Sunday, June 2, 2024

 Dear Disaster Diary,

 

A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.

- Adial E. Stevenson 

 

The European Green Deal-Visionary Policy Or Empty Promises?

The Green Deal or Red Alert?

The European Climate Law mandates climate neutrality by 2050. By then, industry and households are only allowed to emit as much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as can be absorbed by technical and natural means. 

Fifty individual measures and numerous laws are intended to push this initiative forward. The "Fit for 55" package sets an interim goal: by 2030, emissions should drop by 55 percent compared to 1990 levels. 

Yet, the project is stalling. For a highly industrialized continent like Europe, whose residents are accustomed to a wasteful lifestyle, the Green Deal has proven to be an exceedingly ambitious undertaking. 

Member states' measures were insufficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as planned, the Commission stated last December. Some countries are lagging, but the Commission has also been less steadfast as the Green Deal faced increasing resistance.

Lobbying has had an effect; contrary to initial plans, agriculture is not required to halve pesticide use. The EU had aimed to improve soil and groundwater quality through this measure. Additionally, the sector faces no specific reduction target for greenhouse gases. 

"Our farmers deserve to be heard," said Ursula von der Leyen. The industry, too, has grown increasingly dissatisfied. Since the onset of the Ukraine war, it has suffered from paying more for energy than competitors in the US and China. 

Expensive environmental measures, tied up in bureaucracy, are not seen as viable. Heated conflicts arose over questions such as which companies should comply with the supply chain law and whether only electric cars should be allowed in the EU from 2035. 

Consequently, the administratively burdensome supply chain law was somewhat simplified. The target year 2035 for the "combustion engine ban" still stands—at least for now, with exceptions. In 2026, the Commission will review the law. 

Moreover, even after 2035, cars running on e-fuels, i.e., synthetic fuels, will still be permitted.

Nothing could stop Ursula von der Leyen; the EU Commission President steadfastly implemented her Green Deal, and it packs a punch. The expropriation of farmers through land set-asides and the damage to the European automotive industry through the combustion engine ban are part of it. 

The German CDU politician could rely on an informal coalition of Social Democrats and Christian Democrats in the European Parliament. 

Initially, only the national conservatives to far-right parties in Europe rejected the Green Deal, which comprises around fifty laws. 

Von der Leyen and her broad coalition could still routinely sit that out. The argument of populism avoids any serious substantive discussion in Brussels as well. 

But then the farmers began to demonstrate—in France, Poland, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium. 

Hay bale barricades and street blockades with tractors are not democratic protests. They are sheer coercion, but at the same time a powerful expression of the "vox populi."

The EU is neither one nor the other. It is not a democracy, nor a republic. 

It is a homunculus mixing democratic elements like the European Parliament with the undemocratic principle of unanimity. However, the EU is a good seismograph for the mood in Europe. 

The "firewall," i.e., the uncompromising demarcation from right-wing parties, has long been fiction at the European level. 

Ironically, the German Ursula von der Leyen demonstrates to her compatriots, afflicted with exclusionitis, how to cooperate with ill-reputed parties when it benefits oneself. 

Under the pressure of the streets and the likely changing majorities, the European pseudo-democracy proves an adaptability that full-fledged democracy in Germany lacks. 

Recently, Marine Le Pen and Giorgia Meloni were still the "most dangerous women in Europe." Today, they are considered somewhat respectable, especially since they ended their factional alliance with the AfD. 

The two women are joining forces more closely. They see the historic chance to expand their power because the old parties have created a vacuum with an unrealistic asylum and climate policy. 

Nothing is more populist than a climate policy that proudly sets tough goals but cannot even present soft means to achieve them.

When a Herculean effort like the Green Deal also appears as a mere elite project, the mess is perfect. 

One should not be surprised when farmers take politics into their own hands, and judges in Strasbourg or Karlsruhe act as climate experts.

It’s Red Alert Time!

Whenever a politician trumpets net zero by 2050, especially one like Frau von der Leyen, who will be around 92 by then, just tune out and do not take her seriously. Do yourself a favor: do not vote for the EPP (European People's Party). 

And don’t vote for right-wing parties either. There’s no time left for a “protest vote.” Tell the EU that you are content with three climate laws: clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and non-toxic soil for growing food.

Frau von der Leyen’s CV is a disaster. Despite holding a medical degree (you would think "health before wealth", but no!), her lack of transparency in governance disqualifies her as the right President for the EU. 

Why does it feel like the EPP stands for European Puppet Play, with Ursula as the master pulling the strings? 

It’s crucial to make it perfectly clear: do not vote for the EPP and work to oust President Ursula von der Leyen!


 

Friday, May 31, 2024

 Famous Last Words,

May 2024


In these times you have to be an optimist to open your eyes in the morning.
- Carl Sandburg


A fool proof guide to the perfect roast chicken.


Humans love habit and certainty; research has long confirmed this. New things are exhausting, and the chatter about "stepping out of your comfort zone" is, for many, just that: uncomfortable. Why bother? Only if there's something to gain. In good economic terms, only if the investment yields a return. 

Today's menu: roast chicken, bread sauce. And with that, we toast with champagne on our fictional journey on the Titanic. Bon appétit! 

We would have liked to order a glass of Perrier or Vittel, but we are cautious. Why? Nestlé has been selling filtered mineral water from apparently contaminated sources for years. 

But because many in France profit from this luxury water, the scandal remained under wraps for a long time.

French authorities have known since December 2020 about the problems with mineral water bottlers in the country, yet it wasn't until January this year that the public learned through the media about the use of UV radiation and activated carbon filters in so-called "natural" mineral water. 

Just weeks ago, a report from the national food safety institute surfaced—again, through Le Monde and Radio France, not the Health Ministry—about the concentration of fecal coliform bacteria and "forever chemicals," like those used in the textile industry or in the coating of pans. 

The health quality of the final product cannot be guaranteed, the report on Nestlé's mineral water allegedly states.

But how do coliform bacteria, pesticides, and other chemicals even make their way into the mineral water sources? 

The primary culprit is agriculture. Nestlé has purchased more than 6,000 hectares of land around the water sources and leased it to farmers for organic farming. 

The manure from cows and sheep pollutes the groundwater. Another chapter out of "wealth before health."

In a world where multinational corporations like Nestlé put profits before people's health, we must ask ourselves: why do we let them get away with it? 

Nestlé’s actions show a blatant disregard for public health, exploiting natural resources and contaminating the very water we drink, all for the sake of maintaining their bottom line. 

The French authorities’ delayed response and the fact that critical information only reached the public through investigative journalism, not official channels, highlight a disturbing lack of accountability and transparency.

This isn’t just about dirty water; it’s about a dirty system. When will we demand better? When will the health of the public come before corporate profits? It's time for a reckoning.

 

Credits: NZZ, Le Monde, Radio France.



Monday, May 20, 2024

 Be prepared,

homeless in less than 20 minutes is not science fiction.

Hard-shell vs. Soft-shell Suitcases


Hard-shell Suitcases


Strengths:

  • Contents are more protected than in bags and soft-shell suitcases – also from thieves using a knife.
  • Washable surfaces.
  • Often more rain-resistant than soft-shell suitcases in tests.
  • Easy to push on smooth surfaces thanks to four wheels.
  • Very variable: Usually three to four telescopic handle settings.
  • Two shells, can be packed separately.

Weaknesses:

  • More prone to breakage and larger damage when dropped with heavy weight in tests compared to soft-shell suitcases.
  • Usually no expansion options.
  • Rigid case, harder to stow in cars.
  • Often a bit louder than soft-shell suitcases.
  • Harder to maneuver on cobblestones compared to rolling travel bags.



Soft-shell Suitcases


Strengths:

  • More robust in drop tests and handle durability tests than hard-shell suitcases, due to more flexible material.
  • Expansion options for more volume.
  • Four wheels, especially easy to push on smooth surfaces with little effort.
  • Variable: Usually two telescopic handle settings.
  • Flexible surface makes stowing easier, such as in a car.
  • Practical external pockets.
  • Often a bit lighter than hard-shell suitcases.

Weaknesses:

  • Usually less rain-resistant than hard-shell suitcases in tests.
  • Harder to clean than hard-shell suitcases.
  • Harder to maneuver on cobblestones compared to rolling travel bags.

Here is what "TEST" magazine says:

TypeProductPrice (EUR)Price (USD)
Hardshell Suitcases with Four WheelsRimowa "Essential Trunk Plus"880955
Samsonite "Magnum"229248
Travelite "Air Base"130141
Rolling Travel Bags with Two WheelsVaude "Rotuma 90"200217
The North Face "Rolling Thunder 30"250272
Jack Wolfskin "TRT Freight Train"140152

*Note: Conversion rate used is 1 EUR = 1.085 USD (approximate rate as of May 2024).






Our favourite brand over the years when it comes to hard-shell: SAMSONITE

Saturday, May 18, 2024

 `mayday', `mayday', `mayday'



EPP (European People Party) on Climate Change

When future historians ask, "Why didn’t people take action to stop the climate crisis when they had known about it for decades?" a prominent part of the answer will be the history of denial and obfuscation by the fossil fuel industry and the ways in which people in positions of power and privilege refused to acknowledge that climate change was a manifestation of a broken economic system. 


And then there is the EPP (European People’s Party) and this 15-year-old spot that did not age well. How can you lie this shamelessly to aspiring young child actors?


Let’s start with that sweet old man in the tram. He is Wilfried Achiel Emma Martens, Belgium’s longest-serving Prime Minister and one of the co-founders of the EPP in 1976. His climate achievements? We cannot find any significant moves on his part. They say he was a guy who did his deals in a "smoky backroom". Mr. Martens died in 2013.


Then there is José Manuel Barroso. He was the European Commission President from 2004 until 2014. Lots of time to show the next generation a change in pollution, transportation, pesticides, chemicals, and well-being. For some moments, we saw a flicker at the end of the tunnel. But it was only a flash in the pan. José was an opportunist and showed in the end his true calling by exiting straight to Goldman Sachs.


And usually, it would be ladies first, but with Dr. Angela Merkel, it is complicated, to say the least. If there is an enigma to the climate crisis, it would be her. When it comes to overpromising and under-delivering after 16 years in power, she deserves the gold medal.


So, in case the EPP likes to put out a new video about fighting climate change, Mrs. Von der Leyen should tell the next generation the truth. Here is a sample:


"Dear kids, only shareholder value counts, achieved through constant acquisitions, mass layoffs, and cost reductions. Politics, especially us in the EPP, have facilitated all of this. 

Every day in Brussels, decisions are made that influence the rules of the game. You have to imagine it like a black box: Lobbyists and campaign donations go in at the front, and rules come out at the back that are good for corporations and the wealthy. 

So, will you still vote EPP when you are old enough?"

Sunday, May 5, 2024

 ....  `mayday', `mayday', `mayday'....




If only we could generate power from the conservatives gaslighting!"

- Adaptation Guide

STOP THE "GREEN-WASHING/WISHING"!


In the battle against climate change, there's growing talk of deploying large-scale geoengineering projects to counteract rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Proponents tout these initiatives as potential saviors, offering a seemingly quick fix to a complex global crisis.

However, behind the allure of geoengineering lie profound risks and ethical dilemmas that must not be ignored.

One of the key concerns is the exorbitant cost associated with artificial carbon removal technologies.

Critics rightly point out that these methods can cost upwards of $600 per ton of CO2 removed, making them financially impractical on a large scale.

Moreover, investing heavily in such expensive and unproven technologies could divert resources and attention away from more immediate and effective strategies to reduce emissions at their source.

Another troubling aspect is the involvement of oil companies and tech giants in geoengineering ventures.

Environmentalists rightly fear that these powerful entities could exploit geoengineering as a means to prolong our reliance on fossil fuels, rather than embracing the urgent transition to renewable energy sources.

Allowing vested interests to drive geoengineering discussions risks entrenching the very industries responsible for our climate predicament.

Moreover, geoengineering schemes reflect a dangerous mindset of domination over nature that has contributed to the climate crisis in the first place.

Manipulating Earth's systems on a global scale carries immense unknown risks, from unintended ecological consequences to geopolitical tensions.

The hubris of believing we can engineer our way out of climate change overlooks the complex interconnectedness of our planet's ecosystems.

The notion of geoengineering as a "plan B" is deeply concerning. By presenting these technological gambits as fallback options, we risk delaying the urgent societal transformations needed to curb emissions and transition to sustainable practices.

This narrative conveniently absolves fossil fuel industries and other proponents of geoengineering from taking meaningful action now.

In reality, geoengineering is not a viable solution—it's a distraction and a dangerous gamble.

Instead of entertaining technological fantasies, we must prioritize immediate and drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with transformative shifts towards renewable energy and conservation.

Our focus should be on nurturing a harmonious relationship with the Earth, not further exploiting it for short-sighted gains.

The implications of mainstreaming geoengineering discussions are far-reaching.

Let's not be swayed by false promises or convenient diversions. The path forward demands bold action rooted in humility, sustainability, and respect for our planet's delicate balance.

Geoengineering is not the answer; it's a misguided detour that leads us further away from genuine solutions to the climate crisis.

Adapt and Survive.


Credits: Channel 4, New York Times, Sky News, "The Climate Book".

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

 Famous last words, April 2024


Sooner or later, we will have to recognise that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans.

-Evo Morales

Lamb & Mint Sauce! A Classic Springtime Recipe

As we indulge in the luxury of a spring lamb dish aboard our symbolic Titanic, the recent earthquake in Taiwan serves as a stark wake-up call.

This seismic event, which rattled even the bustling city of Taipei 120 kilometers from its epicenter, underscores the critical importance of resilient infrastructure in mitigating disaster.

Despite the magnitude of the tremors, only ten lives were lost—a testament to Taiwan's stringent building regulations.

Taiwan's resilience, however, lies not solely in its structural fortitude but in its robust democratic ethos.

Unlike many other nations, Taiwan's strength emanates from its stable democratic system, where politicians and parties face consequences for failing in disaster preparedness and response.

Civil society and the media play pivotal roles in holding accountable those who cut corners, with courts largely maintaining their independence.

Yet, while Taiwan stands as a beacon of democratic strength, the broader global landscape tells a different story.

According to Freedom House, a significant decline in the number of free countries—from 89 in 2005 to 82 in 2020—signals a troubling trend.

This erosion of democracy is not confined to distant lands like Hungary or Turkey but also affects established democracies like the United States and Canada.

Internal polarization, fueled by misinformation and grievances, threatens the very fabric of liberal democracies.

In the face of these challenges, the ADAPTATION GUIDE offers a poignant reminder: stay focused on what matters.

The distractions of UFOs, self-driving cars, and the allure of technological advancements divert attention from the core of democracy—voting.

It calls for decisive action, urging citizens to oust conservative elements hindering progress.

Turning to environmental concerns, the recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights against Switzerland exposes a broader failure in addressing climate change.

The ruling, while not prescriptive, highlights the urgent need for systemic change to protect our right to life.

Moreover, the looming climate crisis lays bare our species' inertia in the face of catastrophe. Despite our collective ability to achieve monumental feats—building cities, global communication networks, and advancing technology—our response to climate change falls short.

The axiom that "it's easier to imagine the end of the human race than the end of capitalism" resonates deeply, underscoring a systemic reluctance to confront entrenched economic systems.

In conclusion, the challenges we face demand a reinvigorated commitment to democratic principles and urgent action on climate change.

We must reclaim the narrative and steer our future towards sustainability and equity. Let us heed the lessons of Taiwan's resilience and confront the existential threats with unwavering resolve.

The time for adaptation and survival is now.


Credits: New York Times,

Neue Zürcher Zeitung,

Globe & Mail,

Titanic 1st. Class Menue,

Report of the Task Force on National Security


Sunday, April 21, 2024

Annual Adaptation - Guide "Earth Day" Assessment 


I conjure you, my brethren to remain faithful to earth, and do not believe those who speak unto you of superterrestrial hopes! Poisoners they are, whether they know it or not.
- Nietzsche


Gaylord Nelson and the origins of Earth Day.

As we mark another Earth Day, it's painfully clear that we're stuck in a relentless cycle of crises with no end in sight.

The issues of nuclear threat and accelerating global warming are not merely recurring; they're intensifying with alarming speed.

What's more disheartening is that these were the same headlines last Earth Day. Despite this, tangible actions remain elusive, trapped in bureaucratic stagnation and half-hearted commitments.

Let's start with the nuclear threat—a catastrophic menace that could annihilate life within moments. The solution isn't rocket science; it's dialogue and decisive international agreements. We need renewed talks and stringent treaties to curb this existential danger.

But it seems we'd rather play geopolitical poker than ensure our collective survival.

Then there's the relentless march of global warming—a crisis that demands immediate and comprehensive action.

The time for half-measures has passed. We need governments and industries to step up, not with empty promises, but with concrete strategies backed by science and innovation.

What's missing is a unified front—a roundtable of minds that transcends politics and embraces expertise.

We need scientists, engineers, historians, doctors, think tanks, environmentalists, and indigenous voices.

Together, we can craft adaptation strategies focused on floods, extreme heat, and wildfires. But drafting plans is futile without committed execution. Too often, ambitious strategies gather dust while the world burns.

Now, how do we adapt when chaos becomes the new normal? How do we fortify homes to withstand unpredictable, simultaneous assaults from droughts, storms, fires, and rising seas? Perhaps the answer lies in unexpected places, like a boat in a yacht club.*

Picture this: a blackout in winter—no problem, just fire up the diesel and recharge your battery. Is it affordable? It depends, but when survival is on the line, affordability takes a back seat to necessity.

Speaking of survival, the importance of air conditioning cannot be overstated. Cooling centers are essential, especially for our homeless populations.

Air conditioners should be prescribed for public health, not just a luxury for the fortunate. Tax credits and subsidized power in peak seasons could be a lifeline for those vulnerable to extreme temperatures.

And let's not forget indoor air quality—a matter of life and death in the face of pandemics and wildfires.

It's time to overhaul outdated ventilation systems and invest in air purifiers with HEPA filters. If we must go outside during wildfires, let's arm ourselves with N95 masks, not false reassurances.

But amid these urgent calls to action, there's a sobering reality: our capacity for collective action seems crippled by inertia.

We're bickering over trivialities like daylight saving time while our planet burns. The shock of climate disasters is waning, replaced by a dangerous complacency.

Let's be clear: complacency is not an option. As disasters become routine, we risk normalizing the unacceptable. It took just two years for people to accept extreme weather as the new normal.**

We cannot afford such desensitization—not to climate disasters, not to pandemics, not to war.

So, on this Earth Day, let's rekindle our outrage, revive our sense of urgency, and demand action.

It's adapt or die—a stark choice that demands courage, innovation, and unity. We won't succumb to indifference or resignation. We'll confront the facts, advocate for solutions, and shout from the rooftops: adapt or die!

Happy Earth Day—may it serve as a rallying cry for change before it's too late.


Acknowledgements:

* Upcoming essay on "Living onboard".

** Study from 2019

The Globe & Mail

The New York Times



 Dear Disaster Diary,   A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for ...