Let's say you learn that you emit 1,500 kilograms of CO2 every year through your diet.
Could you tell if that is average?
Is twenty tons perhaps more realistic?
Or would it be more obvious to stack deeper?
Whatever value you use, it's hard to picture anything concrete.
Germany emitted 762 million tons of greenhouse gases last year.
Is that a lot or a little?
And who can classify that right away?
In his new book, sustainability economist Jakob Thomä keeps juggling numbers to illustrate that consumers, producers and investors are killing people with their lifestyles.
Without malicious intent, often without knowing it.
He traces this “kill score” with remarkable care.
Editor in the Feuilleton.
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He raises his treatise as an easy-to-read “detective story”.
This is a trick that is obvious, sometimes also seems odd, but overall it focuses the attention of the reader and keeps the reader happy: there are dead people, there are crime scenes, there is a trial and the verdict.
The crime scenes are climate change, waste, work, anonymous consumption (e.g. social media) and wars.
Thomä, born in 1989, says research into global warming and sustainability has a PR problem because only a few understand its findings.
As a "bean counter" he himself is part of the misery, since he breaks down flora, fauna or emissions into numbers that quickly exceed the imagination.
In this respect, bean counters would have to overcome "their aversion to the approximate and vague of emotions".
The author does both: On the one hand, he cites studies and provides data whose usefulness certainly depends on the respective, sometimes controversial, survey methods.
Second, he emphasizes that there is only one badly affected civilization - and not a few billion scattered people living independently.
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The shake-up and excitement program sounds like this: "All in all, almost 400 million people died in the 20th century because of our lifestyle in the broader sense";
"Yet another deadly force rears its ugly head: climate change";
"Arithmetically, the consumer (...) kills 0.1 people during his lifetime";
"No weapon counts so many victims in this book, at least in this century, as fine dust";
"20 EU citizens will kill another person through air pollution in their lifetime";
“Roughly estimated, our global kill score totals more than 500 million people in the 21st century.”
Now the genre of the offsetting book is quite common, but Thomä takes the process to the extreme.
It is doubtful whether he can use this to solve the diagnosed PR problem of sustainability,
This is also due to the fact that the author often sends the elaborately researched presentation, which is provided with vividly described examples, down the wrong path stylistically.
His concern is a serious one, almost every page is about life and death, it is about the question of how much a human life is worth, it is about what moral philosophy could write in the register of utilitarianism.
So why such flippant statements: "But there aren't masses of bankers who give up after three days at their desks." According to Thomä, we worship a higher power "at the altar of consumption", and in view of the danger that microplastics pose to us, "One can only quote Han Solo from 'Star Wars': 'I have a bad feeling about this.'" Elsewhere it says: "Freud must suffer, suffering must have joy,