Around the topic of energy there many ethical issues that urgently need sorting out. Carlos Diaz-Rodriguez and co-authors have provided a sound basis for such ethical considerations. To leave the disastrous path of energy provision through polluting fossil fuels and, additionally very risky, nuclear energy, they propose a departure from the principles and values that have guided us into a dead end. In their opinion we suffer from a mistaken belief to be able to control in extremis, through scientific methods, the forces of nature. In ethics this mistaken belief has roots in religious beliefs that mankind is mandated to make the earth subordinate to its own will. The authors propose to overcome this old paradigm with a new paradigm. This builds on the (1) “precautionary principle”, (2) justice as equity, (3) protection and the (4) principle of responsibility.
Most European readers of philosophy and social science are familiar with these principles. The virtue of the paper is to expose and juxtapose these principles in a clear format and a stringent application to the ethics of energy (production as well as consumption of it).
The precautionary principle is part of the European treaty on the functioning of the European Union Art. 191, but its implementation on energy issues reveals that it is a tiger without teeth. Younger generations across the globe are right to claim a more forceful implementation of this principle.
The perspective of justice as equity is bringing in later born generations as well into the balance costs and benefits of “cheap energy today” but huge costs of dismantling, repairing, stocking deferred to the future.
The protection principle refers to the loss of biodiversity and exploiting resources in areas of world heritage, for example.
The principle of responsibility goes beyond the judicial and economic principle that the person, company or state causing damage through exploitation of resources, and in producing energy with it, has to pay for repairing those damages.
As this is hard to achieve in real terms, there is an urgent need to reiterate the responsibility principle at all levels. Despite the inefficiencies of legal systems, the international legal order in particular, there is no way around than to insist on responsibility from the individual behaviour, company strategic goals as well as objectives set by nation states and international organisations. The Paris agreement and all COP XY conferences only prove the fact that irresponsibility continues to be a guiding principle.
Maximalist positions as well as continuing like decades before is failing people on earth. Organising a discourse on these ethical issues is a first step, but we have to be able to address negationists as well.
The missing principle so far is the solidarity principle. Without a firm commitment to intergenerational and international solidarity we shall remain unable to solve the ethical puzzle. It is high time to organise solidarity related to the field of energy.
(Image: “The fallen tree of knowledge” by Fabrice Samyn. Exposition in Yerres, France 2021-11)
For more than a decade now researchers have shown the link between energy prices and food prices. At first sight this might seem surprising. In traditional or romantic associations with growing food, there is no link between the cost of energy and food production. Growing crops in your garden does not need more than sunlight, soil and water. Yes, that was long ago. Industrial production of food is heavily relying on energy to heat, feed and water plants or animals. Additionally, the supply chains have become far more distant, which increases the CO2 footprint even further. Therefore, it is no longer surprising that a great number of econometric studies confirm the close link of energy prices and subsequent pressure on food prices. This is not restricted to Europe, but has reached global contamination.
Enjoying seasonal local food is a double catch solution. You grow according to local weather conditions and use traditional conservation methods, if the crop is exceeding your demand at that time. Providing heating for animals to increase productivity or quality of products appears to be one of the most wasteful ways to further increase the spiralling up of energy and food prices.
In agricultural science there is a lot of research into the “energy intake” of animals to better grow or produce more milk etc. This is the expensive intermediary step using energy to produce energy intake for animals rather than humans. It is surprising that we take so many years to address these well-known linkages that have turned to serious problems after Russia’s war on Ukraine. Agriculture and farmers can be part of the solution rather than a problem themselves, if the link of energy consumption and food prices is taken seriously.
In France 100.000 is associated with Monsieur 100.000 Volt Gilbert Bécaud due to his dynamic singing and performance style. Since August 2023 we now have an additional association with the number 10.000. Ten thousand m3 was the size of stones that came down from the mountains near the popular skiing resorts in the French Alps (Le Monde Link+video). To visualize the amount, a back of the envelope calculation with a standard container size of 25 m3 returns 400 loads of lorries to be removed from hard to access landscapes. Count this into the costs of running ski resorts.
A study in the scientific journal “Nature Climate Change” in 2023 highlighted the increasing risks to European skiing sites. Same holds for the Alpes in Switzerland. Some areas relying on water resources to create artifical snow do so in less and less safe areas. Costs accrue to communities who benefit only indirectly from the skiing hype, celebrating 100 years of Olympic skiing next year. After all it is big business to sell or lend equipment, provide hotels and meals for all those sports women and men.
The so-called collateral damage is probably even worse. Interrupted railways, bridges, motorways and traffic in general becomes a severe disruption for quite some time adding to the total costs of having fun in winter. Is it worth it? A tricky question to ask in a referendum. We shall have to revise our past decisions to expand skiing resorts in light of the new evidence of higher risks and costs involved. A book on 10.000 years of history of glaciers is full of side-effects of glaciers melting away, which cause instability to valleys on the sidelines. In the most recent break-up of rocks it is actually more the access to the skiing resorts that was blocked, but this demonstrates to all: passing this area now, is not without serious side-effects.
The film on Barbie after more than 60 years of the first puppets to arrive on the market is a huge money spinning exercise. Hitting more than 1 billion $ is really a huge box office success. More interesting even is the banning of the film in some countries like Algeria. This gives the film an interesting subversive touch to it, which we in the Western countries no longer see as something special. Emancipated women pose a threat to authoritarian regimes.
However, we see in the stereotypes of beauty-driven dolls not that much of an emancipatory chance. To view emancipation independent of the looks of a person is another interesting twist to the role in stereotypes of beauty. It is not only fun to play around with stereotypes, that is mostly, if you are not negatively affected by them (age, gender, ethnicity, extraordinary persons). A nice task for sociology and psychology to explain the working of stereotypes in society and possible remedies. Tolerance is a competence that needs to be learned and updated continuously, from early age onwards.
Therefore, the website created by the US Design Agency Rvnway offers an entertaining way to play around and learn about stereotypes. Perceived, generalized beauty or gender roles can be explored using the tool. Maybe some see themselves differently after such explorations. Everybody is a model. This is the message. www.bairbie.me will let you explore other formats of yourself. After 3-D rendering and printing your children or grandchildren will decide what role they would like you to play in their playfull, or virtual “real” life. I suppose many of us will be up for a big surprise. Go on and imagine in 4D. In the age of selfies all around us, all the time, we believe we are very modern, but the artists of the 19th and 20th century following all great painters before, frequently started their careers with an “autoportrait” or “Selbstbildnis” or series of those as they were aging.
Too big to fail. We all thought that after the financial crisis some fifteen years ago, we would not deal with the same kind of problems again. The banking sector in Switzerland has proven us wrong. One of the 2 big banks Credit Suisse in Switzerland was about to default and asked for 170 billion state guarantee middle of March 2023. Only after a forced merger with the other big bank UBS (which was rescued in 2008 already) and the huge state guarantee the solvency of the even bigger bank was re-established. Tax payers were expected to foot the bill. Less than 6 months later the Finance Minister Karin Keller-Sutter announced that there is no longer a risk for tax payers to pay for the mismanagement of the bankers involved. This is a relief for the political system which is going to the polls next year.
Many unresolved questions remain. Financial market supervision is faulty to say the least. Banking left to bankers as controllers is risky. Apparently fines do not work only prohibition to exercise similar functions (internationally) again is likely to be effective (NZZ 2023-8-9 S.19). Other remedies lie in a complete overhaul of the governance system of banks and beyond. Supervisory boards should in theory be able to assess the risks incurred by the management board. Failure to do so has no consequences for them either. Representatives of the employees in the board is likely to introduce more longer term concerns into decision-making. Saving jobs is a valuable goal not necessarily in the interest of investment bankers. Capitalism is at high risk of survival and with it our democratic systems. It was not a bank in Niger that got into trouble, but at a major European financial center. Too big to fail in a tiny country still sends shivers throughout Europe. And the other big bank is growing even bigger now, probably un-savable now. If I had a bucket of Swiss Franks, I would rather sell them.
In vielen Fällen stimmt die eigene Sichtweise nicht mit der Sichtweise von anderen überein. Das kann sich bei Personen bis hin zu Persönlichkeitsstörungen auswachsen. Bei ganzen Gesellschaften, Kantonen oder Regionen führt die verzerrte Selbstwahrnehmung zu gewissen Befremdlichkeiten oder Entfremdung. Die Lokalpresse der Südostschweiz zeigt zwei fröhliche BauarbeiterInnen, die gemütlich auf ihre Baustelle zuwandern. Weit gefehlt. Der Helikopter hat längst die Hauptarbeit übernommen und diese BauarbeiterInnen (à la Heidi) gehören einer Vergangenheit an, die längst untergegangen ist.
Aber Zeitungen verkaufen sich lokal wohl besser, wenn sie an dem idyllischen Bild der Vergangenheit als Selbsteinschätzung und Selbstvergewisserung festhalten. Die Fremdsicht kommt eben auch nur von Fremden. Die Personen zahlen letztlich gerne für den Lift, um das Naturspektakel der Alpen auf 2000m noch eindrucksvoller erleben zu können. Dabei wäre mit Bussen und einer kleinen Bergwanderung dasselbe Panorama bei höherer Endorphinausschüttung zu erleben. Ob es für das Transportieren der Mountainbikes im Sommer nach oben und mehr Skifahrenden bei weniger Schneegebieten im Winter eine solche Investition benötigt, die noch mehr Grünflächen verschwinden lässt, bleibt äußerst fraglich. Der Kampf zwischen Mountainbikern und zu Fuß gehenden Personen wurde bereits durch getrennte Strecken entschärft. Zwischen den Menschen, nicht aber die weitere raumgreifende Nutzung der Natur.
Mehr GeologInnen braucht das Land. In der Schweiz beunruhigen derzeit zunehmende geologische Risiken. Der Klimawandel lässt Permafrost in den Höhen schmelzen, der jahrhundertelang Gestein zusammenhielt Gleichzeitig sinkt die Schweiz, nicht die Aktienkurse, selbst die Credit Suisse ist bereits untergegangen, aber rein geologisch, nüchtern betrachtet (NZZ, 2023 „Die Schweiz sinkt“). Das verlangt nun doch einige gründliche wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen. GeologInnen messen bereits mit unzähligen Messstationen die Bewegungen der Erdkrusten. In der Schweiz lässt sich sicherlich mit dem zunehmenden Abschmelzen der Gletscher und der Veränderung der (mehr) Regenfälle statt Schneefälle in den frühen Wintermonaten eine neue Gefahrensituation aufzeigen, nicht nur für den Tourismus. Die üblichen Reflexe: mehr Investieren in Schutz und neue Versicherungen wird alleine nicht mehr helfen. Biodiversität auf den unteren Skipisten ist eh Fehlanzeige, aber die Baumgrenze steigt. Das könnte genutzt werden, statt die vielfach kranken Fichten, die wegen ihrer kurzen Wurzeln kaum ein Gewitter überstehen (Ruinaulta vom 4.8.2023 S.6 und S.16-18). Diese Gewitter werden durch den Klimawandel wahrscheinlich häufiger werden. Noch mehr Versicherungen werden die Welt nicht retten können. Wir werden umdenken müssen auch wenn Verhaltensänderungen sehr schwerfallen.
Das Abbrechen von Bergspitzen, wie am Kantersteg (BE) oder der Bergsturz am Piz Cengalo 2017 in Graubünden, ereignen sich dann eher in den wärmeren Sommertagen. Die GeologInnen werden viele Arbeitsstellen haben (nicht nur im Geopark Sardona UNESCO Welterbe) und gehören zu den Berufen mit höherer Nachfrage durch den Klimawandel.
A political theory in the area political economy is prone to be labelled as classical, neo-classical, Keynesian, Neo- or Post-Keynesian or heterodox economics. This is a university level course in the history of economic ideas, if you like this. Let’s try something creative here. We have unprecedented levels of inflation currently in Europe and many other parts of the world. Reasons for this are higher prices for energy, transportation and food. Anything else you need for life? You must be an artist or a priest, a bit off the normal, it seems to many economists. Add to this that, we want to foster strategic autonomy in Europe rather than anything from China that is cheaper and more polluting. In 2023 we have inflation stay with us for some years. Central banks give out warnings in this direction now as well, having negated the problem for far too long (their own statistics ECB on long-term forecasts of inflation).
Besides the ample economic advice (IMF), depending on which theory of money and the economy you adhere to, political theory allows a refreshing perspective on these economic facts and trajectories. (1) From an international strategic perspective, countries that have to renegotiate a lot of their debt or take new credits to finance imported food, energy or transport will run into insolvency rather quickly. Self-sufficiency becomes an economic asset not only a geo-strategic one. Turn around globalisation is a side-effect.
(2) Countries eager to build new public infrastructure, irrespective of concerns for bio-diversity, might reschedule or abandon huge projects, thereby reducing their CO2 footprint. This reduces the official counting of GDP, but has beneficial effects to save the planet in the medium term.
(3) Individuals and households will have to reconsider their consumption patterns: more expenditure for food, less for energy and/or transport. Behavioural changes might be induced by inflation. Less of some form of consumption, guided by inflation, will induce reductions in CO2 most likely as well.
So far this is only applied economic theory as in any textbook. A more challenging political economy question is to ask: can we come to like inflation? Can we change our preference set (ECB growth dogma) for economic variables? Southern countries in Europe seem to like inflation more than the North. Does this depend on historical experiences or is it cultural or personality trait? There is again a huge money transfer due to inflation within the Eurozone. The less indebted countries pay with loss of their purchasing power of their savings and indirectly pay for the highly indebted countries mainly in the South. European and international solidarity will be put to a tough test.
As governments fear of being voted out of power they tend to soften the price signals from markets. Again, it is cultural more than economic to what extent people are willing to accept state interference in economic affairs even of households need for food. From an ecological point of view inflation could be our friend due to the potential to induce behavioural changes. However, more expensive bio-products seem to get crowded out due to further price rises and many even middle-income households seem to return to cheaper non-bio food in many countries. The distributive effects of inflation are a major issue here. Same rationale seems to apply to transport. If you can no longer afford CO2 saving transport by train, since it has become overly expensive more people are likely to take a heavily polluting low-cost flight to your holiday location.
Hence, from a political economy perspective liking inflation might well turn out to be a rich, white man’s perspective on the economy as the global South is likely to suffer most having no resources left to invest in energy and CO2 -saving in general. Price signals may induce behavioural changes for the better of us all. However, the story it is not only about allocation of resources, but also about distribution. There we should embrace a renewal of trade union strength to correct imbalances in the distribution of earnings as the basis for consumption and investment of households as well. (Image: Tapta, at Wiels Gallery in Brussels, 2023-6, mostly untitled work, one with title: on the edge of time).
Innerhalb vom Kern Europas ist der physische Grenzübergang kaum merkbar. Sobald es um die Regeln der sozialen Sicherung, Beschäftigung, Selbständigkeit geht oder der Unternehmensbesteuerung werden die bilateralen Regeln bereits viel komplizierter. Falls 3 und mehr Länder ins Spiel kommen wird die Lage ziemlich unübersichtlich oder zum Expertentum. Staatsbürgerin im Land A und Staatsbürger im Land B, arbeitend im Land C dürfen sich über einen Dschungel an Regeln freuen, der Kafkaeske Verhältnisse hoch 3 produziert. Irgendwo klemmt dabei immer etwas. Dabei hatte die Regulierung CE Nr. 883/2004 über die Koordinierung der nationalen Systeme der sozialen Sicherung doch weitgehende Konkretisierungen hervorgebracht und Sicherung der Bestandsrechte hervorgebracht.
Wie so oft liegen die Schwierigkeiten im Detail und darin sind die jeweilig zuständigen Verwaltungsbeamten, wenn die denn erst einmal herausgefunden wurden, eine Hürde, die es zu meistern gilt. In der jeweiligen landesüblichen Verwaltungssprache, versteht sich von selbst, inklusive regionaler Besonderheiten.
Während juristisch der Grenzübergang von Beschäftigten, Selbständigen und Unternehmen jeweils geregelt ist, ergibt sich aus einer juristischen Figur des „salary split“, also eine beschäftigte Person bei 2 Arbeitgeberinnen eine Lücke in der Zuständigkeit. Diese besteht gleichfalls in den meisten Ländern der EU. 2 Teilzeitjobs zu 50% lassen sich sozialversicherungsrechtlich nicht fair darstellen. Die zweite Lohnsteuerkarte und Besteuerungssätze, na wir ahnen schon, was das für Betroffene heißt.
Unternehmen und der Staat machen es sich einfach. Eine Konfiguration „Mulitplication des employeurs“, mehrere Arbeitgeberinnen, ist nicht wirklich adäquat vorgesehen (Crabeels, 2008 S.272). Dadurch werden viele, besonders junge Beschäftigte systemisch in ihrer beruflichen Findungsphase benachteiligt und in die Selbständigkeit oder gar die Scheinselbständigkeit gezwungen. Dabei brauchen wir dringend diese dynamischen GrenzgängerInnen in Europa mit ihren grenzenlosen Ideen, Enthusiasmus und Gestaltungswillen.
Neben diesen „high potential Grenzgängerinnen“ gibt es viele Beschäftigte, die bereits in einem Mitgliedsland der EU mehrere Beschäftigungsverhältnisse ausüben müssen, da sie von einem Job ihren Lebensunterhalt nicht bestreiten können. (EU Statistik Jugend Eurostat,2022).
Corruption is a severe crime. Not only in administrations, organisations and enterprises, but primarily in democracies it is discrediting political systems. Autocracies rely on corruption as a major tool to be able to persist over time. They are used to such practices. Democracies rely on meritocratic systems, where ideas, effort and winning elections should be the major ingredient of achieving higher positions in organisations, enterprises, political parties and democracies. This is not easy to ensure. The European parliament has a tough time to get rid of an enemy of the democratic Europe. Rather than stepping aside for the time of the legal procedure, Eva Kaili, accused, but not yet convicted of corruption is willing to destroy the European project as much as she can. If money can buy political decisions, the European project will no longer find wide-spread support. Big interests will always have a strategic advantage, however, the ethical principles on which democracies are found have to guard against corrupt misbehaviour. The same applies to the business world. Even low corruption countries like Sweden still face a risk of adverse effects of corruption like the negative impact on entrepreneurship on the local level. It is another context, but the same conclusion.
Additionally, it is part of the strategy of corrupt persons to portray themselves as victims of other persons’ wrong-doing. The major function of this strategy is to remind other persons in the corrupt network that the network has still some clout on its members as well as outside the inner circle. Hey, we are still alive and in powerful positions, they proclaim.
Therefore, the fight against corruption is a long and persistent one. Reducing the guards against early onsets usually is very lengthy to fight later on. Always a painful lesson for believers in democracy and the European project. (image Jacques Jordaens before 1678 “The King Drinks! Musées royaux des beaux arts, Brussels).
Repair is our new mantra. Think of repairing in all domains as of now. Nature is showing us the way how to repair in many ways. Culture is also embracing the shift towards repairing as caring. If we really care about our planet, and there is no planet B, we shall have to repair in many more domains. We are used to repair bicycles, cars, roofs, windows etc. Repairing is never boring. You can improve the performance of a device or building by repairing it, even with relatively small budgets. Isolation of buildings is a good example of investing in upgrades through repairing. Rather than throwing away a functioning heating system repairing it with an energy saving device is enhancing its performance and produces fewer emissions in the short run. Heat pumps are the way forward for new installations. Shifting a sector, heating with gaz, to ensure longer lasting repair and improve options would save a lot of raw materials and CO2 as well. The construction sector has repair work almosts in its DNA, the energy sector will have to make that shift as well. Dare to repair.
Es war wieder Designmesse. Klein, aber fein, in Berlin in den KantGaragen. Die Location weckt schon Hoffnung auf Experimentelles, Garagenhaftes, Handwerkliches. Das bringt Abwechslung in die sonstige, glitzernde Shoppingwelt. Das renovierte und entgiftete Parkhaus erlaubt einen Rundgang über mehrere Etagen, vorbei an Galerien und Ständen von DesignerInnen. Es macht sich eine anregende Brise von erfrischenden Ideen breit. Von Design im Raum mit Leuchten und Möbeln über Design von Mode und Schmuck lässt sich viel Schickes finden. Blickfang, samt Blickfang Akademie haben es geschafft, die Mini-messe in den KantGaragen zu etablieren. Es kann sogar Eintritt verlangt werden. Eine weitere Begleitung der Neuen auf dem Markt wird oft nötig sein, denn selbst gute Innovationen sind meistens keine Selbstläufer. Konkurrenz belebt nicht nur das Geschäft, es bleibt meist auch ein Verdrängungsprozess.
Die großen, vielfach schließenden Kaufhäuser in den Innenstädten spüren besonders die Konkurrenz der individualisierenden DesignerInnen mit ihren einzigartig anmutenden Realisationen. Singuläre Kauferlebnisse auf solchen Messen, in stilvollem Ambiente, selbst in einem alten Parkhaus sind, allem Anschein nach, ein Erfolgsrezept. Start-up statt Close-down schafft viele erfüllende Arbeitsplätze. Gute Arbeit wird nicht aussterben, sondern durchstarten.
Risks are all around us. Risk is the spice of life. True, but this might be an elitist concept of life or business. Survival of the fittest or the best equipped to take risks might be the consequence. After the 3 crises, financial, covid, energy, we have a new impetus to thrive for de-risking. Certainly, concerning our health, we are aware that prevention is key to fight a pandemic. In order to stem an energy crisis, most countries start to rethink their energy mix and achieving more energy autonomy is a major step to shield against risks of delayed delivery or commerce with belligerent states like Russia. De-risking is key in supply chains for industries (automotive production, microprocessors) as well as service providers (cloud services, care givers) just as well. Mariana Mazzucato (UC London) urges us to develop a new narrative to accompany the transformation of our production and service provision models. Mazzucato advocates to learn from lessons from the ground of how to proceed in the best way. Copenhagen is a good starting point to observe how a metropolitan city manages the greening and decarbonisation of a city. It is important to not only target single policies but the coherence of several policies and approaches. In my view de-risking means for Germany and the EU to shield energy systems from foreign, malignant interference. Only local production of energy and nearby consumption of it will ensure the de-risking of energy provision and consumption. Let us start with massive investments in rooftop solar or small wind turbines. Nobody complained about millions of ugly television antenna all around us. Solar cells on balconies contribute to a basic local electricity supply, difficult to target millions of solar cells instead of a single huge and horrifically dangerous nuclear power plant. At the same time ,we reduce dependency on monopoly or oligopoly structures that develop their own agenda (Too big to fail, remember those?). I prefer the reverse statement. Because they are so big, they are doomed to fail and, therefore, fail us sooner or later. The Forum New Economy offered an open and accessible platform for exchange of ideas. That’s a good starting point to address de-risking. Reducing Risk is in the subtitle of Rebecca Henderson’s Chapter 3 on “Reimagining Capitalism” (short Review), but I would like to add the business case for household production of energy for de-risking supply failure and exploitation of consumers through excessive profit margins as a prosumer business case.
Each specialist treats a person or patient in her/his field of competence to the best of current knowledge. Well, marketing of pharmaceutical products is also a field of special competence. Medical doctors and pharmacists are largely competent intermediaries between the world of medical and pharmaceutical research, commercial interests and patients. As persons age, so-called multimorbidity is creeping into the daily life of many persons. After a certain age (75+), depending on country of residence to some extent, we all become patients. Although the basic problem has been known since the phenomenal rise of the pharmaceutical industry, little research is devoted to patients receiving multiple treatments with medical prescriptions from several specialists. In addition, we know there is a rather severe issue with compliance to prescriptions, for example, taking antibiotics for the whole prescribed period, to name just one. The interactions between several prescriptions and molecules administered to patients are very difficult to monitor and scientific tests of those are expensive and no pharmaceutical company really has an interest in such studies that might further add to the already long list of potential side effects. However, the study published by Daunt et al. (2023) reiterates the warnings that treatment of multimorbidity can have unwanted side-effects we do not really know about. General practitioners will have to take on the role for medical stewardship for their patients. Monitoring a patient’s digestion of a combination of medications becomes a prime role as of the age of 75, the paper specifies. Whereas a common believe tells us, taking more, will help more, the “daunting” truth might be, less can be more. (Source: Daunt, R., Curtin, D., & O’Mahony, D. (2023). Polypharmacy stewardship: A novel approach to tackle a major public health crisis. The Lancet Healthy Longevity. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2666-7568(23)00036-3.
Das sogenannte grüne Lunge kann immer öfter ihre wichtige Funktion der Klimaregulation nicht mehr wahrnehmen. Waldbrände begleiten den Klimawandel. Bereits 2018 gab es ein großes Feuer im Wald bei Paris. Im “forêt de Sénart” in der Nähe der Städte Montgeron, Yerres und Brunoy (nahe Paris) hat sich der Wald seit dem Feuer im Hitzejahr 2018 noch nicht erholt. Geld für Reparatur der Schäden fehlt und so lässt die notwendige Aufforstung auf sich warten. Der Verlust der Biodiversität durch den Brand lässt sich schwer bemessen. Brandrodung, gängige Praxis im Amazonasgebiet, hinterlässt auch bei uns mehrere ungewollte Folgewirkungen. Die Bewirtschaftung des Waldes hat die Schäden abgeschrieben, aber Zukunftsinvestitionen lassen auf sich warten. So heizt sich die Region Ile de France eben weiter auf und Millionen Käufer von Klimaanlagen. Die befördern in naher Zukunft das Wirtschaftswachstum, aber beschleunigen den Klimawandel. Wir wissen, dass es so nicht weitergehen darf. Nur der Wille, wirklich etwas daran zu ändern, fehlt an vielen Orten. Weiterso, wenn es kein Weiterso geben darf, ist die Schizophrenie unseres und des letzten Jahrhunderts. Lernen im und vom Wald ist nötig. Das ist unsere Lebensgrundlage.
The 3 authors Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, Cass R. Sunstein have published in 2021 the impressive attempt to sell statistics to non-statisticians. The grip on the topic: “Noise. A Flaw in Human Judgment” is a bit misleading. Even the German translation (“Was unsere Entscheidungen verzerrt”), in my opinion, is grossly misleading. The work deals with judgment, or arriving at a sensible judgment. Decision-making is only the next step with a lot of other intervening processes. The German philosophical term since the enlightenment period has been “Urteilskraft“. We are all more or less familiar with the notion “bias” in judgment. Me, originating from the Moselle, will always be biased in favor of a Riesling compared to other vines. In addition to this naive bias I may apply a more professional judgment on wine. Testing several wines even from the same small area from the Moselle valley and then repeating the tasting I might make a noisy judgment. “When wine experts at a major US wine competition tasted the same wines twice, they scored only 18% of the wines identically (usually, the very worst ones).” (p. 80). In addition to the previously defined form of “level noise, pattern noise and system noise” (p.77), we have occasion noise, when judgments vary from an overall statistical perspective.
Having received a second dose of a vaccination yesterday and having spent an unpleasant night my judgment for this review might be biased, because of impatience. So in order to reduce bias and variants of noise I shall repeat the review at a later stage. Let’s see what this returns. But for today, the Epilogue “A less noisy world” (p.377) appears rather odd to me. It is probably an illusion to believe that we can create a less noisy world, even with the best of wishes. The authors abstract from any strategic use of noise to influence judgments. The political form of choosing judges for Constitutional Courts in the U.S. needs to be dealt with. Noise in judgments is an important element, but strategic use of bias might be more influential to impact outcomes. Noise, when faced with a judge who has a reputation to be very tough in sentences might be overturned in an appeal court decision. There are plenty of procedural ways to overcome noise in judgments. I agree with the authors that you better know about the noise in judgments than ignore it. Awareness of random errors and noise involved in grading exams and recruitment decisions have determined many excellent “failures” to leave historic contributions to our world. In music, maths or literature some splendid talents probably have been impeeded at earlier stages of their life to make average or normal careers. Some of them left us with fantastic pieces thanks to the noise in judgment of others.
There seems to be an age bias in the tolerance of noise in the acoustic sense. Noise in the statistical sense has left a strong mark on me when I learned about white noise as error or stochastic process.
Image Kahneman, Sibony, Sunstein 2021. p3.
Over the 20th century technology has pushed forward in many fields. As there were huge investments needed the public campaigns to support new technology without much further reflection of potential consequences have pulled many western societies into risky technologies. Except the Club of Rome there were very few to question the naïve beliefs that technological change will make societies rich and potentially even more equal. The recent report “Climate Inequality Report 2023: Unequal Contributions to Climate Change” has debunked both of these claims. More flying across the planet, particularly short city hopping, has allowed few persons to reap the benefits of the jet-set world, but contributed to climate change in excessive quantities. This is a fact when we compare major world regions among each other as well as within each country. It has to be the wealthy countries that have to shoulder the biggest share of the costs. It has to be the wealthy that pay higher contributions for their pollution. Society has to reign in technology more than ever before. Moreover, we still have to get the income and pollution distribution organised in a better way. It is not only an implementation challenge, but the major question of the 21st century to repair the damage largely caused throughout the 20th century.
1900 marks the year of the 5th world exhibition in Paris. The Eiffel tower, built for the 4th exhibition in Paris remains the iconic attraction despite the new architecture that is added to Paris as the Petit and Grand Palais as well as the 1st Metro line. Art Nouveau style adds to already impressive architecture in and around Paris. With the planning horizons of several years in advance of events, urban planning with all its facets of urban infrastructure and architecture becomes much of a defining scientific discipline for decades and for most of the time of the century. Grand urban architecture and design constitute just another form of competition between nation states. Most of them want to show off their imperialist acquisitions and, what they define as “curiosities” at the time.
Habib (2005, pp.502) singles out Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche as “heterological thinkers” who coin major thoughts in the late 19th century that shall influence the beginning of the 20th century right from the year 1900 onwards. “The world should be formed in your image by your reason, your will, and your love! And truly, it will be to your happiness you enlightened men!” (Nietzsche. Thus spoke Zarathustra 1978, p.110). In retrospect from the 21st century we shall doubt this overly positive approach to human intentions and their will to form the world according to their abstracting ideas only. Tensions between technology and society became visible and it took many decades before society became conscious that it is up to society to choose technologies they preferred.
The planning for the Brussel Expo 1910 started right after the previous Expo 1905 in Liège. Protests in Brussels accompanied already the choice of terrain for the Expo, but the governors and shareholders of the enterprise decided 1906 for a site near the “forêt de Soignes”, where trees had to be cut for access to the construction site and for future visitors under local protest. Women workers were present to exhibit the low pay of women in industries. Child labour was documented with shocking images. Around the globe labour movements started to raise attention. In the U.S. the National Women’s Trade Union League (1903) was founded as well as the National Child Labor Committee (1904). “Bloody Sunday” in St. Petersburg (1905) saw the killing of peaceful protestors in front of the Zsar’s palace, which ignited the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the creation of the Russian Parliament. Some of these issues (child labor) keep returning to our social agenda well into the 21st century.
Einstein’s publication of the theory of special relativity (1905) as well as challenges from social philosophy reflects the huge discrepancy between advancement of the sciences and the living conditions of the masses. Social theories and science advances foreshadow the violent turbulence throughout the 20th century. (Sources: (1) Max Welch Guerra et al. (2023). European Planning History in the 20th Century: A Continent of Urban Planning. Routledge. (2) St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide: Major Events in Labor History and Their Impact, Neil Schlager (2004). (3) Images from I. Van Hasselt(1980) Bruxelles Expo 1910: l’incendie / de brand. J Stevens.
Construction as an industrial sector was growing strongly in the last decade. Corona crises, supply chain disruptions have slowed growth in the last two years, but the sector was still growing in terms of employment. The topic of skill and employee shortages hardened from year to year. In March 2023 the sector has more time to reflect on the somehow rapid, if not sometimes chaotic growth of the previous decade. The macro-economic scenario has changed now. Following on supply chain disruptions, we saw the high inflation rates of raw materials. The war of Russia against Ukraine caused energy prices to soar and eventually come down again. Latest worry is the increase in interest rates to finance construction projects of public, private and the business sector.
The whole sector is known for its economic role of forerunner of economic cycles, up or down. So, what are the prospects? Not so rosy, as the experts explain for example on the expert forum of the Belgian construction forum. The official from the Belgian National Bank announced a rather bleak outlook for the sector. New construction is stalling, but the renovation of buildings, especially for the purpose of reducing energy consumption is still strong and growing. Long-term reduction of emissions keeps the sector busy, thanks to the EU green deal in my opinion. The public, private and business investments in buildings all keep growth from turning negative. 2 big worries remain: (1) skill shortages and the lack of employees signalled in job openings in the sector is high and still rising; (2) the scarcity of women employed in the sector is still trailing most other sectors. Most companies have seen earnings grow over the last decade, sufficient time to build up reserves for the tougher quarters to come. Skill shortages and gender biases are harder to overcome. The Construction Forum in Brussels addressed both topics and tries to convince employers and the younger generation. Construction companies have to work on their male-dominated image was one of the take home messages Hélène de Troostemberg, the Director of Build Up pronounced.
It is not certainly not enough to have a woman as moderator of a panel and an all-female singers group accompanying the presentations. Women as architects, technicians and builders will make the sector even more attractive for the next generation of men as well. Aging of employees in the sector is another tough issue waiting for innovative solutions. Digitalisation of every step in the value chain is an additional necessary step. The leadership and trade unions in the sector are well aware of these facts. Maybe next year women engineers will pilot the robotics demonstration rather than being in charge of building a nice atmosphere with their songs. I must admit I liked the intro song to the Forum: “We build this city on rock ‘n role”, but I am less sure whether rock ‘n role will solve the gender and recruiting issue of the sector. However, naming and framing the problem(s) is already part of the solution.
In retrospect from the 1930s and in prospect from the 1910s, the 1920s may well be described as “The Carefree Twenties”. Several other summary notions are attributed to the 1920s. “Les années folles” in the French speaking world, “The Jazz years” within the U.S. or the “Wild 20s” in Germany coined the decade after the disillusion of the 1st world war. The economic and cultural revival after the period of atrocities has seen thriving city centres and comparatively little economic hardship until the Wall Street crashed on October 24th in 1929 the so-called “Black Thursday”. The party was suddenly over and a lengthy economic crisis spread globally. It was within this carefree spirit of the 1920s that the counter movements of the 30s started to take roots. The 20s saw the skyscrapers soar and the credit-financed speculation was at its highest. Pierre Boudon (1991, pp. 137) characterises the architecture of the 1930s as “l’inversion des signes”. The Bauhaus of the 1920s was later forced into emigration. The film of F. Lang “Metropolis” (1927) prolonged the constructivist lines of the 1920s to a haunting vision of big cities with its daunting acceleration of economic and cultural experiences. Walter Benjamin later referred to the method of technical reproduction as one of the major foundations for the mass movements and mass culture, which turned the relatively carefree 20s into the disastrous 30s. Indeed, many scholars group the 20s and 30s into one historical period as the rise and decline between the 2 world wars of the 20th century. Certainly in terms of economic development many countries witness as steep rise in prosperity in the 20s followed by deep recession in the 30s. What went up in spectacular terms in the 20s, economic development, democratic participation, came down in the next decade due the rise of Fascist movements. 100 years later in 2020s we still struggle with many of the same issues. Poverty and “Existenzminimum” as topic of the 2nd International congress of modern architecture in 1929 in Frankfurt reflects the ever lasting need to address “social questions” throughout decades, if not whole centuries of mankind.
“Was für Aussichten würden wir bekommen, wenn wir unser Kapital von Wahrheiten einmal von demjenigen entblößen könnten, was ihnen nicht sowohl wesentlich ist, als vielmehr aus der öfteren Wiederholung zuwächst.“ (Lichtenberg S. 50). Die Wiederholung ist eine starke Lernmethode. Sie wird seit Jahrtausenden erfolgreich eingesetzt. Alle Religionen bedienen sich am liebsten täglich dieser Methode, um sich der Treue der Anbetenden zu vergewissern. Der Glaube im Glauben ist: Oft genug wiederholt ist gut verinnerlicht. Dabei bleibt ein Glaube ein Glaube, selbst bei ständiger Wiederholung. Lediglich so manchem Mensch erscheint durch regelmäßiges Wiederholen die Botschaft als verinnerlichte Selbstverständlichkeit. Wahrscheinlich ist es beruhigender, sich nicht täglich zu fragen, ob das 1x,2x,3x mal tägliche Einmassieren von Chemikalien auf Zähne und Zahnfleisch wirklich nachhaltig gesundheitsfördernd ist. Alleine dem Markt wollen wir das Thema nun auch nicht überantworten. Warten wir weiterhin auf die nächste entblößende, hoffentlich wirklich unabhängige, wissenschaftliche Studie dazu. Mit den Pestiziden in der Ernährung hat das bekanntlich nur sehr bedingt funktioniert. Wie schön, dass alle Jahre wieder Frühling kommt und die finsteren Tage hinter uns lässt. Wiederholungen lassen Routinen entstehen, die uns das ständige Hinterfragen ersparen. Rasch gehen wir über Fragen von Kindern hinweg: Muss ich heute in die Schule gehen? Dabei ist Hinterfragen von Wiederholungen ein wichtiges Lernen, dem Mitläufertum entgegen zu wirken.
Alkohol ist eine Droge, da Alkohol abhängig machen kann. Die Bewusstseinsveränderungen können beachtliche bis extreme Ausmaße erreichen. Das wissen wir alle und zwar seit Jahrhunderten. Mäßigung bei Rauschmitteln ist nötig, aber schwer erlernbar. Etwas Genuss ist gesellschaftlich nicht nur toleriert, sondern gewollt zur Förderung der Geselligkeit. Zu viel Genuss beeinträchtigt meistens andere und wird dann zu einer schwierigen Problematik. Ärztinnen, Psychologinnen und andere Heilberufe stehen oft hilflos, wie auch das nahe familiäre Umfeld, vor dieser Situation. Selbst neuere Studien weisen darauf hin, dass die Versorgung dieser Patienten (UK), bestenfalls in der Hälfte der Fälle als gut einzustufen ist. Die Studie zu Großbritannien beschreibt gleichfalls die Krankheitsgeschichte und -versorgung als „eskalierende Tragödie“. Für die meisten anderen Länder liegen keine wirklich guten Daten vor, die weder einen Handlungsbedarf noch auf einen gesellschaftlichen Gestaltungswillen hindeuten würden.
Die Radiosendung zum Thema „Umgang mit Alkoholkranken“ und die Initiative von Sänger Max Mutzke, „Kindern suchtkranker Eltern eine Stimme geben“ beschreibt eindrücklich die generationsübergreifende Bedeutung von Alkoholkrankheit. Alkohol ist eben nicht nur das Problem der betroffenen Person. Ein ganzes Umfeld ist betroffen. Das Problem wächst sich meistens aus zu einer Problematik für das weitere familiäre Umfeld, Freundeskreise und ArbeitskollegInnen. Es ist erstaunlich, dass wir seit Jahrhunderten keinen anderen Umgang mit alkoholbasierten Rauschmitteln gefunden haben, als alles erlaubt oder alles verboten, außer der Altersbegrenzung für Kinder und beim Autofahren. Der Maler Bruegel sah das wohl ähnlich. Den St. Martinswein kann sich heute jeder im Laden um die Ecke selbst kaufen. Mäßigung im Umgang mit Drogen ist nach wie vor ein schwieriger Lernprozess, für Einzelne (Jordaens – Der König drinkt!), wie für die Gesellschaft. ( fast betrunkenes Video Alko VLC Bruegel MRBA Bruxelles.jpg zur Bildexploration).
Narratives have been with us as long as mankind exists. They just take different forms and content nowadays. Whereby narratives have first spread orally, then much later through written words, images and movies, they are forceful ways of communicating. Robert Shiller wrote a good story about narratives related to the field of economics. Referring to the writing of the polymath David Hume (1742), main proponent with Adam Smith of the Scottish enlightenment, contagion like in pandemics is mentioned for the first time to explain that “the multitude will certainly be seized by the common affection and be governed by it in all their actions”. (Shiller 2019, p. 58). In order to understand narratives going viral Shiller mentions the importance for narratives to be embedded in “narrative constellations”. Holding truth against spreading false narratives might not be enough in itself. Strong, catching narratives seem to bypass or override even truthful information. Additionally, narratives never die, but rather offer opportunities for repetition. On content of economic narratives Shiller exemplifies stock market panic, consumerism, financial stability, automation and AI fears, speculation bubbles, evil business and labour unions. Topics like lazy unemployed persons, too early entry into retirement, too late entry into the labour market for youth, women or migrants, all have endured stigmatising narratives across time and/or across countries. With emotional and powerful economic narratives all around us, trust and authenticity become a very important meta-currency. The instantly printing camera now serves as proof. Beware of the scenery, actors and action chosen. Medieval painter Gabriel Metsu (1629-1667 Leiden-Amsterdam) had chosen the economic narrative of the “women baking pan cakes and the child as beggar”. Ending up in a museum instead of the White House is probably the opposite of going viral. The same Photo in black and white might have more of a trustworthy documentary character than the suggestive colours.
Joseph Stiglitz (2003) provided a detailed description and interpretation of the economic history of the 1990s in his book on the roaring nineties. As a member of the Clinton Administration serving as a Chairman of the Council of economic advisers, he had first hand access to the information, debates about interpretations and conclusions drawn during the period. In the preface (2003, p.XII) he provides some of the lessons this work has provided him. “Today, the challenge is to get the balance right, between the state and the market, between collective action at the local, national, and global levels, and between government and non-governmental action. As economic circumstances change, the balance has to be redrawn. Government needs to take on new activities, and shed old ones. We have entered into an era of globalization in which the countries and peoples of the world are more closely integrated than ever before. But globalization itself means that we have to change that balance: we need more collective action at the international level, and we cannot escape issues of democracy and social justice in the global arena.” The surprising approach by Stiglitz, as a winner of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize, to present no data in tables or figures demonstrates the need for telling convincing stories beyond throwing images and shuffled data at your audience. However, this is probably only feasible once you won a quasi-Nobel prize to not lose credibility among economists. Nevertheless, the issue is larger. Stiglitz manages to address the much larger audience of non-economists who construct or constructed their own “collective memory” of the legacy of the nineties as the “global 90s”.
The narrative of the 1990s grossly neglected the value of the biosphere. Asymmetric information (his shared prize winning issue) was and is still used in the market of natural resources to keep polluting the planet and push ahead with careless deforestation. The Exxon case is just one piece in the puzzle of asymmetric information and misinformation. Misguiding economic narratives play a powerful role. Maybe we need to write more about the “roaring failures” of economics and public policies across several decades in the 20th century. (red dots = forests lost on our planet A early 2000s, and there is no planet B)
In family histories we like to look on tree-like linking structures. Most frequently the choice is the descendant perspective (Top down). X, Y, Z have been the children of A and B and so on for a couple of generations. Bottom-up perspectives are equally feasible and modern patchwork families have more widespread representations of their families. Those representations were easy to do as families were lifelong bonds. Shorter family bonds, previously mainly caused by pre-mature deaths, are more common as people might have different partners and off-springs at different periods of their life course. Drawing family trees then looks more like a network structure of several families. History and literature is full of stories of how families aimed to keep their genealogy simple to the outside world. Modern days are no exception to this. Law had to adapt to these societal facts and changes thereof. Comparing decades over the last century there is, in my view, the remarkable trend to allow for more complexity in family histories, even after the 60s leading to many complete ruptures of family ties and links throughout the 70s and 80s.
With reducing fertility rates in most, not only western regions of the world, medical demography is back on the agenda. Similar to family trees, new forms of identifying promising pharmaceutical products have moved to more data-driven disease insights. Historically the local medical doctor had an overview about the likelihood of diseases following family’s medical histories over generations. Data-driven analyses, supported by data analytics and/or AI support, can learn permanently about potential and actual risks. New links of diseases are discovered this way extending the family doctor’s view of risks to watch out for in patients. Additional remedy and marketing potentials of existing drugs are also detected this way, beyond anecdotal evidence. Research published in the “Journal of biomedical semantics” by Vlietstra et al. (2020) classifies disease trajectories to construct knowledge graphs of biomolecular interactions. What previously a medical doctor in region could infer from his medical records in a less systematic way, can now be analysed on big data sets of countries, continents or even the global scale. Data is knowledge, and some already know, that this data-driven knowledge is worth a lot of money. Linking previously and seemingly unrelated facts or events, just like becoming aware of more complex family trees through DNA-analyses is the medical part of history. How we deal with this as families or societies as a whole, is the trickier part. Structural changes of societies are marked by decades-like changes, but specific events like “Fukushima”, Tschernobyl or other man-made rather than natural disasters have created new forms of contamination and the spreading of it. In addition to family trees we need broader consideration for knowledge bases to demonstrate, for example, the spread of cancer in the networked society. Additionally this evidence should have a stronger recognition in courts as prove of contamination lines. Statistical reasoning is more likely to become court-relevant. Hence, train the legal profession beyond what “statistical discrimination” is like. Causal mechanisms are manifold. Some are more likely than others. Semantic knowledge graphs remind us of the presence of reverse causality many relationships. Scientists need an optimistic state of mind to abstract from many intervening processes on health, be they tiny micro- or bigger macro-level societal effects.