Montag, 28. April 2008

Follow your followers, Edwards

John Edwards will not be President. But he is a funny man - as he proved again last week when he spoke to the nation in the EDwords. Whoever wants his vote needs to make him a spy, apparently, James Bond-like gadgets and all. He also joked brilliantly about being the white male whose vote is being most targetted. Watch him here. And then write to John - and ask him to stop joking around and follow his most fervent backers of old. An "Edwardian coalition" - inlcuding John's ex-campaign manager, has now endorsed Obama. A clear attempt to help end the democratic 'civil war' - and ensure that Democrats finally decide the nomination in North Carolina and Indiana next week. And get on with the real task of taking on McCain. Indeed, John, it's time for jokes to be at McCain's expense, not your own Party's. I, for one, have just become a backer of the Facebook group: 'Archeologists, Paleontologists, Undertakers & Geriatricians Against McCain'. I am none of these things, of course. But I liked the humour. So please, John, make the next EDwords about McCain. You know as well as Lester Brown does, that: "the only candidate who has the potential to ... lead with big changes is Obama." That one, you should take seriously, John.
P.S. May 4th: As Friends of the Earth endorse Obama, John decides to sit on the fence. A shame. A real, real shame, actually.
P.P.S. At last!

Freitag, 25. April 2008

Abstimmen gehen. Tempelhof flugfrei!

P.S. Wir haben gewonnen. 70% aller Berliner - behaupteten die Tempelhof-Flughafen Fans in Ihrem Buergebegehren - seien fuer die Erhaltung des Flughafens. Aber nur 21.7% haben fuer Tempelhof gestimmt. Das ist deutlich. Hoffen wir, das Gelaende wird nun auch vernuenftig genutzt werden!

Mittwoch, 23. April 2008

Daniel to UN: Block this site too!

The Global Compact is often abused for Greenwash by companies. RWE and Areva, for example, pretend to be good coprorate citizens through their Global Compact membership while at the same time pushing for climate-destroying coal plants and dangerous nuclear power. Organizing a feel-good talk shop like the Global Compact is not what the UN should be about, me thinks (and I have argued as much here and - auf Deutsch - hier. The UN, in my humble opinion, should be about setting global standards and enforcing them. But instead of getting on with that urgent task, some UN staff time seems to be spent on blocking access to a blog criticizing the Global Compact. Check the full story here. And I am looking forward to the UN's response, which can surely only be an apology? P.S. As we enter May 2008, still no resolution to this story. Still no apology. Read on here.

Dienstag, 22. April 2008

Vive le Velib!

My morning commute is always pleasant. I cycle along the canal, then cross the former German-German border, cross the Spree and pass Bertolt Brecht's old theatre just before I reach my desk. But last week, my commute was even more beautiful. Even though I was away from home, I was still able to commute by bike - a real treat. Velib, Paris 20,000 rentable bikes, made it possible for me to pass by the Bibliotheque nationale, Notre Dame and the Tuileries as I headed to a cafe that I turned into my office (as the public was not welcome at Bush's Major Emitter Meeting which was taking place across the road). Sitting there, trying to get info on what was happening behind closed doors, was not very glamerous. But the commute certainly was. It was tourist Paris in about 40 minutes. It was, as the spring sun was out, simply beautiful. So I want to thanks the Paris Mayor who promoted the scheme and JC Decaux, I guess, as they finance it (in return for advertisement). The velib bikes are heavy, as they need to be sturdy. They are not high-tech - but you hardly ever need more than three gears in Paris. There are free for the first 30 minutes. And, apparently, if you do cycle up the hill to Montmarte, you get special credit for the next time you book. The velib are easy to use - and much more successful than the Bahn bikes we have in Berlin. Talking to locals, velibs are certainly used - and in many different ways. They are everything from a handy alternative when your bike is in repairs, to a cheap replacement for a taxi when returning from a party late at night, to an ideal tool for short, office-related trips - as you can take the bikes just one way (you just have to return it at one of the 1,500 velib stations, literally sprinkled all over town). May many cities copy the velib model. And introduce sustainable jeepney's while they are at it as well ;-).

Dienstag, 15. April 2008

Thank you, Father Tutu

It’s not every day that I find an email from a Noble Peace Prize winner in my inbox (mass generated ones written for Al Gore aside). So you can imagine how thrilled I was last Sunday to find a message from Desmond Tutu in amongst reminders to attend meetings and excuses by colleagues about why they couldn’t do x or y (sigh). - Tutu is different. He exudes energy and action. I remember hearing Tutu on the radio back in 1993. I was travelling through a gloomy South Africa then. Less than a year before South Africa’s first democratic elections, many people I spoke to were either scared or convinced that the country would degenerate into civil war. And they didn’t make it up. When I pulled into Cape Town on the bus from Knysna, 11 people had just been slaughtered at a Cape Town church. – Tutu, in the face of this atrocity, managed to sound outraged but forward-looking. He was a voice of reason without hiding his emotion. All throughout the apartheid years, he managed the art of not mincing his words about injustice while exuding principles as much as determination. - I finally got to listen to Tutu in person last year in Nairobi. What I had heard from others is more than true: The Archbishop is one of the funniest men on planet earth. Even jokes he must have told a million times (like the one about him only having been chosen for the Noble Prize because he has an exceptionally short and easy to remember name…) he pulls off with real charm. He is witty, has an admirable sense of self-irony – and, may be most impressive of all - is as unforgiving and uncompromising in his political analysis as ever! If you want proof, read this statement Tutu issued on the occasion of the Major Emitters Meeting that I am currently sitting outside in Paris. You will see, I think, why I was staring at my computer last Sunday with a smile on my face …

“Climate change is real, and it is happening now. Over 80% of the emissions currently in the atmosphere have been put there by the G8 group of rich countries. But many rich world leaders have not, so far, responded to the climate crisis with the urgency required. Cushioned and cosseted, they have had the luxury of closing their minds to the real impact of what is happening in the fragile and precious atmosphere that surrounds the planet we live on. I wonder how much more anxious they might be, if they depended on the cycle of mother nature to feed their families. How much greater would their concerns be if they lived in slums and townships, in mud houses, or shelters made of plastic bags? In large parts of sub-Saharan Africa, this is a reality. The poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh edge of climate change every day of their lives. The melting of the snows on the peak of Kilimanjaro is a warning of the changes taking place in Africa. Across this beautiful but vulnerable continent, people are already feeling the change in the weather. But rain or drought, the result is the same: more hunger and more misery for millions of people living on the margins of global society. In the past 10 years, 2.6 billion people have suffered from natural disasters. That is more than a third of the global population - most of them in the developing world. The human impact is obvious, but what is not so apparent is the extent to which climatic events can undo the developmental gains put in place over decades. Droughts and floods destroy lives, but they also destroy schools, economies and opportunity. It is time to stop this cycle of destruction. At the Major Economies Meeting in Paris, developed countries must commit to immediate action against climate change. The United Nations need to deliver an action plan to save the planet at the climate change conference in 2009. There is no time to be distracted from the urgent task to deliver this global rescue plan. The world is watching, and those who are feeling the impacts of climate change today are expecting decisive action – now.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Donnerstag, 10. April 2008

KLM Lounge Revolution

The revolution started at 4am last Monday. Privileged air travelers had been withering away their time at the KLM/Air France lounge at Bangkok International airport. They knew that flight KL 878 to Amsterdam was delayed by hours. It was supposed to leave first at 2, then 3, then 4am. Beyond that, they knew nothing. There was no information being provided by the lounge staff. We were just told - if we asked - that all will be fine ... - At 4, one screen suddendly moved the departure time to 5.15am. That was the moment when patience ran out. A scene worthy of a short movie ensued. A French teacher, by this point slightly drunk, grabbed the lounge phone and called the gate himself. He insisted he wants to talk to the technician and wants to be called back with an update. The KLM guy at the gate was staggeringly rude, so that our French man started shouting. As that didn't help, a CEO-type Dutch man took over. He tried to talk sense into the KLM gate rep. He tried to get an outcome, in a reasoned and calm way. You could see the seasoned manager at work. But it was to no avail. We continued to know nothing. Another woman then remembered her social conscience. Pointing out that not all air travellers are privileged to spend time in the lounge she went down to the gate to join the other waiting customers. She 'threatened' to take beer and coffee to them all (which I thought was a splendid idea, but sadly, it didn't come to that anymore). Finally, a small, shy man who we had all seen at check-in (itself several hours delayed) showed up to bring the bad news. The flight was cancelled. After more than 7 hours at the airport - and at now close to 6am - we were told that we would be transferred to a hotel. There will, the small man said not very convincingly, be another flight tomorrow night.... - That was the moment when I stopped watching the 'revolution shorts' and joined the action. I wanted to know when exactly our flight would be and why KLM could not ensure that we are transferred to other, sooner flights to somewhere in Europe. Through my travel agent I found out that a flight direct to Berlin was leaving at noon. I pleaded with more than 7 ground staff to please contact someone so that they can book me onto this direct flight (even though it was with a different airline, of course, but I am not a frequent climate killer for nothing!). They all told me that this could not be done. That I had to wait for the evening. That noone was able to do anything. At the end, they pleaded with me to just go to the hotel (and shut up). Eventually, I booked that noon flight myself, expecting that KLM will reimburse me later. At 10am, when it opened, I showed up at the KLM desk at the airport (and yes, you are right, I had now been at the airport for some 13 hours - and had not slept). To my astonishment, I then discovered that someone in some KLM call centre somewhere had had their thinking hat on, after all. KLM had booked me on the noon direct flight to Berlin. Only - they hadn't told me! So, here I was, knackered as hell and having two tickets for the same flight. As luck has it, the ticket I had bought in desperation at 7am or so could no longer be returned. The poor lady at the KLM desk (who was extremely kind and helpful!) was clearly not authorized to do anything. She tried to get me a reimbursement for the ticket I had paid for. She tried to get me at least a letter that stated what had happened and had gone wrong. She succeeded in none of this - even though she called the people who, unlike her, had the power to act, at least 15 or 20 time. God knows why. Eventually, I ran out of time, caught the noon flight and - some further 12 hours later - was finally home. I have rarely been so happy to sleep in my own bed! I have rarely been so disgusted by the complete incompetence of a corporation as I was with KLM that night (and day). - In retrospect, watching the Lounge Revolution was fun (though my heart goes out to the family that was caught in the midst of all this trying to get to a funeral!). It's not a bad story. But it certainly was a hell of a day! One I will find it hard to ever forgive KLM for.

Dienstag, 8. April 2008


Letzte Woche in Bangkok waren die Fonds, die die Weltbank auflegen will, um angeblich das Klima zu retten, eines der grossen Themen der Klimaverhandlungen. Und das obwohl diese Fonds garnicht offiziell zu Verhandlung standen... Meist aber agieren Weltbank, die Welthandelsorganisation WTO und der Waehrungsfond, IWF, ohne viel Aufmerksamkeit auf sich zu ziehen. Obwohl die Folgen ihrer Politik oft verheerend und immer weitreichend sind. Die Medien nehmen gerade noch zur Kenntnis, dass es in der momentanen Welthandel-Verhandlungsrunde nicht voran geht. Daraus folgern sie dann, die WTO sei unwichtig, was leider nicht stimmt. Auch viele Aktivisten denken so kurzfristig und verkuerzt. Das Wissen um das "Triumvirat der Globalisierung" ist begrenzt - auch unter sprichwoerrtlich 'gut informierten Kreisen'. Dies ein wenig zu aendern, ist das Ziel des neuen Attac Basistextes (siehe Bild). Er versucht diese Institutionen verstaendlich zu erklaeren - und legt dar, warum sich der Protest gegen sie lohnt. Gemeinsam mit Daniela Setton, Juergen Knirsch und Alexis Passadakis habe ich dieses Minibuechlein verfasst. Hier koennt ihr es kaufen. Jetzt! ;-)

Mittwoch, 2. April 2008

Planet Sodex(h)o

It doesn't feel like there are 1000 people at the UN climate negotiations in Bangkok. The UN building is spacious enough to seem empty most of the time. Not even the computers are oversusbcribed (ok, there is also wireless and most people that are here, quite rightly, are in the plenary rooms where the action is. Those are full - especially compared to any parliament I can think of during a climate debate ...). - It does feel, though, like Sodex(h)o is chasing me around the globe. They control the cafes here. They run the canteen in every public building I can think of in Berlin. They are one (of usually two) companies that issue lunch vouchers in many countries - from France to Belgium and India. To me, not being able to escape Sodexo anymore, is a clear sign of the kind of homogonizing globalization I dislike. But there are plenty of other reasons to dislike Sodexo (without an h as of 2008, apparently). I first heard of them as the people who profit from the discriminating project of paying asylumn seekers not money, but vouchers (no doubt I thought at the time, that I would never have to drink their coffee!). Asylumn seeker vouchers are particularly offensive to me as a human being of German extraction. (We have learned the hard way where stigmatizing minorities can lead ...) But Sod(h)exo has also been busy catering for US military in the Gulf and busting unions. Oh man, that next coffee is not going to taste good ...