly making use of such a calculator without disclosure.
From a sociological point of view it is interesting to scrutinize the indicators used in the calculation. The approximation of mothers carrying a sepsis risk relies on national, regional or better local indicators. This information is rarely accessible to the public. The choice of a hospital, speed of access to it in case of membrane rupture as well as staffing come into the calculation of an overall risk of sepsis.
It is great to follow the progress of digital health and the increased transparency of critical health decisions at the earliest stages of the life course. Inflammation as a precursor of sepsis should be taken serious at all stages of the life course. (Image calculation based on Kaiser Permanente digital tool Link)
Skiing in winter is a pleasure that has become more elitist. The downhill skiing has always been an expensive sport, but affordable school holidays gave the sport a more accessible touch. The cheaper version of long distance skiing or skating on larger trails involves much more endurance. The report of the French Cour des Comptes in 2024 questions the sense of the huge investment that is still devoted to save the pleasure of the few. Instead of investment to the benefit of the many this investment could put the money to a more sustainable, socially and ecological productive purpose. Installations could be used all year round rather than in the few weeks at best months with snow. It is remarkable that the court has highlighted this kind opportunity costs of such installations. Instead of investing in soon to be obsolete infrastructure at lower altitudes like water reservoirs and water canons, this money could already start the eventually necessary transition process. Each € spend is not only lost for the transition but might create additional environmental liabilities and damage. From economists it is to be expected that they mention competition in their arguments. Not all stations os skiing will survive. Put more dramatically, in the process of closing skiing at lower and middle level altitude, competition intensifies of who can survive. Public funds should not be misused in this endeavor. Lobbying is strong and political incumbents tend to favor the merit and legacy of digging for the white gold. Change of mind sets, investment narratives and decisions is tough. From much downhill skiing we might soon remember only the downward slope before the healthy aspects of climbing a slope takes the upper hand.
Every now and again satellites make headlines. In international politics the “Sputnik moment” of 1957 was such a key defining moment. Russia sending a satellite into space set off a massive investment programme in the United States to counter a potential threat from Russia coming from space. In 2024 we discuss again the next ratcheting up of in a race of armament threatening the earth from space. Russia is believed to enable satellites to carry a nuclear bomb that would orbit around the earth and could lead to mass destruction of satellites that nowadays enable navigation, communication and monitoring what is happening on earth.
As beyond the state-owned satellite networks there has been a private satellite network that assisted Ukraine to defend itself against the Russian aggression, we probably are about to witness the extension of warfare on earth into space. In addition to the so-called cyberwar, which threatens computer-based systems with viruses, ransomware or break-downs, we may face new kinds of threats. We shall have to consider this as part of modern warfare.
Since the late 1960s there exists an international agreement not to use space for nuclear arms. However, Russia does no longer seem to respect its commitment to this. A further escalation of the war of Russia in Ukraine with “conventional” weapons carries the risk to set off another arms race including the earths orbit. This is no science-fiction or whistle blowing, but based on a high-level report and press coverage by the New York Times on 2024-2-17 (Link).
The outrageous implication of such a massive explosion in space is that its implications of the globe on parts of the world and people not being a party in the war will suffer most likely as much as the opposed nations. The food shortages due to Russia’s aggression caused people in Africa to suffer or even die of hunger. Satellite outages of a massive scale will have severe consequences as well.
Information and communication systems have proven to be determining the outcome of a war. This has been one lesson of more than two hundred years of studying military strategies since Clausewitz. Space and satellites have apparently not contributed to improve the understanding of each other, but only the communication within the respective communication bubbles. Maybe artists can help us to overcome the danger of escalation. (Image: “Afrogalactica” by Kapwani Kiwanga 2011: calogue of exhibition “The length of the horizon” Wolfsburg and Copenhagen 2023).
Sometimes the art is in the material. At least this could be a rapid conclusion of the exhibition presented in London at the Royal Academy of Art in 2024-1. From the informative Catalogue the importance of material is demonstrated. The ease of taking your equipment with you, like a sketchbook and out into nature have been an important feature of the impressionists’ movement. With artists challenging traditional techniques of painting and paintings as such even the apparently less noble material as paper had become a statement of being different from the established art academies making use of more noble materials. The impressionists made a convincing point with their additional use of materials accessible to all. Capture the moment and capture your very own impression of it. This is one way to immortalize the emotion and essence of the scene. In the catalogue of the exhibition I spotted “The Swimmer” drawn by Caillebotte with pastel on paper. Freezing the moment, freezing the motion and emotion is evident here, too. Testing different materials is part of the journey to find your artistic impression, expression or materialization of imagination. The ways and means are manifold.
Gas consumption in the EU has been reduced by about 20% since the beginning of Russia’s war on Ukraine. This is a considerable accomplishment and has been sustained for 2 years now. The major element in this has been the reduction of gas consumption in industry, but also households have successfully managed to reduce heating of rooms and water with gas.
Diversification of provision with sizable increases in the provision by the U.S.A is another element in the beginning of a trajectory of gas reduction in Europe. Germany as a major consumer of this type of energy supply is also making strides in shifting consumption. This is my short summary of the report by IEEFA.org in 2024-1. All electric devices like heat pumps could speed up the gas reduction further according to the policy recommendation by IEEFA in 2024-2 reducing costs of living and CO2 emissions further.
Data from Eurostat allow to compare monthly data across Member States. The overall trend is a market decrease with differential patterns of refilling supply capacities. Big countries in the EU made and continue to make a real difference compared to previous years (see table below). The comparison of December and January figures across years reflect the months with high sensitivity of the public for heat and cold. Further reductions of gas consumption is feasible due to the mild winter months of 23/24 which allow to reduce heating costs for many households and offices. Good news for the planet and hopefully a move in the right direction to shift away from heating with gas.
We eat a lot of pre-processed food. Our busy work schedules allow us to take only short breaks for meals in order to get more work done while in office or at work in general. The intensification of work has reached the next level and we move from pre-processed food to ultra-processed foods (UPFs). In medical journals and nutrition recommendations the warnings to not eat too much ultra-processed foods are abundant. The signs of obesity in societies reach higher levels from year to year. Especially younger people seem to be at higher risks to consume a lot of ultra-processed foods. Freisling et al. highlight the “risk of multimorbidity of cancer and cardiometabolic diseases” due to UPFs. The discussion between scientists is a lot on which UPFs are most harmful (beyond animal origin or and artificially sweetened beverages) and/or whether it is the combination of UPFs that additionally increases the danger of UPFs. Preventing the “too much of each” is probably the safest recommendation. Being able to read the nutrition information on the labels is already a difficult task. Just making the information abundant and very small print discourages most efforts to compare across products. Learning about basic human needs like food has never been more difficult. Combined with “shrinkflation” we have a hard time to make informed choices of what to buy and eat. There are many hurdles to overcome for a healthy meal.
Since the digital innovations continue to broaden our scope of how to organise, we have to make conscious choices which way to choose. The traditional form of sending out newsletters and waiting for responses is still a feature that is prevalent across Europe. Most organisations have shifted to digital plus physical versions by now, just like newspapers. Young organisations by founding year have started or shifted to digital only for speed of delivery, CO2 and cost saving mainly. We may derive a first dimension of organising between the digital and physical.
A second dimension consists in the central versus decentral forms of organising. Similar to the franchise principle of organising companies, organisations have a choice to keep a central structure with varying degrees of freedom at the regional, sectoral or local level. Organisation theory is helpful in this respect. Various hybrid forms are equally possible. Centralised in financial aspects, but scope for local decisions on content. Bohn et al. (2023) define digital organising as “collective purposeful alignment and distributed action fostered through digital technologies”. Centralisation and/or Decentralization become a matter of conscious choice. The processes of datafication and connectification, whereby every bit of information becomes a data point and any electronically enabled device can be connected with each other. Organisations now have a choice of how to organize including digital organising. The opportunities are within the space opened up by the 2 dimensions (figure below). A specific subject matter may require more physical presence and maybe centralised structure, but digital only forms with highly decentralised forms are powerful tools in the 21st century. New as well as established social movements may well take advantage of these digital technologies as well. (Image: Digital Organising 2024 Protest Berlin).
In Europe it is expected that spring follows winter. The closer you move to the equator the more you find days equally long in winter and summer. In Northern Europe we have marked differences in terms of light between winter and summer. In January and February 2024 we had a very mild winter. As of 15th of February we had 15° C in Brussels and the first few blossoms showing up. Climate change is undeniable and the call for action to intervene urgently become louder and louder. Why is it so difficult to take action? Well, there are many vested interests and countries that hope to benefit from climate change. In simple economic theory this is not a problem as long as those who gain from climate change would compensate those who lose from it. However, if the total sum of losses is so much bigger than the sum a few will gain, the global balance sheet will deteriorate rapidly.
Monitoring climate change and the shifts in national and global wealth are part of the scientific endeavour. Rising inequalities on a national as well as global scale will create numerous new challenges which are difficult to forecast due to complex feedback and reinforcement loops. It would be wise to apply the precaution principle in this respect as well, but this seems to be hardly understood, let alone, to be followed.
Sometimes it needs a cold winter, unusual flooding or a bad harvest to acknowledge to value and apply the precautionary principle in the following years. Only, this time it might be fundamentally different, because climate change is irreversible for generations to come. Early blossoms in winter as precursor of spring are nice, but we have mixed feelings considering the impact on irreversible climate change. (Image Brussels 2024-2-15)
We start to analyze the impact of AI on our behavior. It is an important question to be aware of not only how we interact with AI (Link), but also what effect the use of AI (disclosed or not) will have on our social behavior. Knowing that AI is used might change our willingness to cooperate or increase or decrease pro-social behavior. The use of AI in form of an algorithm to select job candidates might introduce a specific bias, but it can equally be constructed to favour certain criteria in the selection of candidates. The choice of criteria becomes more important in this process and the process of choosing those criteria.
Next comes the question whether the announcement includes as information that AI will be used in the selection process. This can be interpreted by some that a “more objective” procedure might be applied, whereas other persons interpret this signal as bad sign of an anonymous process and lack of compassion prevalent in the organization focused mostly on efficiency of procedures. Fabian Dvorak, Regina Stumpf et al. (2024) demonstrate with experimental evidence from various forms of games (prisoner’s dilemma, binary trust game, ultimatum game) that a a whole range of outcomes is negatively affected (trust, cooperation, coordination and fairness). This has serious consequences for society. The social fabric might worsen if AI is widely applied. Even or particularly the undisclosed use of AI already shows up as a lack of trust in the majority of persons in these experiments.
In sum, we are likely to change our behavior if we suspect AI is involved the selection process or content creation. This should be a serious warning to all sorts of content producing media, science, public and private organizations. It feels a bit like with microplastic or PFAS. At the beginning we did not take it seriously and then before long AI is likely to be everywhere without us knowing or aware of the use. (Image taken on Frankfurt book fair 2017-10!)
A stroke is a very serious medical incident. The NIH defines it in easy language as the the moment in which “blood flow to the brain is blocked or there is sudden bleeding in the brain“. Thanks to a European HORIZON project forecasting models are produced to estimate the likely incidence until the year 2050 by age and gender within Europe. The good news is major regional imbalances of incidence and mortality have been reduced and will likely be reduced across Europe. The challenge remains the aging of societies which necessitates to address the issue of strokes in each single region of the European Union. We know that the shorter the time to treat a stroke immediately after its occurrence, the better the survival chances and the better the prognosis for (partial) recovery.
In the US the widespread use of blood thinners which tripled over 30 years has not lead to the reduction of intracerebral hemorrhage (Link to studies). High blood pressure and arhythmic heart beat are major causes of this often disabling medical event. The study by Wafa et al. (2024) uses age-pyramids to demonstrate the effect that as European societies are aging the incidence of intracerebral haemorrhage occurs with increasing age and even more so for women than men of 80 years and older.
Prevention of high blood pressure through walking or careful endurance exercise seems even more indicated for an aging society.
Image below from Wafa et al. (2024), The Lancet Regional Health, Europe.
With new channels of publishing online the publishing world continues to change. Scientific research moves also online and the reach of audiences has become a much more important factor in evaluation of success. Elite circles of in-groups publishing and quoting each other have a harder time to survive. It is a form of democratising the world of research which is by very large amounts financed by public budgets. Public radio and television now start to feel the heat as so-called influencers, some working independently, challenge the world of traditional journalism. The good news is that there are many more people active to produce news and entertainment and the two separate worlds become more and more integrated. Young people who have left the “official” media world, engage with their own peer groups and make their voices heard and more influential. The quality of the provision of information is, however, a matter of concern. Audiences will have to check even more carefully than before which sources can be trusted. This is not an easy task. Speed of spreading information becomes an additional factor. It has always been like that, but the rhythm of a daily or weekly newspaper was very different from the publishing and consumption of news and information today.
The second factor that has drastically changed is the influence of “external” influences and information as well as disinformation campaigns that have an impact on “internal” reporting and commenting. What used to be the world of professional journalists has become an accessible possibility for many more than journalists. Publishing has become a very different world from the printing days and yet printing remains one important channel of publishing. (Link to own edited volumes of blog post for printing here).
Previously, we prepared the manuscript in paper, nowadays this seems to move online and the edited and sometimes corrected versions will be published in print later on. The challenge to science and journalism is ticking. Not accepting that there is a serious challenge is no solution either. (Image from Exposition “Books that made Europe”, 2016)
Drugs have their particular strength in creating dependency. This is well known for tobacco or alcohol. Helping people to overcome the forces of dependency has its merits. At the same time it is big business. Vaping instead of smoking might be a way out one dependence but into another one. In the end it is an empirical question how many persons can escape the force of dependency of both types. Important to test the probability to get rid of the dependency altogether. With respect to hard, life-threatening drugs like Nitazene the death toll keeps rising in the UK. In the latter case changing the dependency is already a success. The sustainable deflection from drug dependency has to address underlying issues and health hazards. It is a rather individual issue. Society wide evaluation studies need to inform the debate also about placebo effects. The force of dependency might not only be physiological but psychological or linked to the social environment. All these potential effects have to be carefully sorted out before simple pseudo-solutions are implemented. Even the price and availability of drugs is part of the overall equation to solve the force of dependency.
There is a sense of skill loss in watching the trends to increase comfort. We all use washing machines and maybe dishwashers. Households can save a lot of time by using those machines. Some porcelain and clothes should not be left to the machines. The need to organize traditional washing routines is almost forgotten after 1-2 generations. The same holds for many technical skills. Bicycle and car repairs or small repairs of electrical appliances are delegated to specialized repair shops. Not using or having learned these skills puts you in a form of dependency and at the risk to pay a price for specializing on other skills. Find out and focus on what you are best at. This has been the mantra of economic theory since Adam Smith. The potential value of satisfaction with an own production rather than a bought product is frequently acknowledged for baking cakes yourself rather than simply buying one in a shop. The same rationale holds for many other skills. Autonomy of own production with possibility to improve or repair are forgotten values. The have become a luxury item or a necessity for persons lacking financial spending power to buy products from others. Many skills will be lost rapidly because products have become so cheap to replace or order for home delivery. Industrial production is desperately searching for skilled persons but losing skills is pervasive at the same time. Public schools and academic curricula will not be able to stand the tide of pervasive skill loss.
More and more people move into cities. A modern way of living is more accessible there. Besides abundant car traffic public services of transportation like buses and underground are within easy walking distance. Culture, science and education offer attractive opportunities for learning, working and leisure. Diversity is an additional asset most people appreciate of cities. The chances to live your very own way of life are much easier to achieve and thrive in as in remote or rural communities. “Birds of the same feather flock together “. It is easy to find likeminded people among a million people than among a hundred particularly if you’re a bit off the mainstream or avantgarde. The excitement of birds passing the city can reach the emotional force of Hitchcock’s famous movie “The birds”. Even in the modern world we not quite sure what these creatures are up to. Is it a swarm of drones? Are they out of control? Modernism has brought us many amenities, we have to make sure that we really are still in control.
Generative AI receives a lot of attention. One of the main issues is, to study how AI interacts with humans. The hiring decision by managers or an AI algorithm is an interesting application. According to Marie-Pierre Dargnies et al. (2022) the preference for human decisions remains strong despite reasonably unbiased performance of an algorithm. The main issue is with the transparency of the algorithmic decision-making. As a worker or as a hiring manager the preferences continue to sit with the person rather than the AI. It is a worrying outcome, however, that if the rule of gender equality is removed from the algorithm both workers and managers tend to prefer the algorithmic outcome. I interpret this as a latent preference of study participants for gender bias, which could lead them to expect a more favoured outcome in case the AI makes the decision. Knowing what decision-making rules have gone into the hiring algorithm has an impact on all persons involved. A new managerial competence is to be able to assess tasks carefully, whether you should perform the task yourself or delegate to AI. In this sense the old question: to do the task yourself or to delegate has simply been enlarged by an additional delegation option. The decision-tree goes from (1) To delegate or not to delegate, and (2) if I want/need to delegate, should I delegate to AI or somebody in person (not allowed to use AI).
I opted to use AI for image creation rather than to take a photo myself or by one from a professional photographer. (Image creation: NEUROFLASH AI – Image-Flash 2024-1-26)
Research is beginning to provide empirical evidence and experimental modelling results on the widespread use of generative AI. First results by Doshi and Hauser point at the individual benefits of using artificial intelligence but the widespread use of it is likely to narrow the scope of novel content. This research is particularly interesting because it deals with the micro level to macro level aggregation effects. It is fine for me to use AI. If it becomes a mass phenomenon, we expect in sum a negative outcome for society as a whole. The example at hand deals with the capability to innovate or to come up with novel content. As more and more texts or newspapers are published with extensive use of genAI, the real element of creation will remain the domain of humans for quite some time. In my opinion this is due to the difficulties for algorithms to differentiate between the positive and too risky negative aspects of innovative solutions. A query for AI might ask to come up with an innovative solution for auto-mobility of short distances. A human being might propose walking due to the additional health effects the AI might propose helicopter lifts. The not so stupid machine would need a lot of additional information about circumstances to generate useful solutions. Therefore it is not surprising that sometimes public transport apps propose to walk short distances rather than waiting for “delayed or unreliable services“ they provide themselves. Personal circumstances like mobility with children, other dependents or luggage are usually beyond the scope of the information base of the algorithms. On the other hand, if the AI knows that 50.000 persons after an event want to take public transport at the same time the indication to walk or wait solves an aggregation problem of individual preferences to adapt to available capacities. Lots of issues to solve for AI and us or better yet, us and AI. (Image creation: AI using Microsoft Dall-E Image creator: Prompt: a person with notebook in profile and in front of 5 other persons in Office with windows 26.1.2024, 8:24 PM)
Even beyond humans the issue of what constitutes the ideal city is a matter of historical as well as experimental significance. Science has recently uncovered a city like organization of habitats in the Amazon region (Link Science.org). The organization of the Greek city states has been the model for the development of democratic ideation. The Roman imperialism has thrived through the splendor of its cities and city lifestyle. No surprise that this continues to be a constant concern for humanity. Rapid urbanization continues in Africa and Asia. Europe also struggles to keep pace with infrastructure development in every growing cities. Whereas the ideal city in the early Italian Renaissance was imagined without trees, we witness a renewed interest to bring back nature-like environments and architecture back into cities. Combining the best of 2 worlds seems possible. Redesigning inner cities remains a continuous challenge. It is much more than thinking about bricks and mortar. It is mostly about how we want to live, work and communicate together. Therefore, it concerns all of us. Paintings help us along in our ideation about where and how we want to live together. The linear views of the Renaissance appear hardly convenient after the experience of the 20th century.
(Image Gemäldegalerie Berlin, 2024-1, Raum XVIII, Ident Nr. 1615 “Ideal city” from ca 1490 attributed to Francesco di Giogio Martini and next to well-known ideal “Venus” painting by Sandro Botticelli 1490).
From time to time it is necessary to take stock of production and to review the material that has accumulated. As I have been working in archives, official book depositories and libraries for years, it comes almost naturally to deal with questions of how to keep track of all that content. Digital solutions are excellent devices in this regard. I do not have to deal with digitalisation, a huge issue for all historic archives and many recent small museums as well. I have to deal with backups at regular instances. To be sure, each engineer will assure you, better make a backup of your backup … . Yes, I do this as well. Now the ultimate backup of digital work is ? Got it, a printed copy of your digital work. The best advice I received on this comes from a computer magazine “ct” gadget mug with imprint advocating “No backup, no mercy“. To facilitate my printed archive I start with monthly collections of blog entries (Link to pdf-file December 2023 ->Brainstorming 23-12). The simple conversion yields 63 pages, a printer friendly version 56. Hence the expected yearly volume (60*12) will be somewhere near 720 pages. That is for the archive only or in case my eyes do no longer support online reading on screens for too long.
Digital archives have, of course, many other advantages. It is possible to reassemble my collection of entries by subject through a more thorough editing. Specific edited volumes will surface from this, which I have in my mind but only careful long-term followers of the entries might see already. Political economy and sociology are obvious candidates. Public health, labour, the world of arts and music could constitute other edited volumes. Lots of branches grow out of the trunk of content.
The effective use of posters in visual communication is a specific craft. Artists have been associated with poster design for more than a century. Cinemas continue this practice. For each movie produced there is an announcement posted in print or digital form. In combination with the Berlinale 2024 film festival the Kunstbibliothek in Berlin shows milestones of the history of movies and their representations in form of posters. Besides the historical approach there are many hints how to interpret the design language of posters throughout the 20th century. The encouragement to try to produce one yourself not only reserved to children is an additional activating feature of the exhibition (Link here). Cats and dogs will always catch attention and the playful approach chosen might be a start into a graphic design interest. Overall the exhibition offers a low threshold entry into the world of art and design. Instagramable image on posters evolved into short preview clips, just like instagram paved the way to tiktok video clips. In retrospect posters also provide shortcuts for our memories to recall whole movies that have accompanied us growing up and growing older.
Flooding after abundant rain fall is an almost worldwide phenomenon. This is why research has taken up the issue for some time now. 2 recently published papers hint at direct and indirect consequences of excessive rain and flooding which usually are not taken into account. The Lancet respiratory medicine has highlighted the second round effects of flooding which consists in the latent danger of mould creeping into buildings even after the immediate effect of the flood has vanished. It is the mould with its longer duration that causes major respiratory health and safety hazards on top of the instantaneous casualties and epidemic health risks (Link to study 2024).
The second study focuses on “the need for more systematic understanding of how societal structures and vulnerabilities moderate disaster risk” (Link to study). In wealthy countries the flood mortality is substantially lower than in comparatively poor countries. More sophisticated anticipation systems play a major role in reducing casualties. Flood-induced displacements remain hard to predict despite a reasonable explanatory power of the statistical model as the authors point out. Additionally it remains an important question to estimate the share of people who (want to) return after being displaced due to flooding. The frequency of flooding plays a role in combination with the severity of flooding. Climate change might be an additional hazard in the sense that more frequent flooding will change the propensity of people to permanently relocate rather than returning after displacement. Social networks, support and solidarity with the victims of flooding as well as reconstruction efforts will play a crucial role in dealing with these environmental hazards.
Building higher dikes is a worthwhile solution in regions that can afford them (Rotterdam example). It is hardly a solution for countries with little resources to invest in protection in face of an already suffering and displaced population. Dealing with mould after the flooding only adds yet another health hazard to an already difficult situation.
We are lucky that in Berlin not all water fountains have disappeared from the public space. Some might remember that in schools it was usual to have a source of water free of charge for refreshments during breaks. Others cherish public places where there was a water fountain nearby.
Rather than looking where to buy refreshments, usually in plastic bottles nowadays, it was easy to hydrate yourself or the whole family from such a public source. Of course, these sources became the enemies of private companies cashing in extra profit margins the higher your urgency for water is. Hygiene is manageable, if a little bit of care is exercised. In periods of droughts such sources become an asset beyond the benefits for human beings (see image below, bees refreshing). In France, a law which prescribes that public institutions who receive visitors have to offer a point of access to fresh, drinkable water, is badly respected (Link to study). The result is more water in plastic bottles and the transport of those to inner cities. Plastic bottles contain thousands of micro- as well as nanoparticles of plastic which we are likely to digest (LINK to PNAS study). Having your own device ready to be refilled from a public source in inner cities is a healthy alternative. Sustainability science has studied the issues and delivers solutions. It is societies and policies that have to (re-) implement these solutions. Here again we are back to political science and public health coordinators to raise awareness for these “blue solutions”.
We have not inherited the earth from our ancestors; we are borrowing it from our descendants. (native American saying). Adeline Johns-Putra (2019) states this early in her book on “Climate change and the novel.” Her concern is how to think and write about the ethics of posterity. Approaches of ethics in the sense of parental care (for the planet) or motherhood environmentalism do not suffice in view of overpopulation of our planet. Shifting our identity away from toxic production and consumption is advocated in many novels. Science and science fiction offer many dystopian examples.
De Shalit (1995) wrote early on why posterity matters. It is not the standard of living of contemporaries that matters but we should consider ourselves as a part of a transgenerational community. The time horizon of our decisions matters. In pursuing arguments by John Rawls who re-established a contractionalist perspective on justice, we have to include future generations into our contractual obligations. Following this approach we might arrive at Brundtland’s perspective on the ethics of posterity which is called sufficientarianism in opposition to simple utilitarianism. In sufficientarianism we owe future generations a just and decent living or at least the possibility to have similar starting conditions. Shifting beyond the apocalyptic view of environmental disasters Adeline Johns-Putra (2019) brings to the forefront that we have to substantially lengthen our time horizon both for consequences of climate change and for dealing with it, albeit the fact that most destructive practices operate much faster than the re-establishing of greater biodiversity.
P.S.:Thanks to the curators of the Lese Lounge Staatsbibliothek Berlin for ease of access to the literature.
(Image: Natur & Kultur in “Extreme tension: Art between Politics and Society” Collection of the Nationalgalerie 1945-2000“. 2024-1)
On some days of the year there is a cumulative effect of bad influences on air quality in Europe. Cold winter temperatures increase emissions from heating. Outdated heating with coal, still important in Eastern Europe, causes high amounts of extra particles in the atmosphere. In January 2024 a train conductor strike in Germany irrespective of the good reasons for it, makes people take their cars. Road blockades by opponents to reducing diesel subsidies to agri-business add to the pollution situation on a specific day. Overall the population suffers and breathes additional amounts of cancerous particles. Particles settle as dust on crop producing soil, of which we all feed ourselves. This is a vicious circle, which we need to break in the interest of all of us, particularly for the more fragile people and children. The latter start to crowd the medical doctors with sometimes lacking the delivery of crucial medicines for this target group. Where do we go from here? Compromises are key, security of supply chain and allowing, not too much, time for transition periods.
In continental Europe some people say they are going to sit on their throne for a while if they are going to the toilet. Previous furniture built for that purpose almost resembled a throne. Nowadays the comfort has increased and most households have an excellent WLAN connection in the tiny place, automatic ventilation and heating comfort. Linked to the throne, the issue of the smart home comes back into our mind. Besides the increased comfort we generate abundant amounts of data. Sensors of all kinds can track lots of information that may reveal quite intimate details which we did not intend to share. The movement pattern of mounting your throne might be easily identifiable by your smartphone. Such data could be added to assess your health status in your dedicated health app. Anonymized data could give early warnings about a local outbreak of diarrhea. Do we want this? Probably not. In countries where thousands die from diarrhea, probably yes. It is a matter of balancing the pros and cons. Health data are thought to be particularly sensitive information about us. It certainly is the new luxury to keep your health data private. Even if you measure and capture a lot of information in your smart home, make sure your smart home is sufficiently secure. For the benefit of all of us.
Renewable energy has reached for the 1sr time a share of more than 50% in Spain and Germany in 2023. This is an astonishing milestone in the energy transition of both countries. For Spain a report from Red Energy Espanola attributes the Spanish success story to the expansion of mainly wind energy (Link). The increase of renewable energy in Germany is due to a more rapid expansion of solar energy (Link). In any case a continued expansion of both forms of renewables allows to reduce the share of fossil fuel even more rapidly than previously estimated. Good news for the planet particularly to phase out energy from coal due to its highly polluting side effect. Countries with faster trajectories shall serve as examples that it is feasible to manage the energy transition also for large countries. Political instability might be a price worth paying considering the positive effects for future generations. Managing the transition in a just way which means to assist poorer households, ensures the respect of social policy targets at the same time. With this in mind the energy transition can be perceived by all as an opportunity rather than a threat to their welfare and wellbeing.