Green Is Ugly: Style Problems Plague Clean Energy Push

Germany is a world leader when it comes to green energy. But while its windmills and solar panels may be cleaning up the atmosphere, they’re also sullying the landscape.

Green Is Ugly: Style Problems Plague Clean Energy Push
Ulf Poschardt

Is staying happy and healthy as long as possible worth it in an ugly world? Or will old buildings disfigured by insulation material, landscapes spoiled by windmills and dull living rooms barely illuminated by energy efficient light bulbs end up being more unpleasant – and unhealthy – than polluted air?

As of now, the green zeitgeist has not made Germany any more beautiful – just more plain. The first solar power users destroyed with almost missionary fervor the houses they inherited from their parents and grandparents. With the exception of a few avant-garde architects who build exclusively for the über-rich, the solar panel roof is an architectural abomination.

Ask a proud owner of an old building about their solar "lumps," and you will mostly hear about the wonders of self-made energy. These people have little tolerance for superficial criticism. Just like any moral zeal, the ecological furor, too, relies on internal values that accept the most awkward of packaging.

There is no end in sight to the green success story. The state of Baden-Wuertemberg recently elected a Green governor, and in a couple of years a Green Party member could reign in Berlin, the capital. The Greens won 6.7% of the vote in the 1998 elections, and 8.6% four years later. Nowadays, they're three to four times as powerful, which is exactly why it makes sense to anticipate in detail how corresponding policy changes will affect the country.

Subsidies for the solar panel and windmill industry have already had a lasting aesthetic effect on the country. On both the federal and state level, we're also seeing some of our cultural traditions evaporate.

Recent speeches and interviews by Green Party leaders offer insights into their plans for the future: speed limits, higher taxes and lots of regulations. Fans of fast cars will still be able to enjoy their rides, but not at the expense of the greater good of the people. Introduction of the planned speed limit would kill the one place where Germany is less regulated than the rest of the world, the Autobahn.

The Greens are hoping many people give up their cars altogether. Their re-education efforts – aimed at turning Germans into eternal bike riders – demonize the highway in order to glorify the bike path.

The intellectual cue givers for this planned policy shift leave no doubt about the drastic nature of the change. The government's environmental advisory council demands nothing less than the reconstruction of civil society.

"The house of mankind is rotten and needs to be repaired urgently," says climate scientist and advisory council member Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. "We need a sustainability revolution."

Oh great, another revolution! The current insulation craziness is the responsibility of a coalition government of CDU and FDP. What would happen to our living spaces if they fell into the hands of more serious revolutionaries? A Sunday paper recently called insulation the Burqa for the house. Chances are it could soon become the standard.

The term "creative government" – something Schellnhuber longs for – is a concept that is at once innovative and authoritarian.

So far, the current eco-revolutionary avant-garde has not shown any expertise in the realm of the beautiful. Artist Joseph Beuyes has not found a successor within the Green Party. Now, the lifestyle trend that confuses fair-trade products with luxury, colorfulness with elegance, pettiness with minimalism, and IKEA with Scandinavian design, threatens to take over.

"The ‘creative government" and the pioneers of change are the central actors for change," according to Schellnhuber's study. "The ‘creative government" provides a free space for those pioneers of change and actively supports them." There's only room, in other words, for like-minded people.

The Greens must take the aesthetic dimensions of their ideas seriously if they want to do justice to their growing responsibility. Otherwise the German special path could cease to be an ecological roll model and turn into a bad example.

Maybe the Greens can try out their new strategies on the corners of the country that can't get any uglier. The future of design, architecture and mobility is, after all, green. It needs time and space to develop and yes, it does require a creative society. What it doesn't need are government prescriptions.

Good intentions alone are not enough. Beauty exists because it is treasured and preserved. That's not the case with energy efficient light bulbs and hybrid cars, which too often are just a placebo for a pure conscience.

Read the original article in Germany.

Photo - Skywalker/Flicker

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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