This is one of many tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint.
This tip is specific to Germany. If anyone knows how to do this easily in other countries, please leave a message to me or a comment.
I thought I could write this tip very quickly, but it wasn’t that easy in the end. First, if you switch from coal-fired electricity to green energy, there is no risk that you will somehow be without electricity. Switching electricity is not like changing the phone provider, where you may end up without a connection for a few days if you’re unlucky. After a change of provider, you will receive the invoice from another provider next month, otherwise you will not notice any change.
So how do you find a good green energy provider? I found a portal when searching for providers: check24. Here it is important to click on “Green electricity only” (Ökostrom) and “Sustainable”. If you select “sustainable” (nachhaltig), you get local suppliers who actually invest in the production of green electricity (providers with the OK-Power or green electricity label). If you do not select this option, you may end up with electricity that’s just labeled as ecological. For example, you may buy Norwegian hydropower, which can lead to Norwegian electricity customers having our lignite electricity on the bill, because the certified green electricity is used here. More information can be found on the linked pages of the labels.
This information should actually be sufficient to change the electricity provider in five minutes.
You already have green electricity and nevertheless read up to here? Well, then ask your parents or children if they have green electricity and if not, help them to switch to a sustainable provider.
Do you dry your laundry in the dryer? Doesn’t have to be. There are clotheshorses with 0 kwh consumption. Even beautiful. From Side by Side Design from workshops for people with disabilities.
A nice side effect of drying on the clothes rack is that the evaporation creates coolness. So instead of using the tumble dryer to generate waste heat, you cool your apartment. And even in winter it is advantageous to dry the laundry in the flat: In new buildings, the air is usually too dry during the heating period, which is why it is sometimes advisable to attach evaporation bodies to the heating. The same effect can be achieved with drying laundry.1
Disadvantage: You need space and the thing is standing around.
In this category, I write about easy and more advanced things that you can do to reduce yourr CO2 emissions.
One way to save energy is to put goods that were cooled (e.g. milk, butter) immediately put in the fridge. This way, they do not heat up and do not need to be cooled down again.
This tip is relevant until all energy supply is switched to green electricity. Even after a complete changeover, it is relevant, as an increase in power consumption will require more modules/wind turbines/…, which must be produced.
I am now hearing more and more often that the pressure that arises when one perceives that one’s own actions are not compatible with one’s own values, and which is reinforced by FridaysForFuture, is compared with the social pressure that was built up in the GDR. The Nazi party AfD is playing with this cleverly, and the Freie Wähler are also campaigning against fear-mongers.
This blog post is intended to show why the comparison is fundamentally flawed.
Social pressure in the GDR: Commitment to military service of 13-year-olds
I simply give an example of how pressure worked in GDR and what the consequences were if one opposed the pressure and refused to collaborate with the system: I loved mathematics, was a member of the Mathematical Student Society (MSG) and I applied for the math school Heinrich Hertz. That was in 1981. There were two conditions for admission: a 90-minute test with mathematical brainteasers and an hour-long political conversation with members of the school board.
I passed the math test with the best possible result. During the recording interview, I was asked if I would take part in the GST camp and if I would serve in the army for three years. I was 13 years old. I had never thought about three years of military service, but spontaneously considered the idea crap. Eventually, the letter came with the rejection.
I am very grateful to my parents for fighting for me. They left no stone unturned. I received a supportive letter from MSG, they called the person responsible for education in Friedrichshain, the director of my POS. Then there was a second talk with the director of the POS, in which I explained that I would of course very much like to serve in the army for three years and that somehow this has always been my wish (sarcasm must be marked, right?).
The Hertz School was fantastic! I am still very happy that I was able to learn four years of my life there. I learned a lot of maths, physics and chemistry there, but the most important thing I learned there is to think in a structured way. Thanks for that!
What was not so nice was the pressure and political influence that was applied to students, as everywhere in the GDR. Paramilitary training was an integral part of the teaching. I learned to shoot with automatic weapons (compulsory military camp in the 9th century). And 11. Class). In physical education from the fifth grade onwards, we threw egg hand grenades.
Those who didn’t participate were out. A student a year above me was the absolute crack. He could have gone to the international Math Olympiad if they would have given him permission to travel. He refused the GST camp and then became a shepherd. Shepherd. After a few years, he was able to get a temporary job as a system operator in the Academy of Sciences. After the system collapsed, he studied.
Scientifically sound worldview
The SED and its representatives have claimed that they have a scientifically sound world view. Somehow one would then assume that this world view can also be discussed scientifically. We had a compulsory event called the FDJ Study Year, which took place once a month (?). A Stasi man did that with us. I had learned in the Introduction to Socialist Production lessons that communism could only be achieved if socialism prevailed in all countries. This was also immediately obvious to me, because otherwise the capitalists would simply come and eat our bread. I mentioned this in the discussion with the Stasi man, which resulted in a 10-minute lecture about me in front of the parents’ council (perhaps also in the parents’ meeting of the party members, which took place before the regular meeting).
At the end of school we were all in the FDJ. At the beginning, there was a boy who was not in the FDJ (a miracle that he had made it to school in the first place. In the 11th grade, he then applied for admission. In the FDJ meeting, which was about his admission, he was asked by the agitator about the reasons for his request for admission. The expectation now was that something like world peace, class struggle, insight would come. His answer was, “I want to study.” I grinned internally and admired him.
Commitment to three years of military service
I remember very well an FDJ session dealing with military service. The basic military service in the GDR was 18 months. Loyal citizens committed themselves for three years, even more loyal ones for 4 years (officer career, sub-lieutenant) and the greatest heroes for 25 years. In the meeting we were all sitting in a circle and I remember the agitator asking me, “And Stefan, what are you doing for peace?” I hated it. Some girls took part in this putting pressure on people and asked us to go to the army for three years. In the magazine Neues Leben there were such stories about girls who, of course, waited for their sweetheart during the army time and supported him really strongly morally.
The GDR wanted to ensure that those who study were also loyal to the system. The commitment to three years of military service was therefore an important part of the application for study. There were probably people who made it without the obligation, but we didn’t know that and the risk was great: once rejected for political reasons meant: shepherd. See above. All institutions were connected. People had a Kaderakte, a file that traveled along with you your whole live; if there was anything in it, you were out. Shepherd. There is a good description of this in Christoph Hein’s Tangospieler (tango player). Even if companies were desperately looking for workers, they couldn’t hire people if there was something wrong with their file.
I was in the army for three years. With two exceptions, all the guys in my class have committed for three years. From 18 to 21, I have spent over 1000 days of my life wishing that this part of my life is over.1 I am a pacifist. I would never have served in the army in the West. This option did not exist in the East. There were Bausoldaten `construction soldiers’, they wore uniforms and built rocket launching sites. If you went this way, the only thing you could study was theology. Total denial meant imprisonment.
That was social pressure!
Moral pressure of the bleeding hearts
What is the situation today? FridaysForFuture has been around for a year and the consequences of the climate crisis have been more visible for several years. Depending on the filter bubble they are in, people start to wake up. Events threaten us. Greta Thunberg said we should act as if the world was on fire. Well, and now it is on fire. We have the reports in the press, on television, on social media. The glaciers are melting, the permafrost soils are thawing. 70 years before the expected date. Tipping points could be reached. To avoid worse, CO2 emissions must be reduced to one tonne per person per year. The German average is 11.61 tonnes. 10% of Germans have an average of as much as 17.7 tonnes. The consequence is that we should demand everything politically possible, which favors a reduction, and also that we must contribute to a reduction by changing our behavior.
This leads to cognitive dissonances, which are naturally amplified by renewed evidence of the problem. Vegetarians have always been unpleasant contemporaries. Even if they didn’t say anything and just quietly muzzled their veggie burger. They were the personified accusation. This is amplifying and intensifying right now: the one who sees the colleague with the bicycle helmet, thinks: “Oh, crap, I came by car today. It drizzled.” The one who wants to report from his conference in Tokyo thinks: “Oh, crap, he doesn’t fly anymore. I’d rather shut up.”
All of this is difficult, but it cannot be blamed on those who clearly state that we as humanity have a problem. People are good at displacing. This is called terror management, as I learned from the PsychologistsForFuture.
In the current situation, we must no longer displace (say the PsychologistsForFuture). We must face up to reality and consider what we can do. Everyone a bit. As much as it goes.
The social pressure of the bleeding hearts results from the acute circumstances, it is not – in any way – comparable to what took place in the GDR, because there are no negative consequences when someone eats meat or takes a plane. The only thing there is is acognitive dissonance. And this is a good thing! Have fear!
In this category, I write about small and large things that each person can do to help reduce their energy consumption and thus CO2 emissions.
You don’t shower for long and not hot, but there’s this one person in the family who just takes a long time to wake up? There is a very simple solution: the flow limiter. This allows the water flow to be limited to half. Anyone can install it and it costs around €5. According to energiesparen-im-haushalt.de, a family of four can save up to 47,500 litres of water and 1,950 kWh of energy per year with flow limiters.
Flygskam is a Swedish word, literally translated as flight shame. It is intended to describe the feeling that one has or is supposed to have when flying. It is clear that flying has the largest impact on CO2 emissions of those who do fly (e.g. academics and middle and upper class people flying for leisure).
The result of this debate in Sweden was a reduction in flights and a shift towards train trips. The following figures from Bloomberg show the decrease of passengers at Swedish airports and the increase of passengers on SJ, the Swedish train company.1
This increase took place despite a bankruptcy of a major airline (Air Berlin). The bankruptcy had an effect on inner-German flights though: they went down by 0.8% since the slots could not be filled quickly enough and other airlines raised their prices.2
Personally, I think that those journalists who give us good reasons to calm down and continue flying as if the world was not on fire are guilty. They support a billion dollar industry that is about to kill us. Of course it is perfectly legitimate to discuss concepts like shame, guilt and moral and this is expected from journals with the respective profile like the Zeit but enough is known by now about alternative fuel, about energy consumption and costs of Power To Liquid and so on, so that it can be said that using this to pacify our sore conscience is illegitimate.
A similar argument against shame can be found in the article Gesetze statt Scham by Tadzio Müller published by the newspaper taz. He argues that shaming was used on LGBQT people and that it did not have an effect on them apart from feeling bad and that gay pride is the result of this. I fully agree with him on this and this is basically the Church 2.0 aspect. Remi wrote in another tweet:
I think “shaming” people because they take a plane is a counterproductive and harmful strategy. It is increasingly used as a strategy in the fight for more social and environmental justice. Shaming should be used as a last resort, e.g. for horrendous acts such as racism and assault. In all other cases, you try to exert power and “moral superiority” on other people … which breeds resentment. In my native country, the Left fought such attitudes by the Catholic Church, whose strategy existed in shaming people for everything and pretending to have moral superiority. You were born a sinner, and now I see everywhere the idea of “the original sin” and other dirty tricks of religious institutions used by the very same people who fought those tactics before. You have to grow a common consciousness about big issues such as climate change so that people act sensibly based on their own moral compass rather than based on shame. Because shame doesn’t change your behaviour at all, it only makes you do you behave in more secrecy, which causes all kinds of additional stress and frustration. It is why the Church invented confession, and just like you could buy your ticket to heaven, rich people and countries can now buy additional carbon emissions.
Before we go on, I would like to suggest another word instead of flight shame. Maybe flight responsibility is the right word for this which should be used. Tadzio Müller also made a remark pointing into this direction:
Shame differs from “bad conscience” which invokes a reflective and decisive subject: “do not use the N-word because it reproduces racisms” is a completely different statement than “be ashamed of this racist word”. It is therefore shame, not the conscience, with which heteronormative majority societies have attempted to control queer people and deter them from deviant behavior since the beginning of capitalist modernity.5
So, maybe Tadzio would be happy with the word Fluggewissen `flight conscience’ rather than Flugscham.
Here, is what I replied to his article about LBGTQ and shame in a reader’s letter:
Tadzio Müller compares flying shame with shame created or attempted to be created in queer humans. He distinguishes between rational arguments and shaming and writes: “Shame differs from ‘bad conscience’ that calls upon a reflective and decisive subject: ‘Don’t use the N-word because it reproduces racisms’ is a completely different statement than ‘be ashamed of this racist word’.” Two points to this. First, it’s nobody’s business who loves whom, publicly or not publicly. When two people love each other, they do no harm. On the contrary: usually both are better off than without love and thus the whole environment of the lovers has a more pleasant life. That is unfortunately different with flying. People who fly harm other people. They harm themselves, their neighbors, but also those who are affected by the melting of glaciers or the rise in sea levels. They deprive these often much poorer people of the basis of their existence. Secondly, the rational arguments have been exchanged. They have been repeated for 30 or 40 years, and increasingly so in recent years, when the consequences of the climate crisis have become visible and tangible. So to those who are not accessible to rational arguments, one can only shout: shame on you! Societies change slowly, probably too slowly in the case of the climate crisis, but if people who invite others to an evening with slides from their China holiday only reap horrified looks, then perhaps something will change after all.6
Stefan Müller, reader’s letter, August 07, 2019
So, I think that those who know what they are doing since they follow the discussion, since they know about the damage they do should feel guilty since they are guilty. They knowingly destroy the basis of existence of their fellow human beings. Shame 1.0 (the Catholic Church version) is probably the wrong concept. The church 1.0 tried to make believers guilty for eating too much, for having sex with people outside of marriage, for sex without reproduction, for masturbation, for wanting control over their own body. Some of these rules may have been reasonable in the history of mankind, but there is no point insisting on them in present days. People who masturbate do not harm anybody. People who love each other and have sex, homosexual, straight or whatever do not cause any damage for society. On the contrary: Usually they are more pleasant people to interact with. But what we are talking about here is a behaviour that causes damage. And here one commandment of the church is relevant: Thou shalt not kill! This is not just one of the ten commandments, it is a rule all societies have. And this is the difference between masturbation and flying. For males masturbation results in a stain on the blanket while flying causes an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere leading to the death of people who do not even fly themselves. The stain is nothing to feel bad about, the CO2 is.
Sin and sale of indulgences 2.0
The term climate sin is used a lot in the media. It does not mean anything to me. I do not use it. I was brought up areligiously in East Germany. I do not believe in God. Well, maybe a bit. In the evening. But I know the concept of shame. For me it is independent of religion but I understand why people who had to suffer from the church fight the concept.
Another term is related to the Catholic Church: Ablasshandel (sale of indulgences). The differences between the real thing and the fake 2.0 version is that 1.0 made a powerful institution even more powerful so it could intensify shame 1.0 put on people. This is different for the sale of indulgences 2.0: This money actually supports projects avoiding CO2. It helps people in Kenia, in India. I flew a lot and I feel bad about this. I compensated these flights. I think there is a crucial difference here. The compensation is directly related to what one did. Having sex with your partner without marriage is not something bad to do in the first place but how could payment to some institution make this undone or compensate for it?
So those who have to fly should take any measure to take CO2 out of the atmosphere or avoid it elsewhere. The best thing of course would be to not fly in the first place.
Compartmentalization and smygflyga (secret flying)
Tadzio Müller writes that shaming does not help because people will just continue what they used to do but without telling anybody:
Two thoughts: First, if you want to upgrade shaming to a generalized control strategy (despite criticism of slut, fat or body shaming, for example), you should first talk to queer people, because we have considerable experience with what it feels like to live in a state of constant shaming. It feels like shit (“agonizing sensation”). But we do not change our behaviour permanently because of this – we split off: Compartmentalization is what this is called; and we continue with the collective but now invisible deviance.7
A similar view can be found in an article by Die Zeit (discussing the concept of flight shame but arguing for avoidance of short distance trips):
Opinion makers would put pressure on social pressure and emphasize the embarrassment of flying. But there is a risk: that people would do it secretly, so smygflyga. Whether secretly or not, however, the climate would not care much.8
As said above, shaming is probably the wrong word. Awareness, responsibilty is probably better. But let’s assume there would be the compartmentization that Tadzio Müller predicts and the smygflyga `secret flying’ feared by Klaus Raab. Would that be bad? Would we have gained something? I think yes. Consider smoking. Smoking was bad not just for the smoker but also for everybody who does not smoke. Kids, people in restaurants were affected. So smoking was forbidden. Advertisement restricted. Now, if flying is associated with irresponsibility, people will stop talking about it as if it was something great. They will stop showing off with their trips on Instagram. This will change society. People tend to compare themselves with others. If they do not know that their friends were in Vietnam, they do not feel the need to go there. If advertisement for flight trips is banned in addition, the demand in flights will decrease. Of course there will be forums in the net were people can exchange descriptions and pictures of their long distance trips but the influence will be much smaller. Like with smoking: it is uncool.
As for academics: The CVs are a very important part of the academic circus.9 You use it for job applications, for grant applications and so on. If your CV says that you gave talks in the US, China, South Africa, Australia, this gives away everything. So compartmentalization does not work in academia. We are all out and in the open. Check my list of talks if you want to. Objection: “But if flying is stigmatized people will not put it into their CVs anymore.” Answer: “Good. This means that the incentive to fly is gone. #FlightResponsibility won.” And even if academics continue flying and do not put their conference presentations into their CVs, their names will be contained in conference announcements and in conference proceedings. There is no way of ecaping the responsibility.
And finally: Whatever it is flight awareness or flight shame, there is a result in Sweden: even if some of the Swedes do smygflyga, the total number of flights decreased and the number of train trips increased. This shift occured against a global trend pointing into the other direction. So while the number of passangers increased globally by 7.1% in 2018, it was reduced by 9% in Sweden (comparing March 2018 with March 2019). This means that the effect of flygsakm is even bigger than just the 9% since it works against the global trend (the German increase was 4.2%).
Laws instead of shame or laws instead of responsibility
Tadzio Müller argues that we need laws to fix the situation:
Does shame convince you of paying your taxes? No. The law does. So let’s talk about ethics and laws rather than turning society as a whole into embarrassed and/or stubborn toddlers.10
He asks: “Is it shame that makes you pay taxes? No, it is the law.” I think he is partly wrong here. There are perfectly leagel ways to avoid taxes and it is a question of responsibility for the society the respective tax payer lives in whether he or she tries to avoid paying or not. Do I move to Switzerland? The Canary Islands? Do I have to have a private swimming pool while the whole city decides to lower the temperature in public pools by 1 degree in order to save money? Again, shame is probably the wrong word. Responsibility may be nicer.
I guess Remi van Trijp’s and Tadzio Müller’s arguments against shame were not made in favor of billion dollar industries but they have the effect that changes are delayed. People refuse responsibilities and wait for the laws to be passed. As we know from the past decades, this will never happen or if it does, everything is painfully slow. The problem with this is: we, the human race, are facing an existential threat. And we have to act now. We have to take responsibility for our actions. We have to avoid flights, we have to reduce meat consumption and car traffic.
Let’s talk about flight responsibility instead of flight shame, lets talk about train pride to give it a positive twist. Researchers in Berlin/Brandenburg started the GretaChallenge and collect descriptions of (business) trips they did without flying.
Declaring climate emergency does not have any legally binding consequences. It rather is a self-commitment of the organizations to rank climate aspects higher. So, lots of people think this is a good thing. Berlin should follow other cities and declare a climate emergency.
Question: Why don’t we declare our private climate emergency? What does this mean? Reflect everything we do and consider whether it is really necessary. Do I have to take the car? Well, it is raining! So what? OK, I will take it today but will go by public transport tomorrow. Do I buy these four steaks? They are cheap. Or maybe I buy just one more expensive one that is coming from a happy cow. Or maybe none since I had one yesterday. Do I have to buy this pullover? The old one is still good enough. Could I buy it in a local store or do I have to use a delivery service?
Do I go to this demonstration/picket/direct action or do I stay in bed? Of course political actions are much more important then all this private, individual stuff. But you could do things on top of political actions. We, as societies, have to change anyway and it is better to do it in free will rather than being forced to do it.
We could have a diary taking notes of what we did not or what kind of process we optimized. Did you take the lift? Or did you take the stairs? Did you set the air condition to 18°, to 20° or did you switch it off. You do not have any? Good. Let’s do everything to make the introduction of air condition unnecessary for those who do not have any right now.
Time and again, when it comes to flight waivers, I hear the argument: “The plane flies anyway with or without me.” I heard it for the first time at a parents’ evening, which was about the final ride in the tenth grade. Naples and Zinnowitz were available. Now the argument also appears in discussions of Scientist4Future, namely by scientists who do not fly themselves, who spend a large part of their lives with actions against airport expansion and aircraft noise. There has to be something about this argument. I think it doesn’t work and here’s why:
Infrastructure function of flights
Statement: If we do not use short-haul flights, this will be of no use, because the feeder flights have an infrastructure function and the airlines will continue to fly, so that their customers do not compete.
Answer: That is partly true. I also flew to Hong Kong via London. But there is much more air traffic to London than would be important for the feeder function. I talked to a concert-goer about common musical interests and she told me enthusiastically about XY, which unfortunately would only play in London this year. She therefore flew to the concert. The same holds for Paris.
Here are the flights British Airways offers to London:
The flights are partly at the same time, at times at a distance of 45 minutes. These are the flights of only one airline! (There are also two Eurowings services, seven from Easyjet and four from Ryanair) If flights were uneconomical, the airlines would join forces, as has already happened with the Star Alliance, Sky Team and OneWorld Allience.
And there are examples of airline bankruptcy because of inefficiency. There are no longer connections from Berlin to Hamburg because there is a very fast ICE connection. Working through my flights, I found tickets from 1994. I flew to Helsinki via Hamburg. Madness. into the plane, up, down, waited a bit until the Hamburgers had got off and boarded, then on. Today you can still fly there, but then you fly via Stuttgart or Cologne:
Statement: The slots are very valuable for the airlines. If they cease a route, they would lose the slot, so they “would rather fly popcorn around than give up the slot.”
Answer: Yes, airlines do. AirBerlin has been doing it for years. I have a colleague who bought a ticket Berlin-Salzburg for 3 € plus taxes. His flights were repeatedly cancelled. He then spent a night in the hotel, because the flight would have been too costly for the airline. It would have been so expensive that they preferred to pay the passengers one night at the hotel. In the end, AirBerlin went bust. Because of popcorn, so to speak.
It is true that if all short-haul flights were cancelled and there were long-haul flights in all slots instead, we would end up worse off. To do so, however, there would have to be growth in long-haul flights. The aviation industry is also predicting this. However, if we do not use short- and long-haul flights, voluntarily or because they are taxed at 180€/tonne of CO2, there will be no growth.
Parallel reasoning in other areas
If this argument were to work, then any change in consumer behavior would have to be pointless. In the same way, one could argue: “The chicken in the freezer was already dead. Therefore I can eat it. Otherwise someone else would eat it.” But the chicken is reared and slaughtered because there is a certain need in the population. As a farmer and as a wholesaler and as a retailer, you can estimate how many chickens you can bring to the man. If no one buys chickens, no more will be produced.
So far, so good. Those who really have to fly should at least compensate (with an appropriate factor). If you do not have to fly and only travel for leisure consider stop flying. I stopped flying in August 2019 and many others did so before. Do you compensate? Do you reduce flying? Leave comments!