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

Auenlandschaft

Die Auen und die Wälder in der unmittelbaren Nachbarschaft hatten eine hohe Bedeutung für die Biodiversität. Mit ihren fruchtbaren Böden waren sie leider sehr begehrt für die Landwirtschaft und wegen Wassernähe auch für Wohnungsbau. Die Auen haben eine wichtige Funktion als Aufnahmefläche für Hochwasserschübe an allen Binnengewässern. Das haben wir in Deutschland an der Ahr schmerzlich wieder erleben müssen. Nachhaltiges Wirtschaften mit den Auen statt gegen die Auen ist möglich. Selbst der langsame Rückbau von befestigten Flussufern ist möglich, wenn Ausgleichsflächen für Überflutungen erschließbar sind. Das braucht eine langfristige Planung. Diese fängt meistens auf den umliegenden Bergen und Hügeln an, die nicht mehr nahezu ungebremst große Wassermengen rasch in die Flüsse ableiten. Auffangbecken, die höher gelegen sind, Versickerung, die nachhaltig bewässert, sind verbundene Planungsvorhaben, die zusammengenommen eine wirksame Antwort auf den Klimawandel bilden.
Auen haben feuchte- und wärmeregulierende Funktionen, die den umliegenden Dörfern und Städten zu Gute kommen. Elektrisch betriebene Schiffsmotoren drehen leicht mit höheren Drehzahlen und Vermeiden dadurch zusätzlich die hohen Heckwellen, die sonst oft bei langsam drehenden großen Schiffsschrauben zu beobachten sind. Als Naherholungsgebiete sind die Auenlandschaften sehr beliebt und nicht erst seit den Malenden der Romantik. Die größere Biodiversität sollte eine Antriebsfeder sein, diese Naturschönheiten zu bewahren und, wo möglich, wieder herzustellen. Leipzig hat das erfolgreich durchgeführt (Link PDF). In Frankreich tragen die Rückhaltebecken der Marne wesentlich zur Verbesserung der Wasserqualität der Seine bei damit mittelfristig darin sogar wieder gebadet werden könnte.

10000

In France 100.000 is associated with Monsieur 100.000 Volt Gilbert Bécaud due to his dynamic singing and performance style. Since August 2023 we now have an additional association with the number 10.000.  Ten thousand m3 was the size of stones that came down from the mountains near the popular skiing resorts in the French Alps (Le Monde Link+video). To visualize the amount, a back of the envelope calculation with a standard container size of 25 m3 returns 400 loads of lorries to be removed from hard to access landscapes. Count this into the costs of running ski resorts.
A study in the scientific journal “Nature Climate Change” in 2023 highlighted the increasing risks to European skiing sites. Same holds for the Alpes in Switzerland.  Some areas relying on water resources to create artifical snow do so in less and less safe areas. Costs accrue to communities who benefit only indirectly from the skiing hype, celebrating 100 years of Olympic skiing next year. After all it is big business to sell or lend equipment, provide hotels and meals for all those sports women and men.
The so-called collateral damage is probably even worse. Interrupted railways, bridges, motorways and traffic in general becomes a severe disruption for quite some time adding to the total costs of having fun in winter. Is it worth it? A tricky question to ask in a referendum. We shall have to revise our past decisions to expand skiing resorts in light of the new evidence of higher risks and costs involved. A book on 10.000 years of history of glaciers is full of side-effects of glaciers melting away, which cause instability to valleys on the sidelines. In the most recent break-up of rocks it is actually more the access to the skiing resorts that was blocked, but this demonstrates to all: passing this area now, is not without serious side-effects.

Europa Meer

Europa und das Meer, so lautet der Titel eines Buches und Katalogs zu einer Ausstellung des Deutschen Historischen Museums (DHM) aus dem Jahr 2018. In 2023 im August sind die Zeitungen voll mit Artikeln über Meererwärmung und die schwerwiegenden Folgen für Menschheit und Bio-diversität. Die Geschichte der Beziehung zwischen Europa und dem Meer ist leidvoll und euphorisch zugleich. Alljährlich zur Sommerszeit wird das Mittelmeer von Wellen mit Touristen überspült die „over-tourism“ erleiden müssen. Menschen sind oft eine in Massen, aber nicht in Maßen, auftretende Spezies. Das Meer spielt zusätzlich eine faszinierende, verheißungsvolle Anziehungskraft aus. Europa sieht sich zudem gerne noch als Dreh- und Angelpunkt der Weltgeschichte.

Der Ausstellungskatalog enthält lesenswerte Beiträge von der Antike übers Mittelalter bis in die Neuzeit. Die Thematisierung von Herrschafts- und Handelsräumen , Brückenschlagen und Grenzziehungen, Meer als Ressource bis hin zum Sehnsuchts- und Imaginationsort bieten eine originelle Herangehensweise. Schon 2018 enthielt der Katalog einen Beitrag zum Massengrab Mittelmeer sowie zum Sehnsuchtsort Hafenmetropole Odessa.

Migration in ferne Länder samt der Verheißung eines vermeintlich besseren Lebens sind so alt wie die Menschheit. Die Weite des Meeres suggeriert zusätzlich die Möglichkeit des Neuanfangs und Althergebrachtes, hinter sich zu lassen. Freiwillig oder gezwungen, das ist dabei oft die entscheidende, unterscheidende Frage.

Kelani Abass, Casing history, Gropiusbau 2023

Greenwashing

We mostly think of greenwashing of big polluting industries , but there many other ways to cheat with green labels. When you travel through green Switzerland you might be surprised of how the Swiss way of greenwashing works. In order to survive as tourist attraction with less snow (Study published in Nature Climate change 2023) and reduced numbers of trees, greenwashing has to happen quickly before tourists arrive again.

The challenge is to clear your sick parts of the forest quickly and to build new ways for fast lifts to heights in the mountains where you are likely to find snow at least for the next 30 years after which the investment is amortized. (quote from Neue Zürcher Zeitung 5.8.2023 p11). This all is carried through in speedy fashion and probably in the most polluting way you can imagine. Heidi would cry in the arms of her grandfather and join Greta in the school strike.

Graubünden 8-2023
Pilotis Pilotitis 2023

Gartenwelt

Gärten sind eigene Welten. Selbst im gleichen Garten sehen verschiedene Menschen unterschiedliche Dinge. Man stelle sich nur sogenannte Farbenblindheit vor. Jahreszeiten bieten zusätzliches Ansichtsmaterial. Animalische Perspektiven würden für erstaunliche Überraschungen sorgen. Nach den Vorarbeiten mit dem Polinatorprojekt online hatten wir die Gelegenheit eine konkrete Realisierung einer solchen Gartenwelt zu durchwandern.

Der reale 3-D Eindruck ist überwältigend und bringt die virtuelle Erfahrung des Gartens im Lauf der Jahreszeiten in die reale Welt. Zu jeder Jahreszeit, selbst im Hochsommer, ist viel Farbe im Spiel und das auf mehreren Ebenen. Paradiesische Gartenwelten erschließen sich bei der Bewegung im Garten. Das wirkt wie ein Ansporn zu eigenen oder besser gemeinschaftlichen Anstrengungen einer vergleichbaren Realisierung. Genau das ist auch Teil der Ausstellung und des Katalogs „Zukunft der Gärten“ im Vitra Design Museum.

Unwinding violence

A common metaphor to describe rising or erupting violence is the “spiral of violence”. In exerting violence by one person or group, the response of the other person or group is even more violent and, potentially, the response to the response makes use again of more violence. The spiralling up of violence is hard to stop or to reverse. Law as well as its enforcement has to play a major role in this process. However, if the police violence is involved as part of the spiralling process the process gets even more complicated. Beware of the beginnings of such a process.
In France in July 2023 the debate about violence is wide open. Contributions to the debate in Le Monde deal with the discussion to claim equal treatment of violence from “fundamental ecologists” as well as extremist defendants of industrial agriculture (Stéphane Foucart). Both sides became more radical in their actions and threaten an escalation in case of governmental inaction. The “triangle of silence” is also a breeding spot with a potential for violent confrontations. Groups in society that have no voice in parliament or local governments frequently use violent actions to raise awareness to their concerns as politics and media tend to ignore “not so nice” images and reporting from areas with multiple disadvantages and social confrontations.
One of the proposed solutions by Marcel Marloie (published in LeMonde) proposes to rethink urban planning deviating from the path proposed originally by Le Corbusier. Instead of offering public parks that are cultivated (and policed) by the local government, entrust areas of collective gardening to the disadvantaged communities. The empowering role is, to master your own piece of happiness. The “bonheur à la Voltaire” is likely to increase attachment to your local and neighbouring community. Of course, this is not evolving without conflicts, but these are processes of accepting compromises and mediation rather than violent resolution of conflicts or aggression out of desperation.
Contrary to the belief that some big projects (Olympic games in Paris) should contribute to unite a nation(s), it might well lead to further segregation of persons who benefit from the games and those who are unable to enjoy some sort of participation in the event. Further gentrification of Paris is likely to be the result. Poorer or lower middle-class people will no longer be able to live in the renovated suburbs that have more public space being privatised and turned into for profit activities. The challenge is to build areas that enhance trust in people, trust in institutions and politics. Schools, associations, trade unions, political parties and social institutions have an important role to play in this respect. The way forward is with more communication and deliberation, not less, especially for and with the most distant groups of a societal consensus.

Strand

Strand kann so schön sein. Am besten mit viel Sonnenschutz. Das können dann auch schon mal Wolken sein. Das reduziert die UV-Strahlung ganz erheblich. Warum gerade dann besonders wenige Personen am Strand anzutreffen sind, werde ich nie verstehen. Regenschauer und Regenbogen verbessern die Luft und sorgen für Glücksgefühle. Wolkenformationen sind nicht nur attraktiv für romantische Personen, sondern auch für Hobby- Meteorologen. Das sind wir doch irgendwie im tiefsten Inneren alle mit dem täglichen Blick auf 1-2 Wetterapps für die Prüfung der Wetteraussichten. Beim Walking am Strand ist eben etwas für alle Sinne dabei. Cryothérapie inklusive.

Schwalbe

Verzicht auf Spritzmittel wie Gluphosat in großen Mengen an Bahngleisen, Autobahnen und sonstigen Verkehrswegen kann schon viel helfen, dem Artensterben zu begegnen. Unkraut zupfen im Weinberg, Nutzgarten oder Ziergarten, statt die chemische Keule einzusetzen, beginnt Wirkung zu zeigen. Zarte Ansätze von Biodiversität sind beispielsweise die Rückkehr der Schwalben (Hirundinidae)  in vielen städtischen Bereichen. Das freut sehr viele Menschen, die das Zwitschern der Schwalben lange vermisst haben. Die Schwalben ernähren sich hauptsächlich von Insekten. Genau diese Insekten werden aber mit den Spritzmitteln ebenfalls vernichtet. Das führt nicht nur vielfach zu erheblichen Gesundheitsschäden beim Menschen, sondern lässt sich an dem Vogelbestand bereits gut ablesen.
Daher ist es ein gutes Zeichen, dass die Schwalben zurückkommen. Wir bieten mehr Nahrung, Brutstätten und weniger Umweltgifte in den Innenstädten. Nebenbei braucht der Stadtneurotiker dann auch weniger in das Umland auszuschwärmen, um urwüchsigere Landschaft und Klangwelten zu erleben. Ein paar Singvögel leisten damit sogar einen Beitrag, die persönliche CO2-Bilanz aufzubessern.
Für alle, denen Vogelstimmen zum Wohlbefinden beitragen, hier noch ein Link auf die umfangreiche Hitliste der Stimmen der Mehlschwalben. Von dort lässt sich die Vielfalt weiter erkunden. Für Musikliebhabende lässt sich im Internet auch eine Webseite zu der Verwendung von Singvogelstimmen in der meist klassischen Musik und darüber hinaus, finden (BR-Klassik).
Schwalben schlagen zudem jede Wetterapp in der Kurzzeitvorhersage von Regenschauer im Sommer. Ein nahendes Tiefdruckgebiet mit Regenschauern zeigen die Schwalben bereits mit Tiefflug-Akrobatik an. Der richtige Indikator verbessert eben die Vorhersage. Das können Ökonomen und Meteorologen aus der Biodiversität lernen. Wir erfreuen uns einfach an dem Zischen der Schwalben im Flug und lassen uns inspirieren oder amüsieren uns an anderen Spielarten von Schwalben (Moped, Fußball, War and Diplomacy).

Ground Water

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

See Wasser

Der Bericht der europäischen Umweltagentur 2023 beschreibt eine durchschnittlich gute Wasserqualität der Seen in der EU (Link). Die Aufmerksamkeit für das Baden in den Seen und als touristisch wertvolle Naherholungsgebiete haben die Beachtung in den letzten Jahren wieder steigen lassen. Das ging leider oft auf Kosten der zu Wasserstraßen ausgebauten fließenden Gewässern. Dort befanden sich bis vor einigen Jahren noch vielerorts Flussbäder. Das war früher riskant und ist heute eigentlich größtenteils verboten. Wieder etwas, das wir dem Wirtschaftswachstum geopfert haben. Mehr Wirtschaftswachstum erscheint statistisch sinnvoll, mehr Lebensqualität hat das aber nicht immer mitsichgebracht. 

Himalaya

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

Birds

The study published in PNAS in May 2023 is demonstrating the loss in bio-diversity with respect to birds over last few decades. Our economic growth has caused considerable costs. Some of these costs we shall never be able to make up again. Species gone for ever, we should care. Measuring the loss is a first step in calculating the negative impact our economic growth models have already caused. Time to stop, repair and reverse as much as we still can. It is not fair to next generations to destroy a large amount of bio-diversity now and leave the exploited planet to “no-future generations”. A good documentation of the losses (radio-france-LINK) allows us to pin down who is most responsible for the losses. Agro-industry with the heavy use of pesticides is well known for the huge negative impact it has on bird populations and us as well. It is not only a European issue, but rather a world-wide issue. However, starting at home is a huge step to practice agriculture differently. Most of this is known for some time. It is the implementation of the necessary policies where powerful lobbying is successful to carry on as usual. Thinking “Beyond growth” delivers many useful perspectives and solutions to these problems.