Kraj svijeta onakvog kakvog ga mi poznajemo

Posted on 11/10/2010

Dan nakon što sam završila sa pričanjem optimistične priče na rubu apokalipse sam se našla na predavanju Prof. Dr. Claus Leggewiea sa Kulturološkog instituta u Essenu. Njegvo predavanje naslovljeno Kraj svijeta onakvog kakvog ga mi poznajemo. Klimatske i kulturne promjene je održano u Goethe institutu, Sarajevo u sklopu njihovog programa Radionica budućnost 2010. Sam naziv njihovog programa, a i samog predavanja me je privuklo: Dok su moje umjetničke spekulacije jedno, postoje osobe koje su se problematici budućnosti posvetili sa drugog, naučnog, stajališta. Radionica je bila namijenjena za mlade naučnike dok je Prof. Leggewie, sociolog i politolog, stručnjak za globalne klimatske promjene. Imala sam zadovoljstvo popričati sa njim dan nakon njegovog predavanja.

Lala: At the moment I am reading this book Ecological Problems in the Age of Cultural Change (ed. MH. Lübbe, H., Stöker, E. Veselin Masleša, Sarajevo, 1990.) that I find very inspiring, I suppose you know the authors, I am interested what you think of it.

Leggewie: Very conservative guys. What they say is that modernization is a machine and that we cannot stop it and what we need is compensation for it. They are not conservatives the sense that they advocate to restore the past. They are in favor of modernization, but to feel comfortable with it and in order not to be exhausted by the consequences of it, we need a counterweight in the form of cultural memory, museums, heritage, storages etc.

What I found interesting in this book of essays is that one of the theses in most of the texts is it that modernization is anthropocentric and all the solutions that contemporary society offers is technocratic and does not provide the philosophical and paradigmatic shift that is needed to preserve the environment for the future. The title of this book is somehow related to what you were talking about last night. You talked of culture in relation to climate change. You said something that I found very interesting when you were talking of catastrophe. You said that that a catastrophe is not ecological, but social because it effects people. Could you elaborate?

The example that was used was an earthquake, which is certainly not a man – made disaster. It can happen in certain zones, like in Sarajevo. The way we can prove that even non man – made catastrophes would have very different consequences, based on certain cultural backgrounds, is that in areas like Sarajevo people are more protected from earthquakes than in other regions of the world. Even non man – made catastrophes show the involvement of cultural preconditions in natural processes. This is even more true for man – made change or catastrophes that can happen as a result of us using certain technologies and not stopping to use them even when we know of the unpleasant consequences.

We were arguing either in the favor of a very fatalistic approach; saying: “Ok, we have made mistakes and we have to live with the consequences”. There are also people called “climate skeptics” who say: “This is not true”. They simply deny the presence of climate change.

There are others that would argue problems have been produced by certain technologies and now, that we know and we are enlightened that we use technologies that produce unforeseen effects, we have to invent new technologies with less malevolent consequences for example renewables. We have to invent primary energy consumption that is based on alternative technologies, solar, wind, water, biomass, etc… So this is a technological change that is possible, it is time to proceed with it.

On the other hand we forget the social form of technology, meaning industrialization. Industrialization is not just technological development. It has social consequences. The whole fabric of society is based on a way to produce and consume. If this was to change it would have profound effect on our lifestyles. It means that a society based on solar tech is totally different from a society based on fossil technologies.

We have scientists working on measurements and making prognosis models. What they are asking cultural studies and humanities is: Please tell us how you can imagine or invent scenarios for these societies of the future. How would societies of solar and renewables look?

What is most important is the idea how this transitional period can be dealt with or can be constructed in a positive way. Not just undergo a process that unpleasant for us: we need to lower our consumption of energy and everything else or be constantly faced with the consequences of climate change.

We need to invent new lifestyles that are more pleasant, contribute to human development and individual happiness. These are rationalizations that are absent from the economic development programs of the international organizations.

So, this is what I am talking about when saying: Climate change is cultural change.

It is true even in the perception of climate change. Different regions perceive climate change differently. I would not say that in Sarajevo Muslim, Croats or Serbs perceive climate change differently. I would say that these groups are not eager to acknowledge climate change because they have other things in mind. Nevertheless, you cannot say: “This is a poor, happy island, we have to develop, but we don’t have any connections to what is going on in the rest of the world.” Climate change is is a planetary problem.

Bosnia is affected by climate change even if it had, involuntary reduced it CO2 emissions from 1992 – 2005 by 50% for the reasons of de-industrialization after the war. To put it cynically, it is even good for the environment of BH. The country is still affected. Climate doesn’t make a difference between ethnicities or borders. In my idiotic idealism I would say: “People, you might have had your problems in the past, but people, you also have many problems in front of you and finding solutions to these could help your country come together!”

I had a discussion with a friend recently, we were talking about climate and religion. How come religious leaders ignore ecological problems, or do not stimulate people towards environmental issues in a positive way, whereas they make it a point to intervene into every aspect of life – all the way up to G.W. Bush and company denying climate change “in the name of god”.

As a sociologist I can observe that people who are bound to a religion have a greater respect for nature, what they call “the creation”, compared to secular, atheist or agnostic people. The first thing we can say, coming from empirical research is that the people who have a deeper understanding of the transcendence of all things would have more respect for the environment, for nature. You were talking about people who would argue: I am a religious person. But these people you are talking about have a political ideology behind them. I wouldn’t agree that Bush or Muslim fundamentalists for that matter, have religious sensibilities, they use religion as an instrument for political goals.

But, don’t religious leaders do exactly that. Isn’t that the reason why they are put in place?

We have Sufi Islam and Protestantism which are completely different. There are many that falsify their religion. I would argue that in general religious people can contribute to the solution of the climate problem. But thus is a political, secular problem. Sustainability can be based on humanistic intentions but there is no need for religion in this perspective. It can be helpful; there is a saying in the German Catholic church: “We need to respect the conservation of creation.”

In my perspective combating climate change is not just the conservation of nature. What I have in mind that this is a fight for the conservation of freedom. Individual and collective freedom is menaced by two things. One is consequence of climate change – free democratic societies can be distracted by the harsh consequences of climate change. For example, floods in Pakistan are not good for democracy. Not just bad for the people, but also bad for the country combating to save democracy against fundamentalism. The county is destabilized, and of course political ideologies take over, authoritarian ideologies. This is the first danger.

The second danger is that we could easily invent a climate policy that comes off as an authoritarian regime. The number two danger is this “ecological dictatorship”. Climate change can produce negative consequences for free societies, authoritarian climate policies can do that as well.

My argument is that – and here come the social and cultural dimensions into the game – I would argue that the main issue in combatting climate change is to preserve freedom, not preserve nature! As a democrat I would simply ask how can we prevent these two scenarios to happen. Here comes the rationale of the approach of civil society. We say that we cannot wait for governments to act and these decisions to come top down to change our lifestyles. This is up to citizens and consumers, the civil society. This comes as a surprise for most of the people. The politicians must act, everyone thinks. They can act in Copenhagen and Kyoto, but if this does not happen, we have to act anyway. We need to work too meet the criteria set by Kyoto. We need initiatives because if we wait for the big money, industries and governments, it will be too late. The consumers are a sleeping giant, if the consumers stood up and demanded different way of consumption, they would get it.

In my piece The Damned Dam, I give this dystopian vision of Bosnia which is governed by EU in the future. In this world, all infrastructure and society is ignored except the EU’s exploitation of the hydro potential of the country. People are uneducated, inert, isolated, all industry is dead…How much is this vision verible?

Let me put this in a more positive light: Bosnia can be very important. Even if it is not important in the way of the European – African energy network. This goes from the Sahara to Europe, and goes into Mali or Ghana too. Most of our energy is North African. One hundredth part of the Sahara could produce the energy for the whole world! Solar energy is totally inexpensive and is never ending in the Sahara. There is potential. There are projects of networking this with the water energy from Switzerland and Bosnia, connecting this to wind energy from the North Seas, etc. In making a super smart grid, Bosnia can be a part of it. Bosnia could export energy because it has a surplus. Here wind and solar energy comes into play, Herzegovina has a lot of solar energy. Bosnia could deliver energy for its domestic use and industrial production and export it to neighboring countries.

This is not a dystopia, it is a very positive utopia. This means that the EU needs to take action as to put pressure on Bosnia that there are investments to be done in this direction. These investments are now estimated to some 400 billon euros. This is a huge amount, but just think about the long term effect and how much it could cash in from these investments just in the near furture! This of course means that the Bosnian politicians would need to consider this situation more seriously to connect to this super smart grid.

I am always having a dystopian vision, thinking of investments in this country and the political situation. I always fear that someone could pocket it – privately and quietly.

You could say: This is human nature. You could say: This is the Bosnian dilemma. But it is not a reason to not act. I would make the super smart grid known, not leave it to the technicians, to the investors, but make it happen via citizen engagement. The other aspect using it for production locally, in Bosnia. I have two things in mind. Deep in my heart I am a pessimist. What I experienced here in ’94* can happen to Europe in general. If we go on like this in corrupted schemes and politics, if we go on with “short term-ism” in everyday life considerations, political entrepreneurs like Radovan Karadžić and the ones like him, they are all over Europe, have a chance. They can take over and can simply destroy not just a small country called Bosnia, but they can de-construct the whole fabric of Europe.

If we change, we would change the solutions, we would think more in terms of long – term sustainability, more in terms of intergenerational justice, etc. Then what is the most concrete and the most doable solution?
So, number one is dystopia – the “Bosnian” model is what happens all over Europe.
The alternative is that Bosnia liberates itself from the nightmare of what’s of this war and develops for a more sustainable future, gives up all this nationalistic machines.

I was looking at some older houses. They are built really well in terms energy efficiency. When I look at what is being built now I say: I have to get out of here! The thing is that people here already know how to save energy and how to use the natural resources like water energy. They do not need some international scheme to come and tell them: this is the alternative energy. People already have this knowledge!

Like the mills and the water wheels used to turn the lamb?

Exactly! Bosnia already has this knowledge. Now I’m going to be cynic. There are survivors here from ’92 – ’95. If you have experienced what these people have gone through, you can have plan A. Which is: Now I am going back to life and I can consume how much I can. Or you can have plan B. Saying: This is a lesson for me how to deal with scarcity; the war was a good platform to turn the page. It would be very interesting to take the inventions people used during the war and take them out of the context of the war, use them as an alternative to the over consumption. Because, scarcity is coming if things continue like they are…

It would be interesting to see more cultural and artistic projects that highlight this issue and remind the public of the alternative strategies of survival you had during the war…

Well, there is a group of female artists: Alma Suljević, Danijela Dugandžić, Lana and Lejla Čmajćanin that do a performance of cooking by a “war cookbook”, using only the ingredients that were coming as aid during the war to prepare a feast for the public.

One more question: upon researching floods for my project, they are of course connected to climate change, but also I did a lot of research on dams and hydro – power plants. Now, you mentioned China many times in your lecture last night, and it reminded me of the Three Gorges dam in China. As I see it, there are ethical problems in constructing such a huge dam. Sure, it provides for a lot of energy. It is this magnificent technology, but there is an ethical trap: 1.5 million people have to be dislocated, several cultural sites are submerges, the environment is disrupted, the landscape changed. How can we be sure that the benefits outweigh the sacrifices necessary?

Same problem. We wouldn’t have to do it if we produced energy more efficiently and if we saved energy. China is in a trap because it is in the process of growing. The middle classes have a demand for more, more, more. You have this urbanization process in Asia. I must say that this is not the best example.

You can change from nuclear power plants or carbon power plants to biomass and to alternative technology like water damns, but you still have the same problem. It is still very big technology that is used for increasing energy consumption. This is already the wrong rationale.

It seems to be true for a country like China, more energy needs to be produced for a market that seems to be evolving. But we in Europe shouldn’t look at China.

*Prof. Leggewie was a part of a convoy of that came to Sarajevo in 1994. They arrived in Sarajevo with a shipment of tens of thousands of books donated to the city as a humanistic, intellectual gesture, trying to compensate for all the burnt books in the Old Library. Their effort was welcomed with ridicule from the cities authorities and the shipment of books was lost never to be found.

Članak Naš svakodnevni Kopenhagen Prof. Leggewiea pročitajte OVDJE.
Zahvaljujem se Goethe institutu, Sarajevo za omogućavanje ovog intervjua.

Posted in: Poplava