To Decrease Emissions Germany to Offer Free Public Transit

Germans have reputation of loving to drive so it might seem a little shocking to see the nation explore free public transit. The push for free travel comes from the need to reduce the country’s emissions – and soon. EU countries that don’t meet emissions targets in the next few years can be taken to court to answer for the inability to provide clean air for their citizens. Germany is a large country and if they figure out a way to make public transit free then it’s likely that other nations can follow.

“Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany,” the ministers added.

The proposal will be tested by “the end of this year at the latest” in five cities across western Germany, including former capital Bonn and industrial cities Essen and Mannheim.

On top of ticketless travel, other steps proposed Tuesday include further restrictions on emissions from vehicle fleets like buses and taxis, low-emissions zones or support for car-sharing schemes.

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The Berlin Wall: Now Down Longer Than it was Up


The Berlin Wall marked a negative time in recent history in which two sides couldn’t communicate well and severed a country, and families, in two. During the Cold War people risked their lives tring to escape to West Germany from the oppressive East. The tearing down of the wall was a true turning point in modern history and it’s great to celebrate years of peace in Germany since its collapse.

As always, the Berlin Wall represents the inability to have meaningful conversations within our civilization. Let’s hope that no more walls between peoples get built.

The recoherence of Berlin over that later period is a testament to how far the country has come. Differences between the old east and west halves remain, some subtle (in the east street lights are yellow and the traffic-light man wears a hat, in the west they are white and he is bare-headed) and others more fundamental (Ossis support Union and are more likely to vote for the political extremes, Wessis cheer on Hertha Berlin and tend to vote centrist). But generally, to quote Brandt, “what belongs together grows together”. Central Berlin has been rebuilt, new east-west transport arteries like the cathedral-like Hauptbahnhof are open and others are under construction. Peter Schneider, a veteran chronicler of the city, writes: “The fall of the Wall and the reunification of Berlin’s two halves have sped up the city’s pulse, injecting new life energy. It’s as if the city had won back a temporal dimension that, during the years of the Wall, seemed to have disappeared from West Berlin and was merely alleged to exist in East Berlin: the future”.

To be sure, the past is visible too. Berlin epitomises the German knack for sensitively accommodating the scars of history. Parts of the wall have been preserved as memorials and much of the route is now traced by cobble stones which disappear under buildings built in the old death strip—The Economist’s premises in Berlin among them—and re-emerge on the other side. In a plot once bordered by the wall a block from the Reichstag, to which the Bundestag moved from Bonn in 1999, sits the Holocaust memorial, an undulating 5-acre sea of tombstone-like concrete slabs. When, last month, a local historian discovered a forgotten stretch of the wall in the woods by a suburban train line, it was a rare sight: an unarchived, uncurated piece of the city’s 20th century traumas.

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Berlin, Sponge City

Germany’s capital is becoming a sponge to stop flooding. It might seem counterintuitive to want to gather more water in order to stay dry, but that’s exactly the plan. Currently the city of Houston is suffering some of the worst flooding that its ever seen thanks largely to poor planning around water (like using highways to channel water). Berlin wants to avoid such trauma by working with water than against it.

The idea is simple and practical: do what nature does and store water in plants.

Germany’s Transition Away From Coal Helped Jobs and Culture


For years Germany’s transition from coal to sustainable energy has impacted communities. Many feared that jobs would be lost during this transition so plans were put in place to help workers and communities transition too. Throughout the Rhine valley coal plants have been closed down and their place new sustainable energy jobs have popped up alongside new places for arts and culture. The removal of coal power has brought a tourism boom amongst other successes.

The mines themselves have even become a cultural stage. A museum and gallery at Zollverein attracts over 250,000 visitors a year, and several other mines host music concerts, food and cultural festivals. In the nearby city of Bochum, an old industrial plant — now the site of the German Mining Museum — is surrounded with stately homes flanked by lush gardens. The change hasn’t gone unnoticed; the Ruhr was officially named Europe’s cultural capital in 2010.

The Ruhr also has become attractive for businesses to invest, say Switala. Zollverein, like many former mines, is now also home to several businesses. Artists, jewelry designers, choreographers, design firms and tourism companies are just a sampling of those who have made the trendy industrial space their home.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Portugal Joins Other Countries by Running Only on Renewable Energy

Portuguese architecture
Portugal reached a very significant milestone on its path to being fully powered by renewables by consuming energy only from sustainable resources for four days. Other countries are on similar paths. In 2012 Germany got 50% of it’s power from renewable sources, Scotland powered itself exclusively on renewables for a week earlier this year, but the most impressive is Costa Rica. In 2015 Costa Rica went at least of a quarter of the using only renewables and improving this year.

Portugal joins those countries (and others) that are looking forward to a future that isn’t dependent on finite energy sources. More countries should be joining this renewable revolution.

Electricity consumption in the country was fully covered by solar, wind and hydro power in an extraordinary 107-hour run that lasted from 6.45am on Saturday 7 May until 5.45pm the following Wednesday, the analysis says.

News of the zero emissions landmark comes just days after Germany announced that clean energy had powered almost all its electricity needs on Sunday 15 May, with power prices turning negative at several times in the day – effectively paying consumers to use it.

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Thanks to Delaney!