Berlin Grün

Zur Berlin Art Week BAW 2023 wurden der Neuen Nationalgalerie ein paar Blumen und Baumkästen spendiert. Alles nur vorübergehend. So erblühte die Rose von Isa Genzken schon vorher und sicherlich noch etwas länger vor der Neuen Nationalgalerie. Steht der Galerie gar nicht schlecht. Vielleicht etwas sehr figürlich und wenig auf die Schätze der Moderne hinweisend. Das ist schon eher post-modern. Rückbesinnen auf die Werte der Natur, dass Stahl und Glas eben nicht umsonst zu haben sind, sondern erhebliche Umweltkosten mitsichbringen. Das regt zum Nachdenken an. Solarzellen, quasi unsichtbar auf dem großzügigen Flachdach der Galerie und für die geplante Scheune nebenan? Kunsträume stehen ebenfalls in der Verantwortung für die Überlebensbedingungen unseres Planeten. Denkmalschutz kann weitgehend eine Bremse sein, aber die energetische Verantwortlichkeit der immer gut gekühlten und beheizten Räume sollten auch wegweisend in dieser Richtung sein. Da gibt es noch viele Potenziale, die es auszuschöpfen gilt. Damit kann dann auch mehr Kunst gezeigt werden, da die laufenden Kosten gesenkt werden können für mehr als eine Wahlperiode oder Amtsperiode einer Hausleitung. Also Kunst kann einen schon auf unangenehme Gedanken bringen, die die Kunstschaffenden und Kuratierenden selbst betreffen. Isa Genzken und die BAW setzen Zeichen, die vielleicht so gar nicht unbedingt geplant waren. Nice.

Get mobile

In inner cities, plagued by horrible traffic jams and pollution by cars and lorries, we dearly await at least the one day per year without this nuisance. Mobility can be organized differently. Brussels demonstrates this in an exemplary fashion. Many families gear up for this one day to teach kids how to cycle technically without the dangers of the fight for space, speed and breathable air. Older persons also feel much more save then and walk or cycle longer distances than they usually do. So many winners and only a few forced to not use their cars during 10 hours. Massive health benefits for the whole city, especially on too warm a day in autumn 2023. All these kinds of ideas were already discussed before the COVID-19 crisis on a mobility fair in Brussels. It is not the ideas that are missing, but the political will and courage to try new ways forward. Learning that walking and cycling in cities do not hurt you, prepares the readiness to go further along this path. Just do it. And do it faster than in the past. The planet needs it, people seem to really like it, too. Enjoy.

Car free sunday Brussels 2023-9-17

Energy Food

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.

Political theory and inflation

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).

Ground Water

The European Environment Agency collects annual data on pesticides in the ground water. The water most of us use in some form or drink. This used to be possible without too much thinking a generation or two ago. We now learn that this might be more and more dangerous, particularly in areas, where less rainfall and prolonged periods of draughts most likely increase concentrations of pesticides even in our tap water. Drinking this, raises more concerns. We know that in big cities and nearby of hospitals water quality is worse due to the concentration of particles from chemicals applied to increase contrasts in medical imaging. Pesticides are mainly used in agriculture, road and rail maintenance, but also households apply them for simplicity.
Snails (escargots) might invade your garden and even your home at times. However, it is just a little bit of exercise to “relocate” them in a decent place other than your home. Prepare a race for several ones and bet on who is going to win, but please refrain from the  use of more pesticides. Several species of them are consumed and, depending on your taste, considered a delicious part of a meal (for example in Bourgogne, France). It should be easy to agree to stop the heavy use of pesticides across Europe and beyond. We shall have to protect the salads we grow differently. Human intelligence is able to allow other solutions than just killing as efficiently as possible ,at the same time, endangering our own species(Comparable data EEA below).


In May 2023 we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first claiming of the Mount Everest in the Himalaya region of Nepal. Since then, the tourism to reach the highest mountain and have your photo taken there, has become a kind of over-tourism. Spectacular memories and images lead to persons taking unprecedented risks for a bit of fame. 30 persons have died on such expeditions. It is a bit more exclusive than running a marathon of 42,125 km, but even there occasional deaths are part of the race.
Nepal needs the foreign currency to build and rebuild the country. After resources have created the wealth of nations, it is tourist attractions that favour accumulation of wealth. Beware of over-exploiting nature in this respect. The consequences and costs are non-negligable. Climate change does not stop in front of tourist attractions. Some routes in mountains are already more dangerous due to melting of what we named wrongly permanently frozen areas (permafrost). Using virtual reality should allow us rapidly to experience the splendour of the highland Himalaya peaks and climbing. In the meantime enjoy some momo (Himalaya dish) rather than making preparations or training for the next top mountain. It is the images of the area that count, not us in front of the mountains or seemingly endless space. Images and photos taken can help us over the urge to visit this spectacular area ourselves. The planet will need us being satisfied this way, just like watching photos or movies rather than demanding to live in a splendid surrounding or building (castle). My home is my castle and my imagination is my travel book.