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Solar objectivity: how we can grow in the face of the environmental crisis

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Now even the last ones have sweated it out: climate change is here, the heat is here: the drought for some, the heavy rain for others is there. Everything pretty much as predicted. Together with the energy transition caused by the war, which aims to phase out Russian gas, it puts European societies right in the middle of the long-heralded feeling: things can’t go on like this. After Corona, the third major stress test in recent years, everyone wanted nothing more than this: back to normality.

It is not bans that will permanently fix it in a liberal world

And what’s next? Politically, after a brief post-Merkel euphoria, not unlike the red-green euphoria of 1998, the usual reflexes follow: my nuclear power is your speed limit, distance rules for wind turbines gone here, tank discounts and gas brakes there, chaos in the subsidies for energy-efficient renovation here, infrastructure -Disaster there (according to the interview, the head of the railway company cries every evening).

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In short, it is like the past 50 years since the Club of Rome report was published: there really is no building on forward-looking political action across party and national borders.

Getting back to things themselves, to their value, is a first building block of a new attitude towards the Anthropocene.

Jorg Metelmann

What comes are the high prices. People howl in front of the tankers that bring the oil for the winter against the last savings. Despite the relief that was quickly arranged, it is getting expensive and it is also dawning on the last: the time of cheap raw materials is over – the cheap booze is over, would be the equivalent in the image of the alcoholic profit-seeking world, which is often used for the resource-guzzling consumer economy .

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What you consume no longer just has a cheap price, but a real value, that is a central new-objective insight of the hour.

In a liberal world, bans will not permanently fix it, and neither will knowledge – Club of Rome report, Brundtland report, IPCC protocols… And unfortunately not morality either. People react exactly when the price water is up to their necks – now the time has come. Time to look the perceptible problems in the eye and to react with a sober attitude.

What we can learn today from Helmut Lethen’s “Theory of Cold Temperature”.

Getting back to things themselves, to their value, is a first building block of a new attitude towards the Anthropocene. The paradisiacal wishes that have fueled the history of utopia so far have already been realized for many people in the Global North – but at the expense of many other people, other regions, the environment.

Stephan Lessenich once called this colonial (neo-)liberal way of life “next to us the deluge”. Ultimately, this is nothing other than the matrix of utopia as invented by Thomas More in 1516: An island lives in prosperity, order and happiness, but there are slaves and mercenaries wage wars on the outside. That’s how it happened.

Long before “Babylon Berlin”, the Germanist Helmut Lethen described the 1920s as a fascinating laboratory of modernity in his classic “Behaviour of Cold” published in 1994. One experiments with attitudes, gender relations and a distanced view of a broken world. Without sentimentality, in the aftermath of the war catastrophe, artists and intellectuals imagine a world without bourgeois morality.

From these experiments one can learn the cool head that the unreconciled life between the two world wars produced for the “behavioural theory of heat”. “As you make your bed, so you lie down,” as Brecht put it. And we prosperity winners from the global supply chains have to realize that this is not a model for the world, because ultimately it doesn’t even work for us: the gap between rich and poor is getting bigger, you can never achieve the returns with your hands and heads we have known since Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century”. What this means for a democratic society can be seen every day in the nationwide educational misery, the nursing shortage and the shortage of skilled workers.

There will be other economic scope for action in 2022, even if it will become narrower. There are stable institutions – and there is solidarity.

Jorg Metelmann

Lack of illusion is another building block, but not cynicism. Here is the key difference between Lethen’s behavioral theory of cold and the current theory of warmth. “Nobody covers you up there,” Brecht continued, and that was due to the feeling of capitalist exploitation as well as the fragility of the political system and the destructiveness of weapons.

Even if the guns are talking again today, the coffers of the large corporations are bulging with surplus profits and the political system often does not deliver adequately: There will be other economic room for maneuver in 2022, even if it will become narrower. There are stable institutions, even if they sometimes act unhappily. There is solidarity, even if it cannot pay for everything.

The point of the Weimar era for our time

The “cold persona” of the 1920s, who wears different masks without identity in everyday life and reacts opportunistically to power, only fits perfectly into our world of exhibited diversity and disconnected social media bubbles at first glance. The point of the Weimar era for our time is different: In contrast to its social climate, sharing and consoling are not foreign words to the naïve and sentimental, but well thought-out economic alternatives (such as the commons economy) that have won Nobel prizes. And they are also on the cultural agenda, as the collective mourning for the burnt forests in Saxon Switzerland showed in the summer.

Sustainable solutions can only be found through sharing and cooperation.

Jorg Metelmann

A new, contemporary attitude of solar practicality, appreciating the true value of things, can soberly leave behind the gluttony of the consumer world. It is committed to the common good locally, because the proximity of local politics is the nucleus of a “we” of the future. And it stands in the light of a post-ressentimental warmth that senses the cold death of democracy in hate speech and cancel culture.

As with Albert Camus, this light is glaring, hot and often unbearable, but also of great clarity and strength, qualities that action in the Anthropocene badly needs. The solar stands for a human attitude in the face of a geological constellation: rich in contrast, decisive, with a pragmatic pathos of distance.

A solar ethic of objectivity combines sharing, consoling and trending. Sustainable solutions can only be found through sharing and cooperation. Only in recognizing the enormous losses that our sometimes obscene prosperity means for nature and many others can there be a humble foundation for a way of life in the common living space earth. And only with the power to set an example, which combines good ideas with a concrete attitude and practice, will the many people be convinced that living democracy needs in order not to finally lose its legitimacy. There are all these alternatives, they are already emerging in some places, not out of the world. And one thing they are quite sure of in the glaring light: there is no alternative.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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