When Donald Trump pulled the United States out the Paris Agreement on Climate Change last month, he declared that the historic international accord "hamstrings the United States while empowering some of the world's top polluting countries." He was talking about China and India.
True, both countries are expected to increase emissions as their economies continue to grow in the coming years. But they have also stated that their long-term economic strategy is to reduce their respective national carbon footprints. And even more than decisions from the White House, the success of India and China in making a shift to environmentally-friendly policies is crucial to surviving the effects of climate change. The two countries currently comprise some 37% of the total world population, and will top 3 billion people over the next decade, writes the Mumbai-based Economic Times in a report on new United Nations population forecasts.
But even with the greenest of intentions, there are major questions about exactly how to confront climate change. Just a few days after Trump made his announcement, the world's largest floating solar farm opened in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui. The 40-megawatt power plant, comprised of 160,000 panels, sits atop a flooded coal mine. It is the largest energy project of its kind in the world and the Chinese authorities were sure to release mind-blowing video images of the complex.
China has a penchant for thinking big. In 2012, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River generated a world-record 98.8 terawatt-hours. Today, deep inside the Chinese heartland, the national government is constructing the world's largest wind farm. When completed in 2020, the Gansu Wind Farm will produce 20,000 MW, nearly 2.5 times the Bruce Nuclear Station, the world's largest nuclear generation facility.
India has said that it too will pursue ambitious green energy projects in the coming decades. Le Monde reported this week on the latest grand declaration from the government of Narendra Modi that India would become the first major country in the world to shift completely to electric vehicles. But with an economy that is only one-fifth the size of China's and a far more decentralized government, India will find it harder to finance projects at the national level. Indeed, observers have taken New Delhi's green energy plans, including the development of a dozen "smart cities," with a grain of salt.
The South Asian country's push toward renewable energy and greenhouse gas mitigation has instead relied on numerous smaller, often local or private, initiatives. Energy Service Companies (ESCO), which make profit from what they save their customers on energy, have become increasingly popular in the country. One government ESCO has helped to drive down the cost of LED lighting as part of a nationwide initiative to replace 770 million house lights and streetlamps with this new technology. The project is expected to cut India's CO2 emissions by 80 million tons.
The smaller-scale "Indian model," with its focus on state government and private initiative, might be America's future as well. Already dozens of cities, states, and companies have committed themselves to the Paris Accord in spite of the Trump's June announcement. Ultimately, scientists and policymakers tell us that saving the planet from global warming isn't an either/or question. National and local governments, India and China, you, me and everyone we know: we will all need to change the way we make laws, conduct business and live our lives.
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.
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.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
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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