Private climate emergency

More and more cities and states declare a climate emergency. An impressive list of 935 jurisdictions in 18 countries is available in the net. Berlin is not part of this yet, but one district (Pankow) is. Berlin-based activists collected 43,522 signatures to get the topic on the agenda of the Berlin senate (20,000 are required). I signed as well.

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.

I herewith declare my private climate emergency.

The plane would have flown anyway

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:

British Airways Berlin-London flight for 16 Sep. 2019

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:

Query for flights Berlin-Hamburg on 16.09.2019

In 2015, four airlines suspended flights to Russia due to a lack of profitability. So there are examples.

Start/Land lots would be used differently

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.

Example Sweden: Flygskam

In Sweden, the number of flights fell by 9% between March last year and this year. This shows that a social rethink can be successful.

Conclusion

“The plane would have flown anyway” does not work as an argument. We simply have to avoid flights whenever possible.

Why this focus on flying and meat? And who are you to request this?

I got an email from my colleague Andreas Pankau1, who reads the twitter posts by researchstrejk and me but does not comment on twitter. Since the answers to his questions are probably of more relevance I decided to write a blog post. It is a mix of private and general discussion.

Andreas asks about this focus on meat and flying, he asks about whether I dispense with other ecologically problematic things and what gives me the right to ask for things like a self-commitment to not fly short distances and reduce meat consumption. He remarks that demanding car-free cities is bad for the poor, who have to commute and asks why FFF and reserchstrejk and me do not address general political problems, that is things that have to be changed on the level of the society rather than an individual level.

I provide the complete email here and then cite parts for discussion:

Hi Stefan,

bin grad über deinen twitter-account und den von researchstrejk gestolpert. Ein paar Anmerkungen dazu (ungefragt, aber hey, du bist auf twitter, also legst du’s ja an auf ungebetene Kommentare :-)).

Erstens, ich denke, wir sind uns einige, dass man unsinnige Flüge vermeiden muss (z.B. Kurzstreckenflüge). Genauso sinnvoll ist es, auf Fleisch zu verzichten. Was ich hierbei nicht verstehe: warum dieser Fokus auf Fliegen und Fleisch? Du kannst ja mal spaßeshalber suchen, was Internet und die Nutzung elektronischer Geräte (aka privater Stromverbrauch) so an CO2 verursachen (kleiner Tipp: eine Menge! :-)). Gleiches gilt z.B. für Kaffee, Schokolade, und Bananen: das alles wird auf Feldern angebaut, wo auch Bäume stehen könnten (oder gestanden haben), und dann mit riesigen Schiffen um die Welt geschippert. CO2-Verbrauch bis zum Abnippeln! Wieso ist das nie Thema? Oder anders gefragt: wärst du bereit, wieder analog zu lesen (also auf Papier), all deine Lehrveranstaltungen ganz ohne technischen Schnickschnack abzuhalten, und auf Kaffee, Schokolade, und Bananen zu verzichten? Lesen am Rechner verbraucht Unmengen an sinnloser Energie, weil Lesen plötzlich Stromverbrauch impliziert, was bei gedruckten Büchern nicht der Fall ist. Unterrichten mit Beamer ebenso. Und Konsum von Bananen, Kaffee, und Schokolade erzeugt ebenso unsinnigen CO2-Ausstoß. Wenn du das nicht machen würdest, warum sollen dann andere auf Fliegen und Fleisch verzichten, wo doch all diese Dinge CO2-Verbrauch verursachen und nicht notwendig sind?

Zweitens, du hast einen Artikel vom Tagesspiegel retweetet, den hier: https://www.tagesspiegel.de/themen/reportage/gaerten-statt-beton-so-begegnet-paris-dem-klimawandel/24862586.html Zu dem Thema empfehle ich die Bücher von Christophe Guilluy. Die Leute, die in Paris wohnen, brauchen kein Auto, das lohnt sich nicht. Gleichzeitig ist das Wohnen innerhalb von Paris so teuer, dass sich das nur reiche Mitbürger leisten können. Die, die in Paris arbeiten und dabei kein üppiges Salär haben, *müssen* außerhalb wohnen (wie das auch in London der Fall ist). Was die Pariser Bürgermeisterin am Ende des Tages macht, ist also, es wenig begüterten Leuten aus den Umland schwer zu machen, in die Stadt zu kommen, in der sie arbeiten müssen. Oder anders gesagt: saubere Luft für das gehobene Bildungsbürgertum (aka bobo, bohemian bourgeois), der Pöbel darf gern im Stau stehen und sich um die Versorgung der bobos kümmern. Und das umgesetzt von einer sozialistischen Bürgermeistern. Ich denke, wenn das die Stoßrichtung linker Politik wird (Unterstützung der oberen gegen die Masse), dann wird linke Politik (zumindestens in dieser Form) zum politischen Gegner.

Drittens, ich hab ein sehr großes Unbehagen bei euren ganzen Aktionen. Die basieren am Ende des Tages darauf, dass das einzelne Individuum sein Verhalten ändert, und alles wird gut: jeder isst weniger Fleisch, jeder fliegt weniger (außer Luisa Neubauer, da reicht es, wenn sie es fordert), und jeder der das nicht macht, soll sich schämen. Diese Strategie *alleine* wird am Ende zu genau nichts führen, wenn sie nicht in einen größeren politischen Aktionskontext eingebettet ist. Stichwort Fliegen: warum fliegen Akademiker zig mal im Jahr hin und her? Weil es vom System, das Stellen vergibt, am Ende honoriert wird. Und wenn Öl als Rohstoff nicht teurer wird, wird auch der Ölverbrauch nicht sinken (aber stattdessen überlegt ja der GRÜNE Robert Habeck, ob man nicht Militärmissionen zum Schutz deutscher Handelswege, also zum Schutz der Routen von Öltankern, entsendet; wenn das der Führer noch erlebt hätte! :-)). Stichwort Fleisch: solange es legal ist, billige Arbeitskräfte aus dem Balkan in deutschen Schlachthäusern zu verheizen (alles dank der rot-GRÜNEN Arbeitsmarktreformen, von denen sich die GRÜNEN bisher nie distanziert haben) und solange die EU-Agrarpolitik intensiv betriebene Landwirtschaft befördert, wird sich genau gar nichts ändern. Eine Agrarwende ist was anderes als Fleischverzicht, auch wenn das FFF noch nicht verstanden haben (https://twitter.com/FridayForFuture/status/1159398178380288002). Leider finde ich nichts davon bei dir/euch. Keine Kritik an der Unterfinanzierung des deutschen Bildungswesens, das sinnlosen Wettbewerb fördert. Keine Kritik an der EU-Förderparaxis in seiner jetzigen Form (ist das vielleicht zu EU-kritisch?). Keine Forderungen nach sozialen Arbeitsmarktreformen, die den Preis für Fleisch automatisch steigen lassen würden. Auch von FFF hör ich nichts dazu. Wenn aber ein Fleischfabrikant wie Tönnies die Mottenkiste der Afrikaklischees aufmacht, ist FFF zur Stelle (https://twitter.com/FridayForFuture/status/1157223707544346625). Wenn bei Tönnies nur Leute ausgebeutet werden, ist das keinen tweet Wert.

Viele Grüße, Andreas

bin grad über deinen twitter-account und den von researchstrejk gestolpert. Ein paar Anmerkungen dazu (ungefragt, aber hey, du bist auf twitter, also legst du’s ja an auf ungebetene Kommentare :-)).

Yes. =:-) Discussion is good. We have to think about stuff.

Why this focus on meat and flying?

Erstens, ich denke, wir sind uns einige, dass man unsinnige Flüge vermeiden muss (z.B. Kurzstreckenflüge). Genauso sinnvoll ist es, auf Fleisch zu verzichten. Was ich hierbei nicht verstehe: warum dieser Fokus auf Fliegen und Fleisch? Du kannst ja mal spaßeshalber suchen, was Internet und die Nutzung elektronischer Geräte (aka privater Stromverbrauch) so an CO2 verursachen (kleiner Tipp: eine Menge! :-)). Gleiches gilt z.B. für Kaffee, Schokolade, und Bananen: das alles wird auf Feldern angebaut, wo auch Bäume stehen könnten (oder gestanden haben), und dann mit riesigen Schiffen um die Welt geschippert. CO2-Verbrauch bis zum Abnippeln! Wieso ist das nie Thema? Oder anders gefragt: wärst du bereit, wieder analog zu lesen (also auf Papier), all deine Lehrveranstaltungen ganz ohne technischen Schnickschnack abzuhalten, und auf Kaffee, Schokolade, und Bananen zu verzichten? Lesen am Rechner verbraucht Unmengen an sinnloser Energie, weil Lesen plötzlich Stromverbrauch impliziert, was bei gedruckten Büchern nicht der Fall ist. Unterrichten mit Beamer ebenso. Und Konsum von Bananen, Kaffee, und Schokolade erzeugt ebenso unsinnigen CO2-Ausstoß. Wenn du das nicht machen würdest, warum sollen dann andere auf Fliegen und Fleisch verzichten, wo doch all diese Dinge CO2-Verbrauch verursachen und nicht notwendig sind?

My colleague asks why there is this focus on meat and flying. The answer is: Meat and flying are – next to cars (and I tweet a lot about cars as well, see below) – the areas with the greatest impact as far as our individual lives are concerned:

Currently there maybe a disbalance with focus on meat and flying but this is in part due to the fact how social media works. Meat is a topic that concerns everybody. It affects everybody’s daily decisions. Most of us (western people) eat meat and most eat too much. So the demand to reduce meat consumption is a big topic in our societies and this is reflected on twitter. Since it is easy to retweet, the impact of certain topics is amplified. Let’s discuss meat and flying in a bit more detail.

Meat

According to the Spiegel, meat consumption is responsible for a quarter of our CO2 emissions. So it is worth talking about this.

The CO2 calculator of the Umweltbundesamt says that the average German has a CO2 footprint of 11,61 tons per year. 1,74 tons are due to nutrition. If meat consumption is reduced by a quarter to 75% 0,1 tons or 100 kg are saved. A completely vegetarian diet saves 0,45 tons or 450 kg.

Reduziert ein Durchschnittsdeutscher seinen Fleischkonsum um ungefähr ein Viertel, spart er 0,1 Tonnen CO2 ein, bei vollständig vegetarischer Ernährung spart er 0,45 Tonnen. Das entspricht einem Viertel des durch die Ernährung entstehenden CO2.

Spiegel Online, 2019

In general Germans eat too much meat. The WHO suggest 300–600g per week, Germans eat more then twice as much (60 kg per year). And you would not think that it could get much worse, but Americans and Australians eat almost twice as much as Germans:

Meat consumption and prices. Picture taken in the exhibition Artefakte in the Museeum für Naturkunde 2019

There is an interesting set of publications by the Le Monde Diplomatique, BUND, and Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung about meat. It contains a lot of statistics and illustrations.

So: meat reduction will be more healthy for Western people in general and Germans in particular and it will save the planet. Hence, this is an important topic.

On a more personal level: I do care about nutrition, always did. I used to eat next to no meat in the past decades. I occasionally ate a duck in an Asian restaurant. For some reason I thought ducks are these animals that swim on lakes. You usually see them in parks. I thought that they had a better live than chicken. But I was wrong. I found out about the miserable life of the ducks on my plate this year and stopped eating them (their life is even more miserable than that of chicken since they are used to live on the water). After a discussion with my son a became a strict vegetarian this year.

Flying

Why focus on flying? You mention Luisa Neubauer also entitled Langstrecken-Luisa by her enemies. I think this is cheap (see below), but it works. Now, we scientist say: the factors are so and so and you should do this and that, but what do we do? How do we behave? We as scientist fly much much more than the average population. From my fights against the Tegel airport I know that the average Berliner flies two times the year. Have a look at typical academic CVs and you will see that there is much more flying going on in academia (holiday trips on top, of course). The ETH Zürich did a study and found that half of their CO2 impact is due to travel and 93% of this due to air travel.

So, this is something that definitely has to change! The people behind climatewednesday.org are working on this. We try to change rules and regulations that favor flying and we ask our colleagues to self-commit to not do short distance flights.

What about coffee, chocolate, bananas?

Du kannst ja mal spaßeshalber suchen, was Internet und die Nutzung elektronischer Geräte (aka privater Stromverbrauch) so an CO2 verursachen (kleiner Tipp: eine Menge! :-)). Gleiches gilt z.B. für Kaffee, Schokolade, und Bananen: das alles wird auf Feldern angebaut, wo auch Bäume stehen könnten (oder gestanden haben), und dann mit riesigen Schiffen um die Welt geschippert. CO2-Verbrauch bis zum Abnippeln! Wieso ist das nie Thema? Oder anders gefragt: wärst du bereit, wieder analog zu lesen (also auf Papier), all deine Lehrveranstaltungen ganz ohne technischen Schnickschnack abzuhalten, und auf Kaffee, Schokolade, und Bananen zu verzichten? Lesen am Rechner verbraucht Unmengen an sinnloser Energie, weil Lesen plötzlich Stromverbrauch impliziert, was bei gedruckten Büchern nicht der Fall ist. Unterrichten mit Beamer ebenso. Und Konsum von Bananen, Kaffee, und Schokolade erzeugt ebenso unsinnigen CO2-Ausstoß. Wenn du das nicht machen würdest, warum sollen dann andere auf Fliegen und Fleisch verzichten, wo doch all diese Dinge CO2-Verbrauch verursachen und nicht notwendig sind?

Andreas Pankau, email, 10.08.2019

Andreas rightly points out that the consumption of coffee, chocolate and bananas is problematic as well because of the resources needed locally for their production and the transportation and asks me whether I would be willing to refrain from consuming these things. The answer is: I do not drink coffee. I never buy chocolate for myself, but I buy it as a present for others. I eat some when it is around. I do eat bananas. But of course the question is how and when. In general food consumption should be as local as possible and it should be regional. I buy all the things I buy this way: butter (yes, I know, butter is number 1 in CO2. I try to reduce butter), yogurt, milk. The last time I ate a banana was probably in April. It does not make sense to eat bananas when you have strawberries or cherries. During the winter there is a trade off whether you eat stuff the traveled a long distance or whether it was cooled for a long time. I always think about these things, I always did. Starting in 1990 when I could buy things that did not grow on trees around the corner.

By the way: the Domäne Dahlem has a permanent exhibition: the Culinarium. It shows you when certain food is ripe and when it is safe to buy it. We were there with the kids.

What about electronic devices?

Lesen am Rechner verbraucht Unmengen an sinnloser Energie, weil Lesen plötzlich Stromverbrauch impliziert, was bei gedruckten Büchern nicht der Fall ist. Unterrichten mit Beamer ebenso.

The question about electronic devices is an interesting one. There are several factors involved:

  • production of the device
  • live cycle of the device
  • energy consumption of the device
  • usability
  • alternatives

Producing the devices is horrible. You need a lot of energy for this. Batteries and so on. If one decided to buy one of these the question is how long one uses them. I use Apple products and they are known to have a long live and they are supplied with software updates, which is not the case for many alternative phones and tablets. Then there is the energy consumption of the devices in every day use. Finally, the question is: what are the alternatives.

As for energy consumption: We are living in a house with nine other parties. It is a house full of eco freaks and we have solar panels on our roof. The solar panels are used to produce electric power that is used for running the geothermal heating and the water circulation. The remaining energy is transferred to the general power network (for technical reasons, we cannot use it ourselves). But the general power I am using in my flat is eco power. 100%. Since 2/2005. So it comes for free as far as CO2 is concerned. We are planning to install additional modules on our balcony. Solar systems are very efficient by now. Everybody can do this. No special permissions are required for installing them.

Apart from this we have the lowest absolute and per head energy consumption in our house (remember: all eco freaks).

Bill of the eco power supplier rating the anual power consumption: 4 person houshold with two people in home office and a heat exchanger. Total consumtion: 2116 kWh

Despite the fact that we have two persons in the home office and a heat exchanger that runs 24 hours 365 days the year. It saves a lot of energy for heating in the winter but needs electric power (the equivalent of a light bulb 65W).

Whether the alternatives to eReaders are better is an interesting question. As you know, I am in the publishing business. We are running the publishing house Language Science Press. In connection with this I dealt with the publishing process more than usual. If you want to read a printed book, several things have to happen before:

  • book has to be printed
  • book is stored in a central place (Großhändler/wholesaler)
  • book is delivered to the book store
  • book is stored on your book shelf

Printing needs resources for paper production. Storage needs space. Distribution needs fuel. Usually cars bring the books to the wholesaler and from there to the book stores. Finally, you probably keep the book after reading on your book shelf. The central store, the book store and your flat need heating and power for light. You need bigger flats for storing all the papers and books. Bigger flats require more energy for heating. Transportation and heating are among the bigger chunks in our CO2 impact.

Similar consideration apply to newspapers. Delivering them in Berlin may be OK, but Brandenburg is a different story. The population density is not very high. So one needs cars to bring the newspapers to their readers. For such reasons, the taz will stop their print edition in 2022.

As for using projectors for teaching: in the old days we used transparencies. If one changed something or inserted a slide, everything had to be reprinted. On slides, plastic stuff. The projectors needed electric power as well. Would be interesting to see a study on this, but I guess the old days were not much more ecological than what we do now. My father wrote his PhD thesis on a type writer. I would not want to go back as far as this …

The central goal of climatewednesday apart from supporting the general goals of FFF is to reach climate neutrality of universities. One component is to use renewable energy throughout. The FU has a high number of solar cells on their roofs. One can see this using google maps. The same applies to University Potsdam. Renewable energies do not have a CO2 imprint (abstracting away from the production of modules and so on). So, using a projector and laptop in the university is not a crime in terms of climate, once we reached 100% renewables in the universities.

Why do you demand us to do X while you are doing an unrelated Y?

This is a form of whataboutism. It is generaly used as a political strategy, which does not mean that you (Andreas) used this consiously or by purpose. Yes, we need to change a lot of things and we have to change them simultaneously. It does not help to point to cars when talking about coal or to point to flight emissions when talking about nutrition.

Car free cities, gentrification, and the poor

Zweitens, du hast einen Artikel vom Tagesspiegel retweetet, den hier: https://www.tagesspiegel.de/themen/reportage/gaerten-statt-beton-so-begegnet-paris-dem-klimawandel/24862586.html Zu dem Thema empfehle ich die Bücher von Christophe Guilluy. Die Leute, die in Paris wohnen, brauchen kein Auto, das lohnt sich nicht. Gleichzeitig ist das Wohnen innerhalb von Paris so teuer, dass sich das nur reiche Mitbürger leisten können. Die, die in Paris arbeiten und dabei kein üppiges Salär haben, *müssen* außerhalb wohnen (wie das auch in London der Fall ist). Was die Pariser Bürgermeisterin am Ende des Tages macht, ist also, es wenig begüterten Leuten aus den Umland schwer zu machen, in die Stadt zu kommen, in der sie arbeiten müssen. Oder anders gesagt: saubere Luft für das gehobene Bildungsbürgertum (aka bobo, bohemian bourgeois), der Pöbel darf gern im Stau stehen und sich um die Versorgung der bobos kümmern. Und das umgesetzt von einer sozialistischen Bürgermeistern. Ich denke, wenn das die Stoßrichtung linker Politik wird (Unterstützung der oberen gegen die Masse), dann wird linke Politik (zumindestens in dieser Form) zum politischen Gegner.

My colleague argues that having car free cities punishes those who do not live but work there, those who cannot afford to live in the very expensive parts of cities like Paris, London and increasingly so Berlin. This kind of argumentation is found in the media as well. My answer to this is that there is a public transportation system. I used it in Paris this year: buses, tram, trains. The same applis to Berlin: poor people who live in Marzahn, Hellersdorf, or Buch have an excellent connection to the inner city. It is the rich who live in houses around Berlin who want to drive their SUV into the city. I have no mercy with them. As you know I worked at the FU for almost a decade. I went there by S-Bahn and U-Bahn (1 hour). When the weather was good, I took the bike with me and cycled from Heidelberger Platz to the university. Often, I cycled all the way back: 16km. Nice ride along the river Spree (17,36km, minimum cycling time 40:32 + 8:50min breaks at crossroads). The vision would be to have prioritized bike lanes. Berlin is working on this.

I also worked in Potsdam (Golm) for a year. Public transport: 1:02h. The only problem was that the train back from Golm was packed and it was very loud. But this has changed since: more and better train connections.

Nobody needs a car in Berlin. For those who live a bit further away, we have a park and ride system for cars or even better for bicycles. The picture below shows the P&R system in Oranienburg.

Huge Park and Ride for bycicles in Oranienburg (end of S-Bahn connection)
Bycicles can be stored on two floors. They are protected from rain.

People who are poor can go by public transport. Saves them some money for gas and parking fees. As of this year, school kids can use the public transport for free in Berlin (including their bikes!).

Changes in individual behavior are not enough

Drittens, ich hab ein sehr großes Unbehagen bei euren ganzen Aktionen. Die basieren am Ende des Tages darauf, dass das einzelne Individuum sein Verhalten ändert, und alles wird gut: jeder isst weniger Fleisch, jeder fliegt weniger (außer Luisa Neubauer, da reicht es, wenn sie es fordert), und jeder der das nicht macht, soll sich schämen. Diese Strategie *alleine* wird am Ende zu genau nichts führen, wenn sie nicht in einen größeren politischen Aktionskontext eingebettet ist. Stichwort Fliegen: warum fliegen Akademiker zig mal im Jahr hin und her? Weil es vom System, das Stellen vergibt, am Ende honoriert wird. Und wenn Öl als Rohstoff nicht teurer wird, wird auch der Ölverbrauch nicht sinken (aber stattdessen überlegt ja der GRÜNE Robert Habeck, ob man nicht Militärmissionen zum Schutz deutscher Handelswege, also zum Schutz der Routen von Öltankern, entsendet; wenn das der Führer noch erlebt hätte! :-)). Stichwort Fleisch: solange es legal ist, billige Arbeitskräfte aus dem Balkan in deutschen Schlachthäusern zu verheizen (alles dank der rot-GRÜNEN Arbeitsmarktreformen, von denen sich die GRÜNEN bisher nie distanziert haben) und solange die EU-Agrarpolitik intensiv betriebene Landwirtschaft befördert, wird sich genau gar nichts ändern. Eine Agrarwende ist was anderes als Fleischverzicht, auch wenn das FFF noch nicht verstanden haben (https://twitter.com/FridayForFuture/status/1159398178380288002). Leider finde ich nichts davon bei dir/euch. Keine Kritik an der Unterfinanzierung des deutschen Bildungswesens, das sinnlosen Wettbewerb fördert. Keine Kritik an der EU-Förderparaxis in seiner jetzigen Form (ist das vielleicht zu EU-kritisch?). Keine Forderungen nach sozialen Arbeitsmarktreformen, die den Preis für Fleisch automatisch steigen lassen würden. Auch von FFF hör ich nichts dazu. Wenn aber ein Fleischfabrikant wie Tönnies die Mottenkiste der Afrikaklischees aufmacht, ist FFF zur Stelle (https://twitter.com/FridayForFuture/status/1157223707544346625). Wenn bei Tönnies nur Leute ausgebeutet werden, ist das keinen tweet Wert.

You say that all these tweets are directed at individuals but there are things rooted in the political systems we are living in that have to be changed (oil price, price of labour, change in agrar politics).

Yes, you are completely right. I am talking to my twitter followers. These are individual people and they can change and can do something. The fact is that we (the Germans) use up 11,61 tons of CO2 per year. 2,3 tons would be the amount that would be compatible with living on this planet. So we have to change. My CO2 impact for 2018 is 5,69 tons (calculated with the CO2-calculator of the Umweltbundesamt).

This shows that it is possible to reduce the CO2 impact on an individual level. Of course, the big things have to be done as well. This is what we are fighting for and I also do this on twitter. I tweet about actions against coal in Berlin and go to the demonstrations.

Anti coal demonstration in front of the Heizkraftwerk Moabit in the middle of Berlin

I tweeted about Wir haben es satt and I went to the demonstration for a change in the agriculture politics (#Agrarwende).

“WIR HABEN ES SATT”, 171 Tracktoren Unter den Linden, Berlin, 19.01.19

I go to bycicle demonstrations (critical mass, ADFC-Sternfahrt) and tweet about this (#Verkehrswende).

Critical Mass bike ride Berlin, 26.05.2017
Screenshot of critical maps 28.07.2017: Cycles completely use all the space at the round about at Berlin’s Siegessäule. All car traffic was blocked for three quarters of an hour

You say that Agrarwende is different from not eating meat and that FFF did not get this. I think we need both: produce the meat differently and eat less of it. This is what FFF said in the tweet you cited and what ecologically minded people demand. Those who do ecological agriculture say that we do need the animals for providing natural furtelizer. They are part of a cycle.

Our current government is a set of total losers (as Trump would say). The minister for traffic is a failure and the one for agriculture is even worse.

I tweet about elections and vote myself. Researchstrejk/climatewednesday is exactly about this: it is about activating people, activating society to vote, to contact their MPs to demand political action.

Oil price and blood for oil

Und wenn Öl als Rohstoff nicht teurer wird, wird auch der Ölverbrauch nicht sinken (aber stattdessen überlegt ja der GRÜNE Robert Habeck, ob man nicht Militärmissionen zum Schutz deutscher Handelswege, also zum Schutz der Routen von Öltankern, entsendet).

You say that the price of oil should be raised. We fully agree on this. FFF demands CO2 taxes of 180€ per ton, scientists for future supports this, and climatewednesday demonstrates for this as well.

You say that even the Green Party supports military interventions to protect the oil routes and that it would be better not to do this since this would result in a price increase. As for military: I do not know. I am a pacifist and I would not kill anybody, rather I would kill myself. I know that this is a luxury position and that there may be times when one needs to defend oneself. Fighting for oil (except may be the oil on Rügen =;-)) seems strange to me too.

But let’s look more carefully. This is what Habeck said:

Erste Priorität habe zwar die Diplomatie, sagte Parteichef Robert Habeck am Wochenende der Passauer Neuen Presse. Aber seien „alle diplomatischen Mittel ausgeschöpft, können wir uns eine Beteiligung Deutschlands an einer europäischen Mission vorstellen, wenn das hilft zu deeskalieren und es eine klare Rechtsgrundlage gibt.“

Diplomacy has priority but if all diplomatic means failed, we can imagine Germany to take part in an European military intervention, if this helps to deeskalate and if this happens on a leagal basis.

taz, 5.8.2019

The taz article explains that the Greens require an UN mandate and that they refuse to join US military operations. They argue for EU forces and a coordinated EU politics. Since the UK already rejected the EU approach, the military intervention is out of the question.

Change of academic system is required

As for the scientific system: This is the most difficult question I guess. Yes, people need to talk to other people. I go to conferences to meet other researchers and it is not so much their talks it is more the Apfelsaftschorle in the evening that leeds to projects and publications. I skipped the HPSG conference in 2017 in the US (because of Trump and the flight) and I did not go to Japan either (flight) but I had to go to the one this year, which was in Bucharest. I went there by train (description of the trip Berlin–Bucharest). The Graduiertenkolleg in Leipzig promised to reduce their emissions by 30%. They went to Moskau by train. Is this terrible? No. I did this two times. 36 hours. Direct connection from Berlin. You can sleep on the train. It works. In general our travel behavior changed during the last decades. Due to availability of cheap flights. Academia has to reconsider how they work. We can now use telecommunication for many purposes and we should try and think when this is appropriate. Do I have to go to Barcelona to take part in job interviews as a reviewer? I would say I do not have to. University of Barcelona thinks differently. We have to talk about this. (In any case their procedure is better than the German one. The external committee members have to be present at all meetings, which involved three flights from Oslo to Berlin in the last committee I took part).

You point out that we do not mention the underfinancing of the education system which causes a pointless competition and hence encourages people to go to conferences. I think some competition is ok (see Bierwisch’s 1992 paper about linguistic in GDR), but you are right, the situation in the German academic system is deeply wrong since most of the positions are non-permanent (74%) and underpayed, especially so in the humanities were people often have half positions. I actually wrote about this in the founding paper of Language Science Press (p. 14–16). But this and the question whether this general situation has anything to do with climate change is a much to complicated topic for twitter.

You are right: We academics have to reconsider everything: our travel behaviour, our career building, our evaluations of success. This is the point of climatewednesdays: we are thinking about and developing strategies for this. We are active in our universities, we are discussing things within the DFG, we have to change, we cannot just demand this from others. We starte this process with collections of statements regarding short distance flights (TU Berlin, Uni Potdam, HU Berlin, Leipzig). Once we have these, we talk to our presidents to see how we go on. The goal is to reach a reduction of 10% of green house gas emissions per year for the following years. Since flights are a large proportion of the green house gases, this is an important start. The universities have to make sure that the regulations are adapted so that researchers can stay over night, can use the train even if it is more expensive than the plane, compensation is possible and so. Laws and regulations have to be changed. We are busy doing all this. Not just talking individuals into not eating meat and stop flying short distance.

Change of political system

You criticize the political system as such and state that if workers would be paid appropriately the price of meat would rise automatically. This is true. You say that you did not hear anything about this in the climate discussion. Again this may be due to distortions in social media but these topics are there. If you come to one of the demonstrations on fridays, you will see that there are quite a lot of posters demanding “system change instead of climate change”.

HU students demand: System change instead of climate change

There was a general assembly (Vollversammlung) at the HU in which the participatans voted for defeating capitalism.

Wir erkennen an, dass die Natur des Kapitalismus auf grenzenlosem Wachstum basiert, weshalb es zur Rettung des Klimas letztlich unabdingbar ist, die kapitalistische Gesellschaftsordnung zu überwinden.

We acknowledge that the nature of capitalism is based on unbounded growth, which makes it inevitable to overthrow the capitalist social order if we want to safe the climate.

Student resolution 22.05.2019, documented in unaufgefordert, 2019

This statement was suggested by Bengt Rüstemeier, a member of the JuSos (youth organization of the Social Democrats).

ParentsForFuture DE retweetet a video tweet in which George Monbiot came to the very same conclusion:

George Monbiot: Growth cannot go on like this. “We’ve got to go straight to the heart of capitalism and overthrow it.

The video was enlightening for me since I realized for the first time how lunatic our goals of 3% increase in GDP per year are. If our economies grow by 3% for 24 years, we have doubled everything. I am a trained mathematician but never thought about this simple calculation. By just looking at these numbers it is clear that this cannot work. The Club of Rome told us so in the 70ies. Goverments did not listen.

The question is how capitalism can be changed or replaced and by what. When the wall came down lots of us thought there would be an option for a better version of the GDR, but as history tells us, this did not work out. Ted Gaier of the West German band Die Goldenen Zitronen puts it this way: „Damals haben wir gegen einen Sozialstaat gekämpft, weil wir dachten, es gäb noch was Besseres“ (Back then we fought against a welfare state because we thought ther was something better.”)

Blaming people for one shortcoming: Langstrecken-Luisa and Greta’s plastic wrapping in the train

You mention Luisa Neubauer, a student from Göttingen who is the leading figure of the German FridaysForFuture) in connection with flights. You also ask: If you would not do this (stop using eReaders, projectores in lectures, stop drinking coffee, eating bananas and chocolate) how could you ask others to stop flying and to eat less meat?

Wenn du das nicht machen würdest, warum sollen dann andere auf Fliegen und Fleisch verzichten, wo doch all diese Dinge CO2-Verbrauch verursachen und nicht notwendig sind?

Andreas Pankau, email, 10.08.2019

This is cheap. The media did this with Luisa Neubauer, who had pictures from her long distance flights in her instagram account. Greata Thunberg was attaced for having her food in plastic wrappings on pictures of her train trip.

These things are #pillepalle in comparison to the bigger issues we are dealing with right now. I think Luisa stopped flying (unable to verify this). But even if she did not, what she is doing is that she demands that politicians stick to the Paris agreement. Something they promised before and now just decided to ignore. This is a right everybody has. She organizes protests and is visible.

We can only speculate why Greta had food covered in plastics. Maybe this was the only stuff they sold in the train. Anyway dismissing a big topic on the basis of some little issue is cheap.

I think the same applies to the questions asked above. Most of them are pointless as I tried to show. The only remaining things are bananas but even this is relativized by general shopping behaviour: I only eat them if other things are worse.

So, question again: What entitles me to ask people to change individually? Answer: I am not the only weirdo asking for this. The Wolrd Helath Organization suggests eating less meat, the IPPC just recently demanded this urgently (IPCC on meat). And flying: Yes, this has a high impact as far as CO2 is concerned. We have to change here. And even though I think I would not have to go on, I want to show you that even the Luisa strategy would fail on me.

I cared for energy and environmental stuff since I was a kid. I remember clearly the 80ies when the newspaper Junge Welt had reports about new temparature records. They had a column every week or so. Back then I read Hyperion by Hölderlin. There is the following passage:

Ihr entwürdiget, ihr zerreißt, wo sie euch duldet, die geduldige Natur, doch lebt sie fort, in unendlicher Jugend, und ihren Herbst und ihren Frühling könnt ihr nicht vertreiben, ihren Aether, den verderbt ihr nicht.

You degrade, you rip to pieces, the patient nature where it tolerates you, but it lives on in infinite youth and its fall and its spring, its aether, you cannot ruin.

Hölderlin 1797, Hyperion

I thought: “If only he knew.”

Things I do since then:

  • no private flights since 2008
  • last business flight 2017 (just one to Oslo)
  • last intercontinental flight 2016
  • declaration to never fly again with fossile fules (5.8.2019)
  • I compensated all the flights I did, private and business
  • I compensate my yearly CO2 overshoot as computed using the CO2 calculator since 2018
  • never owned a car, do not use rental cars, a car-free live is possible and fun even with two kids, we use a cargo bike instead, I rode 23,500 km by bike since October 2011
  • diet with low meat proportion since 1989 reducing further over the years
  • complete vegetarian since 2019
  • very low energy consumption (no ice compartment in the fridge, no dryer, …)
  • 100% renewable energy since 2/2005
  • heating not over 20° (for the high insulation house I live in now this means that I need hardly any energy for heating, since we heat with our bodies and heat produced by electronic devices like laptops)
  • very low general consumption (I wear clothes till the fall appart)
  • I donate to green projects (SoGeLa, 2017; taz report) and cooperatives
  • The money I am saving goes to a cooperative bank supporting green projects
  • I donated three trees for Berlin and talked a street into donating 13 trees (it is not just the trees but you have to pay for watering for three years)
  • I donate vegetarian food to conferences
  • voting for parties with ecological agenda since 1990 (the first time there was a choice for me)

There is still room for improvement. Since my CO2 impact was 5,69 tons, some tons have to go. A large part of this amount is due to the general CO2 load one has in Germany due to the general energy mix, which includes coal (French and Britih people are better off here). Since it is the general infrastructure in Germany that is involved, there is nothing I can do here personally. In any case I think the above is enough to tweet about flights, meat, and cars and even without this list, it would be right to demand that academics fly less.

Conclusion

We have to change. FFF is demanding political action in order to reach the goals of the Paris agreement. Demanding this action is the right of all people independent of whether they are flying, eating bananas or similar things. We as Scientists for Future support this call for action. We also support high taxes on CO2 emissions (the UBA suggested 180€ per ton). Climatewednesday.org (resaerchstreijk) supports FFF in form of pickets and by reorganizing the science business inside scientific organizations (universities, research institutes, DFG, …).

We have to change. As societies and as individuals. And we have to change now. We cannot wait till the governments change anything. Especially not in Germany where we have a government whose main task seems to be to smile and block things. We cannot wait till the next elections (2021). We have to protest now, join FFF and change ourselves. If we argue for a price of 180€ per ton CO2, why don’t we behave as if this tax was already there? We cant? We are human? We look at others and do what they do? How silly. We will all die since nobody wants to be first. And yes, we need this SUV since it is the only car where all these children seats fit in without problem. We rather deprive our kids of their future than spending some minutes to attach these damn seats or use the bicycle. If this is true we are doomed and Metallica would be right (Hard wired to self-destruct).

Please change if you did not do so already! #thereisnotime

I do not fly anymore

As of August the 5th, 2019 I decided to not fly anymore. Not at all. No private flights, no business flights. Until it is possible to fly CO2 neutral.

I stopped private flights in 2008 as it became increasingly clear what harm flights do to the environment. In the years after this I did not fly a lot, the last transatlantic flight was in 2016 to Seoul. It was an invited keynote talk to a big conference, which is quite some honor for an academic and something one needs on his CV (we are working on changing this). The last flight was to Oslo, where I worked for the Forskningrådet (the organization that manages the distribution of the Norwegian research money). This is important for the self organization of science and also some sort of honor, since the panel consisted of four foreigners deciding on the future of Norwegian linguistics (exaggerating a bit). As for earlier flights, you can find a list of conference talks on my web page.

The decision to not fly was not easy. I love being in foreign countries and see foreign culture. Europe is pretty boring nowadays since countries are getting similar: the same stuff in super markets, the same tourist nepp everywhere. I had a lot of business trips to foreign countries. So people can say: Yes, you academics, it is easy not to do private flights, since you are traveling anyway. In fact, people said this and they are right. So: No flights? None at all? I never was in Australia. The area of linguistics I am working in is not represented in Australia (It is LFG there rather than HPSG) and hence, there never was a conference there I really wanted to attend. So the self-commitment means that I will never go there. Africa? I am working on Germanic languages. Afrikaans, spoken in South Africa, is one of them. Well, there are connections via land. Icelandic, also a Germanic language. Well, there is a ferry. China? I published two papers about Mandarin Chinese and I have other professional connections to China: my grammar theory text book is translated to Chinese right now. Korea? I have connections to Seoul. Working there for some time would be great. I could go there by train, but it takes time. Hm.

I talked to colleagues and friends and it turns out that there are quite a few and very successful ones who do not fly at all (Prof. Dr. Gisbert Fanselow, Prof. Dr. Shravan Vasishth, and Prof. Dr. Isabell Wartenburger). Some of them psycho linguists and the most important psycho conferences take place in the US.

So, question: Is my research so important that I am willing to cause damage to other people? Our CO2 emissions contribute to global warming and this causes severe droughts and other catastrophes. Millions of people are affected and will die. Is linguistics more important than this? Probably not. Definitely not.

If travel is unavoidable, I will use the train and I already started doing longer trips by train this year in July traveling to Bucharest where the HPSG conference took place.

So: Never again! I compensated all my previous flights and I am clean now, at least as far as flying is concerned. Do you commit to fly less? If so, leave comments. If you do not fly short distances consider signing self-commitments at your universities or get a respective initative on the way at your institution.