Aussensicht Innensicht

Die Sicht vom Skulpturengarten der Neuen Nationalgalerie auf die laufende Ausstellung „Zerreissprobe…“ erlaubt einen tiefen historischen Einblick in die 1980er Jahre. Die Sammlung von Postern des Künstlers Klaus Staeck zeigen die bewegenden Themen der achtziger Jahre. Frauenrechte, Umweltschutz, Sicherheit sowie Medienwirtschaft. 40 Jahre später beschäftigen uns weiterhin, Lösungen für die plakatierten Themen zu finden. Images können Themen so zuspitzen, dass Anklagen daraus werden. Texte sind im Vergleich zu der Eindrücklichkeit der Bilder ein vergleichsweise stumpfes Schwert. Es ist aber gerade die Verbindung von Bild und Text, die Eindrücke verstärkt. „Meme“ Creators sind ein standard tool das die Kommerzialisierung und die Promotion weiter befördert haben. Kunstformen hatten diesen Trend bereits vorweggenommen.

Forecasting floods

As floods as becoming more frequent and more severe forecasting of such events is crucial. The recent example in Bavaria (Germany) of the Danube river (2nd longest in Europe) has demonstrated the role of forecasting to spur adequate behavior of people living in areas at risk of flooding. With the weather forecast announcing lots of rain for a large area the forecasting of floods needs to follow closely these trends. It is not only a question of expectations, but an issue of adaptive expectations for people to adopt appropriate precautions. In retrospect the early forecasts turned out to be fairly accurate in terms of the peak of flooding to be expected in June 2024. The Bavarian “Hochwassernachrichtendienst” (no joke, one word) forecasted on the 2nd of June about 7.50 as the peak to be reached in 2 days in the city of Kelheim. This was beyond the usual 4 warning levels based on an escalation scale. The forecast was beyond the frequent flooding levels established in the last decades. People and emergency services would have to adapt their expectations accordingly. Renewing forecasts is essential to guide people and services in their efforts to deal with emergencies and repair damages as flood levels recede. Management of crises critically depends on forecasting even if they are obviously prone to error margins which should usually be reported as well just like in weather forecasts. Adaptive expectations are key in combination with forecasts to ensure survival.

Hochwassernachrichtendienst Bayern 2024-6
Kelheim on Danube

Bikenomics

There is a whole cluster of enterprises associated with bicycles. Selling a bike is only the first we might think of. Repair works are the most tricky part of bikenomics, a bit like bidenomics. In many cities during spring and summer it is even more difficult to get an appointment for bicycle repairs than for a doctor’s appointment, and that can be hard at times. Shortages of skilled technicians are pervasive in this sector. DIY for do it yourself is the best alternative. With the arrival of e-bikes and the digital connectivity the skill set has been enhanced recently as well. Insurance for bikes, lockers, helmets, airbag system or clothing including spectacles are part of the standard safety and security set of bicycle riders nowadays. Many, many job opportunities there and the willingness to pay for bicycles has steadily increased over the last years.

Berlin has just seen its 48th bicycle demonstration in 2024-6 on roads including 2 motorways with several ten thousands of participants. In a star like fashion multiple tracks met at the city center. The final meeting with stands and information was at the Deutsche Technik Museum with refreshments and repairs. The exhibition of cargo bikes and taxi bikes or “rickshaws” was another highlight. We need to rethink our mobility concepts and try to get the sharing to work more comfortably. For different purposes and activities you need a different bike. Ownership of each is no longer adequate as for example with aging alone your preferences for mobility with bikes also changes. Sharing is caring and this is also part of bikenomics.

Law Nature

There exists a rather complicated relationship between law and nature. It is part of constitutional law to check whether nature figures at all in a state’s constitution as part of the fundamental legal principles. On a global scale the nations or people living in the closest relationship with nature most often do not have written constitutions. In the same vein, animals or biodiversity do not figure in most constitutional documents (nice project to substantiate this claim). The philosophy of law has line of literature devoted to “Naturrecht” which is more concerned with human beings and their differentiation than the millions of other species.
Administrative law is probably the domain with most of the legal judgements with relevance to nature or the environment as for example any larger scale construction is either land, water, air or biodiversity grabbing. Rights and limits need to be defined precisely. In this field the role of law as “appeasement” is widely applied. However, this is more complicated in cases when a whole population of an island in the ocean is threatened to disappear due to the rise of the sea level like in the case of the Torres Strait Islands, next to and part of Australia.
The UN Human Rights Committee (UN-HRCee) in Geneva has made a decision on the claim of these people to have rights that the nature of the islands as low-lying islands is threatened by disrespect of their fundamental rights of existence and survival. The claim has been received by the court, but the court deems that the threat to their culture and survival is not imminent. In practice, therefore, the sword of law is rather weak and time until the disaster is used as a right to continue the usual economic exploitation of earth as before despite the deferred consequences for the planet in a rather unequal way.
(Image by AI copilot designer 2024-6-2 “5 judges in red gowns sit in a flooded courtroom”, 2 propsitions)

Cars electrified

It is not only cars, but the whole automotive industry that got somehow electrified. The U.S. have imposed a 100% tax on electric cars produced in China recently. Europe is feeling the heat as well (compare Fressoz in Le Monde 31.5.2024). Production of cars is not a for fun activity. It is firmly embedded in our economic system which believes in profit maximization even at high environmental costs. Therefore, the production of cars follows the logic to build cars that generate the highest profits. Bigger cars yield bigger profits and this has been known for decades. Why should we expect our car producers to deviate from this logic. Investors push hard in this direction as well. Small e-cars generate small profits. This can only be economically valid if large numbers are produced. China’s home market has the market size and air pollution levels that make this a viable strategy also for the lower income people. If not sold in the US or Europe, the home market is able to absorb huge amounts of electrified cars. Downsizing of cars needs to happen particularly in inner cities. The implementation of this is not going to be easy and without resistance.

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).

Infinite Landscapes

The “Alte Nationalgalerie” celebrates the 250th birthday of Caspar David Friedrich in Berlin. With a considerable effort to unite in one exhibition many paintings and drawings that stem from other collections of public and private origins. This particularly remarkable as a section of the exhibition is devoted to paintings that were intended originally to be seen next to each other (compare catalogue p. 233). Comparing 2 images from the same painter evolve into a narrative. This raises curiosity as in some instances the 2 paintings do not treat the same subject. Your very own interpretations and associations will make for an individual journey through the sheer endless spaces. The exhibition allows to grasp some of the many questions posed by the period of enlightenment not only in Germany. After “God is dead” what will happen? How is mankind defined? What is its relationship to nature? Are we just left alone or what comes after individualism? Even for painters, much like scientists, it is just as important to pose the right questions. Leaving the exhibition with more questions than answers will put you in the “Berlin state of mind” of 200 years ago. Greiswald, Dresden, Rügen and Copenhagen as well as nearby mountains were influential locations and landscapes for Caspar David Friedrich. Berlin 1906 „Jahrhundert Ausstellung“ made him famous again, despite decades of being forgotten. Yet another question to ponder and wonder about. An additional merit of the exhibition is the section on painting techniques and the use of his sketches and drawings for the preparation of the oil paintings. The final riddle to be solved is the price differential between the German and English version of the catalog in the bookshop next to the usual merchandising props.

Disappeared

We talk a lot in abstract terms of the loss of biodiversity. In the Museums of Natural History, like the one in Berlin, we can follow the trajectory of extinction of species. The dinosaurs are for most children the greatest attraction. No surprise, they are the biggest ones we have had on our planet. But there is a huge collection of disappeared species represented in the museums which we admire as a lost treasure or species threatened with extinction. Evolution had also created this rather big bird-like creature of the “dodo”. It couldn’t fly anymore and was inhabiting the splendid island of Mauritius. Hungry colonists passing have most likely literally eaten up this rather defenseless animal. Many other extinct species can be admired now only in museums and children feel naturally attached to some species that seem to have human expressions. Panda bears and gorillas rank high on such a list, but also some fish, especially if they smile or look at you straight into your eyes. This should help us take biodiversity and biodegradation more seriously. Children feel intuitively attracted to animals as natural companions. Something we have lost as adults and most of do not even realize this as a deficiency. The Nobel price winning author frm Mauritius has published a collection of short stories „Avers“ which captures the spirit of the island and the loss of species. J.M.G.Le Clézio seems to look at us through the eyes of children or a disappeared species. Magic moments are an escape as well as reason for hope.

Natural History Museum Berlin 2024

Sleeping BPS-SPB

Sleeping is a good example of the co-determination of the biological, psychological and societal spheres of life. The environment with the daily cycles of light and dark as well as the social norms of work and rest determine the circadian cycles of hormones. Shift work or otherwise disrupted sleep patterns depend on social norms like regulation of noise or light in cities. Healthy sleep patterns, therefore, depend to a large amount on regulation and implementation of those social norms. Birthday parties are tolerated, but much less the irregular partying in shared housing with lots of neighbours. Reducing social contacts during Covid-19 led to the changes in sleep patterns as well.
The psychological determinants of sleep go well beyond the world of dreams as theorized by Freud. Nowadays, we investigate all sorts of behavioural patterns that have an impact on sleeping like “bedtime technology use” of smartphones or the ability to switch off thinking of problems. Sleeping is a particular functional state of our mind. A lot of sorting of daily impressions into memory occurs during the different phases while sleeping. Persistent disrupted or impeded sleep is recognized as torture in severe cases. Stress at work or working overtime is also a major cause of sleep disorders.
The biological indicators used to investigate sleep have revealed a lot of links of sleep and the hormones of melatonin as well as cortisol. Testing has become more accessible and provides good indicators of how the biological clocks tick within our bodies.
However, we are only at the beginning of the analysis of more complex interactions of the multiple forms of interaction of the bio->psycho->social (BPS) as well as the social->psycho->bio (SPB) co-determination of sleeping. Scientific research is faced with a steep challenge as the direction of causality is not uniform except in very controlled experimental settings. Maybe the arts have coined and popularized a useful term in this respect. “I am in a New York state of mind”.
(Image: extrait of Magritte. La clairvoyance, 1936 and The cultural context of aging, Jay Sokolovsky)

Personal Health

Most people would agree, health is a personal issue. From the onset of life, we have package of genes that predetermine a number of factors of our personal health. Epigenetics has taught us there are many factors to take into account additionally. Environmental factors have huge impacts as well. Improvements in the availability of medical devices in the hands of individuals as well as AI systems on portable devices like smartphones facilitate the monitoring of personal health. Several indicators of early-onset of illness can be retrieved from such devices. Dunn et al. (2024) show that prior to the onset of symptoms of Covid-19 or influenza portable devices can indicate the presence of infections through indicators of resting body temperature, heart rate/min, heart rate variability/millisecond or respiratory rate/min. Combined with the indicators of air quality, indoors as well as outdoors, the presence of allergens a much more personalized data set emerges which can easily be part of an AI-assisted diagnosis. More abundant personal health data and analytical power allows remote and digital health applications to inform patients, medical doctors and the public at large. Digital health technologies are only at the beginning to unfold their potential. Prevention becomes more feasible using such devices, medical professionals should be allowed to focus on interpretation of data and treatment rather than simple data gathering. Thinking about digital health technologies points in the direction of dealing with climate and environmental hazards as sickening causes more forcefully. Personal medicine and personal health are, after all, still heavily dependent on health and safety at work, commuting practices and all sorts of pollution. Personal health, however, is a good starting point to raise awareness of the potentials of digital health technologies to better our lives.
(Image: AI MS-Copilot: 2 robots run in a city. They sweat. The air is full of smog. 2 other robots rest near pool. All look at their wrist watch showing heart beats)

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 IEEFA.org in 2024-1. All electric devices like heat pumps could speed up the gas reduction further according to the policy recommendation by IEEFA in 2024-2 reducing costs of living and CO2 emissions further.
Data from Eurostat allow to compare monthly data across Member States. The overall trend is a market decrease with differential patterns of refilling supply capacities. Big countries in the EU made and continue to make a real difference compared to previous years (see table below). The comparison of December and January figures across years reflect the months with high sensitivity of the public for heat and cold. Further reductions of gas consumption is feasible due to the mild winter months of 23/24 which allow to reduce heating costs for many households and offices. Good news for the planet and hopefully a move in the right direction to shift away from heating with gas.