Killing me softly

The problem with pollution is, it is killing you softly from inside. It is almost impossible to escape air pollution as it is pervasive in cities, but also in the countryside where you do not expect it that much. This is the result of the study by Kuzma et al. (2024) published in “The Lancet Regional Health Europe”. Based on a data set of 8 million persons from Eastern Poland the effects of air pollution on myocardial infarction incidence was analysed. The use of the “European Union’s Earth Observation Programme” contributed data on air pollutants like PMs, BaP (benzo(a)pyrene), SO2 and NO2 concentrations. The multi-level data of 5 voivodeships, 101 counties, and 709 communities in Poland allows to differentiate the effects of damage to the heart tissue on cardiovascular disease. The other well-known factors are arterial hypertension, diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney disease, hyperlipidaemia, and smoking as most of us know already. The effects of  BaP (benzo(a)pyrene) is shown for rural areas despite the lower observed traffic density in these areas. The killing occurs softly from within our bodies by just breathing in and out, and in and out continuously. The disease burden in these regions is observed with “recorded 63,154 hospitalizations and 5921 in-hospital deaths (9.4%) due to STEMI; and 76,543 hospitalizations and 4079 (5%) in-hospital deaths due to NSTEMI”. In short, the need to reduce air pollution further is an urgent demand that saves lives eventually.
(Image from public domain wikipedia or “do-it-yourself” here).

May 1st

More people take to the streets on the 1st of May in Germany. The costs-of-living crisis with high inflation has increased the claims for pay rises for workers and adjusted wages for employees. We all have observed “greedflation”, i.e. excessive company profits in several sectors. Additionally, “shrinkflation” has affected consumers in their daily shopping experience. Political efforts to curb inflation have taken a long time to come about and most initiatives have ended already (Energy sector). This spurred a new drive for trade unions to come out in huge numbers to protest and claim adequate wage increases to cover the increased costs of living. In Germany the DGB informed on the annual 1st of May demonstrations across the country about a strong new entry movement of members of 400.000 persons. It is higher than the loss of members of the large baby boomer cohorts who retire.
Through a broad and engaged membership the pressure on higher wage settlements will persist. Companies have used the crises to generate extra profits. It is only fair that those employees who largely contribute to the success of a company will claim their share as well.
For society as a whole it is important to consider that the discrepancy between managerial pay and shop floor wages do not increase further. The social fabric of societies is in danger if perceived injustices grow. More radical forces can all to easily exploit this causing a severe danger for democracies. Meeting people on the 1st of May and joining forces across sectors and trades ensures that a society continues to build and rely on solidarity. High inflation times are a great reminder of the economic basics of societies in history as well as today.

Comparative Advantage

In economics all students go through the calculus of comparative advantage. People, regions or whole countries tend to apply comparative advantage to their production systems and ensuing internal or external trade. The basic  rationale developed by David Ricardo has not changed that much over 200 years. The fields of application, however, are continuously expanded. Lindsay and Gartzke (2020) have applied the comparative advantage rationale to military strategy. The paper quotes 26 times Clausewitz and demonstrates the links of strategy to the basic economic and social rationale of comparative advantage. It is the politics of production that even the presence of trade may override the rationale of comparative advantage to favour local production of “operational domains” or military equipment.
In Russia’s aggression and war against Ukraine own production and trading of weapons has returned to the forefront of the concerns. In addition to the production of ammunition, the provision of drones has dominated the international arms trade related to the Russian aggression. Resources and time for production are additional factors that have an impact on availability of weapons at the right time at the right place and with the sufficiently trained persons to operate them.
The strategies that cross domains or combine domains seem the most promising. The careful analysis of your own comparative advantages or disadvantages needs to be the basis of any strategic decisions. This has been known for 2 centuries at least and is still valid in many fields of application. Additional considerations for “home production” might add to the complexity of the issue. Sustainability has also found its way into the field of comparative advantage at last. This may alter the analysis of comparative advantage of operational domains as well. Lots of unresolved puzzles still around. It will need years to sort this out despite the urgency of the Russian aggression on Ukraine.(Image: AI Copilot.2024-4-30 2 political leaders deal weapons. One has a comparative advantage in ships. The other one has a comparative advantage in aircrafts. they deal together)

AI Disruption

Many scientists started to question the disruptive potential of AI in, for example, the military’s domain. The Journal of Strategic Studies featured 3 papers on AI and autonomous systems more generally. The major argument by Anthony King is the reliance of autonomous systems on other systems mainly human operators even in the background to get these systems off the ground and maybe back again. Not only logistic support but also satellite communication is needed to guide and protect the operations. In quoting Clausewitz, Anthony King stated that war is a “collision of two living forces”. Strategy and counter-strategy will co-evolve as will attack and defence.
Jackie G. Schneider and Julia Macdonald (2024) advocate the use of autonomous and unmanned systems for their cost effectiveness. Economic costs as well as political costs are lower for these new strategic weapons. Mass fire power from swarms of drones is much cheaper than nuclear warheads and the home electorate is assumed to be more willing to accept and support limited and more precisely targeted unmanned missions. The disruption potential of AI is huge but it is most likely an addition to the arsenals than replacing them. (Image 2 swarms of drones fly in the air above tanks, created by AI – copilot-designer 2024-4-29).

Fertility Growth

The first association of fertility and growth is likely the growing of fertility rates in a country or region. Only macro economists associate the growth or decline of fertility with the macroeconomic consequences of more or less economic growth. Countries with higher fertility rates in most cases have higher growth rates as parents spend more on food, clothes, mobility and education. Accommodations are changed, adapted and refurbished. Estimates of increased consumption per child by economists range from 500.000 to almost 1 million in the highest developed countries. Children are a country’s wealth, but they also cost a fortune in monetary terms. Good news for the economy if families keep spending independent of economic cycles. More children keeps dedicated shops running or even a whole sector of the economy. In recessions the downward pressure in this sector becomes an additional challenge not only for the families but with ripples-on effects for the whole economy and society. If you see shops closing which has sold furniture for children for the last 15 years then the realization of an economic downturn becomes also more real. Sometimes the parallels in the news of declining fertility and increases in pensions do not square well with the fitness for the future or the future orientation of a society. Democratic voting rights that give families more weight in elections could change this. It is not yet on the political agenda.

Mehr vom Meer

Wir sollten uns mehr um das Meer kümmern. Länder ohne Küsten finden meistens wenig Gründe, warum sie sich um das Meer bemühen sollten. Es ist doch so weit weg. Weit gefehlt. Erderwärmung erhöht die Meerestemperaturen und das wiederum beeinflusst massgeblich die Regenfälle im Inneren der Kontinente. Wir sitzen buchstäblich alle zusammen in einem Boot. Historisch betrachtet war das Meer mindestens seit der Antike Teil des machtpolitischen Kalküls der Beherrschung der Welt und der sie Bewohnenden. Wirtschaftliche Interessen waren ebenfalls Bestandteil der Erkundung und Eroberung des Meeresraums. Die Hansestädte in Europa bieten dazu noch heute gute Beispiele. Nach dem Sklavenhandel sind heute die Überseekabel und Rohstoffe des Meeres die begehrten Schätze des Meeres. Der Artenreichtum der Tiefsee wird erst seit kurzer Zeit intensiver erforscht. Externalisieren von Kosten des Umweltschutzes zu Lasten unserer Meere hat noch wenig Berücksichtigung in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft gefunden. Tourismus- und Migrationsströme zum Meer, auf dem Meer und über das Meer stellen uns vor große Herausforderungen. Wir werden sicherlich mehr über das Meer reden müssen, und das ist keine Mär. Image aus „Europa und das Meer“ (DHM).

Opportunity Costs

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.

Cancer Inequality

Inequality is a hugely important topic for societies. Inequality has many different dimensions and differential longitudinal patterns. New data in this field of social research are helpful to inform on possible ways to prevent increasing inequality. At the same time, it is important to reflect on factors that may reduce inequality in and between societies. Inequality in health is both an outcome of inequality experienced during previous stages of the life course as well as a factor in causing inequality in the evolution of the life course later on. Disentangling the factors is a difficult research issue.
A first descriptive pattern across Europe allows to get a snapshot impression of the status quo as a first indication of what health inequality looks like. Cancer is a major cause of mortality across Europe and by 2045 it is estimated to be the leading cause of mortality.
Without precisely analyzing the causal factors the overview across European countries allows to give a first impression on fields that need more policy attention and more in depth studies. The European Cancer Inequalities Registry and the ECIR Data Tool is based on data from 2019  (Link). The overview matrix by employment status reveals the highest prevalence of smoking among the unemployed (followed by the employed, not shown in figure) and the frequency of alcohol consumption is highest among the employed. Low physical activity is mostly prevalent among the retired.  This has consequences for cancer and gives hints to how an intensified prevention may work.
The OECD report (Link) based on these data and additional country case studies and policy data base reiterates the known prevention recommendations: Reduce smoking, alcohol consumption, air pollution as well as more physical activity. The dimensions of inequality are gender, age, employment status and most of years spent in education. The curing of cancer also suffers from inequities as to the amount of and access to screening of cancer. Cost coverage and shortages in medical personnel add to multiple sources of inequality in treatment of cancer within countries by regions and between nation states. The Lancet Public Health editorial contributes to the spread of the awareness among scientists and the medical profession.
(Image: ECIR data tool download 2024-2-22)

Gas Reduction

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 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.

Processed food

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.

Wage indexation

Currently inflation increases rapidly in many countries. Yes, Argentine. The Euro-zone and EEA have mastered the peak of inflation due to shifting away from Russian dependency and cheap prices for energy and dealt with carry-on effects related to high energy inputs. The annual rate of inflation calculated for January 2024 has returned in the Euro-area to 2.8 % close to the European Central Bank target of 2% (compare figure below).  Inflation puts wages under pressure, because household with little savings have a very hard time to cope with sudden price increases. For society as a whole, inflation raises many questions of differential impact of inflation on different parts of society. Savings become devalued, but debt might become easier to be repaid in so-called real terms.
Wage earners suffer in terms of lower purchasing power unless in subsequent wage negotiations pay rises can be achieved. This then depends of negotiation power of groups or sectors of the economy. Trade unions have to enter into tough negotiations and conflicts to even regain the same status quo previously achieved in wage negotiations. A series of conflicts and economic readjustments by more or less powerful sectors or representation comes into play.
All this is happening in a year of a series of national and regional elections as well as the European Parliament election in June. Political turbulance and the rise of extremists might be a result of a lack of taking into account the needs of lower wage groups who are likely to feel the full blast of the high inflation previously still today. Wage indexation as in Belgium, which fixes wages to the rise in inflation previously takes out most of the explosive power of a sudden rise in inflation at the risk of an upward wage-price spiral. The recent inflation figures for Belgium, however, show that this is not the case. An overshooting has been followed by an undershooting of the Euro-zone inflation. The political disturbance and risk of redistribution to more powerful groups in society can be limited through general wage indexation or indexation of for example just minimum wages.
The Russian caused spike in inflation has been successfully mastered in the EU. The political economy of redistribution through inflation will remain an important element unless wage indexation is used in more countries to escape populists’ and extremists’ voices. (Image Eurostat data and ESTATEC app)


The teaching of economics and socioeconomic policies has to deal with the topics around inflation and economic inequality for centuries. Greedflation has become a newly coined term for the rise of inflation due to greedy firms who use a window of opportunity to achieve extra profit margins or windfall profits. At a time of perceived price rises in many sectors, sectors that have no cost increases might still try to push prices higher simply because almost everybody else does so. Higher profits then show up in the reporting season of enterprises quoted at the stock exchange and the increase in inequality between wage earners and shareholders will rise. Greedflation is a summary term for it. The ECB European Central Bank has mentioned this and Reuters has reported on it as well end of June 2023. Since then a wait and see strategy has been adopted. Now in February 2024 we witness the wider spread of extraordinary profits of big firms not only in the fossil energy sector but also bog banks. The economies and societies suffer huge losses and a massive redistribution of capital. Subsidies introduced to lower the shock of the coronavirus crisis and the Russian aggression are unpopular to be scaled back. Employees and their trade unions have a hard time negotiating adequate wage increases whereas most companies use the momentum of seemingly general price rises to push profit margins. The translation of this mechanism to the political economy risks to jeopardize the support for capitalism and market forces in general. Another wave of increasing inequality endangers the survival of democratic societies. Countries with only a short experience of the functioning of market economies are at a particular risk. Germany’s decline into dictatorship in the 1930s after the severe economic crisis should be remembered as a major threat. Greedflation is a very serious and very real threat which we have to address with economic and social policies rather than waiting until the European elections have passed. Time to act, the thinking has been done. Evidence accumulates to make the political case.

Adolf von Menzel, The Petition, Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin

Skill loss

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.


The grand narratives of the modern world, like modernism itself, are under serious criticism. Deconstruction of the modern way of thinking has become philosophical mainstream. Economics as a science is in the middle of the behavioural shift and changing or at least complementing its narratives. Sociology has embraced postmodern thinking in theoretical as well as empirical forms (Mirchandani, 2005). The empirical measurement focuses a lot on the groups and people who hold postmodern beliefs and values. The discussion in the social and literary sciences continue. In the arts reading on modernism and postmodernism is a must in order to understand much of contemporary art or art from the 19th and 20th century.
Bookstores in art galleries that cover long spells of history can make surprising links between historical periods of art. Books of postmodernism appear next to books on romanticism. A lot of the ideation of postmodernism rejoins romantic depiction about nature, re-naturalizing or the emotional connotations of wildlife, isolated places and stillness.
On the other hand, we are confronted with the brutal world of war, drugs and crime. Classical warfare and strategies are back in Europe with tanks and rockets killing like in previous wars. The Russian empire of a specific version of modernism strikes back as if it were to stop the postmodern turn of the 21st century. Neo-fascism tries to build on the losers of the transitions to the socio-ecological economy and society. There are manifold backlashes of modernism, but the postmodern world is under continuous construction, most of in our mindsets.

AI or I

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)

AI and We

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)


Shrinkflation is a hybrid term that combines “to shrink” with “inflation”. The trick is to keep prices at the same level for a product, but to reduce the weight or amount sold at a constant price. The intention of producers is to indirectly increase prices without touching at price tickets on products. As consumer you are likely to remember the price tag of a product, but much less the unit costs. However, the unit price is the basis for fair comparisons. In supermarkets there is an obligation to print also unit prices (€/kg or €/L) next to price labels. Comparisons allow information irrespective of package size. In shrinkflation the higher unit costs of a product will drive the official measure of inflation (Destatis, 2024). In Germany inflation for food had the top inflation rate in 2023, surpassing even price rises for energy.
On the one hand, shrinkflation is cheating on consumers to sell them less for the same price. On the other hand, oversized products that solicit higher consumption are part of the health and environmental problems we face. The obesity pandemic is part of the XXL consumption hype the food industry and supermarkets have created. In this respect, more expensive food (Eurostat info) potentially may trigger the rethinking of consumption and nutrition. “Eating better instead of less” has always been more expensive.
Besides the profit-maximising logic of shrinkflation, there is at least a small hope that behavioural changes might be triggered to consume less, to use less detergent in washing, less sugar drinks, smaller size pizza and so on. Shrinking our food intake is part of the solution for many problems. In the end cutting out most convenience food will save you a lot of money. As a side effect of such behavioural changes, eventually prices are likely to come down some time later again.

Flotow CH

Noch 20 Jahre nach seinem Tod wurde Friedrich von Flotow recht prominent aufgeführt. Im Stadt- und Aktien- Theater der Stadt St. Gallen stand seine Oper “Martha” an einem Mittwoch 26.4.1905 auf dem Programm (Anfang 8 Uhr präzis), gefolgt von Mozarts Zauberflöte 2 Tage später.  Was für eine Konkurrenz. Das Plakat zur Aufführung ist in der Digitalen Bibliothek der Kunstbibliothek in Berlin anzusehen (Link).
Die Geschichte des Theaters in St. Gallen ist aus ökonomischen,  gesellschaftlichen und architektonischen Gründen interessant. Das Tagblatt berichtete in 2007 über den Abriss der historischen Städte und den sehr verspäteten Neubau einer moderneren, größeren und wirtschaftlicheren Spielstätte. Damals zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts schon standen populäre Werke wie die Martha und die Zauberflöte auf dem Spielplan. Die Aktionäre des Stadt- und Aktien- Theaters der Stadt St. Gallen haben wohl schon immer etwas mehr auf das Geld geschaut, auch wenn es um Kunst geht. Mehr Zuschauende und Zuhörende ist demokratisch und nebenbei gut für’s Geschäft. Der Abriss war beklagenswerter Weise im Jahr 1971. Ein Neubau an anderem Ort startete bereits 1968. Dieser Bau musste ebenfalls nach 40 Jahren Spielzeit grundsaniert oder abgerissen werden.  Heute findet sich darin ein lebhaftes Programm mit Musicals als ausgezeichnetem Schwerpunkt und beispielsweise des Theaterstücks „Gott“ von Ferdinand von Schirach . Die Stadt und die Aktionäre sind wohl aus der finanziellen Verantwortung, aber das Kanton St.Gallen und der Lotteriefond sind eingesprungen. Bildquelle und Großansicht Kunstbibliothek SPK Berlin.

Stock taking

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.

Ethics of posterity

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)

Air quality EU

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.

source 2024-1-10


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.

Museum Orga

The cathedrals of modernity are under permanent scrutiny. The discussion in Germany was sparked by a recommendation of the scientific advisory council to the federal government (Wissenschaftsrat) to separate the Prussian heritage museums and institutions (SPK) in Berlin into separate entities that have higher autonomy to shape their individual profiles. Too much hierarchy blocks innovation and openness to new approaches that might not fit an overriding instance of decision making. The arts and sciences as well as their libraries need substantial degrees of freedom to flourish in their specific cultural and societal environment. The same discussion is currently occupying Paris and France, since overall the visitors after the Covid-19 crises have not yet come back to the same levels. Digitalization has opened up new opportunities and potentials to reach new audiences. This needed new resources even at a time of budget constraints. Museums have started to take their social functions more seriously besides their role to preserve the cultural heritage. Economic thinking in terms of scarcity of art works, competition between museums and cities or countries for tourism have entered the stages as well. Prices of entry and quantities of visitors have become additional concerns in the organization of the museum landscape. A lot to cope with and to balance multiple policy targets. Accessibility of those treasures is key. Opening up to broader audiences is costly but crucial to provide the justification of the public funds allocated. Great to see more complementary private investment in this exciting field. The prominent archers in front of the Berlin museums have moved ahead into a new round of competition in the organization of museums.


This time we thought to advance with our ecological version of Christmas. We use LED lighting and instead of advocating real horse riding we opted for the wooden replacement. We reduced the size of the tree by 27.5% to further cut down on the carbon footprint of our event. As we were all feeling pretty confident that we are on the right track now, we learned from the media reports in Germany that the trees usually grown specifically for Christmas are taking away precious land where otherwise food would be grown. Much worse is the fact that pesticides are very often applied to facilitate the production of trees. (Link to study and test results).

We know that there is a problem in Germany to be frank about environmental dangers of diesel and glyphosate, but we did not want to believe that we inhale glyphosate in our living rooms after the diesel disaster in cities. We thought trees were synonymous for nature. Far off the truth. Better check the ecological impact and risks incurred even for trees. Trust and good faith seems to be utterly misplaced when it comes to nature turned into a product.

2023 hazardous tree 🌲 is


For some societies and cities it is a continuous question of how much resources we should invest in infrastructure. Access to funding is a major concern. The calculation of the viability of the project needs careful examination and evaluation. Societies have very different kinds of preferences and, interestingly, about time horizons for their deliberations.

There are examples that have been built to last a century and lasted 2000 years. Other worst scenario examples are built for just one World Expo and torn down afterwards. The Eiffel tower is such an example of the latter kind, but it lasted longer than 100 years by now. We should be thinking more about time horizons as it remains an often overlooked part of investment in infrastructure. The oldest city in Germany has many buildings from the Roman occupation that still characterize the city’s architecture. This remains an important economic factor for the city of Trier as an attractive location for tourists throughout the year. Only wars or negligence may cause severe deterioration if infrastructure has been built with an emphasis on its lasting value. The narrow-minded investment in downhill skiing like in the Swiss Alps is at best expected to last 20 years. For trees to grow there again it will take 50+ years. Sustainable investment will be viable and vital in many respects. High interest rates force us to recalibrate our societal and private s again. Taking into account a longer time frame for investment we indirectly build infrastructure that should last longer. Moving beyond short-termism is necessary, particularly in the field of investment in infrastructure.

Trier 2023-12