Tuesday, 20 March 2012

conservation of energy or green-washing

Alexander Neubacher, writing for Der Spiegel’s international section (auf Englisch), presents a clever look at trenchant German environmental policies and psyche, suggesting that outcomes are sometimes marginalized for the sake of the movement and solidarity. Though I do believe that many ecological initiatives of Germany and the inchoate care and concern for the planet’s health are positive, like indoctrinating everyone at an early age to develop sustainable practices, wind- and solar-power and preservation of natural habitats, it is interesting to explore how some aspects of environmentalism, in practice, have perhaps become counterproductive and have been victimized by their own success.

Some of the more convoluted efforts, with no net gain or possibly a negative impact, seem more there to uphold the laws of thermo-dynamics (that neither energy nor matter can be created or destroyed) rather than help the ecosystem. The article addresses two of the biggest perversions, bio-fuel—ethanol, which takes the incentive away from farmers to raise food crops and practice traditional methods of sustainability, like crop-rotation, and must be harvested with diesel burning tractors—and energy-saving light-bulbs—which are poisonous and have the potential to make one as mad as a hatter and are a nightmare to dispose of, but there are other unintended consequences welling up from the best intentions no longer so well managed. The deposit programme (Pfand) on single-use containers has led to a reduction on truly reusable containers, extreme water-conservation has left the sewer systems of larger cities clogged up and extra water must be used just to flush it all away, abandoning nuclear energy only to import the shortfall from neighbours, the latest craze of insulation does save on heating and cooling but the siding suffocates homes and offices and promotes growth of mould. Germany is a model for environmental activism and stewardship, and no one should be discouraged by the estrangement of policy from outcomes but rather work within that same framework of recycling, conservation and improving efficiency towards a better means of execution.