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Germany

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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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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