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The Greening of Berlin

The Local · 23 Nov 2010, 11:27

Published: 23 Nov 2010 11:27 GMT+01:00

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Who would want to be mayor of Berlin? Sure, there are worse jobs. Salesman in one of the German capital’s many sex shops, perhaps. But to be mayor of Berlin is to live a lie: you have to pretend that this strange fractured city is still governable. You have to act as if your decisions make a difference when actually the actions of City Hall are increasingly irrelevant to everyday life in Berlin.

And now the formidable Renate Künast – who has always reminded me of the Belgian comic strip Tintin – has declared herself a candidate for the job. Like Tintin, the roving reporter, she is constantly on the move in search of adventure, solving mysteries, unmasking bad men. And just as we never see the cartoon journalist actually writing a story, we rarely see Ms. Künast actually making decisions. So it could be that she is just about perfect for the Berlin job.

The Greens are astonishingly popular at the moment because they are deemed to be in accord with the zeitgeist. There is a deep suspicion about insensitive political decision-making, the inability of politicians to address popular fears and resentment.

We need to find new ways of conducting a political conversation - that is obviously what Stuttgart 21 demonstrates. The protestors there, and near Gorleben in recent weeks, were overwhelmingly bourgeois – doctors and teachers in Timberland boots angry that politicians did not seem to be treating them seriously. Increasingly Berliners feel the same about their centre-left Social Democratic Mayor Klaus Wowereit, that he has stopped listening. The Greens, on the other hand, have created a whole culture of political debate. They remain the party of speech therapy.

But when it comes down to governing rather than consulting, Greens too often resort to pressure, to force. The classic example is the Marburg solar panel obligation: the ruling that all home owners have to heat their water with solar energy when they renovate their houses. From the English point of view, this is an extraordinary infringement of property rights. The Greens’ party conference later this month will set national targets – complete ecological power by 2030; oil heating out of houses by 2015 – that can only be realised by compulsory measures. That is the paradox of Green power. On the one hand it promises a consultative democracy; on the other hand it denies choice for those people who do not want, or cannot afford, to conform with a politically correct approach to containing climate change.

If Renate Künast becomes mayor, will she act as an eco-dictator, a kind of Green Imelda Marcos? The truth is that the most successful Green mayors – in Tübingen and Freiburg – have been directly elected and enjoy popular support, a licence to experiment. Künast does not have this luxury. The only certainty is that Green city management functions best in rich communities such as clean and tidy Swabia. There, they argue about the hazards of leaf blowers. Here in Berlin we are knee deep in dog shit, much of it hidden by leaves.

There is a difference between Green government in the southwest of the country and in this proletarian capital. What seems like eco-dictatorship in Marburg may be the only way to change behaviour in Berlin. A Mayor Künast would impose a general 30 kilometre speed limit on Berlin with the exception of the main roads. Is that dictatorial? Many taxi drivers will say so. But slower traffic and parking meters in the centre of town will make Berliners think twice about using cars. Frustrated Berlin motorists will shift to public transportation. I find that just fine. Even an increase in bike paths, as planned by Künast is acceptable providing she doesn’t actually order me to get on a bicycle. But naturally such a policy has to be supported by more investment in public transport. Wowereit once declared it to be a top priority, though nothing much came out of that, partly because he had not developed a proper urban mobility strategy, but also because there is no money to invest.

Here we come to the hub of the problem of the Künast candidacy. I don’t mind a woman giving me orders; we all have to get used to that. But she has to prove that Green plans can be achieved with less, not more bureaucracy. And that she has the financial competence to juggle priorities, freeing up money for some new urban investment, while at the same time making intelligent cuts to reduce Berlin’s ridiculous levels of debt. Is she capable of doing that? I don’t yet see the evidence.

Story continues below…

Despite her image in the boulevard press, Künast is not a revolutionary. Britain’s Prince Charles once declared Renate Künast to be his favourite German politician – I suppose he likes her plan to have more wilderness areas in Berlin’s parks – so we may yet see a special Anglo-German axis develop.

An eco-King Charles and a Mayor Künast exchanging tips about the post-industrial future? It could happen. But for Charles to be credible he will have to give up some of his expensive palaces and cut back his air miles. And Mayor Künast will have to find the money to turn Berlin’s mountains of dog crap into bio-energy. Nothing less will convince Berliners that their city is ready for a green revolution.

For more Roger Boyes, check out his website here.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

20:18 November 24, 2010 by lordkorner
Please Roger ,don't tell me you are not in possession of a bicycle!
21:17 November 24, 2010 by tianju
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
14:22 November 25, 2010 by Aschaffenburgboy
This woman scare me.. she acts and looks like an extremist. How does the saying goes.... If it looks like a duck... and walks like a duck.. then it must be a turkey. LOL Happy thanks giving!
13:03 November 26, 2010 by Ich
As an industrial chemist I find these Green Beans almost as amusing as they are dangerous. Of course, not one wants to desroy the Earth. Howver, when they banned methylene chloride, an ideal paint stripper that worked at room temperature, they've left us with epoxy paints that the greestoff won't work and contains more hazardous enthanolamine as a lifting agent. Indeed, the entire methylene chloride toxicity study was botched, to begin wit and the greenstoff has to be heated-energy!. Yes, it needed better control-but banning it was the wrong thing. There is a lot of this sort of thinnking. "Green" cars that don't use gas? The batteries take what to produce? and Recharge? Before these zealots ban "bad" chemicals, they need to understand how they work. Our industrial economy developed over 2 centuries and it's going to take more than a few cracked pots to make it genuinely "green", if such athing is even possible.
14:59 November 26, 2010 by Aschaffenburgboy
Amen Ich... but the people drinking the coolaid are still going to vote for them.
15:27 November 27, 2010 by frankiep

Terrific analysis.

For quite some time now I have viewed Greens, in all countries, as simply using environmental issues for the advancement of ulterior motives. As you say, no one wants to destroy the Earth. Well the Greens have for quite some time now, and with increasing effectiveness, been taking advantage of this sentiment to advance their agenda. There is a saying that these self proclaimed guardians of the environment are like watermelons - green on the outside, red on the inside. Anyone who even has a passing interesting in following these kinds of environmental stories can see just how right this statement is. The "Green" movement is just the communist movement with different clothes. The Green solution for every problem is almost invariably always either against business, against personal liberty, and for more control over what people can and cannot do. All under the guise of "saving the planet".
13:29 November 28, 2010 by krautrock
I've faced the danger of an eco-dictatorship for the first time here in Germany.

Greens are fighting strongly to support "ecological power". This basically means that they want to massively industrialize the countryside with thousands of wind turbines and huge solar fields.

But, surprise, they have found some people that are opposed to them. The people who live in the countryside, people who think the beauty of the landscape is a value, besides many others considerations.

So we have this countryside-ecologist opposed to the city-ecologist (the Greens). And I suspect that the Greens and the Green-Power Industrial Lobby will do everything to force everyone to accept green-power.

So, yes, there's really a danger that the Greens will turn themselves into little-wannabe-dictators and the fact that they massively use "global warming" as a religion makes me reaally think this could be the case.
16:16 November 30, 2010 by So36
If you think putting up windmills is "industrializing" the countryside perhaps you should look up the term in the dictionary. At least you can dismantle windmills and solar plants if you find them too ugly at some point down the road. The same can't be said for CO2 and nuclear waste.
07:28 December 2, 2010 by Wrench
Kunast is chauffeured around in a BMW 7'er, flies in private jets, owns a large mansion heated by OIL. Notice a pattern here? Has anyone else noticed the vast majority of Green Party members are fat ass women with rich husbands who decided it is Chic to be a Greenie? My Golfclub has Green Party meetings on Wednesday nights and I attended a meeting...once... at first I thought they were just a joke, but, now I find them to be a bit scary.

I have truly had enough of these "do as I say, not as I do" people.

Thanks for letting me rant.
16:49 December 5, 2010 by krautrock

A wind turbine is a rotary device that extracts energy from the wind. Wind turbines are produced by industries. In Germany there are at least 23000 wind turbines.

So, yes, they are industrializing the countryside, the forests and the coasts.
18:39 December 20, 2010 by Wise Up!
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
03:54 December 22, 2010 by Rolf - Seattle
Maybe these eco-socialist dimwits have some solutions to the treacherous European winter weather that is most assuredly caused by global warming.

Soon the world will be blanketed by giant, unreliable windmills, and Rachel Carson's idiotic book, Silent Spring, will become a reality. A true Greenie wet dream.
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