Apr 19

Climate Change – this will be our war.

The tech industry – which I am a part of – is full of contradictions: The same people who think that we can live forever or fly to Mars, shrug their shoulders when you confront them with the subject of  global warming.

I’ve always been concerned about the environment. As an engineer the waste of resources and our trash culture was always painful to observe. I did my bit like co-founding avocadostore.de which is a marketplace for eco-friendly goods. 

Over the past 15 years it became increasingly clear that wasting resources is much less of a problem than global warming.

In a typical boiling-frog-scenario, we were all content with green washing, some trash separation, believing that our next car would use less gas, and a general feeling that technology, exemplified by LEDs and solar energy will eventually solve our problems. 

The approach so far is not enough. We will have to change.

I am so delighted that the kids of Fridays for future were the first to wake up. They can’t do it by themselves. We all are in this together. I am convinced that we can succeed in this massive challenge for humanity. 

In a similar way as previous generations had to win two world wars for civilization to continue, I believe we will win our war on climate change.

It will not be enough to change our individual behavior, as industry and business try to convince us. We as voters will need to influence our political environment of all parties that we need new guard rails for business and industry. A new playing field.

Being able to anticipate shifts in attitudes and behaviors has fueled my entrepreneurial trajectory.

I see such a shift now, and I will be part of it. 

Nov 09


Spent – Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behaviour by Geoffrey Miller

I’ve been postponing to write about this book simply because I still am overwhelmed. Geoffrey Miller works in the field of evolutionary psychology which brings him extremely close to the currently very fashionable field of behavioural economics. And I am extremely intrigued to learn why we all actually behave the way we behave.

Particularly, I am spooked by the way I behave. On the one hand I have my ZEN inspired days. Less is more, breathe. The most important things in life are free. On the other hand, I have days where I crave things like powerful cars, the next watch, a slightly bigger living room. We all know how this works, I guess.

Miller’s book is all about behaviour, particularly about our spending behaviour. It put me at ease with myself. It explained to me why I behave the way I behave.

Geoffrey Miller manages to explain, why some people buy Hummers (without condemning them) and why others blog – all in the same book.

The book is extremely well written, funny, witty, well researched. There is no reason why you should not go and buy it now (use the link below, so I can afford more conspicious consumption). I was laughing loudly in my airplane seat when I read the story about Gérard, the Cro-Magnon and modern man from the future.

But just as an exercise, let me try and summarize from memory:

  1. Most of the objects we buy, are signals that we as hypersocial animals send about ourselves. Conspicious consumption, can be broken down into conspicious waste (Hummer SUV’s), conspicious precision (the Rolex watch) or conspicous reptuation (here comes facebook into play).
  2. There are only six defining (and mostly stable) personality traits everybody has: Intelligence (G), Openness (O), Conciencousness (C), Agreeableness (A), Stability (S) and Extraversion (E), combined and to memorize them better: GOCASE, like I can go along or wherever with that person…
  3. Evolutionary, it is very important to communicate your personality traits and relative fitness indicators to others, either the real ones or the ones you want others to believe you own. This happens not only when girls by mascara or boys go to Gyms but as least as importantly,
  4. We spend most of our time buying and displaying other fitness indicators as well. Intelligence (blogging for example, discussing books about behavioural economics), Openness (displaying our political views), Agreeableness (driving a Prius instead of a Hummer, or driving the BMW if we want to express that we are less agreeable), Concienciousness (by sticking to a hobby that requires meticulous attention to detail), Stability, or Extraversion (think about that pink hat that Girl wore at the party or facebook again). All this is mostly just signalling to others. If I buy a rifle, I could as well say: I am not dramatically open, and my agreeableness has it’s limits. Much easer to buy the rifle.
  5. Without being judgemental, Miller  then goes on and suggests that very often instead of buying all these things to say something about ourselves, we very often much rather could talk to people, which might work better (and would also dramatically improve our resource efficency in my view). His lists of things in life that really matter are a nice reminder.
  6. Getting even closer to behavioural economics, Miller gives a lot of support of a tax system that taxes consumption more than creation (work).

Only on the last pages, the nice and easy pace of the book accelerates a bit and the professor is released. Seems like he liked to squeeze just a couple of more thoughts in.

But that does not diminish the fact that when I started reading the book on Kindle*, and I tried to mark the best quotes and passages, my ‘notes’ section quickly got to more than 20% of the book. I am a big fan.

Buy at Amazon (DE):

* a purchase I made to show off my intelligence (reads), openness (to new technology) and whatever

Sep 09

Cradle-to-Cradle Design

Kürzlich habe ich das Buch “Cradle-to-Cradle” gelesen, das international ein Bestseller ist. Brad Pitt wurde zitiert mit “eines der drei wichtigsten Bücher, die ich gelesen habe”.

Michael Braungart tritt engagiert gegen die Verzichtsethik der deutschen Nachhaltigkeitsbewegung auf. Er setzt gegen das existierende Paradigma der Öko-Effizienz (“weniger Schadstoffe, weniger Ressourcen, weniger Menschen”) ein völlig neues Paradigma, das der Öko-Effektivität: Gebraucht, produziert, aber die richtigen Dinge!

Braungart tritt laufend öffentlich auf, provoziert gern.

Michael Braungart: Why Less Bad Isn’t Better? from The DO Lectures on Vimeo.

Mir scheint, Michael Braungart ist international deutlich bekannter als in Deutschland. Mich beeindruckt besonders: Er tut was und redet nicht nur darüber. Und er weiss viel. Er hat Philips,Trigema, Unilever und Henry Miller beraten und mit ihnen Produkte entwickelt, die nicht nur weniger, sondern keine Schadstoffe enthalten. Flugzeugsitze, die man essen könnte, theoretisch zumindest. T-Shirts, die wirklich kompostierbar sind.

In der Taz findet sich ein sehr guter Beitrag über Braungart. Hier kommen auch Kritiker zu Wort.

Man kann die Diskussion so zusammenfassen:

Weniger Schadstoffe sind besser als viele Schadstoffe, sagen die Nachhaltigkeits-Vertreter. Das geht Braungart nicht weit genug – ich finde “weniger Schadstoffe” dennoch einen richtigen Schritt auf dem Weg.

Braungart setzt dagegen: Mit etwas mehr Nachdenken gar keine Schadstoffe zu produzieren, sondern wirklich in Kreisläufen zu denken, und das ist meines Erachtens mehr als ein Utopie, sondern das einzig sinnvolle Ziel.

Jan 09

Recession Investments…

I recently attended the Techcrunch UK event in December and two guys from two top European VC firms were present. Mike Butcher started a discussion about their recent investments. It turns out that all was in games, and dating.

Easy money. Easy payback. I do hope sincerely that there still is a market for “useful” stuff. Things that make life easier or more fun, or maybe more green. Daft hope?

Oct 07

Nearly forgotten: Turboprop planes

Even the smallest regional commuter planes now come as jet. I recently had the pleasure to fly with a Dash 8 Q300. Did you know that the fuel consumption per passenger kilometer is considerably lower than on a comparable jet plane?
Also, as these planes cruise at a lower altitude, I assume that the additional effect of emissions at high altitude will be lower.
Propeller planes have two disadvantages: Their maximum speed is only about 500 km /hr as opposed to 900 km / hr for jets. However, for anything under a distance of 1,5 hrs this amounts to only about 10% more travel time. The other disadvantage is the higher level of cabin noise. Guess what: with the latest in Noise cancelling headphones, this does not matter.