Dienstag, 30. Oktober 2007

Vattenfalls Märchen

Ich mag Märchen. Ich kann sie nicht selber erfinden, schon gar nicht spontan; was mich mindestens genauso enttäuscht wie meine Neffen. Aber ich lese sie gerne. Und bin heute - als Erwachsener - fasziniert davon, wie vielschichtig und Moral-geladen viele Märchen, die auf den ersten Blick so arglos und simpel daher kommen, in Wirklichkeit sind. Dass aber ausgerechnet Vattenfall die Berliner Märchentage sponsort – das finde ich auf andere Weise faszinierend; und gleichermassen ekelhaft wie passend. Denn Vattenfall erzählt viele Märchen. Atomkraft ist sicher, sagt Vattenfall – obwohl unpraktischer Weise gerade eines ihrer AKWs brannte und mindestens einige Fragen zur Sicherheitskultur bei Vattenfall offen liess... Wie fasste schon ein altes BUNDjugend T-Shirt zusammen: “Atomkraft – so sicher wie unsere Rente” ....
Ausserdem behauptet Vattenfall es gäbe Kohlekraftwerke, die Teil der Lösung – und nicht des Problems – des globalen Klimawandels sind (siehe vattenfall.de/co2frei ). Als Märchen langweilig, aber vielleicht noch akzeptabel. Die Realität sieht anders aus. Gerade die Zukunft der Kohle entscheidet darüber, ob wir es mit dem Klimaschutz ernst meinen – oder eben nicht. Wenn wir jetzt weiter in Kohlekraftwerke investieren, dann legen wir uns auf Jahrzehnte auf einen Energiepfad fest, den der Planet nicht aushält. Und CO2-freie Kohlekraftwerke wird es nie geben. Selbst wenn man das CO2, dass durch die Verbrennung der Kohle entsteht sicher im Erdboden versenken kann (und das darf bezweifelt werden!), so erkauft man diesen ‘Fortschritt’ mit einem höheren Energieverbrauch. Und wer je eine Kohlegrube besichtigt hat oder mit Menschen sprach, die für den Kohleabbau umgesiedelt wurden, der weiss, dass es gute Gründe gegen die Nutzung von Kohle gibt, selbst wenn nach dem Abbau kein weitere Schaden angerichtet würde ... In Deutschland sind neue Kohlekraftwerke fast eine Garantie, dass wir das notwendige Klimaschutzziel (minus 40% CO2 bis 2020) nicht einhalten können. Vattenfall sollte übrigens aufpassen. Lügen haben kurze Beine. In den Niederlanden wurde Konkurrent NUON gerade das Geschwätz von der “sauberen Kohle” als irreführend untersagt .... Vielleicht sollten wir Berliner Vattenfall untersagen weiter Märchen zu erzählen? Den Stromanbieter wechseln kann man hier. Und einen Klimaappell an den Vattenfall-Chef,Josefsson, kann man hier unterzeichnen. Ich mag Märchen. Aber unser Klima hält Vattenfalls Märchen nicht länger aus!

Donnerstag, 25. Oktober 2007

Your vote goes here ...

Before 1990, Berlin could not directly elect Members to the German Parliament. So it was with much sympathy, that I observed the official (below) and grassroots struggle (left) to secure representation in the House and the Senate for the District of Columbia. As always when something seems odd, there are, of course, historical reasons for why DC does not have the vote. But, hm, those do seem a little outdated to me. May be the reason now is that DC votes overwhelmingly for Democrats? Either way. As I was walking through DC I could not but think of Billy Bragg's observation in Help Save the Youth of America, that "you can fight for democracy at home". Indeed.

Sonntag, 21. Oktober 2007

Solar Washington

Bush did his best. He saved me one flight to the US. But here I am again - in sleepy, muggy Washington. It somehow doesn't feel right that a city whose power is causing so much havoc around the globe is so serene, so leafy, so quiet.
This time, I am here with the money boys. I am at the World Bank trying to persuade them to foster investments that secure the planet and us a future ... It's not going too well, frankly. Even the German development minister somehow fails to see that saving the climate through investing in oil, as the World Bank does, may not be the best strategy ...
Last night, there was an avalanche of first impressions. I had been reading the Shock Doctrine again on the plane. And on the bus from the airport, I passed ITT and many other corporate headquarters about whose involvement in Latin American coups and other shenanigans I had just been reading. When I reached Metro Square metro station, I was hit by a solar blitz. BP had plastered the whole station with slogans such as "solar power to the people". I felt pretty cynical about this. BP, after all, famously spent more money on their "Beyond Petroleum" rebranding campaign than they had, at that time, spent on renewable energies. This preposterous 'marketing' earned them a 'Green Oscar' - the premier award for corporations acting green (while, in reality, cooking the planet).
However, the ads made me curious. They advertised a 'Solar Decathlon' -which meant nothing to me. So, this lunch time, I went to check it out. And - it was cool (and not just a BP show)!
Basically, the Solar Decathlon is a design competition for solar-powered homes that have to produce more energy than they use. There were 20 such homes on view at the Mall over the last week. Many were really neat (and one designed by the German University of Darmstadt won the prize). Even neater, though, were the long queques of people trying to see them - talking excitedly, asking about prices, sure to tell their neighbours when they get home. Let's hope there are some World Bank staff among the neighbours. A solar housing boom - globally. Funding that - now that would be public money well spent ...
P.S. On the flight home, I read the official document of the Decathlon. And some stuff in there made me angry. The students who built these great houses, it states, are "working towards the goals outlined in President Bush's Solar America Initiative" ... and "events such as this bring to life the President's American Competiteveness Initiative". Hardly. Events such as this show Bush to be out of touch and way behind. They show the true potential of solar, which is ready to rock - now. May the next Decathlon, 2009, have a better foreword by a better Secretary of State!

Freitag, 19. Oktober 2007

Congratulations Von!

It's not often that I wholeheartedly agree with the mainstream media. But when TIME calls my friend and colleague Von Hernandez an "environmental hero" it's very hard to disagree. Von, who is Campaign Director at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, richly deserves this recognition. So, read about him here.
P.S. A great tribute to Von by Shai - another friend - can also be found here.

Mittwoch, 17. Oktober 2007

In praise of 'useless' land ...

Berlin used to be full of empty spaces. Admittedly, many of them were pretty decrepit. But they were still kind of neat - and certainly, especially in the city centre, quite unique. In most other cities those spaces would have long ago been built on, given way to the profit motive.
'Brachen', as we call them in German, were of course a sign of Berlin's turbulent and divided history. These empty spaces were there for a reason, not for fun. But post 1989, in any case, they were also the outward sign of a city that allowed for quirkiness. Some empty spaces were places for cool beer gardens and bars; others attracted artists; others just were - including for homeless and junkies. - But now, a critical mass of empty space in central Berlin is and has been taken over by a corporate building boom. This boom has changed the character and feel of the city. "Die Friedrichstrasse wird ne Glitzermeile in Berlin", sang Wolf Biermann already a few years back ('Friedrichstrasse is becoming glitter street', a place for posh shops and posh people, would be a very loose translation). But it ain't just Friedrichstrasse. When you take the S-Bahn, say, from the main station to Alexanderplatz, you can see how key pieces of land are all being built upon. Inevitably, it is always hotels, offices and "luxury appartments" that replace the previous, messy clutter. Further afield, it is the same story. Along the river Spree, for example, a massive development is planned, that will obliterate clubs, squats and messy green space. It will further destroy what is special about Berlin. Sure, there is opposition, but will it succeed?
I love Berlin. But the corporate take over of Berlin makes me angry. And sad.
P.S. Can someone fund me to fight this please? Thanks ;-).

Dienstag, 16. Oktober 2007

Cheers - three more organic beers!

The first weekend in Berlin in ages, combined with a football match, finally gave me time to catch up with some organic beers I had recently hunted down. It was, as always, a pleasure. Though, frankly, the best thing about the Angel lager by Broughton Ales is its beautifully designed bottle label. The beer itself is pretty flat. As a German, I am demanding about lagers. And this one just didn't have the crisp freshness that makes you go "ah" with pleasure after the first sip. Broughton should stick to ales. Their Border Gold Organic Ale I remember to be quite satisfying. - As was the Wolfshoeher Bio Pilsner. It's all you want from a Pils. It's quite light but not without the slight bitter tinge that is a must in a good German lager. It is, in short, very drinkable. The kind of beer you can make your regular with a meal.
Wheat Bear (Weissbier, as they say in Bavaria) is rightly called the champagne among beers. And so, as Germany became the first team to qualify for EURO 2008, and Scotland managed to defend first place in its qualifying group, I finished off Saturday night with a treat: the Bayreuther Bio Weisse. This beer may be a niche product of brewing giant Maisel - but this is a fine niche. It produces a satisfying head, it pearls on your tongue and it sparkles down your throat to leave a warm, satisfied feeling in your stomach. I recommend it!

Montag, 15. Oktober 2007


I am no geek, and - for a male member of the human species, at any rate - I can't often get excited about technology. Yes, I played with toy cars in my (misspent) youth. But I am over it. I am.

That said, I do have to admit that I was drooling over the iPhone when my dear colleague Chris Miller from the US allowed me to play with his a few weeks back. It's so easy to use. It is so handy. It's design is so beautiful. It is phone and sound system and computer. It is so cool ...

I have to confess I was considering buying one when they hit the European market later this year. But for that to happen, Apple first has to clean up its act. Sadly, the iPhone, like other beautiful Mac's, is full of hazardous chemicals. You can read all about it here. Or watch the video below. If you are Mac fan, be prepared. This report does not include nudity. But a beautiful iPhone dies a terrible death. Just like those who live near electronic waste yards ...

P.S. This blog is my humble contribution to Blog Action Day

Freitag, 12. Oktober 2007

Feeling nobel

So climate change got the nobel prize. Good. I even feel pretty close emotionally to the nobel prize myself, somehow. Not because I have some mistaken sense of grandeur. No, simply because I know - and respect - quite a number of people who have spent a lot of time on the IPCC. Sometimes, in fact, they had a hard time justifying spending all that time on the science, when impatient activists were demanding action. But the prize today shows what remarkable role science is, in fact, playing in the politics of climate change. Even though the IPCC is probably too conservative in its assessments ...
Al Gore, meanwhile, recently said that he does not understand why (young) people aren't blocking coal plants. Well, I hope Gore has now noticed that they are. And may be he will become the first peace prize laureate to chain himself to a coal plant. That would be prize worthy. Go for it, Al!

I love organic beer, but not genetically modified Bud

Dienstag, 9. Oktober 2007

Time travel and hats off ...

It was an experience of a different kind to take the night train headed to Kiev last night (I only made it as far as Warsaw). It felt like being back in the 80s. The guard spoke nothing but Russian and was rude as you would imagine him to be. The heating went wild and was trying very hard to turn my feet into grilled sausage. And the border guards were reminding us all, that we are passing a real border when they woke us ... The design of the cabin was truly historical - but, on the plus side, there was plenty more space than on modern CityNightLines ... All in all, I was pretty spent by the time my fried feet and tired brain got to Warsaw. I had to survive a day of meetings nonetheless. That I did is testimony also to my colleagues in the UK and the US. The great action against coal in Kingsnorth warmed my heart ... - and the Global Warming Motors spoof made me chuckle. Which, believe me, was a harder thing than normal to get me to do today. So thanks, guys!

Montag, 8. Oktober 2007

Weird, I had fun in Geneva!

"When all passion has left life, that's when you move to Geneva". Thus spoke my friend Abiodun, eloquent as always, over dinner in New York. I couldn't agree more. Especially last Friday night, when, of course, Geneva's skies opened yet again and I got soaked, soaked, soaked, soaked, soaked. After drying my hair and changing all my clothes once back in the dry, I felt like I had been swimming ...
Still, this latest trip to Geneva was different. Not just because everyone was talking about climate change at the WTO, a place where reality does not normally disturb fancy economic models.
More importantly, I had fun. I was taken to a couple of bars I liked; I had a great time walking around in the vineyards nearby; and I took a lovely walk along the Rhone. Even the weather was pleasant, Friday night aside. So, here is to good times in Geneva. Begrudgingly.