Monday, 01 February 2010 20:41

Interview with Wolfgang Sachs

Written by Mark Kitchel
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Yes I'm in Berlin, just shot the last interview of the trip tonight, went to midnight. With Wolfgang Sachs, who's as German as they come, a brilliant intellectual. What got him started was coming to California and seeing modernity and deciding against it. Hah!

We talked through Greenpeace -- he was an early member of it in Germany, led me through its evolution here. Interesting stuff about how it had to get beyond whales and confrontation, grow up and consolidate or die. WS was never much into whales, did a funny bit about the PR involved in making whales like humans. Talked of how Greenpeace had to keep going back to the whale issue because of the kids and the money it brought in. But it had a downside too. WS wasn't much help on the long battle to get the IWC moratorium. So I strike out again -- may have to just narrate that part.

WS was very good on development and equity, which are his signature issues; he edited the Development Dictionary, a series of essays from the anti-development radicals. WS made a passionate case for ecology and equity being inextricably linked. Then we went on to sustainable development, for which he did a great bit about the bastardization of sustainability by linking it to development -- as if the purpose of sustainability was to save this economic paradigm rather than the biosphere that supports it. Then we jumped into Act 5 and I made him do sustainability.

He and his cohorts at Wuppertal institute did a study, Greening the North, that actually took the promises of Rio and tried to figure out how to make them real. I put it to him that way and he responded well, hit the right notes about efficiency and sufficiency, doing things right and doing the right things. We talked of Factor Ten (a tenfold reduction in resource use) and he told how he and his fellow academics laid out this vision and now it has become official policy. Talked of 25% of the world consuming 75% of resources, how much trouble that is, not just for blue-eyed moralists but all the havoc that will wreak in time.

We went on into the specifics of sustainability, what changes need to happen, reinventing the way we do everything, then concentrating on energy. He did a nice recurring bit about how radicals posed wind turbines against nuclear power and how it has come to pass that they are now officially embraced, the mainstream. I challenged him on sustainability, whether we're going to make it. He did a great bit in here, saying yes, but not without shocks and disruptions and people failing to make the change until they wake up! (great eyes he has, love the way they can shoot open for emphasis.)

He went on to talk of two crises -- climate change and fossil fuels running out, how the latter will happen before the former -- and how it may be fortunate that they are coming together, to ease the way and bring home economically the reality of climate change. Then he closed with a great bit about the movement, essentially preparing the alternatives for the time when crisis hits and people wake up and look around for alternatives -- proven and ready to go.

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 February 2011 23:27

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