What a climate guy has to do with refugees

“You’re a climate guy – why are you jumping on the refugee bandwagon now?”

“Aren’t you instrumentalizing the refugees for your climate message?”

I was a bit shocked at these types of accusations when I brought up the topic of refugees in the context of climate at a few events recently. Initially, I didn’t think that mentioning this would cause a ruckus, but some people (who didn’t know me) didn’t see the connection and felt it was too far-fetched. I hadn’t realized that the links are not so well-known in the public eye yet.

To me, climate change has always been strongly linked to the displacement of people: In the simplest terms, it’s the people in coastal areas affected through the sea level rise. However, it goes a lot deeper. Climate change will fundamentally change our life on this planet, and with more extreme weather patterns will lead to less inhabitable and farmable land, which will change where on this planet people can live (well).

Back in 2010, when we hosted the German premiere of “The Age of Stupid” in Berlin, we invited Hermann Josef Hack, an artist who visualizes the looming climate refugee crisis if we fail to solve this challenge. I’m not concerned about climate change because of a romantic idea of a healthy planet – I’m pretty sure the planet and nature will survive whatever happens. The question is if we will survive, and how we will. Will we stick to our ideals of human rights when we are tested in tough times?

With so many people fleeing Syria at the moment, many don’t see that even in this case, climate change underlies the tragedy. For more than 4 years, a drought forced more than a million farmers to flee into the city. It has been well documented by the Washington Post in 2013, made easy-to-understand by this comic, and already in 2003 the Pentagon recognized the security and migration implications of climate change.

Once we understand this connection, I think it’s time to ask the question: What the hell is an “economic refugee” anyway?

Why do we choose to only help people fleeing from military conflict (and only if we recognize it as such) and not help people fleeing from extreme poverty or loosing their land? Island states such as the Maldives have been pretty vocal about the question of their future when their islands will disappear. How do we deal with these questions? When the inhabitable parts of the world shift, how do we justify our perceived right to the land we currently live on and our reflex to defend it against ‘intruders’?

I’m passionate about climate change because I believe it is the largest challenge we are facing, and I think it’s the calling of our generation to solve it for future generations. I’m passionate about solving the refugee crisis because it is the most urgent humanitarian crisis we face, and I believe that it is in times of crisis that we have an opportunity to prove that we really do stand by our values. These two causes are linked, and my engagement in both of them comes from caring for humans and the desire to make the most impact I can to leave behind a better world for us, humans.

#COP21 and the Road to Paris

My speech at the Silent Climate Parade focused on COP21 and I promised to post some information for people too lazy to surf the internet. Well, this won’t be a dissertation, but I wanted to collect and point to a few good resources for people to get started with talking about it. Leave more in the comments if you’d like to point my attention towards interesting stuff.

Why does it make sense to solve climate change? If you’re stuck on that question, read the fantastic ‘Story of Energy’ chapter on this waitbutwhy article.

As I said, I think COP21 we need to see it as a chance for our leaders to solve a the issue of climate change, which is so fatally different from other challenges and so far-reaching. Not to say it will solve anything, but it can be a major step in the right direction – the first real one in 23 years since the creation of the UNCCC at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.

Many people are still frustrated about the failure of Copenhagen’s COP15 in 2009, which was pushed into the public eye as a decisive moment for climate action. The enormous media attention and heads of state in attendance didn’t really get us anywhere. Many on the activist side explored different paths such as the very successful divestment campaign or direct actions, or like myself more towards pushing practical solutions though innovation and entrepreneurship. Follow the #climate tag on this blog for some things I posted about.

With COP21, there’s again a blossoming hope that there can be a global political solution. On the other hand, if talks fail then it is probably the last nail in the coffin to the idea that we’ll come together as a global village and make the rational choice to preserve our habitat. My wish is that we can start talking about it more and bring the urgency of this to the public awareness. I think those that are serious about a sustainable future need to be vocal about their expectations from their political leaders and drive the conversation.

The Guardian is a good place to get an overview of the most basic facts on COP21 in Paris in December as well as this article on ensia. If even a fraction of this information would permeate into our conversations I’d call it an achievement. Even better, if we would could make it understood that solving climate change is an opportunity to build a better world.

In addition to my posts on this blog, for further reading some more articles that deserve attention on COP21 or climate change:

I’ll be adding things here as I come across them. For now I’ll leave you with Leo.

photo above by Jason Krüger at ekvidi

Rede SCP 2015

Es hat Spaß gemacht, aber warum machen wir das?

Ganz klar: Wir müssen niemandem sagen, dass die Lage ernst ist. Jeder weiß, dass die Lage Ernst ist.  Doch
ich glaube auch an eines: Das Vergangene bestimmt nicht unser Schicksal. Wir
haben die Zukunft in der Hand.

Ich glaube an die Kraft der positiven
Kommunikation. Wir haben heute wieder etwas auf die Straße gebracht, dass so
schön war, dass so viel Freude ausstrahlte, dass wir die Menschen die uns sehen
zum Zuhören und Mitmachen inspirieren.

Ihr habt heute bestimmt schon ein paar Klimatipps
bekommen, und ich will hier auch gar nicht anfangen zu predigen. Wir haben
heute viel über die Klimakonferenz in Paris im Dezember gehört. Klimakonferenzen
gibt es ja jedes Jahr, warum ist also 2015 besonders?


Die COP21 in Paris spielt deswegen eine Schlüsselrolle in der internationalen Klimapolitik weil es nach dem Scheitern von Kopenhagen in 2009 die wahrscheinlich letzte Chance ist, dass wir eine weltweite Einigung zu diesem globalen Problem erzielen können. Wenn Paris scheitert, dann beerdigen wir die Hoffnung die 1992 in Rio beim Earth Summit geweckt wurde – und zwar dass wir als Menschheit Umweltprobleme global lösen können. Ich will nicht, dass 23 Jahre an Verhandlungen umsonst waren!

Bei allem Ernst der Lage will ich getreu
unserem Motto versuchen das Positive zu sehen. Einige von Euch wissen
vielleicht, dass ich eigentlich mehr von Machern und Sozialunternehmern halte,
als von der Politik. Aber dieses Jahr hängt so viel Hoffnung an diesem Prozess
und ich sehe eine große Chance. Es ist eine Chance für die Politik. Es ist die Chance, zu zeigen, dass die
Politik noch relevant ist und ihrem Auftrag als Volksvertreter heutzutage noch
gerecht wird.

Denn momentan ist die Politik doch kaum noch
relevant. Selbst in der hochpräsenten Flüchtlingskrise kommt von der Politik
lediglich Reaktion, keine pro-aktiven Lösungen zu den Ursachen der Probleme. Dieses
warme Gefühl das ich zum ersten Mal in Verbindung mit unserem Land empfinde,
kommt nicht von der Politik sondern von den vielen Menschen die ganz
hemdsärmelig mitanpacken, Willkommenskultur zu zeigen. Auch ihnen möchte ich danken.

Ebenso ist es beim Klimaschutz und der
Zukunftsfähigkeit unserer Gesellschaft. Denn der Klimaschutz ist ganz elementar
mit den wirtschaftlichen Aktivitäten unseres Landes verbunden. Doch was ich
sehe, ist dass Unternehmen die Macht haben. Unsere Politik wird mehr von Lobbyisten
gelenkt, als von den gewählten Volksvertretern. Ich wünsche mir, dass die
Politik zeigt, dass sie mehr sind, als das Mittelmanagement der Wirtschaft. Für
den Klimaschutz brauchen wir ein starkes, rechtgültiges und ambitioniertes Abkommen
als Ergebnis der Verhandlungen in Paris. Und dies ist die Chance, liebe

Der Klimawandel ist eine Bedrohung, die
oft schwierig zu fassen ist, weil sie sich – ein wenig wie unsere Parade – oft schleichend
vollzieht. So eine Bedrohung abzuwenden wäre ein historisches Ereignis und in
meinen Augen ein Zeichen dafür, dass wir uns als Menschheit tatsächlich
weiterentwickeln können und kein Problem zu groß für uns ist. Das wäre doch mal
ein politisches Vermächtnis, oder nicht?

Dafür stehe ich heute hier und gebe
meine Meinung kund. Denn auch wenn ich in meinem Privatleben jeden Tag
versuche, nachhaltiger als gestern zu leben, so weiss ich, dass es nicht genug
ist, wenn ich das nur im stillen Kämmerlein mache. Liebe Parade, wenn auch Ihr glaubt,
dass eine nachhaltige Zukunft wichtig ist, und dass die COP21 in Paris eine
Chance für Politiker sein kann, ein historisch bedeutendes Vermächtnis zu
hinterlassen, dann habe ich eine Bitte an Euch: Sprecht darüber.


Sprecht darüber wie wichtig es ist, dass
es in Paris eine Einigung für den Klimaschutz gibt. Sprecht über diese
historische Chance, das Richtige zu tun. Sprecht darüber mit Freunden,
Verwandten, und den Leuten, denen Ihr begegnet. Benutzt Social Media,
unterschreibt Onlinepetitionen, unterstützt andere die darüber sprechen, oder
wenn Ihr ganz mutig seid, schreibt und ruft direkt bei Euren Vertretern an. Lasst
und gemeinsam dafür sorgen, dass uns bewusst wird, dass Paris nicht nur eine
weitere Klimaverhandlung ist, sondern die beste Chance auf eine Nachhaltige
Zukunft die wir haben.

Wenn Ihr dazu mehr Informationen
braucht, und Ihr Euch nicht durch das ganze Internet wühlen wollt oder könnt,
dann findet Ihr in den nächsten Tagen weitere Informationen dazu auf meinem
Blog. Vor allem, sprecht darüber, was Ihr
heute erlebt habt und wozu es Euch inspiriert hat. Dafür danke ich Euch.

Und nur damit das ganz klar ist, dass
heisst nicht, dass wir nicht weiterhin auch den Mund aufmachen gegen die ‚Ich
bin ja kein Nazi aber’ Idioten.

Enden möchte ich mit einem Gedanken aus
Naomi Kleins neuem Film ‚This Changes Everything’: Was, wenn der Klimawandel
nicht nur eine Krise ist? Was, es die beste Chance ist, die wir jemals bekommen
werden, um eine bessere Welt zu bauen?

nice appearance by the always-amazing naomi klein on bill moyers. 30 min worth watching. i love her analysis of most climate activist messages that target the individual (‘you can do something about it by changing your behavior’) and often neglect the necessity for collective action. this point is the reason i finally became a fan of annie leonard’s story of stuff series when she presented the story of change, and what i love about occupy movement: the realization that we need to break out of the individualistic thinking that keeps us competing against each other rather than working together. we’re all in the same boat and should start acting more like it.

i’m mostly contemplating her point that part of the reason why public opinion on the subject of climate change has been so shaky is the discrepancy between saying ‘this is a huge, armageddon-style problem’ but suggesting that the solutions only have a very minor impact on our lives (‘changing light bulbs’) and do not demand big sacrifices from anyone. maybe it’s because ‘being radical’ has been put in such a bad public light, and the public debate tends to frame climate activists as radical – while it’s actually the other way round, as mckibben so rightly points out: the true radicals are those who are fundamentally changing the composition of the atmosphere.

i’m no historian, but i do tend to agree with her (as i usually do..) that this is the greatest problem we’ve ever faced as humanity. it’s what makes this the most interesting issue to work on and be a part of.

by the way, also just in: is calling climate activists around the world to join the global power shift kick-off in istanbul from 10-17 june 2013. i’m hoping i can join, and look forward to meet climate activists from around the world! on the Do The Math Tour: 3 sold-out nights so far, and clear language: 5 times more than is safe to burn.

It’s simple math: we can burn 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves, five times the safe amount. And they’re planning to burn it all — unless we rise up to stop them.

What we can do? Well, join the tour, join the movement. It sounds very promising, with an interesting program and some great guests, incl. Naomi Klein and Kumi Naidoo. Wish the tour would make it to Europe.

And I like the approach of divestment from the fossil fuel industry to solve this problem:

It just doesn’t make sense for universities to invest in a system that will leave their students no livable planet to use their degrees on, or for pension funds to invest in corporations that will ruin the world we plan to retire in.
The one thing we know the fossil fuel industry cares about is money. Universities, pension funds, and churches invest a lot of it. If we start with these local institutions and hit the industry where it hurts — their bottom line — we can get their attention and force them to change. This was a key part of how the world ended the apartheid system in South Africa, and we hope it can have the same effect on the climate crisis.

the yes men are crowdfunding their next movie on the chamber of commerce, one of the major reasons that effective climate change legislation is not happening in the US! highly worth supporting, they are some of the most inspiring contemporary activists.

(if you don’t know it yet, check out their movie ’the yes men fix the world’)

they also made significant contributions to the book ’beautiful trouble – a toolbox for revolution’ which is indeed a book that’s a great resource for anybody interested in activism.

the silent climate parade will roll again through berlin this september!

remember, when we danced through berlin to demonstrate (for) a sustainable future? if not, read the description below to get and idea of what we’re all about! and check out the 2011 video (thx, laurent!) & the website!

the plan for 2012: on september 22, we’ll start the parade around alexanderplatz. get your headphones between 12-2pm, and then the parade will dance silently through east berlin from 2-5pm. we’re in the midst of organizing, so stay tuned via the fb event!

[EDIT: the DJs are confirmed! we proudly present:

but we need your support: we’re crowdfunding via betterplace to make this day possible again. can you help us to organize the best silent climate parade ever?

The Silent Climate Parade is a demonstration in Berlin to raise awareness about the failure to solve the climate change problem. With wireless headphones, quality DJs on electromobiles, signs, flyers, choreographies, and lots of enthusiasm, we dance silently through the streets in a fun, colorful and inspiring action to catch people’s attention. We do this to show that it’s possible to have fun, be climate friendly, and make a political statement at the same time. Let’s get moving!

nice campaign ad by the very supportable just appeared on my timeline!

Just like past movements, the climate movement needs iconic visuals. And that’s exactly what Project Survival Media is poised to create. We’re asking you to join 99 other people and invest 50 cents a day or $15 a month to support youth journalists reporting on issues of climate justice. Go here to donate:

Thanks to all of you in advance!