Competence Nature

Nature can be approached without competence. Emotional attachment is fine. If we delve deeper into the issue, we realize that a lot of processes that have evolved over years or even centuries are hard to study. The learning about nature is manifold and many scientific disciplines deal with nature in the broad sense of the word.
Today the study of nature is scattered across so many disciplines that an overall view of the field seems hard to achieve. This creates a problem to teach a competence to deal with topics around nature. Water, air, species, soil, climate or reproduction are all topics in which we have to make far-reaching individual and collective choices. This requires adequate competences to allow judgments about opportunities and risks involved.
For more than 100 years now we have researched education systems and processes, but the competences to talk and explain basic processes in nature are still scarce. Classification systems are a static way to sort nature into categories. Processes of evolution and development have more or less human input.
We all gain if we keep an eye on education and learning processes that have been applied years ago. The field of the history of education provides clues about some forgotten approaches. Learning about nature and how to acquire competence in the field has been an issue in this field for at least 100 years. It is time to test some of these approaches again to see what went wrong in learning about nature. Man-made climate change is only at the end of a causal chain of things and people moving in the wrong direction. We probably have to press the reset button and start from scratch with the learning and the tracing of wrong decisions. Maybe, the start is the appreciation of a splendid bouquet of flowers. Want to know more? Try to grow and assemble them yourself.

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.

Electricity

We all use electricity, not only daily but continuously. But do we really know or remember how it works? Surprisingly, we care very little about the energy provision or the physics behind it. Therefore, from time to time it is useful to dive into the details of generating electricity and thereby energy and how it arrives at our doorsteps or desks. In science museums you can literally walk through the history of power generation. A fine example is the Energy Discovery Centre in Tallinn, Estonia. Even for those you did all at school turning the handles of generators is a playful reminder of the basic principles of electric power generation. The efficient use of it, is a topic that needs to be covered as well. Searching the web for demonstration videos is fine as well, but the physical activity of moving induction coils and releasing sparks is difficult to rival. Opening up your mind for the physics of our lives yields a better grip on the challenges of electricity grids and local production of electricity. Are you already a prosumer? Combining electricity production and consumption in one household is surely a forward-looking strategy. Raising awareness for these topics concerns all generations. Take time for a power play, it is truly enlightening. For teaching professionals or want to be there are exciting programs out there, too. Just one suggestion for 2024 in Colorado, US.

Energy Discovery Centre Tallinn

Forest Management

Responsible forest management is key. To safeguard against the loss of biodiversity the management of forests can achieve a great deal as the study in Nature of 2024-4-10 has demonstrated. Reducing hunting by humans in dense tropical forests allows bigger species to survive and thrive compared to forests with easy access by roads. FSC certification of forests helps significantly to protect wildlife. The ability to ameliorate biodiversity of forests is assisted by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) through the responsible management, preservation and limitation of access to wild forests. This is an important message that in fact it is still possible to preserve wildlife also of larger species if we only really commit to the cause. It is well worth to support such initiatives and monitor the progress. Of course, any such success attracts new hunters and a continuation of the FSC efforts is needed for the benefit of the whole biodiversity on our planet as there is no planet B.

Berlin Zoo 2024

L’Albatros

Charles Baudelaire has immortalized the albatross in his poem entitled “L’Albatros”. For me it appears like a poem about the beauty of the sea and sea life. The marvelous creatures that populate the sea and its surroundings sometimes seem strange to us. The albatross with its large wings unable to move properly on earth is one of these special animals. They are threatened by human beings in their very survival up to extinction even. A dedicated website to “Les fleurs du mal” with multiple English translations of the same poem may give us the impression that all those who translated the poem wanted to feel this little moment of sublimation like a poet just forgetting for a little while the weight of our earthly existence. The gospel tells us a similar story of life up in the air. It must be so much better to be free and not to be bound to restrictions of gravity. As gods would prefer to stay away from earth just somewhere up in space. The albatross and the sea keep teaching us lessons beyond their physical appearance. (Image bird “dodo” now extinct, model in Berlin Natural History Museum 2024)

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).

Zoo Visit

The visit of a zoo is always a great event. Accordingly the prices of a visit have reached levels that are beyond prices for a cinema entry. Usually a whole day is spent with high emotions watching animals sleeping, walking or eating. Sometimes we can watch a training session or a brief medical intervention. Learning about the beauty of biodiversity is important because we treasure more what we like. Looking into the eyes of an animal stimulates affection. Gathering support for the preservation of ecosystems was and still is a great effort. And yet, we have to move beyond preservation to the restoration of ecosystems like in the UNDP projects (Link). Animal parks can contribute to this if we encourage such cooperation and co-financing. The awareness, understanding and willingness to engage in restoration projects is largely increased after the visit of a zoo. A second round effect is the potential to reduce international travel to destinations with rich animal diversity. Restoration is a win-win situation for wildlife habitat and our planet as a whole.

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)

Sleep biology

Biological processes work hard during our sleep. Our immune system in particular benefits a great deal from undisturbed sleep. This is the simplest summary of the study by Kabrita et al. (2024).
We can study the temporal expression pattern of major histocompatibility complex MHC class I for example in mice. 2 groups of sleep-restricted versus normal mice reveal the biological impact of sleep restriction. In comparison to the control group sleep restriction in mice produced a bimodal pattern of Splenocytes with higher protein levels during the resting period. Such an increased protein expression during resting periods indicates a “preparedness for a potential infection”. Sleep recovery, even if short compared to the longer sleep restriction, allows to return to the baseline of protein levels. The good message is that at least mice seem to recover rather quickly from sleep deprivation with their immune response system.
The biology of repeated phases of longer sleep deprivation could inform us on the implications of sleep deprivation on aging processes. The biological responses in single event sleep deprivation seem to show a fast recovery pattern. Probably it is worth studying the same recovery process of groups of young versus aged mice.
Anecdotal evidence from myself indicates that recovery after sleep deprivation in older humans is no longer as fast as at younger ages. Behavioural responses might be less sleep deprivation (less fun) or longer recovery periods (stay in bed longer). The behavioural response of humans appears to be an obvious one. Instead of either or, we tend to go for both at the same time.
(AI Image: BING +Dall-E. one group of mice is partying in a club at night. Another group of mice is sleeping tight in another room. Cartoon-like images. 2024-3-18)

Korallenriff

Kinder verstehen direkt, dass es sich lohnt, Korallenriffe zu erhalten. Plastikmüll in den Meeren gefährdet die Korallenriffe und die bunte Vielfalt an Fischen, die darin leben. Ein kleines Theaterstück dazu von Kathrin Brunner begeistert Kinder, weil es sie erleben lässt, wie einfach Lösungen aussehen können. Den großen Leuten zeigen, wie traurig die Welt aussieht ohne die farbenfrohe Pracht der bunten Fische, wird sie schon zu Veränderungen bringen. Das Theaterstück und Buch dazu wurde am 16.3.2024 im FEZ in Berlin aufgeführt. Das Figurenspiel mit überleitendem Refrain, das vom Publikum gleichsam der Promenade in den „Bildern einer Ausstellung“ (Mussorgsky) mitgesungen haben, bildete jeweils eine gelungene emotionale Überleitung und Aufmerksamkeitspause. Wir wünschen uns noch viele kleine und große Besuchende für diese Aufführungen. Die Kinder werden es uns schon lehren, den blauen Planeten noch zu retten.

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)

Spring has Sprung

In Europe it is expected that spring follows winter. The closer you move to the equator the more you find days equally long in winter and summer. In Northern Europe we have marked differences in terms of light between winter and summer. In January and February 2024 we had a very mild winter. As of 15th of February we had 15° C in Brussels and the first few blossoms showing up. Climate change is undeniable and the call for action to intervene urgently become louder and louder. Why is it so difficult to take action? Well, there are many vested interests and countries that hope to benefit from climate change. In simple economic theory this is not a problem as long as those who gain from climate change would compensate those who lose from it. However, if the total sum of losses is so much bigger than the sum a few will gain, the global balance sheet will deteriorate rapidly.
Monitoring climate change and the shifts in national and global wealth are part of the scientific endeavour. Rising inequalities on a national as well as global scale will create numerous new challenges which are difficult to forecast due to complex feedback and reinforcement loops. It would be wise to apply the precaution principle in this respect as well, but this seems to be hardly understood, let alone, to be followed.
Sometimes it needs a cold winter, unusual flooding or a bad harvest to acknowledge to value and apply the precautionary principle in the following years. Only, this time it might be fundamentally different, because climate change is irreversible for generations to come. Early blossoms in winter as precursor of spring are nice, but we have mixed feelings considering the impact on irreversible climate change. (Image Brussels 2024-2-15)

Sleeping

Sleep is a process. That is why it is best to talk of sleeping rather than sleep. There exists abundant research on sleep and more and more acknowledge the process-like characteristics of sleep. The medical literature deals a lot with sleep apnoea, which constitutes a serious health condition. Time use surveys establish links between daily activities and sleeping for example. The social context is another influence on sleeping. Friends and family co-determine sleeping patterns as well. The latest better understood impact on sleeping depends on the use of technological devices before and during sleeping. Smart phones reveal themselves as not so smart if it comes to the quality of your sleep. At least this the result of the study on „bedtime technology use on sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness“. It yet another field in which technology is slowly creeping under our skin and we have to learn how to handle negative side effects before they endanger our physical as well as mental health. Bedtime routines or reading without a screen before falling asleep appears to be a worthwhile way to improve sleeping. Worth trying out again and again.

Helplessness

Learned helplessness is another which we have to be aware of as social scientists. It is far from surprising that for example giving birth has been transferred from the professional care and exercise of midwives to medical doctors and hospitals. This creates a kind of maximal security around the most natural of events that of child birth. Over the last few decades we have witnessed a pathologising of birth as high risk event. Additionally an emergencification has pushed costs upwards for social security systems as well. In numerous other domains like breast feeding industrial interests have pushed for replacement solutions which are worse than second best solutions.

In other domains like shopping we tend to believe that we need a car to assist us in the endeavor. It is mostly a choice of the least effort to use a personally owned vehicle to replace other solutions which demand more effort of organization like car or bike sharing options. The frequent result is “learned helplessness”. After years of getting used to the debilitating ease of use of navigation systems in cars and bikes we find it hard to put effort into a little self-organization. Learned helplessness will be a substantial burden on our health and social systems if we do not manage to reverse this trend. At times of increased skill shortages we shall no longer have the many helping hands needed to stem the powerful trend of learned helplessness.

Styles are a Changing

We all have our very own style. Even if you believe you have no style, then this will be your style. Of course, styles are changing continuously and fast fashion tries to make us believe we even ought to change as frequently as possible. Just find your style no matter of age and gender. Yes we can. Young designers test new materials and cuts to make new impressions. As science is progressing with new fibers that imitate the apparently light fur of polar bears, new designs will become feasible and enrich the list of potential fibers in clothing. In addition to seamless 3D knitting the new fiber allows to replace down with light fiber. Going out into the cold will be fun again. Want more of this, visit Fashion in Action! (Image from empty space designers webpage 2023-12-24 Berk and Julien).

Pathology

The definition of disease, illness or disability are a matter of details of definitions. Mostly it is left entirely to medical professionals to define the limits of what shall be considered a disease or not. Pathology is the scientific discipline dealing with this difficult task. As in the scientific endeavor it is honorable to crown your research by finding or defining a new disease not necessarily finding a treatment for it, we have learned about new diseases at regular intervals. Attention deficit syndrome also known as hyperactivity is such an example. Many pupils have received treatments and some made splendid progress in their education due to early recognition of their condition as well as abilities. However, some children have received treatment with questionable diagnostic evidence or just to be able to fit into our modern ways of organizing our schools. We might frame this as a process of “to pathologise” persons or whole groups in society.

The American definition of what constitutes a higher than normal blood pressure or colesterol deviates from the one applied in many European countries so that sometimes the double amount of people should receive medical attention and treatment. From this it becomes more evident that even within the field of pathology there is a societal dimension to it. The “dry january” addresses the pathology of alcohol addiction. Smoking falls into a similar category but no smoke free month has been suggested yet. While it has become normal to overuse antibiotics we shouldn’t reproduce the same mistakes with other medications. We simply need a broader discourse about pathology and the societal origins and implications of it. From the Roman times we have amphitheaters and sacred buildings that we value today. Few sanatoria have survived but a few Roman baths as a preventative approach have survived in the British city of Bath or in the German city of Trier, both quite far from Rome. We should sometimes think more carefully before defining a disease. Not all are pathological. If it seems difficult to stem against the trend of “pathologising”. The ensuing overload of the medical system in consequence is a serious issue. The medical system will degenerate into a system to manage waiting queues with absurd, unequal and unnecessary adverse outcomes. Therefore, sociologists consider the pathologising of societies as just another kind of pathology.

Urban Living

Each time I pass by the closed airport in the middle of Berlin I am amazed by the crazy idea to have built this and maintained throughout the 20th century. Paris is desperately trying to re-naturalize small areas and roads, while in Berlin there is now still the huge park to enjoy for all. Sports activities benefit the most. What an amazing asset in the neighborhoods for so many in need to walk, run or cycle a bit to keep their exercise level up throughout their life course. It has still a huge potential to activate people. It just needs a bit more organizations and volunteers to embrace the opportunities. Only in comparison to other cities you realize what an asset this is now. It will remain a challenge to preserve this centrally located treasure for the benefit of all. In Paris the deconstruction of concrete is taking shape and 300 new sites have been identified for re-naturalization, as reported in LeMonde. In Zurich green spaces in the center have been saved and renovated with a lot of money to allow more people to enjoy the benefits of a green environment near the city center. The house and park by architect Le Corbusier is a fine example of this. Image below. The garden around the house is publicly accessible. As air pollution is threatening more and more and heating in cities is a serious health threat we would really like to welcome more preservation and re-naturalization in inner cities.

Le Corbusier house Zurich 2023

Sectoral Change

The long-term view of sectoral change in France, for example, from 1800-2022 (Cagé and Piketty, 2023 p. 128) allows us to zoom out of our narrow focus of the last few years of economic change. The decline of agriculture is the most remarkable. The reduction of employment in industry and construction has been an ongoing trend as well. Banking, insurances, property and consulting have seen remarkable expansion over these years. Public services, security and legal affairs are still on a moderate rise. Other sectors like education, health, commerce and transport manage to grow equally.
The merit of the comprehensive volume by Cagé and Piketty (2023) is that it is thoroughly data driven and based on quite unique long data series. The data on structural change and just the employment trends depicted below refocus our attention on likely consequences of these changes.
For the 2 authors we should redirect our attention much more to the implications of these trends (like rising inequality) on political conflicts and power struggles. Democracies are at risk, if we continue to ignore these seminal changes of industrial structures and shifts in employment. The traditional strongholds of trade unions and progressive forces in the manufacturing and construction industries as well as in public transport seem to have unaccounted implications for our political systems as well. The volume by Cagé and Piketty (2023) will soon be available in English and reach broader audiences just-in-time for the European Parliament elections in June 2024. Particularly the spatial implications and how the neglect to take into account the fundamental differences between the rural development and structural change needs urgent reconsideration. After the time for reading and working with the data (LINK) is the time for action to preserve our European Dream of peace and social development.

Mating Birds

Mating birds have astonishing capabilities. Some songbirds can expand areas of their brains during the mating season. Apparently this helps to outperform other birds in singing contests. The expansion of the brain in the preparation for mating is not so much of an interesting phenomenon in view of the fact of subsequent decline of the capacity. Of course in human engineering the expansion might be useful and the hope to repair a damaged brain is worthwhile as well. In a few years we might know how to expand brain irrespective of brain functions. The naive hope that we might just sing more beautifully in preparation for mating is probably misplaced. While everyone is talking about AI new horizons for HI as human intelligence or hybrid forms become more feasible. Meanwhile we continue to focus on our preparation for mating songs. It seems to exercise parts of the brain with the best intentions in mind. Composers have created fantastic arias and singers impressed audiences across the globe with melodies in preparation of mating like the birds. Art is full of such extraordinary examples. Let’s keep up the preparation as long as the season lasts and before climate change kicks in more forcefully. The mating season might be prolonged a bit, it might be too hot or too wet to prepare for mating as well.

VR to AI to HI

Preference

In societies it is not easy to derive collective preferences of citizens. Elections every 4 years tell sometimes nothing on specific issues which were not debated or of sufficient relevance at the time of the election. Dealing with snow and slippery sidewalks is hardly an issue at all. However, the preference to clear roads meticulously rather than bicycle and pedestrian paths in a dead end road reveals preferences for „s‘heilig Blechle“ the holy tin box (car) in many cities. Our orthopedic units in hospitals are crowded at such times and those costs are hardly attributed to the source of human negligence for fellow humans. We would expect that aging societies start to address such topics but little change has occurred so far. Hence we claim airbags for pedestrians and cyclists😂. Preferences probably have changed already but implementation is slow and faces strong opposition as well. It’s always easier to lock frail persons into their apartments at such snowy times. It feels a bit like corona where it was also easier to restrict mobility for pedestrians and children than to deal properly with the virus. Aggregation of preferences in societies remains a challenge and sociology has a lot to offer in this regard.

CO2 Footprint of Books

In view of the worldwide size of book publishing we should also keep an eye on the CO2 footprint of book publishing. The Italian association of publishers gave a brief overview of the likely CO2 footprint the printing of a book causes. Their best guess is at ½ a kilo of CO2 on average. For simplicity of calculation and assuming that an editors’ association is unlikely to overstate the amount, let us assume it is 1 Kg CO2 per book. The most CO2 is consumed not in the book production but in the transport of the items, machinery and personnel involved in producing, editing, selling etc. Of course, paper is recycled to a large amount. Certified sustainability of paper from trees has become a standard in most countries.
Nice twist to the issue: your own library at home has become a CO2 storage, if you keep them or lend them or pass them on to others. Reading can be a little bit addictive and buying books as well. Reading online or electronic books reduces your CO2 footprint. The best way to imagine the reduction of your CO2 footprint, however, is to buy or to borrow a book on travelling which replaces the actual journal by reading on the couch. Yes, being a couch potato is good for the planet, and if you want to buy a book, walk to the book shop or the library if possible. If you enjoyed flying previously shift over to buying books on planes, airports, clouds in images or stories that involve extensive travelling instead for the sake of your own CO2 footprint and future generations.
Even a book will need somehow wood as input, many alternative ways of leisure time or professional activities are worse in terms of CO2 footprint. Any e-book, e-journal or e-newspaper is even better for the planet, especially if we think of the millions of paper copies across the world that are printed but never sold. Knowing your market is crucial to reduce misallocation of ressources. E-books are so much easier to store as well using regenerative energy for the content servers around the world.

World in Common

The Tate Modern Gallery in London has an exhibition of photography on display which challenges our Western view of art works. With a focus on photography and African photographers it is complementary to the many other photo exhibitions. We have a world in common, says the title of the exhibition. The images, however, reveal another vision of African photographers. Other perspectives on beauty, architecture and the distribution of wealth and waste across the world becomes explicit. Beyond the documentary effect of a lively African scene of photography and past colonialism the forward-looking vision of African photographers is also evident. Colours and Imagination of a unique kind allow us to look beyond the current state of affairs. Rising from the ashes and western waste the colours of Africa will prevail.
Only through the force to imagine a different trajectory for the continent we shall eventually be able to see new flowers blooming.
Positive images have to be put in front of the “negativity bias” in Western media when reporting about African countries. The light, the sun, the sea and coast lines, all can contribute to the rise of Africa in various ways. The photographers in the Tate exhibition demonstrate an impressive power to go beyond the day-to-day topics.
Broadening our scope of visuals with more images from Africa certainly are  fist steps to enlarge the spectrum of photography and art. A chance to browse through the catalogue allows to go back from time to time to counter our usual stereotypes. (Image taken from Tate catalogue A world in common, 2023 Muluneh Aida 2018 p. 202-3).

Chrysanthemum

We all know Chrysanthemum as the flowers of the autumn season. For Christians the Chrysanthemum is popular to decorate the graveyards around all saints day or reformation day. But also in the commemoration of armistice day of the Great War 14-18 flowers to remember that last a little bit are widely spread throughout Europe. But climate change and a prolonged summer season threatens these traditions. It is not uncommon to spot even a few roses here and there. It may well be the one and only “last rose” in other places.

Maybe we have to reconsider our concepts of seasons and planting cycles. Less use of tap water, but rain water recovery instead will help us get through droughts and a prolonged summer. Let’s see what changes we shall live through in autumn and winter. Chrysanthemum in winter, Chrysanthemum for Christmas is strange idea. Maybe that is what we should expect from now on.

11.11.2023 Ile de France

Trees

Looking at trees is relaxing. At least this is true for most of us. Some researchers, however, have a stressful time to sort out what it is exactly about trees that causes this impression, perception or feeling. Time to do a few studies on this issue (Lancet RM, 2023). Most likely it is the size or the number, maybe the surface or volume covered by trees that have an impact on us. Maybe it is the sequence of seasons that really causes the pleasant feeling about trees. Perhaps the fresh air, shadow in summertime or more the birds and squirrels or dogs that „inhabit“ the trees in neighborhoods that are important to us. More and more cities really develop sizable programs to care about their green spaces. In a simple cross-sectional study it seems the visibility of trees that is important rather than other effects. More sophisticated second round effects like oxygen levels or meeting points like in rural areas seem not to matter as much in cities currently. The study cited below invites us to devote more consideration to trees which we took for granted for far too long.

Ordóñez, C., Labib, S.M., Chung, L. et al.Satisfaction with urban trees associates with tree canopy cover and tree visibility around the home. npj Urban Sustain 3, 37 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42949-023-00119-8