Saturday, June 06, 2009



By Kevin Anthony Stoda, Germany

Two weeks ago, in Wiesbaden’s Courthouse, I heard a presentation on “A More Future-Enabled Germany”.

The presentation was very entertaining and to the point.

It was given by Michael Kopat of Wuppertal’s influential institute on SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN GERMANY & A GLOBALIZED WORLD. (In German it is called ZUKUENFTSFAEHIGES DEUTSCHLAND).

This institute houses Friends of the Earth Germany, Bread for the Word (Brot fuer der Welt), Church Development Services, and the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, and Energy.

Its SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, a report first printed in 1996 in Wuppertal , has since been called by Der Spiegel magazine the Bible for the sustainability and environmental movement in Germany.

Michael Kopat works with the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, and Energy. He opened the presentation by noting that in Europe today, “Air Transport is already creating more air pollution and global warming than all the trucks on the continent.”

With this pointed charge, Kopat was targeting the nearby development of the Hessen government called the Frankfurt Airport expansion.

No-holds-barred is how Kopat approached the rest of the topics that evening. In his main points he intertwined improvements in democracy, environment, and sustainable development as Germans prepared to go to the June 7, 2009 European Parliamentary elections.

Kopat stated, “Recurring inquiries prompted the decision in 2006 by publishers new and old to reissue ‘Sustainable Germany’. From the outset it was clear that this meant another liaison between development and environmental policy.”

Kopat noted that his institute is bringing out its newest report on “Sustainable Development” in Germany and the world at this very time.

“Based on new data it shall once again pose the question as to the meaning of sustainability for an industrialized country with international responsibility. Yet the new study is also a reaction to current undesirable developments, to the increasing demands made on the idea of sustainability and the tendencies to repeat the familiar mistakes made by industrialized countries elsewhere in the world. At the same time the study encourages active participation and will prove how easy it is to act in a sustainable manner.”


“In some ways,” Kopat has noted, “there has certainly been progress in Europe and in various corners of the world since Rio 1992 in terms of awareness and commitment to fighting poverty and environmental catastrophe by nations in the north and south.”

On the other hand, Kopat reports, the new “study ‘Sustainable Germany in a Globalised World’ challenges this idyllic stroll down ‘sustainable economic growth’ lane.”

This means: “The model of unlimited material growth in a physically limited world is outdated. The [newest] study takes a look at a fundamental change: what changes are necessary to make Germany fit for the future and capable of contributing its share to the world’s sustainability? What international and national rules and institutions are required; what changes are needed in politics, economy, consumption, products and lifestyle, at work and leisure, in technology, social co-existence and in our culture? The study stimulates, suggests, conceptualizes, and outlines visions. Thus the dimension of the task becomes apparent, as do the opportunities to become active; making the study a sober and critical book that still offers motivation for change.”

Over the evening, Kopat noted the following major points:

(1) The recent world peak in oil prices nearing $150 a barrel are not an aberration. The demand for fuel is still high and peak oil production has almost been reached worldwide. This means oil prices will put pressure on countries to move to more sustainable and environmentally energy products, but not necessarily at a fast enough speed--unless the masses of people who are concerned about the matter put significantly more pressure on their governments to act now.

(2) There is certainly the possibility that the environment in the long run will be helped by the oncoming higher-and-higher fuel prices, but with usage of coal by China, India and in the USA set to increase for the next decade, reduction in pollutants and greenhouse gases will not occur automatically. Again voters and taxpayers need to pressure on their governments to take action.

(3) One problem for the realization of the democratic desires of many people to obtain more sustainable development has been the huge amount of lobbying and propaganda moneys that global energy corporations have a their disposal. Again, citizens in Europe and around Europe must push to reduce the false information spun by the corporate world. The case of lobbies in the USA working against factual science findings over the past two decades is well known here in Europe. Moreover, lobbying capital and/or pressures on politicians must both be reduced.

(4) Although the older OECD countries of the world had been responsible for the majority of greenhouse gases prior to 1998, since that date many developing countries have surpassed the majority of OECD lands in terms of production of greenhouse gases. This means this is a global matter and Europe and other OECD lands need to be working hand-in-hand to reduce greenhouse gases and environmental damage in all of the developing lands, waterways, and breathable environments.

(5) All over Europe and the developing world, nations are using the wrong measures, such as GNP or stock markets, to measure economic growth and success. This skewed form of looking at public economy must be ended. An educated and democratic people need to demand better benchmarks or milestones, such as truer quality-of-life measures & sustainability indexes--or even simple things like measurable improvements in education and access to education and funding for the weaker in society. There is no need to focus only on making the rich richer, which has been the case for too many decades.

(6) Surveyed Germans have revealed again-and-again that making more money and buying more things does not make them any happier. A similar finding is evident around the globe. One reason for this is the increased pressure on overtime, on efficiency in production, and on getting both married partners into the workplace. These trends have all hurt the quality-of-life in developed and developing lands over the past five to six decades. This overemphasis on production and efficiency must be turned instead towards sustainable lifestyles & training. In addition measures of progress must again be applied differently by the governments and industries than has been the case to date. That is, new measures of success must become mainstreamed in the political economies of the world. Democracies must see to this. What about looking at success as the reduction of the numbers of hours one has to work while improving one’s quality-of-living and/or one’s humanistic education standards. Isn’t that a better set of goals?

(7) We already have so many energy-efficiency creating or obtaining methodologies and devices on the market. For example, heat pumps could help houses in Europe to save immensely--saving up to 90% of the heating cost in homes (if used with proper insulation practices & if instituted with the moneys being thrown at nuclear power by European regimes these days. Certainly, more solar- and other energy alternatives could be supported as well by the European governments if money wasn’t thrown away on wasteful large projects.


By the way, Kopat calls energy efficiency the SLEEPING GIANT in Europe and North America. Imagine what would happen if the moneys used on traditional coal and fuel plants spent to improve energy efficiency nationally, European-wide, or worold-wide!!!!

One bumper sticker, Kopat saw a few years back, said it all.

Kopat described that the bumper sticker, which someone had placed on an SUV down the street from where he walked to work. The sticker stated: “A penis extension would do more for you than building and driving an SUV in order to show your manliness.”
Big corporations and big investors love to throw money at big projects, like big nuclear or coal power plants. Saving energy is for them and politicians not cool and a much more indirect way to make a profit.

Kopat knows that this sort of way of thinking and investing must be ended. Only a more democratic and aware European voting population can wean the continent of “the big machine” or “big project mentality” and related approaches to energy and sustainable development in Europe.

Kopat teased and challenged the largely German audience, “Look, the Dutch ride bicycles 20 times as often as Germans. That means they live healthier and they pollute less. We need to change the way we think and make decisions. This is why I gave up a family car ten years ago—and I haven’t looked back.”


There are various political parties in Germany and across Europe who do think like Michael Kopat of Wuppertal.

Besides the Greens Alliance of Europe,

there are many smaller sustainability oriented parties such as BUESA, a party which focuses on international develop-for-all. It runs a campaign under the slogan, “Europe’s future lies in Africa.”

Kopat says Europeans must look at these ideas he has discussed (1) efficiency, (2) flexibility in labor, (3) comfort in lifestyle, (4) environmental friendliness, (5) overall true savings, and (5) fair trade before they vote or support any government or business leader on whatever project in the future.

Sadly, I and nearly 4 million others in Germany will not even be able to vote.,,4306311,00.html

Worse still, in the UK and in other neighboring lands, many voters these 2009 European Parliamentary elections will use there votes simply to punish the present government—not even thinking much to the future of their country—let alone to the future of the world or the continent of Europe.

Likewise, Germans are going to use this election as a test case for signaling what they want their major parties to talk about for the September 2009 national elections--rather than worrying about the world in 2022 as Mr. Kopat does.

Interestingly, it would likely be a red (socialist) and green alliance that could most likely end the current European Union deadlocks on constitution and social legislation.



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