Flygskam and Church 2.0

The word flygskam and the Swedish trend

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

Bloomberg: As ‘Flying Shame’ Grips Sweden, SAS Ups Stakes in Climate Battle, 14. April 2019
Bloomberg: Passenger numbers at Swedish train operator SJ

Since then there has been a lot of discussion in the German media (Spiegel: pro, contra, Zeit: pro, contra, both, taz: pro, contra, heise: contra, Welt: pro, contra, FAZ: pro, contra) but the outcome is very different in Germany. The number of passengers in Germany in 2018 was 4.2% higher than in 2017 (Mobility report of the DSF). According to an article in the Zeit, the number of passengers on transcontinental flights from Germany increased by 3%. The number of passangers on the global level increased by 7,1%.

Number of take-offs and landings in Germany according to the mobility report of the DFS, 2018

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

The discussion in Germany and in social media

Prof. Dr. Dr. Martina Schäfer from TU Berlin started an initiative to collect self-commitments of academics to not fly short distances in July 2019. University of Potsdam and Humboldt-Universät zu Berlin joined in July and August respectively. I wrote letters to my colleagues asking them to sign and most of them were enthusiastic and signed right away. But I also was pointed to a contra flight shame article in the Zeit by Niels Boeing with the telling title Verzicht rettet die Welt nicht (Sacrifice does not save the world). This article was also repeatedly pointed out to me in private discussions. The Zeit is a weekly journal and has considerable influence among German intellectuals. So I took the time to discuss this article in detail. There is a general problem in this debate: those who argue against flying are fighting the aviation industry, a billion dollar industry, and the oil industry at the same time. So big money is involved. Lobby organizations spread the myth of green flying. Lufthansa and SAS offer green kerosene now (myth of green flying, power to liquid, Die Mär vom klimaneutralen Fliegen). People are told that there will be new and better planes and that there is no reason to worry. Of course, there will be future developments, but the industry thinks this will be standard in the middle of our century3 and we have to reduce CO2 emissions now. As you see from the numbers above: the number of flights starting from Germany increases and this is a global trend (according to ICAO 6,1% in 2018).

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.

LGBQT and Church 2.0

I am active on twitter and post about FridaysForFuture and our self-commitment initiative. I post about meat. And sometimes I get emails asking why I address this individual level and if it would not be better to demand more general changes for instance in taxing CO2. I fully agree that this is the most important aspect, but the average carbon imprint of Germans is 11,61 with 10% of the Germans having above 17,7 tons and individual measures like flying less and eating less meat can reduce it down to 7 tons (10% of the Germans are in this region) or even below this. So there is some personal responsibility for this.

My Belgian colleague Remi van Trijp repeatedly commented my posts and remarked that this concept of shame is fundamentally wrong. Replying to a retweet of a Spiegel article claiming that shame is a good entrance point to climate protection4, he wrote:

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.

Remi van Trijp (@RemivanTrijp) August 11, 2019

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

Tadzio Müller, Gesetze statt Scham, taz, August 03, 2019

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

Tadzio Müller, Gesetze statt Scham, taz, August 03, 2019

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

Klaus Raab, Der dumme Weltbürger, Zeit, May 17, 2019

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

Tadzio Müller, Gesetze statt Scham, taz, August 03, 2019

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.

Conclusion

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.

I declared on August 05, 2019 that I will never fly again until CO2 neutral flying is possible.

Appendix: More shame

If you do not have enough yet, you may watch this video by Herbst in Peking (10:18min).

Shame by Herbst in Peking, Peking Records TV, June, 14. 2012

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