Bye Bye Berlin
On my way back to my current residence Bangkok, reflecting on my past two months in my home city Berlin. Somewhat involuntarily, I should add, with the entertainment program being lousy and my space – which is being reduced further by my neighbor – too limited to sleep. I prefer writing over watching “Pacific Rim” or dozing off on my neighbor’s generous bio buffer.
Ode an Berlin
I am already missing the fresh air that feels like drinking cold water. The freedom to move and go anywhere I want anytime by foot, bike or cheap public transport. Speaking the right language. My friends. The memories that pop up all over Prenzlberg, Mitte, Friedrichshain and Neukölln.
Berlin is dynamic and laid-back at the same time. It has the highest number of start-ups, clubs and internationals in Germany. Berlin is “cool” and a magnet for creatives. Some people compare it to New York City “as it used to be” (whatever that may be), which I personally find far-fetched in many ways, but I nevertheless enjoy the comparison.
If you want to see the latest creative trends, have trilingual kindergardens and like your Latte soy, decaf, and fair traded, go to Berlin. Berlin has a large amount of cultural institutions and has much to offer for the adept tourist.
Berlin’s unofficial slogan is “poor but sexy”, and quite adequate. From what I know, tourism, small IT firms and galleries are booming, but there is no real industry. Germany’s profitable heavy industries – automobile, machinery, chemicals – are mostly in the South, which is why Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg are so well off and have to subsidize Berlin thanks to Germany’s “socialism light”.
Relative to its 3.5 million inhabitants, Berlin’s area is huge. That is because unlike most other cities, it did not grow tightly around one medieval center, but is in fact a conglomerate of many small towns that grew together over the centuries. When industrialization hit Prussia and immigrants came to Berlin for work, factories were set-up all over its suburbian towns and surrounded with apartment complexes. In this time of strong growth, Berlin was in the favourable position to have both enough money and space to construct the many representative housing blocks and well-planned, large boulevards which are still typical for the “founding times” (“Gründerzeit”) look of Berlin. “Everything is big here” commented my brother who came to visit from Cologne for a few days, “too big for my taste”. Being accustomed to village-meets-city Cologne with its small, grown structures, this perception is understandable. Berlin has few narrow streets, and sidewalks sometimes are as wide as entire streets in Cologne. Apartment buildings mostly have 5 stories, and three blocks (forming a C from a bird’s view perspective), with at least one big courtyard in the middle – something that is not seen often in other German cities.
The German Angst
However, looking upwards, the capital’s grandeur usually already ends with the fifth floor – the occasional 10-30 story apartment blocks from East times or modern office buildings hardly change that impression. Just like the rest of Germany, with tiny Frankfurt being an exception, Berlin does not have skyscrapers. In fact, Germans dislike them out of a mixture of technophobia and conservatism. This mentality has led to a legislation that makes the construction of new buildings that do not “merge with the given environment” very difficult. When Germans manage to build high rises, they are still so short that any comparison to other Western metropolises is inadequate.
The famous “German Angst” exists, and architecture is but one example. You can smell it everywhere, from the tiny problems that are discussed in the news (while ignoring actual issues), the anti-entrepreneurial spirit, the morality drained “warning” comments everywhere, the huge discussion about the surprising death of some soldiers involved in developmental aid in Afghanistan, while other countries are putting hundreds of lives on the line. The same naïve surprise at spying agencies actually spying. Germany is sometimes like the annoying student who keeps criticizing others but is not willing or able to stand on the stage himself. Of course, Germany is on the stage, but more subtly. It is more of a string-puller than a performer.
The same spinelessness can be found in its strategy for future growth: Rather than promoting and investing in IT, efficient energy generation, medicine, genetic engineering, space travel, or any other area which one may consider future-oriented, German policy has managed to focus almost entirely on the concept of “ecological progress” which, in the backwards-oriented way it is being implemented, is an oxymoron. What is worse, due to its international standing, Germany has contributed to a great extent to the current zeitgeist of technophobia and eco-religion, not realizing that its obsession is nothing else but the old self-chastising story of Garden Eden which has to be restored.
Eco-socialism in practice
But let me explain further. I am not talking about recycling or energy efficient devices, those are good ideas. I am also not talking about the usage of wind, water and sunrays as energy sources when it makes sense. Or the mid-term idea of generating energy from coal, which does not seem to be very sustainable. What I am criticizing is the anti-rational and almost religious path Germany has taken with its current eco-socialist strategy. Some examples:
- The Nuclear Angst
When the earthquake and Tsunami in Fukushima killed 20,000 people and the subsequent break-down of the nuclear reactor killed 0, the German chancellor and nuclear physicist (!) Angela Merkel publicly stated that the disaster of Fukushima had changed her mind about nuclear energy. I would like to believe that this was not because of the scientific evidence, but the mass panic she witnessed among her people. Anyway, she went on to declare that Germany after 2022 would not run on nuclear energy anymore.
Generally, speaking of nuclear energy rationally as just another energy source has become almost impossible in the media and in educated circles. Arguments and statistics are replaced with vague, unsubstantiated fears, full of inconsistencies, always following the “what if…” logic and never seeking any solutions.
- Improving it for the worse with the renewable turnaround
Germany has been heavily subsidizing private and commercial owners of solar and wind energy plants and financed this through an “eco fee” payable by all electricity consumers in Germany. The goal: Supporting an industry until they are able to produce solar plants so affordable that “grid parity” – when self-generated energy is as cheap as energy from the socket – is reached. The problem with that: a) German consumers prefer Chinese solar components which are much cheaper. As a result, 90% of the German solar industry collapsed in recent years. b) By levying fees on electricity prices and reducing nuclear energy, electricity became automatically more expensive, which distorted the perspective on “grid parity”.
As could have been predicted, the subsidy on renewable energy plants was not primarily used by ecological idealists, but private and commercial investors, on a large scale. Why invest your 20,000 with a bank when you get a return of twice as much, guaranteed, ecological correctness included? As the subsidies became more and more expensive, and the electricity net became less and less predictable (with forced EU electricity trade being the rule and power cuts becoming more common), electricity prices rose. The social effect in a nutshell: People who already had some money to invest bought themselves a solar plant and still profit from the subsidies which are guaranteed for 20 years, while not so well off city dwellers have to pay the bill.
Many young state worshippers in Berlin believe the price increase to be the evil electricity providers’ fault and demand a re-communalization of electricity generation. And greens usually blame the government for not having invested more into “smart nets” which would have solved all problems (not true). But the fact is: The entire “energy turnaround”, as the ambitious reform is called, was and is still just a bad idea.
To off-set the high prices policies are now subsidizing energy-efficient technologies and architecture, as though this patching up would be in any way “sustainable”.
- The organic food cult
A huge number of consumer products are now “eco”, i.e. organic. A yoghurt manufacturer once even put a ribbon saying “without genes” on his packaging, many vegetables producers opted for “without chemistry”. I am still wondering how such a thing would even be possible. Some products are now even difficult to get without the “eco” label. No one truly understands what “eco” is supposed to mean and I usually get vague answers when I try to find out. Eco products are a bit like anti-aging cream I figure – you don’t have much evidence of its benefit, but you choose to believe that it could help, or at least won’t hurt. The problem with eco products is that they do hurt on a large scale, because they support ineffective small-scale farming which is only made somewhat affordable (not to all) through – guess – subsidies. That too, the idea that eco products are somehow healthier or “better for the planet” is mostly a myth.
- Climate Phobia
Climate change (or the lack thereof) has been another taboo for the last years that could not be doubted, even in private circles. I will never forget the incident when I, together with one co-student, was the only one who publicly voiced her doubt about “climate change” in a business school class and another co-student shouted at me from the back bench “ignoramus!”. This was the same guy who later answered the question about India’s greatest problem with “the environment”.
Now that even one of climate change’s creators, the IPCCC, has admitted that temperatures are actually not rising and Al Gores propaganda movie has been forgotten, at least people’s brains are slowly beginning to warm up. Of course, as always, the billions of Euros, let alone the heated discussions and personal attacks will vanish in the fog of historical mistakes and no one will be held responsible.
Angst, of course, is the enemy of all freedom, and thus it does not come as a surprise that the German parliament has no libertarian party left, but a pseudo-diverse mix of modern or conservative socialists.
So, after sharing with you what I will not miss about Germany, let me return to Berlin and non-political spheres!
Of bums and hipsters
“Is he a bum or a hipster?” asked my German friend when she came to visit from her new home Madrid, looking at a passer-by dressed in a neon green XL polyester pullover with a Norwegian meets Commodore pattern, combined with a fake leather tight and worn-out sneakers. It was a rhetoric question of course, aimed at the disputable taste in Berlin’s fashion.
Berlin-Mitte is full of small boutiques and even fuller of hipsters from all over the world; a wonderful study ground for artefacts of Berlin’s style. As all fashionistas, Berlin hipsters have something intimidating; they always make you feel so yesterday and not belonging. On the other hand, I just can’t make myself like that layer look with one shapeless cloth hung over the other, or overpriced shirts that look like they have been taken from the rummage table at a second hand store.
I never understood how people take fashion that seriously. Sure, I am also influenced by it – but copying the latest trends 1:1, and then – worst – claiming that it is your own personal taste…that’s just weird.
What famous Berlin-born comedian Rainald Grebe sang about the neighboring district Prenzlauer Berg also applies to Mitte: “Everyone looks the same, somehow unique”. Ignoramus, I probably am in this case.
Of course, style does not end with clothing. Cool women currently wear huge classes, red lips and a loosely fixed bun. And men have begun to re-discover the full beard. Sometimes I feel like I have been transferred back to the 70s. Not that these looks don’t have their charm. Just that I find the glasses a bit unpractical; though at least I am actually shortsighted, possibly unlike some of the ladies who wear them. And the beards…I suppose it could look manly, in some contexts – but mostly I really think of food getting stuck in the hair, or the scratchy feeling when…but let’s not go there. Thanks to the beard trend, hipsters can now even look like bums when they are naked. I experienced this together with a friend in the urban sauna “Liquidrom”, a fusion between a sauna, pool and lounge, when we saw a figure coming into the sauna who looked like Robinson Crusoe, or Brian from the famous Monty Python movie. That guy was crossing a limit, we both agreed.
Berlin-Mitte is not just the hub for hipsters, but also for artists, tourists and entrepreneurs. Somewhat comparable to the famous writers’ cafés in Paris a hundred years ago, the latter were bred and fed in Berlin-Mittes cafés, the most famous of which is St. Oberholz at Rosenthaler Platz. Now more of a mainstream place for small scale entrepreneurs and tourists, it used to be the hub for the first wave of Berlin start-ups. Reminiscent of these times, an ocean of Macbook upper cases still welcomes you when you enter the place, and the tables without Macbooks are usually occupied by tourists. If you ask someone what they are doing they typically reply that they are “working on a project”. When I lived in Mitte in the early 00s, I used to make fun of these creatures who in my eyes did not do anything proper and felt all important about it. Now that I am one of them my perspective has changed, and I even went there to work myself one day. Soon you will see me wearing huge glasses and fake leather tights, you never know.
The costs of the city
So far, you might have got the impression that Berlin is expensive. It is not. Rents, restaurants and tickets are still cheaper than in other Big 3 Hamburg, Munich and Cologne. You can still get a small apartment for 300 €, a Döner for 2,50 € and a daily ticket for all of Berlin costs you 6,70 €.
That is changing though, particularly the rents are rising. A sign of a prospering city, some would say, but most people in Berlin agree that it is mere greed and should be stopped – by law, if necessary. Similarly, noticing the increasing difficulty to get a good apartment in any of the popular districts (while ignoring available offers in “B” districts) many have declared a housing shortage and want to counteract this by the same tool of rent control.
The senate has already put a cap on rent increases, and has strengthened tenants’ rights further, which make it close to impossible to give notice to a tenant. In addition, it is now being discussed whether holiday apartments should be forbidden in the most popular districts to make more space for “aboriginals”.
The lack of logic, and degree of envy and xenophobia in this should be evident to the attentive reader, but I will not get into politics again.
To some extent I tend to agree with the complaint of mostly leftist critics who say that “Berlin is loosing its character” and “not what it used to be”. But the line between conservatism and “social envy” on the one hand and legitimate criticism of a loss of heterogeneity is thin.
There are still plenty of districts that are not yet gentrified, almost without tourists, Starbucks and boutiques. Why not move there? Because, I think, many of the critics are either conservatives, who don’t want anything to change, or actually enjoy the quality increase that comes with gentrification, but can’t take being on the loosing side – since they can’t buy their way in through money, they do it through politics. I think that is pretty much it – simple psychology, following the same motive everyone has: optimization of one’s own position.
City of options
Berlin makes life quite easy. No matter what your taste, you will probably find it in Berlin. One of the main reasons is its multi-faceted districts (“Kieze”) which, originating from the small towns they once used to be, have developed their own flair and culture, and also their own district centers. Once you have settled down in your Kiez, you don’t ever have to leave it again if you don’t want to. If you are a classic or an elderly well-off person, one typical district would be Charlottenburg; if you are on a budget, you live in Wedding, Tiergarten or Neukölln; if you like it “alternative” and grungy and you are below 30, you live in Friedrichshain, older generations typically (still) live in Kreuzberg; Prenzlberg is for young to middle-aged ecologically correct upper middle class – former students who have auto-gentrified the district with age; and Mitte is already known to you.
The same diversity can be found in activities, institutions, parks – in short all elements you would need for a rich leisure time. I recently came across a top 10 of international cities and I think Berlin was ranked among the top 5 in terms of quality of life.
I have landed a while ago already and it is time for me to seek my quality of life over here in Bangkok. Back to no language, no fresh air, and not much to do but shopping, eating and Yoga.
Actually, not too bad when I think about it. Bye Bye Berlin!
Hello Anna, greetings from Paris. I’ve read most of your article and I’ll try to keep my answer short.
It was a pleasant read, otherwise I would have given up long ago. Some of your ideas and “out-of-the box” thoughts are interesting, but you’re at least as intellectually dishonest as those people you so elegantly criticise. First, by far the easiest point where you conveniently keep silent on one side of the story: The housing story with the ban on “Ferienwohnungen”. I believe you’re informed enough to know that this ban was very very much supported by Berlin’s hotel industry, a business lobby that eventually had it its way with the politians, citing jobs at risks, etc. Yet I don’t see you mention this in your text, and choose to put all the blame for this truly *dreadful* (how *dare* they!) development on the little man on the street with his oh-so-conservative ideas, “leftist critics” and “a degree of envy”. Well, by now we understood that you don’t like those people so they should be guilty somehow, anyway. By the way did you know that New York City was planning on going one step further and even prohibiting AirBnB short-term rentals? Can’t wait for the article in which you blame German left-wing narrow-mindedness for that too…
On the “organic food cult”: Of course it’s just a myth that organic farming is better for the environment. Come see the benefits of industrial farming in beautiful France, the poisoned rivers of Brittany, the beaches clogged with tonnes of proliferating toxic “green algae” that are the direct result of overuse of chemical fertilisers. Brittany has no heavy industry: This ecological disaster is all because of intensive farming and industrial pig-rearing with conventional methods. Tap water there is not even fit for drinking, because the underground water tables are too contaminated with nitrates. A courtesy of conventional farming practiced there for decades. But, boy, it’s “effective”! Maybe you should also have a look at the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a problem that is increasing because of the overuse of antibiotics in animal farming. There are lots of practices in conventional agriculture that need to be urgently addressed and changed. Conventional agriculture is massively subsidised too by the way, but somehow subsidies seem to be only a problem when they go to sectors you chose to dislike… There is indeed a subsidy problem with agriculture in general. Maybe we have a problem in the West with our cultural attitude towards food that should be super cheap somehow and always readily available, regardless of which season we are. There is lots of space for “inefficient” small-scale farming. Half the agricultural production is wasted in Europe and North America in the name of “efficiency” – this is the real disgrace. Not the attempt to put some reason in this crazy industry and to produce some food that does not pump tonnes of chemicals into the soil and that does not harm your health (hello allergies!). Only extremely ideologically oriented people can fail to see that and choose to have a go at “ineffective” organic farming.
On climate: I’m no expert, I wasn’t around 200 years ago when the Thames was freezing over once a decade and Londoners were holding winter fairs on the frozen river right in the middle of the city. So I won’t comment on whether winters are getting milder in my backyard. What I will comment on, however, is on rising sea levels, which eat up the paradisiac beaches of the Caribbean. I can remember a time when there were no coconut palms growing the sea. You know why? Because coconut palms don’t grow in the sea. They grow on the beach, on dry land. For sure there is a lot of ideology in the climate change debate, but I’m sure the palms of the Caribbean have not ideologically decided to grow in the sea to make a point about or fabricate evidence on rising sea levels… I won’t say more on this, because I know it won’t have much effect on your firmly established beliefs. I wish the Greenland and Arctic ice were as tough as your certainties, but alas, it isn’t, and thus keeps melting year after year. So I can only advise you to visit the Caribbean rather sooner than later, whilst we still have beaches there.
Choose to believe whom you prefer, anyway, you’re still free enough to do that. Feel free to believe companies rather than NGOs; we all know that all those companies are more sensible than organised citizens, and they usually tell the truth after all. I can easily imagine that if you had been around 50 years ago, you would have wholeheartedly supported the tobacco industry against the “ludicrous claims” of those “leftwing health ayatollahs” voicing concern about the consequences of smoking on your health.
So I’m done for now. I have better things to do today than reading sophistry. Wish you a fun time in Bangkok, and lots of yoga – maybe that will make you chill out a little bit and get rid of some of that bitterness you have in you.
I am glad my texts manage to interest you time and again.
There are two good points in your comment that I would like to address:
1. “The housing story with the ban on “Ferienwohnungen”. I believe you’re informed enough to know that this ban was very very much supported by Berlin’s hotel industry, a business lobby that eventually had its way with the politicians, citing jobs at risks, etc. Yet I don’t see you mention this in your text (…)”
Actually no, I did not know anything explicit about the hotel lobby’s involvement in this. It is a good point that definitely deserves consideration in this context. Had I wanted to elaborate on this issue I would most probably have included this angle. However, my text is kept in a personal report style that focuses on my opinion. And my opinion in turn is derived from what I have judged to be the best-reasoned and most probable facts.
Even after considering this new aspect, lobbying efforts do not contradict the existence of the numerous articles, citizen’s initiatives (nothing but lobbies either, by the way) and demonstrations against holiday apartments. I am ready to accept lobbying work as a contributing factor or tipping point; but I am yet to be convinced that it has played a larger role for legislators than their own political ideas or the voice of Berlin’s people.
2. “Conventional agriculture is massively subsidised too by the way, but somehow subsidies seem to be only a problem when they go to sectors you chose to dislike… There is indeed a subsidy problem with agriculture in general.”
True. I do admit that this was an omission that I could have avoided, particularly given the fact that I do not know for certain whether organic farming receives more subsidies than conventional farming. In any case, I am against all subsidies as they totally distort realities.
The remaining arguments are not entirely useful as they are either anecdotal or “fighting ghosts”, i.e. opposing positions which I have not taken. These forms of argumentation may work rhetorically, but not rationally:
1. “Come see the benefits of industrial farming in beautiful France, the poisoned rivers of Brittany, the beaches clogged with tonnes of proliferating toxic “green algae” that are the direct result of overuse of chemical fertilisers. Brittany has no heavy industry: This ecological disaster is all because of intensive farming and industrial pig-rearing with conventional methods. Tap water there is not even fit for drinking, because the underground water tables are too contaminated with nitrates. A courtesy of conventional farming practiced there for decades. But, boy, it’s “effective”! Maybe you should also have a look at the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a problem that is increasing because of the overuse of antibiotics in animal farming. There are lots of practices in conventional agriculture that need to be urgently addressed and changed.”
When did I say that there is nothing wrong with conventional agriculture or that it does not need change? The fact that you make me an uncritical supporter of conventional agriculture only reveals your dualistic logic whereby I am either with you or stand for what you feel to be the opposite.
More specifically, I totally agree that there are practices that need to be changed.
I am also against poisoning, toxic waste, and all the instances of bad agriculture that you list. But these are single, anecdotal incidences, which can hardly be called “typical” in any scientific sense.
More importantly, I am not convinced that organic farming is the right answer to these problems. For example, pesticides are used in organic farming as well, the only difference is that they use “natural” , i.e. non-synthetic pesticides like copper. It is wrong to assume that this makes them any less dangerous. It is true that less pesticide residue can be found in organic than in non-organic foods – however, the residue in the latter case is usually so low that this difference is hardly relevant.
Regarding the environment, reputed studies have shown that “organic” does not necessarily have less impact or is more sustainable. In fact it looks like the effectiveness of farming largely depends on the specific practices of the farm, not the label “organic” or “conventional”.
There are more arguments, but for now I wish to underline that my opinion is substantiated, and that my definition of “effective” takes all relevant factors into account, not just investment per kg of output.
2. “There is indeed a subsidy problem with agriculture in general. Maybe we have a problem in the West with our cultural attitude towards food that should be super cheap somehow and always readily available, regardless of which season we are.”
I already agreed on the problematic nature of agricultural subsidies in general. And I think that after stopping them we will not require any such large-scale cultural adjustment as you are implying, as the prices would become adequate automatically.
Regarding the seasons, I don’t see how they relate to the subsidies. Non-EU imports are not cheap because of subsidies, but actually despite them – because sourcing costs in whatever country they come from are so low that logistics costs and lack of subsidies are acceptable mark-ups. Except for the environmental factor of CO2 emissions (another topic for debate) I don’t see the problem or relevancy with this.
3. “There is lots of space for “inefficient” small-scale farming. Half the agricultural production is wasted in Europe and North America in the name of “efficiency” – this is the real disgrace. Not the attempt to put some reason in this crazy industry and to produce some food that does not pump tonnes of chemicals into the soil and that does not harm your health (hello allergies!).”
As this practice is not an inherent characteristic of conventional farming, I do not think that it can be held against conventional farming in general, rather against political and retail policies (with quota and strict retail quality standards being the main reasons). Another aspect I think is simply the difficulty of predicting demand. However, I am not sure if excess food is actually just thrown away?
In any case, I don’t see how organic farming would stop this practice, leave alone “put reason into it”. If all farming was organic farming, there would also be excess production and the same policies would be in place. One difference would maybe be the retailer’s standards, which may not be as strict on organic products due to increased public awareness.
The ineffectiveness of farming can be seen in developing countries or in the past of our own industrialized countries. There is a reason why we developed further and enhanced our methods, and similarly there is a connection between the de facto organic farming in some developing countries and their recurring famines. Organic farming reduces the access to food for all.
In developing countries with high food demand, very often only conventional, large scale farming, sometimes with genetically enhanced seeds, can produce enough food to feed everyone. For example, without promoting hybrid rice varieties and fertilizers, India would have never had its “green revolution” or self-sufficiency in terms of food in the 80s.
Regarding pesticides, environmental and health impact, I have already commented above. Specifically related to allergies, I don’t understand your point – I am not aware of organic food preventing allergies. Maybe you are talking of food additives, which would be beside the point. By the way, genetically modified foods can actually offset allergies, as in nuts.
4. “On climate: I’m no expert, I wasn’t around 200 years ago when the Thames was freezing over once a decade and Londoners were holding winter fairs on the frozen river right in the middle of the city. So I won’t comment on whether winters are getting milder in my backyard. What I will comment on, however, is on rising sea levels, which eat up the paradisiac beaches of the Caribbean. I can remember a time when there were no coconut palms growing the sea. You know why? Because coconut palms don’t grow in the sea. They grow on the beach, on dry land.”
You are using the same technique of anecdotal evidence as in the agriculture paragraph. Personal experiences are hardly a scientific method that would replace thousands of measurements, case studies and statistics. Specifically, a locally rising sea level is no proof of global climate change.
What would make you an expert is reading up the relevant studies or reports thereof. It will then become evident that climate studies are not as empirical and mono-causal as it is often interpreted.
Climate science is about prediction of future, based on highly complex and not yet mature models. A bit comparable to economic models, they do not actually “predict” anything reliably, and reality has proven this numerous times.
With this I do not mean to say that everything is random and no judgment can be made. For example, temperatures can be measured, CO2 and sea levels can also be measured. Thus it can be determined with a quite high certainty how variables have behaved over certain durations (but even measuring is not that easy due to various different techniques, especially those that go back more than 100 years). Under dispute are the causal relationships. Temperatures have gone up and down since ice age, with CO2 and temperatures correlating. Now it is said that in addition to those historical cycles, temperature has been rising unusually strong in the past 100 years or so, and that man and its CO2 emissions is responsible for that.
However that to me (and a lot of other sceptics) leaves a lot of points open, for example – why was there a decrease of temperature between the 40s and 60s? Why did temperature stop rising in the past 10 years? To explain this, experts say that the increase of temperature is being “stored in the oceans” – why are these extra explanations OK only in favour of climate change? What is the actual man-made contribution to CO2 – some say it’s just a few percent, others say it’s 100%? And most importantly: How does this lack of clarity justify the certainty that underlies the public panic and policies that have been put in place? Not too long ago, anyone who voiced some doubt on the climate change theory was publicly attacked in light of the “overwhelming evidence”. When contradicting evidence surfaced last year, the same people suddenly argued that climate science is a very complex one and there are no 100% certainties. What now?
There are no clear answers to these questions. Not just the public, but also the scientific debate is ongoing, and peer-reviewed studies often arrive at contradicting conclusions. But society – and by that I mean educated opinion leaders, newspapers, politicians – has decided to “know it all” and go ahead spreading the vision of the coming apocalypse and the necessary policies.
All I am saying is – understanding climate, and all the more predicting it, is not that easy, and even if it is all true the degree of climate change that is happening is not as catastrophic and out of line with historical climate changes as is often made to believe.
Lastly, a good part of your text consists of polemic, sometimes even personal attacks and unsubstantiated claims:
1. “[You] choose to put all the blame for this truly *dreadful* (how *dare* they!) development [the ban on holiday apartments] on the little man on the street with his oh-so-conservative ideas, “leftist critics” and “a degree of envy”.
I don’t blame the “little man” (whoever that is). In fact, where do I even mention anything similar? I refer to “many” and “most people in Berlin”, while you are making them look like a minority that needs special protection. Generally, I don’t even think in terms of “little” and “big man”, this duality is a typical socialist perspective. If at all you want to think in those terms you should realize that I in this context am the minority who opposes the majority, so you may call me “little woman” and defend me from now on.
What are you trying to get at when you say “oh-so-conservative” or “degree of envy” – if someone refuses to change they are normally called conservative, yes. And I do believe that envy is a strong motive in gentrification issues, do you have any argument against that?
2. “Well, by now we understood that you don’t like those people so they should be guilty somehow, anyway. By the way did you know that New York City was planning on going one step further and even prohibiting AirBnB short-term rentals? Can’t wait for the article in which you blame German left-wing narrow-mindedness for that too…”
I suppose by “those people” you mean the mysterious “little man” again. Clearly you are using this rhetoric to discredit me morally. The same bad style in “by the way did you know…”, “can’t wait…”. You are really only undermining yourself with this.
If we strip the paragraph off the polemics, it goes something like this: “You do not like mainstream opinions but don’t have any reasons for it, so you fabricate far-fetched evidence in your support”. In the respective paragraph I describe the current climate in Berlin on housing issues and imply that it has to do with leftist political views, envy and xenophobia. I do not even give enough details to call it a far-fetched line of reasoning, nor did I, on my personal travel blog, have the intention of addressing it in depth.
3. “I won’t say more on this, because I know it won’t have much effect on your firmly established beliefs. I wish the Greenland and Arctic ice were as tough as your certainties, but alas, it isn’t, and thus keeps melting year after year. So I can only advise you to visit the Caribbean rather sooner than later, whilst we still have beaches there.”
That ice metaphor…really? I have opinions and defend them with arguments. If you present an argument that proves me wrong, I will change my opinion (though most probably after some struggling I should admit). My impression is that you dislike the mere fact that I hold non-stereotypical opinions. Even worse for you seems to be my confidence, which can only mean two things – a) one can hold an opinion, but not be convinced of it and b) certainties do not exist. Both are quite nonsensical. Your dislike is not rational, but emotional, which also shows in the abundance of polemics in your writings.
4. “Choose to believe whom you prefer, anyway, you’re still free enough to do that. Feel free to believe companies rather than NGOs; we all know that all those companies are more sensible than organised citizens, and they usually tell the truth after all. I can easily imagine that if you had been around 50 years ago, you would have wholeheartedly supported the tobacco industry against the “ludicrous claims” of those “leftwing health ayatollahs” voicing concern about the consequences of smoking on your health.”
This last paragraph is actually a bit amusing. Where did the freedom thing come from? Unlike you I am a liberal, so coming from you it not only does not fit the context but also pervades our roles in this debate. And where on earth did you come up with the theory that I “believe companies rather than NGOs”? What nonsense. Generally, I do not just believe someone or something because it has a label like “private sector” or “NGO” or “UN”, I follow what I find to be the best logic. Having said that, of course I have a tendency to trust some institutions more than others, like everyone else. But the rule “trust companies more than NGOs” is definitely not on my list, and I don’t know where you got that from. If there is a rule, then I trust institutions or persons more if they are independent than if they are economically or politically involved in the topic. In this context, it is very naïve to assume that NGOs do not have economical or political interests. Everyone has interests, in different degrees. Therefore, you should generally not just “believe” anyone but try to follow their reasoning to detect inconsistencies.
Similarly creative is your imagination about the tobacco industry. Had there been no or no conclusive evidence on the harms of smoking I would not have opposed smoking, true. But I would have had no reason to “support” it – why? Which industry am I supporting currently?
Lastly, I find ironic how you play the role of the defender of citizen’s “raised concerns” but are unwilling to apply the same standard to me.
5. “So I’m done for now. I have better things to do today than reading sophistry. Wish you a fun time in Bangkok, and lots of yoga – maybe that will make you chill out a little bit and get rid of some of that bitterness you have in you.”
If you had better things to do, why didn’t you? It’s not like I forced you to read my blog. You do seem to find it inspiring somehow. Regarding sophistry – what have I distorted, or where is my agenda opportunistic? I may have omitted facts, which, as I have said, mostly made sense in the context of my text. And I tend to simplify issues to get my point across. However, if detail and argumentation are needed I can always provide them. Where have my points been twisted, inconsistent or random in a sophistic way?
Lastly, that total lack of appropriateness and self-reflection when you ask me to chill down and get rid of the bitterness – I think you were rather talking about yourself.