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Affordable electricity Decarbonization in OECD countries? Part I

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/09/2021 - 12:56pm in

After eight extensive posts about the Ontario electricity sector, I am expanding my geographic coverage to look at the electricity sectors in selected OECD countries. My focus will be on the historical and relative performance of each country’s sector with respect to decarbonization and prices. As in the case of Ontario, whole volumes could and have been written about each of these countries, and the electricity sector in general, including with respect to current and future reliability and technologies and preferred vs. feasible future decarbonization pathways and other matters. To keep this manageable, my analysis will be a high-level data-driven overview of past and current generation technology mix, sector emissions and prices only, all based on internationally-comparable data from reputable sources. Interested readers should check out my earlier posts and other writing as to why my focus on the question of affordable decarbonization. In this blog I start with Canada, France, Germany and Japan. Future editions will cover additional countries.

I look at data from 1990 to 2019/20 to ensure to ensure I capture trends in the sector, which, because of its capital intensity, tend to be relatively slow-moving. I look at electricity generation mix by country based on International Energy Agency (IEA) data. I present it in seven groups: nuclear, hydro, non-hydro renewables (this includes wind, solar), natural gas, petroleum products, coal products and biomass and waste. To control for aggregate generation changes over time within a country and for country size differences, I present these in percentage terms. But these technologies are just means to an end, which is sector decarbonization – I source sector emissions directly from the respective country National Inventory Reports (NIR) submitted annually to the Secretariat to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC format combines emissions from public electricity and heat, which is the same combined manner that the IEA presents emissions data. Ideally, we would only include public electricity emissions but relative few countries present this on a stand-alone basis. Public heat provision, generally in the form of district heat systems, is generally a few percentage points of public electricity. To control for differences over time and country differences I present sector emissions intensity (kg CO2/MWh). From an accounting perspective, so as to not “double count”, the UNFCCC does not allocate emissions from the generation of electricity from the combustion of biomass to electricity (the Energy Sector), but rather to the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector. For this analysis, given that I am focussing on the electricity sector only, and not the economy as a whole, I include emissions from the generation of electricity from the combustion of biomass to the electricity sector. Lastly, I source household electricity prices from the IEA, which include base prices, plus any consumer-oriented or taxes and specific levies, in USD(PPP)/MWh. After I provide an overview of the countries I present some initial comparative analysis, which I expect to fine tune as I cover more countries in future blogs, including with more sophisticated multivariate regression analysis.

Country Overviews: Canada, France, Germany & Japan

Starting close to home, Figure 1 shows that the technology mix in Canada has been relatively stable over the last 30 years, with a high percentage (ranging between 70% to 80%) of generation coming from zero-emissions technologies (nuclear, hydro and non-hydro renewables). This has resulted in relatively low emissions intensity over the study period, with three phases: a decrease from the displacement of coal by nuclear and hydro from 1990 to 1996; an increase as some nuclear generation went off line from 1996 to 2003; and a steady decline from 2004 to 2019 as nuclear comes back on line and non-hydro renewables are introduced and expand to 6%, which together with gas increasingly displace coal. Household prices increased moderately during almost the entire period, but started to increase in 2015, primarily due to the increase in high-contracted-priced non-hydro renewables in Ontario (see my earlier blogs).

Crossing the Atlantic, Figure 2 shows that the technology mix in France has also been relatively stable over the last 30 years. France has had an even higher percentage (around 90%) of generation coming from zero-emissions technologies, resulting in relatively very low emissions intensity over the study period. Like in Canada, changes in emissions initially relate to the addition/subtraction of zero-emission technologies, but starting in the mid 2000’s there was also substitution away from higher-emitting coal to lower emitting gas. Household prices were stable until about 2009, after which they increased by about 6% per year in the ten years to 2020.

Moving north-east in Europe, Figure 3 shows that the technology mix in Germany has been much more dynamic over the last 30 years. For the period from 1990 to about 2016 Germany had a relatively low percentage (between 30% to 40%) zero-emission generation, resulting in relatively very high emissions intensity. This is specially given the case that its largest emitting generation was coal. Emissions decreased from 1990 to about 1999 as nuclear and hydro increased and gas displaced some coal and then stabilized over the next decade until the large policy-driven decrease in nuclear (in reaction to the Fukushima accident) in 2011 resulted in a large spike in emissions that were not bright back to trend by fast-increasing non-hydro renewables until 2015-16, which by 2020 accounted for 31% of generation. Household prices in Germany were stable until about 2000, after which they increased by more than 8% per year for 13 years to 2013, after which they increased moderately at 1% per year to 2020. As in Ontario, who modeled their Green Energy Act (GEA) on the Energiewende, the increase in prices in Germany are primarily due to the increase in high-contracted-priced non-hydro renewables.

Heading to Asia, Figure 4 shows that the technology mix in Japan has also been relatively dynamic. For the period from 1990 to about 2010 Japan had a relatively low percentage (between 30% to 40%) zero-emission generation, resulting in relatively high emissions intensity. It was lower than Germany, however, because it relied on relatively lower-emitting gas and oil and less on higher-emitting coal. Emissions decreased from 1990 to1999 as nuclear increased and then increased moderately as nuclear decreased slightly until 2010. As a policy matter in reaction to the Fukushima accident in 2011, however, Japan took most of its nuclear generation offline. This decrease resulted in a very large spike in emissions, as zero-emission generation dipped to only 10%. Emissions decreased moderately to 2019 as some nuclear was brought back on line and non-hydro renewables increased to 9% of generation. By 2019 zero-emission generation, at 21% was only half of what Japan had achieved in 1998. Household prices increased moderately until after 2011, when they increased at 4% per year to 2019.

Comparative Analysis and Discussion

Figure 5 shows the emissions intensity for the four countries from 1990 to 2019. It confirms that due to their large legacy zero-emission generation grids of 70%-80% for Canada and 90% for France these are the countries that have already deeply decarbonized their electricity sectors, both hovering around 100 kgCO2/MWh in 2019. After relatively stable but relatively very high emissions for most of the study period, Germany finally broke through the 550 kgCO2/MWh threshold in 2015 and has reduced emissions intensity by 6% since then to reach 420 kgCO2/MWh in 2019. Japan had been unable to make much progress from 350 00 kgCO2/MWh before 2011, after which emissions spiked and have since slowly been reduced to about 400 kgCO2/MW.

Figure 6 plots emissions intensity against the % of zero-emission generation for every year and country in the study. To give a sense of the direction of the movement in this two-dimensional space, I identify years 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2019 for each country. The strong negative correlation (downward sloping trendline) confirms the almost linear tradeoff between the amount of zero-emission generation and emissions. The time progression, with the exception of Japan, is from higher emission down and to the right. I am interested in seeing whether this linearity holds for the USA, a country for which much of the decarbonization has been attributed to the switch from higher–emitting coal to lower-emitting gas. Stay tuned for future blogs.

Figure 7 shows household prices for the four countries from 1990 to 2020 and confirms our earlier observation that while all prices have increased after a period of relative stability, the prices in some countries began increasing earlier and faster than in others. Germany is the outlier in this respect, where prices have almost tripled since 1990.

I am interested in exploring affordable decarbonization. From this perspective, both Canada and France had already achieved this by 1990 and so the process of decarbonization, and whether it was affordable, would involve looking further back in time. For Canada that may be 1960s to 1980s when many of current large hydro-electric projects and nuclear generation stations came online to displaced emitting technologies. For France it would be from the mid 1970’s to 1990 when its nuclear fleet displaced fossil technologies. In both cases, however, given that both countries started the period as the two lowest-priced countries in the sample, it is reasonable to assume that the transition was likely affordable, and certainly no less unaffordable than the approaches adopted in Germany and Japan prior to 1990. After that year and specially for Germany from 2000 and the coming into law of the German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) and the introduction of high-contracted-priced non-hydro renewables, we see very significant price increases to 2015 but no reductions in emissions until that year because, as discussed above, Germany was in parallel reducing nuclear generation.

In these last two figures I start an initial correlation analysis, which I expect to fine tune as I cover more countries in future blogs, including with more sophisticated multivariate regression analysis. In my previous blogs I have discussed studies showing that any increases in electricity prices have been mostly due to the introduction and growth of non-hydro renewables, due to their higher-than market contracted prices and broader integration costs. This is certainly the case in Ontario, Canada and Germany. I am interested if this holds in other countries and what is the likely scale of the impact. I begin with the simple correlation analyses in Figures 9 and 10.

Figures 9 and 10 separate out zero-emission generation into dispatchable nuclear and hydro and intermittent non-hydro renewables and plots them against prices to examine any corresponding correlation. To also provide a sense of the direction of the movement in this two-dimensional space, I identify years 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2019 for each country. Figure 9 shows a generally negative (downward sloping) correlation, indicating that nuclear and hydro are correlated with lower prices. Figure 10, on the other hand, shows a generally positive (upward sloping) correlation, indicating that non-hydro renewable are correlated with higher prices. Based on prior studies, we knew that for Canada (via Ontario) and Germany this non-hydro renewables/higher price association had been shown to be stronger, of statistical significance suggesting causation, but it is good to replicate this via a simple correlation analysis. Looking at Figure 9 and 10 together, this correlation also holds for France and to lesser extent Japan. Note to my inner econometrician – there could be some time effect in the last decade or two (for example the introduction of liberalized electricity markets) that could separately be contributing to higher prices and thus could be a confounding variable to the simple non-hydro renewables/higher price association… That statistical question to be resolved down the road once I review a larger number of countries.

Next Steps

I am expecting to be able to cover four other OECD countries in the edition of this series, hopefully to come out in a few weeks, time permitting. I am aiming to include the USA, either Australia or New Zealand, and two countries in Europe.

Affordable electricity Decarbonization in OECD countries? Part I

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/09/2021 - 12:56pm in

After eight extensive posts about the Ontario electricity sector, I am expanding my geographic coverage to look at the electricity sectors in selected OECD countries. My focus will be on the historical and relative performance of each country’s sector with respect to decarbonization and prices. As in the case of Ontario, whole volumes could and have been written about each of these countries, and the electricity sector in general, including with respect to current and future reliability and technologies and preferred vs. feasible future decarbonization pathways and other matters. To keep this manageable, my analysis will be a high-level data-driven overview of past and current generation technology mix, sector emissions and prices only, all based on internationally-comparable data from reputable sources. Interested readers should check out my earlier posts and other writing as to why my focus on the question of affordable decarbonization. In this blog I start with Canada, France, Germany and Japan. Future editions will cover additional countries.

I look at data from 1990 to 2019/20 to ensure to ensure I capture trends in the sector, which, because of its capital intensity, tend to be relatively slow-moving. I look at electricity generation mix by country based on International Energy Agency (IEA) data. I present it in seven groups: nuclear, hydro, non-hydro renewables (this includes wind, solar), natural gas, petroleum products, coal products and biomass and waste. To control for aggregate generation changes over time within a country and for country size differences, I present these in percentage terms. But these technologies are just means to an end, which is sector decarbonization – I source sector emissions directly from the respective country National Inventory Reports (NIR) submitted annually to the Secretariat to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC format combines emissions from public electricity and heat, which is the same combined manner that the IEA presents emissions data. Ideally, we would only include public electricity emissions but relative few countries present this on a stand-alone basis. Public heat provision, generally in the form of district heat systems, is generally a few percentage points of public electricity. To control for differences over time and country differences I present sector emissions intensity (kg CO2/MWh). From an accounting perspective, so as to not “double count”, the UNFCCC does not allocate emissions from the generation of electricity from the combustion of biomass to electricity (the Energy Sector), but rather to the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector. For this analysis, given that I am focussing on the electricity sector only, and not the economy as a whole, I include emissions from the generation of electricity from the combustion of biomass to the electricity sector. Lastly, I source household electricity prices from the IEA, which include base prices, plus any consumer-oriented or taxes and specific levies, in USD(PPP)/MWh. After I provide an overview of the countries I present some initial comparative analysis, which I expect to fine tune as I cover more countries in future blogs, including with more sophisticated multivariate regression analysis.

Country Overviews: Canada, France, Germany & Japan

Starting close to home, Figure 1 shows that the technology mix in Canada has been relatively stable over the last 30 years, with a high percentage (ranging between 70% to 80%) of generation coming from zero-emissions technologies (nuclear, hydro and non-hydro renewables). This has resulted in relatively low emissions intensity over the study period, with three phases: a decrease from the displacement of coal by nuclear and hydro from 1990 to 1996; an increase as some nuclear generation went off line from 1996 to 2003; and a steady decline from 2004 to 2019 as nuclear comes back on line and non-hydro renewables are introduced and expand to 6%, which together with gas increasingly displace coal. Household prices increased moderately during almost the entire period, but started to increase in 2015, primarily due to the increase in high-contracted-priced non-hydro renewables in Ontario (see my earlier blogs).

Crossing the Atlantic, Figure 2 shows that the technology mix in France has also been relatively stable over the last 30 years. France has had an even higher percentage (around 90%) of generation coming from zero-emissions technologies, resulting in relatively very low emissions intensity over the study period. Like in Canada, changes in emissions initially relate to the addition/subtraction of zero-emission technologies, but starting in the mid 2000’s there was also substitution away from higher-emitting coal to lower emitting gas. Household prices were stable until about 2009, after which they increased by about 6% per year in the ten years to 2020.

Moving north-east in Europe, Figure 3 shows that the technology mix in Germany has been much more dynamic over the last 30 years. For the period from 1990 to about 2016 Germany had a relatively low percentage (between 30% to 40%) zero-emission generation, resulting in relatively very high emissions intensity. This is specially given the case that its largest emitting generation was coal. Emissions decreased from 1990 to about 1999 as nuclear and hydro increased and gas displaced some coal and then stabilized over the next decade until the large policy-driven decrease in nuclear (in reaction to the Fukushima accident) in 2011 resulted in a large spike in emissions that were not bright back to trend by fast-increasing non-hydro renewables until 2015-16, which by 2020 accounted for 31% of generation. Household prices in Germany were stable until about 2000, after which they increased by more than 8% per year for 13 years to 2013, after which they increased moderately at 1% per year to 2020. As in Ontario, who modeled their Green Energy Act (GEA) on the Energiewende, the increase in prices in Germany are primarily due to the increase in high-contracted-priced non-hydro renewables.

Heading to Asia, Figure 4 shows that the technology mix in Japan has also been relatively dynamic. For the period from 1990 to about 2010 Japan had a relatively low percentage (between 30% to 40%) zero-emission generation, resulting in relatively high emissions intensity. It was lower than Germany, however, because it relied on relatively lower-emitting gas and oil and less on higher-emitting coal. Emissions decreased from 1990 to1999 as nuclear increased and then increased moderately as nuclear decreased slightly until 2010. As a policy matter in reaction to the Fukushima accident in 2011, however, Japan took most of its nuclear generation offline. This decrease resulted in a very large spike in emissions, as zero-emission generation dipped to only 10%. Emissions decreased moderately to 2019 as some nuclear was brought back on line and non-hydro renewables increased to 9% of generation. By 2019 zero-emission generation, at 21% was only half of what Japan had achieved in 1998. Household prices increased moderately until after 2011, when they increased at 4% per year to 2019.

Comparative Analysis and Discussion

Figure 5 shows the emissions intensity for the four countries from 1990 to 2019. It confirms that due to their large legacy zero-emission generation grids of 70%-80% for Canada and 90% for France these are the countries that have already deeply decarbonized their electricity sectors, both hovering around 100 kgCO2/MWh in 2019. After relatively stable but relatively very high emissions for most of the study period, Germany finally broke through the 550 kgCO2/MWh threshold in 2015 and has reduced emissions intensity by 6% since then to reach 420 kgCO2/MWh in 2019. Japan had been unable to make much progress from 350 00 kgCO2/MWh before 2011, after which emissions spiked and have since slowly been reduced to about 400 kgCO2/MW.

Figure 6 plots emissions intensity against the % of zero-emission generation for every year and country in the study. To give a sense of the direction of the movement in this two-dimensional space, I identify years 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2019 for each country. The strong negative correlation (downward sloping trendline) confirms the almost linear tradeoff between the amount of zero-emission generation and emissions. The time progression, with the exception of Japan, is from higher emission down and to the right. I am interested in seeing whether this linearity holds for the USA, a country for which much of the decarbonization has been attributed to the switch from higher–emitting coal to lower-emitting gas. Stay tuned for future blogs.

Figure 7 shows household prices for the four countries from 1990 to 2020 and confirms our earlier observation that while all prices have increased after a period of relative stability, the prices in some countries began increasing earlier and faster than in others. Germany is the outlier in this respect, where prices have almost tripled since 1990.

I am interested in exploring affordable decarbonization. From this perspective, both Canada and France had already achieved this by 1990 and so the process of decarbonization, and whether it was affordable, would involve looking further back in time. For Canada that may be 1960s to 1980s when many of current large hydro-electric projects and nuclear generation stations came online to displaced emitting technologies. For France it would be from the mid 1970’s to 1990 when its nuclear fleet displaced fossil technologies. In both cases, however, given that both countries started the period as the two lowest-priced countries in the sample, it is reasonable to assume that the transition was likely affordable, and certainly no less unaffordable than the approaches adopted in Germany and Japan prior to 1990. After that year and specially for Germany from 2000 and the coming into law of the German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) and the introduction of high-contracted-priced non-hydro renewables, we see very significant price increases to 2015 but no reductions in emissions until that year because, as discussed above, Germany was in parallel reducing nuclear generation.

In these last two figures I start an initial correlation analysis, which I expect to fine tune as I cover more countries in future blogs, including with more sophisticated multivariate regression analysis. In my previous blogs I have discussed studies showing that any increases in electricity prices have been mostly due to the introduction and growth of non-hydro renewables, due to their higher-than market contracted prices and broader integration costs. This is certainly the case in Ontario, Canada and Germany. I am interested if this holds in other countries and what is the likely scale of the impact. I begin with the simple correlation analyses in Figures 9 and 10.

Figures 9 and 10 separate out zero-emission generation into dispatchable nuclear and hydro and intermittent non-hydro renewables and plots them against prices to examine any corresponding correlation. To also provide a sense of the direction of the movement in this two-dimensional space, I identify years 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2019 for each country. Figure 9 shows a generally negative (downward sloping) correlation, indicating that nuclear and hydro are correlated with lower prices. Figure 10, on the other hand, shows a generally positive (upward sloping) correlation, indicating that non-hydro renewable are correlated with higher prices. Based on prior studies, we knew that for Canada (via Ontario) and Germany this non-hydro renewables/higher price association had been shown to be stronger, of statistical significance suggesting causation, but it is good to replicate this via a simple correlation analysis. Looking at Figure 9 and 10 together, this correlation also holds for France and to lesser extent Japan. Note to my inner econometrician – there could be some time effect in the last decade or two (for example the introduction of liberalized electricity markets) that could separately be contributing to higher prices and thus could be a confounding variable to the simple non-hydro renewables/higher price association… That statistical question to be resolved down the road once I review a larger number of countries.

Next Steps

I am expecting to be able to cover four other OECD countries in the edition of this series, hopefully to come out in a few weeks, time permitting. I am aiming to include the USA, either Australia or New Zealand, and two countries in Europe.

Richard Werner: QE Infinity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/08/2021 - 3:01pm in

The wrong kind of QE In a recent report, the House of Lords expressed concerns about the Bank of England’s addiction to, and knowledge gaps, in relation to using quantitative easing. Professor Richard Werner, who invented the term, having first proposed QE as a monetary policy in 1995, is arguably best qualified to critique it. […]

The post Richard Werner: QE Infinity appeared first on Renegade Inc.

Richard Werner: QE Infinity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/08/2021 - 3:01pm in

The wrong kind of QE In a recent report, the House of Lords expressed concerns about the Bank of England’s addiction to, and knowledge gaps, in relation to using quantitative easing. Professor Richard Werner, who invented the term, having first proposed QE as a monetary policy in 1995, is arguably best qualified to critique it. […]

The post Richard Werner: QE Infinity appeared first on Renegade Inc.

The Surprising Lives of Germany’s ‘Basic Income’ Raffle Winners

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/08/2021 - 6:00pm in

Back in early 2020, when Karen Schneeweiss would arrive home from her job at a small German theater, she would often have to answer some 50 emails from her other jobs at two sailing schools. An animated actress, Schneeweiss, 49, took on these extra gigs to help pay her monthly bills. Pulled in multiple directions, she believed she would never have the time to truly focus on her acting. 

Little did she know that she was about to receive a prize that would change all of that: a fixed monthly income of 1,000 euros that would allow her to pursue her creative dreams. 

basic incomeKaren Schneeweiss wanted to devote more time to acting, but held jobs at two different sailing schools to help pay her monthly bills.

Schneeweiss receives a basic income from the German organization Mein Grundeinkommen (My Basic Income). Founded in 2014, the initiative organizes periodic raffles to randomly select people — regardless of age, background, current income or nationality — to receive regular no-strings cash payouts for 12 months. Mein Grundeinkommen’s founder Michael Bohmeyer got the idea for the raffles after selling his successful tech startup in 2014 and receiving a monthly guaranteed income of 1,000 euros as a result. Having a constant flow of unconditional cash made him feel less stressed and more creative. He started wondering how he could share his experience and, in 2014, started to crowdfund basic incomes for others.

Since then, 843 mostly German citizens have received a basic income from Mein Grundeinkommen and more than 2.7 million people have signed up for the organization’s raffles. Many are people like Schneeweiss — folks who aren’t poor, but who nevertheless struggle to achieve their dreams amid ever intensifying demands from jobs, families and life in general.

basic incomeMany people who receive a basic income from Mein Grundeinkommen aren’t poor, but nevertheless struggle to achieve their dreams amid ever intensifying demands from jobs, families and life in general.

The idea of a universal basic income is nothing new. For centuries, philosophers, economists and politicians have dreamt of a society where people could work less while maintaining a decent standard of living. Since the 1970s, small-scale experiments in various forms have been conducted in Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Canada, the U.S. and South Korea. Mein Grundeinkommen wants to add a new chapter to the existing body of research with a rare example of community-led, completely unconditional basic income.

With global crises putting pressure on societal supports, the work suddenly feels timely. Last year, researchers from the OECD published a report calling for bold new investments in long-term wellbeing. “We need to look beyond maximizing people’s wellbeing today,” the OECD writes, and address the “storm clouds that gather on the horizon, mainly from environmental and social challenges.”

The OECD found a global increase in wellbeing over the last ten years, defined according to over 80 indicators in categories from health to income to civic engagement. But it also found that this rise will not be enough to sustain people’s wellbeing in the long term. Almost 40 percent of the households are still financially insecure. The average death toll from suicide, alcohol and drugs is now six times higher than the death toll from homicide. And support networks are under strain — people spend an average of only six hours per week interacting with their families and friends, a tiny fraction of what they spend working, and half an hour less than ten years ago.

basic incomeSchneeweiss grew up in communist East Germany, far from an ideal system but one in which she says “money was not so important.”

Schneeweiss recognizes some of these trends in her own community in a small village in the county of Brandenburg, an hour outside of Berlin. She says people spend less time with each other, take on several jobs at the same time and are more afraid to lose those jobs than they used to be. “I grew up in the DDR, where it was very different and certainly not only positive,” she says. “But money was not so important then and people had a lot of time left to spend with friends. Today you are restricted in your freedom by the constant need to earn enough money to pay your living.” 

With her basic income, Schneeweiss can now turn down some work that she previously would have accepted only for the money. The basic income helps her step off the treadmill that defined her previous work-life dynamic and focus on what she finds important in life.

This is exactly how Michael Bohmeher, the founder of Mein Grundeinkommen, thinks a universal basic income should work. It wouldn’t cost much, he believes, as it is simply a redistribution of the available money, which would be acquired through taxes. Critics contend that free cash would encourage people to stop working entirely. But previous experiments in Finland, Canada, Iran and India show that basic incomes can actually motivate people to work

“Yesterday my shift took about 13 hours. I don’t work because of the money. Due to the coronavirus we have a lot of work to do and I don’t want to let my colleagues down.”

This was the case for 33-year old Sebastian Weigel from Hamburg. He had just quit his job at a real estate company when he received the email from Mein Grundeinkommen. “When I first saw the email, I thought it was spam,” Weigel laughs. “Because that’s always the case, right, if someone emails you saying you won money? But then I saw the email was from Mein Grundeinkommen.” 

Weigel also works at a laboratory where he analyzes Covid-19 samples. Instead of working less, he actually now works even more hours than he did before. “Yesterday my shift took about 13 hours,” he says. “I don’t work because of the money. Due to the coronavirus we have a lot of work to do and I don’t want to let my colleagues down.”

Weigel wants to open a small shop selling items from creative entrepreneurs. “Without the basic income, I wouldn’t think about starting something like this.”

The basic income helps him to think about what he would like to do in the long term. “I have this idea in my mind to start a little shop somewhere in Hamburg where I would sell products from small creative entrepreneurs. My sister is working on some clothes and I have some other friends who create art. Without the basic income, I wouldn’t think about starting something like this. It gives me a free mind.” 

Experiments have shown how a basic income can change the lives of people whose situations are dire, but research into its effect on the wellbeing of people who don’t desperately need it is scarce. “We do have some indications that as a result of the basic income wellbeing increases, less people are depressed and people become more healthy,” says Susann Fiedler, psychologist and economist at the Max Planck Institute. “But research has mostly been done with people who are in need, who go from nothing to having something. So the fact that school enrollment goes up and crime goes down in one village in India doesn’t say much about the results in Germany.”

In an attempt to remedy this, Mein Grundeinkommen successfully crowdfunded a research project in collaboration with the German Institute for Economic Research, University of Cologne and the Max Planck Institute. The researchers will follow 120 people receiving 1,200 euros per month for three years unconditionally, and compare their results with a control group. 

basic incomeA basic income has helped Schneeweiss create not only a theater space, but mental space, as well.

In the meantime, Schneeweiss is allowing her dreams to take shape. She stands in an empty hall that she used as a theatre before the pandemic; it reflects a certain peacefulness and untapped potential. She talks about the mental space the basic income has given her, how the pandemic slowed down her life, and how new ideas emerged, such as transforming a few rooms in her house into a community theater, making a play of her grandmothers’ letters from the Second World War and volunteering in a local hospice. 

The basic income helped her to get closer to herself, she says, and thereby indirectly closer to the people around her — an effect that is shared by other recipients. Bohmeyer often makes the comparison with small children, whose wellbeing is strongest when they are in a safe environment. “They are allowed to cry and to fail, things we are not allowed to do anymore as adults.” In a time of increasing uncertainty, Mein Grundeinkommen might have found a way to bring a sense of security back to people’s lives. 

Photos by Florian Bachmeier. Florian Bachmeier (born 1974) studied photography at the Escuela de Artes y Oficios in Pamplona and new and contemporary history at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. As a documentary photographer, he has been working on long-term projects with a focus on Eastern Europe for many years. His work has received several awards, and been published in numerous magazines and journals and presented in international exhibitions.

This story was commissioned by the Solutions Visual Journalism Initiative and produced by Are We Europe.

The post The Surprising Lives of Germany’s ‘Basic Income’ Raffle Winners appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Notifications Off! The Distraction-Free Benefits of Five-Hour Work Days

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 28/06/2021 - 6:00pm in

At first, the employees at Digital Enabler in Bielefeld, Germany, thought their boss, Lasse Rheingans, was joking. “Would you like to work 40 percent less at full pay?” he asked when he stepped in front of them in November 2017.

His proposal sounded too good to be true. But Rheingans was serious. 

The 40-year-old CEO now heads up the first company in Germany to have implemented a five-hour workday. The idea is simple: Employees at the tech agency arrive at 8 a.m., work with a minimum of interruptions, and leave at 1 p.m. after a five-hour burst of condensed, optimized productivity. The rest of the day is theirs to use as they choose: they can spend time with family, pursue creative projects, hit the soccer field or just check things off their personal to-do list. Perhaps surprisingly, after three and a half years, both the employees at Digital Enabler and the company leadership consider the new work model a resounding success. 

“None of our people want to return to the old model,” Rheingans says. “If we measure our success in client satisfaction, we have proven that we deliver great results for our clients in less time.”

Rheingans got the idea from working in other countries, like Australia, where he encountered more flexible work models than the 8-to-5 shifts in his native Germany. When he returned, he regularly worked 12- to 15-hour days leading various tech agencies. “The expectation was that I always had to be available,” he says. “When you are a social person like I am, have two kids as I do, and you also want to make time for sports, the load quickly becomes unsustainable. It is inhumane.”

lasse rheingansLasse Rheingans

According to some studies, 80 percent of full-time workers report being chronically stressed. Rheingans was one of them. He felt burnt out and began researching other work models, including those of UC Berkeley professor Morten Hansen, who analyzed the work habits of 5,000 managers and employees and concluded: “Being busy is not an accomplishment!” 

“People mistake the number of meetings, task forces, committees, customer calls, customer visits, business trips and miles flown for accomplishments,” Hansen writes, “even if in reality all these activities may not add value.” 

Rheingans reevaluated his tasks, streamlined his schedule and announced to his colleagues matter-of-factly, “Two days a week, I’ll leave after lunch.” Not surprisingly, they weren’t exactly supportive. “I had to renounce part of my paycheck because they were still stuck in the old thinking: x hours of work equal x amount of pay,” Rheingans remembers. His approach caused friction, and eventually he left to buy Digital Enabler, now renamed Rheingans, an agency for online marketing strategies.

As its new CEO, Rheingans wanted to see if he could shape the company according to the work ideas he had read about, especially the book The Five Hour Workday by the Californian CEO Stephan Aarstol, whose company produces paddleboards and pioneered the five-hour workday in 2015. “I’m not a boss who’s too prescriptive,” Rheingans says. “I opened up a playing field and asked the employees for their ideas.” 

The transition came with challenges. “The five-hour workday revealed weaknesses we had to address, for instance, in our communication process and the distribution of responsibilities,” he says. The company reassigned roles according to team members’ strengths using Gallup’s Clifton Strengths tool. Distractions were minimized.  “We turned off all notifications, and we only check emails twice a day.” Hour-long meetings were reduced to fifteen minutes, with a clear agenda.

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What immediately strikes visitors as unusual in the bullpen of Rheingans’ company is the stillness. The usually buzzing atmosphere at a tech agency is replaced by a sense of utter concentration. No cell phones vibrate, no notifications beep. “I prefer five hours with motivated team members who are happy and twice as productive,” Rheingans says. 

More efficiency, fewer hours

The World Health Organization (WHO) just published a global study showing a nearly 30 percent increase in loss of life associated with longer working hours between 2000 and 2016. To combat this trend, shorter work days and work weeks are catching on in a range of countries and industries. Spain recently became the first country to trial a four-day work week and other countries want to follow suit. 

Rheingans had specific reasons for not choosing a four-day work week. “The four-day work week means going back to the eight-hour work day, and no one can concentrate for that long. You lose at least two hours through the lunch slog, and even more through small talk and inefficient workflow,” he says. “Nobody works efficiently for more than five hours.” Rheingans references a Stanford study and a 2016 U.K. study in which almost 2,000 workers reported that they could only concentrate for a little under three hours at a time. Rheingans believes that 1 p.m. is the perfect time to go for lunch with friends, take out the mountain bike or to ponder creative work solutions in a more inspired setting. “We have some of our best ideas when we’re out in nature or on the beach.”

five hour work dayWhat immediately strikes visitors to Rheingans’s company is the stillness –– the usually buzzing atmosphere at a tech agency is replaced by a sense of utter concentration. Photo courtesy Rheingans

He also makes two convincing arguments why he didn’t simply opt for more flexible work hours: the convenience of quick decision making when every team member is present, and, perhaps even more pertinent, employees at companies with flexible work hours often ended up working more because all boundaries are gone. “I know of a company that re-introduced the time stamp clock — not to make sure that the employees work enough hours, but that they don’t work too much.”

Most of Rheingans’s employees use their extra free time to fulfill passions. For instance, one project manager started taking piano lessons, fulfilling a dream she had since childhood. Others devote more time to sports or their family. In particular, the model works well for parents. Nearly half of Rheingans’s 15 employees are women, an unusually even split for a tech company. 

The limitations of less hours

Shorter work days are being piloted in industries that run the gamut from farming to health care.

Norway’s largest dairy producer, Tine, introduced a six-hour-work day, which includes a half-hour lunch break, at full pay in 2006 because of a high sick rate (10 to 13 percent) at their cheese factory in Trondheim. After the change, the sick rate was halved while productivity rose by 30 percent. But the positive effects petered out over the years, and the company recently returned to eight-hour work days. A spokesman says it’s too soon to say how the switch back affects sick rates and performance.

For similar reasons, a care home in Gothenburg, Sweden, tried six-hour work days for two years between 2015 and 2017. The staff loved it — they reported spending more quality time with the residents, the sick rate dropped by ten percent and overall staff health improved by 50 percent, according to surveys. But since nursing patients require round-the-clock care, the home had to hire 15 new employees, which meant a 22 percent increase in costs, and thus returned to the eight-hour work day after two years. 

Ultimately, work is about more than efficiently churning out an end product. Building relationships and networking factor into workplace satisfaction, too. This is one reason Stephan Aarstol, the founder of Tower Paddle Boards, reinstates the eight-hour workday in winter for team-building purposes while keeping the five-hour workday in summer so his employees can go surfing. Rheingans, too, recognized the need for social interaction and regularly organized company events before the pandemic. Twice a week, the team held a “cooking club” where everybody cooked and ate together after work. “Participation was voluntary,” Rheingans explains, “but everybody showed up.” 

What Rheingans hadn’t expected was that the switch to the five-hour work day would change the entire company mission. Interest from other companies prompted him to expand its portfolio to include workplace strategizing. He hired a psychologist to assess the culture and satisfaction at both his own and his clients’ companies.

“We see a momentum that started years ago with new work models and now assumes new importance through the pandemic,” Rheingans says. “Many people refuse to return to the same old practices as before.” He quotes a recent study that surveyed more than 2,000 workers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland — due to the pandemic, nearly 50 percent of them were questioning their old work structure. “I still believe motivated employees will do the best job,” he says. “Instead of counting work hours, we now count good work.”

The post Notifications Off! The Distraction-Free Benefits of Five-Hour Work Days appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Homes to Those Who Live in Them!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/06/2021 - 4:48am in

image/jpeg iconhousing.jpg

The demand often raised in the renters’ protests that housing should not be a commodity is a correct and an important one. But it amounts to nothing as long as the relations of power and domination of this society are not called into question.

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Greetings from “New Normal” Germany!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/05/2021 - 9:35pm in

On April 1, 1933, shortly after Hitler was appointed chancellor, the Nazis staged a boycott of Jewish businesses in Germany. Members of the Storm Troopers (“die Sturmabteilung,” or the “Storm Department,” as I like to think of them) stood around outside of Jewish-owned stores with Gothic-lettered placards reading “Germans! Defend yourselves! Do not buy from Jews!” The boycott itself was a total disaster — most Germans ignored it and just went on with their lives — but it was the beginning of the official persecution of the Jews and totalitarianism in Nazi Germany.

Last week, here in “New Normal” Germany, the government (which, it goes without saying, bears no resemblance to the Nazi regime, or any other totalitarian regime) implemented a social-segregation system that bans anyone who refuses to publicly conform to the official “New Normal” ideology from participating in German society. From now on, only those who have an official “vaccination pass” or proof of a negative PCR test are allowed to sit down and eat at restaurants, shop at “non-essential” stores, or go to bars, or the cinema, or wherever.

Here’s a notice from the website of Prater, a popular beer garden in Berlin:

Of course, there is absolutely no valid comparison to be made between these two events, or between Nazi Germany and “New Normal” Germany, nor would I ever imply that there was. That would be illegal in “New Normal” Germany, as it would be considered “relativizing the Holocaust,” not to mention being “anti-democratic and/or delegitimizing the state in a way that endangers security,” or whatever. Plus, it’s not like there are SA goons standing outside shops and restaurants with signs reading “Germans! Defend yourselves! Don’t sell to the Unvaccinated and Untested!” It’s just that it’s now illegal to do that, i.e., sell anything to those of us whom the media and the government have systematically stigmatized as “Covid deniers” because we haven’t converted to the new official ideology and submitted to being “vaccinated” or “tested.”

Protesting the new official ideology is also illegal in “New Normal” Germany. OK, I think I should probably rephrase that. I certainly don’t want to misinform anyone. Protesting the “New Normal” isn’t outlawed per se. You’re totally allowed to apply for a permit to protest against the “Covid restrictions” on the condition that everyone taking part in your protest wears a medical-looking N95 mask and maintains a distance of 1.5 meters from every other medical-masked protester … which is kind of like permitting anti-racism protests as long as the protesters all wear Ku Klux Klan robes and perform a choreographed karaoke of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama.

Who says the Germans don’t have a sense of humor?

I don’t mean to single out the Germans. There is nothing inherently totalitarian, or fascist, or robotically authoritarian and hyper-conformist about the Germans, as a people. The fact that the vast majority of Germans clicked their heels and started mindlessly following orders, like they did in Nazi Germany, the moment the “New Normal” was introduced last year doesn’t mean that all Germans are fascists by nature. Most Americans did the same thing. So did the British, the Australians, the Spanish, the French, the Canadians, and a long list of others. It’s just that, well, I happen to live here, so I’ve watched as Germany has been transformed into “New Normal Germany” up close and personal, and it has definitely made an impression on me.

The ease with which the German authorities implemented the new official ideology, and how fanatically it has been embraced by the majority of Germans, came as something of a shock. I had naively believed that, in light of their history, the Germans would be among the first to recognize a nascent totalitarian movement predicated on textbook Goebbelsian Big Lies (i.e., manipulated Covid “case” and “death” statistics), and would resist it en masse, or at least take a moment to question the lies their leaders were hysterically barking at them.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Here we are, over a year later, and waiters and shop clerks are “checking papers” to enforce compliance with the new official ideology. (And, yes, the “New Normal” is an official ideology. When you strip away the illusion of an apocalyptic plague, there isn’t any other description for it). Perfectly healthy, medical-masked people are lining up in the streets to be experimentally “vaccinated.” Lockdown-bankrupted shops and restaurants have been converted into walk-in “PCR-test stations.” The government is debating mandatory “vaccination” of children in kindergarten. Goon squads are arresting octogenarians for picnicking on the sidewalk without permission. And so on. At this point, I’m just sitting here waiting for the news that mass “disinfection camps” are being set up to solve the “Unvaccinated Question.”

Whoops … there I go again, “relativizing the Holocaust.” I really need to stop doing that. The Germans take this stuff very seriously, especially with Israel under relentless attack by the desperately impoverished people it has locked inside an enormous walled ghetto, and is self-defensively ethnically cleansing.

But, seriously, there is no similarity whatsoever between Nazi Germany and “New Normal” Germany. Sure, both systems suspended the constitution, declared a national “state of emergency” enabling the government to rule by decree, inundated the masses with insane propaganda and manipulated “scientific facts,” outlawed protests, criminalized dissent, implemented a variety of public rituals, and symbols, and a social segregation system, to enforce compliance with their official ideologies, and demonized anyone who refused to comply … but, other than that, there’s no similarity, and anyone who suggests there is is a dangerous social-deviant extremist who probably needs to be quarantined somewhere, or perhaps dealt with in some other “special” way.

Plus, the two ideologies are completely different. One was a fanatical totalitarian ideology based on imaginary racial superiority and the other is a fanatical totalitarian ideology based on an imaginary “apocalyptic plague” … so what the hell am I even talking about? On top of which, no swastikas, right? No swastikas, no totalitarianism! And nobody’s mass murdering the Jews, that I know of, and that’s the critical thing, after all!

So, never mind. Just ignore all that crazy stuff I just told you about “New Normal” Germany. Don’t worry about “New Normal” America, either. Or “New Normal” Great Britain. Or “New Normal” wherever. Get experimentally “vaccinated.” Experimentally “vaccinate” your kids. Prove your loyalty to the Reich … sorry, I meant to global capitalism. Ignore those reports of people dying and suffering horrible adverse effects. Wear your mask. Wear it forever. God knows what other viruses are out there, just waiting to defile your bodily fluids and cause you to experience a flu-like illness, or cut you down in the prime of your seventies or eighties … and, Jesus, I almost forgot “long Covid.” That in itself is certainly enough to justify radically restructuring society so that it resembles an upscale hospital theme park staffed by paranoid, smiley-faced fascists in fanciful designer Hazmat suits.

Oh, and keep your “vaccination papers” in order. You never know when you’re going to have to show them to some official at the airport, or a shop, or restaurant, or to your boss, or your landlord, or the police, or your bank, or your ISP, or your Tinder date … or some other “New Normal” authority figure. I mean, you don’t want to be mistaken for a “Covid denier,” or an “anti-vaxxer,” or a “conspiracy theorist,” or some other type of ideological deviant, and be banished from society, do you?

#

CJ Hopkins
May 24, 2021
Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-14468, Georg Pahl, CC-BY-SA 3.0

DISCLAIMER: DISCLAIMER: The preceding essay is entirely the work of our in-house satirist and self-appointed political pundit, CJ Hopkins, and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Consent Factory, Inc., its staff, or any of its agents, subsidiaries, or assigns. If, for whatever inexplicable reason, you appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to support it, please go to his Substack page, or his Patreon page, or send your contribution to his PayPal account, so that maybe he’ll stop coming around our offices trying to hit our staff up for money. Alternatively, you could purchase his satirical dystopian sci-fi novel, Zone 23, or Volume I and II of his Consent Factory Essays, or any of his subversive stage plays, which won some awards in Great Britain and Australia. If you do not appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to write him an abusive email, feel free to contact him directly.

Is This the World’s Most Aging-Friendly City?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/05/2021 - 6:00pm in

When Hanni Borzel was in her sixties, she looked toward her years ahead with fear. Her husband had recently died and, a former librarian, she dreaded the idea of becoming lonely and “useless in old age.” 

“After my retirement, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life sitting on a couch, watching TV,” says Borzel. The city where she lived in central Germany did not offer many volunteering opportunities to pensioners at the time. Meanwhile, she watched on Facebook as her friend Uwe Künkenrenken detailed his visits to a kindergarten to play music and participate in theater with children. Künkenrenken’s wife, Anni, was engaging with kids from the same kindergarten by reading to them and teaching German to refugee students. 

In contrast to Hildburghausen, an engaged life well into old age is the norm where the Künkenrenkens live. And it’s not by accident. The product of a decades-long project to build an aging-friendly destination, their leafy, quaint west German town of Arnsberg might be one of the most successful examples of senior-friendly urban development in the world. At its core? A city department like no other: the Fachstelle Zukunft Alter — the Department of Future Aging. 

Anni Künkenrenken reads to Arnsberg schoolchildren. Credit: Priti Salian

A game changer 

Arnsberg’s Department of Future Aging (DFA) has its roots in foresight, when then-city administrator Hans-Josef Vogel launched a city-wide survey for the aging population. 

Like the rest of Germany, Arnsberg’s senior population was expanding rapidly. At the same time dementia, an often isolating condition, was rising among seniors in Arnsberg at the same rate as the rest of Germany, which has the world’s third highest population of seniors and where almost ten percent of people over 65 have dementia. Today, the city of 73,573 has almost 17,000 citizens that age, and by 2030, 55 seniors are expected for every 100 younger people in the city. 

A shopping street in the neighbourhood of Neheim, Arnsberg. Credit: Jörg Hempel

But the survey, conducted in 1995 with 28,000 respondents aged over 50, was a game changer. It explored residents’ wishes and expectations for old age. They emphasized a desire to participate in social life, to actively contribute to society and to continue learning in old age. Most of all? They didn’t want to live alone in their twilight years.

The information set into motion a mindset shift that fundamentally altered Arnsberg’s future. Until that point, the city’s approach to aging had been classically “deficit-oriented” — focused on what seniors could no longer do and primarily putting resources into nursing homes, rather than creating programs that capitalized on what they could still offer. 

Today “it is about strengthening resources and capacities, empowering, and enabling elderly people to stay or become active citizens,” said Martin Polenz, who leads the DFA, which officially launched in 2004. 

While the DFA is tiny, with a staff of two and a project budget of just €20,000 (approximately USD$24,000) per year, its imprint on the city is unmistakable — both figuratively and literally. Not only does the DFA support over 200 projects through advice and direction, training, development, networking and collaborative funding, but Polenz and his colleagues also collaborate with other departments in the city, acting as advisors across the city government. They work especially closely with the Department of Citizens Involvement and the Department of Planning and Building to ensure that senior-oriented planning isn’t just woven into the social fabric of the city, but the physical design, too. 

Benches throughout Arnsberg provide resting points and boast numbers that a lost citizen can reference when calling for help. Credit: Frank Albrecht

As a result, projects started, supported or inspired by the DFA touch every sector in Arnsberg. For example, the city boasts numbered benches every 200 meters in some of its markets and on the promenade along the River Ruhr. The benches provide essential resting spots, but with an added bonus for people experiencing dementia: “If someone is lost, they can call for assistance quoting the bench number,” Polenz says. 

Volunteers in Arnsberg are available to travel with older people as bus companions on market days. This allows seniors to continue shopping for themselves and engaging with city life with a sense of security, and help handling heavy shopping bags.

Affordable residential complexes with small units and accessibility measures also dot the city, equipped with optional assistance tailored to individual needs, to allow seniors who wish to live independently to do so for longer. 

But the spinoff impacts of the DFA’s influence show the systemic nature of the city’s mindset shift and illustrate the snowball effect a city-wide commitment like Arnsberg’s can have. 

One of the city’s most successful projects, The Dementia Learning Lab, was introduced in 2008 by the DFA, to develop Arnsberg as a dementia-friendly city. Started as an initiative to meet the needs of people with dementia and their families, it eventually grew into a dementia network. 

At the Lab, citizens were called upon by the DFA to contribute ideas in their areas of work and interest. “Almost 400 citizens turned up with ideas at the inaugural meeting,” Polenz recalled. Over the years, as an ongoing process, programs to change public attitudes about dementia, provide information about the disease and reduce fear of contact with people with dementia have been implemented. Research from 2012 to 2015 found that of the 71 “multipliers” of the lab — people who spread the work of the lab by bringing their learnings into their personal and professional environments — 62 percent felt that their knowledge of dementia had increased and 93 percent felt secure and empathetic while interacting with people with dementia. 

Dr. Meinolf Hanxleden. Credit: Priti Salian

One of the multipliers involved in the city’s dementia network is Dr. Meinolf Hanxleden, a geriatrician who built a special 10-bed ward in a local hospital for hospitalized seniors who might be at risk of delirium, an abrupt change in the brain that can cause mental and emotional confusion and disruption.

“Almost 70 percent of people who have dementia develop delirium during a hospital stay,” says Hanxleden. “Small things, such as seeing too many different faces in a day or changing rooms are enough to trigger delirium among people with dementia.” If a patient is admitted to the hospital and identified as at risk for delirium, they can be treated in the special ward instead. Apart from the changes in therapy, the physical differences in the ward include color-coding of different rooms to help patient orientation, and assigning just one nurse trained to deal with delirium per patient. The changes are modeled after the Hospital Elder Life Program, which has been shown to reduce the risk of delirium by 30 to 50 percent, limit the duration of incidence, and reduce the rate of falls by 42 percent. 

“Exemplary and replicable”

In 2008, inspired by her friends’ vibrant retired lives, Borzel made a life-altering decision: she moved to Arnsberg. 

When she arrived and reached out to DFA, she was put in touch with the city’s senior citizens’ advisory council. “I was welcomed with open arms and contributed as a member of the press team of the council until last year,” says Borzel, now 79. 

Six years ago, she joined the editorial team of SICHT, a quarterly magazine printed by the city and run by seniors for seniors.

“Over the years, I have enjoyed contributing to intergenerational programs in schools, and attending film festivals, cinema and theater held specifically for the elderly,” Borzel says.

The team at SICHT Magazine. Far right, Uwe Künkenrenken and Hanni Borzel. Far left (back), Martin Polenz. Credit: Priti Salian

And while Arnsberg’s vibrant senior social scene has kept Borzel company living alone in old age, other programs help keep some seniors living together longer. 

One example is Café Zeitlos (Timeless Cafe), an intergenerational initiative that aims to provide an inclusive space for people with dementia and their caregivers to unwind and mingle with people of all ages and create art. Often, people with dementia stay at home all day with their caregivers where there is a hierarchy in the relationship — the caregiver is in a position of power. Café Zeitlos, funded in part by the DFA, gives them a chance to communicate on an equal footing, without the caregiver being in charge. Studies show that art intervention into everyday care can mitigate depression and apathy, and have positive effects on the mood of people living with dementia. 

Café Zeitlos facilitated socialization for Walter Rupert, a proud centenarian, when his wife was sick. A very hands-on husband, Rupert looked after his wife for the 18 years that she had dementia, instead of moving her to a care facility. “Martin introduced me to Café Zeitlos when it opened and it became my weekly break while I was busy taking care of my wife,” he said when I met him in 2019 at his home, carefully modified for mobility. 

Walter Rupert in his Arnsberg home. Credit: Priti Salian

In 2015, when Germany’s erstwhile President Joachim Gauck visited Arnsberg, he said it impressed him to see that “with the help of municipal programs, people are adapting specifically to a society that is living longer.”

“In Germany, most local administrations provide only information and counseling services to help older persons and persons with dementia find points of support in their city,” says Anne-Sophie Parent, who has worked for 28 years on aging in the European Union and is currently the Secretary General of the European Covenant on Demographic Change, which brings together stakeholders to work on active and healthy aging. 

“Arnsberg’s co-production approach is innovative because the city involves older persons and persons with dementia as key actors in the solutions that are developed for them,” Parent says. “It makes them feel heard, a key element for them to feel valued and included in the life of their city.”    

Parent says that Arnsberg’s work is “exemplary and replicable in other European cities with similar demographic profile and population size.”

Polenz notes that limited resources and not having legal authority over stakeholders mean that DFA cannot push anyone for results. “We can only give inspiration and lead by example,” he says. 

For Borzel, the choice was clear. Life in Arnsberg has not only given her ways to occupy herself fruitfully in old age, but also a good circle of friends. “In Hildburghausen, I would probably have wasted away in loneliness by now,” she says.

The post Is This the World’s Most Aging-Friendly City? appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

The Criminalization of Dissent

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 03/05/2021 - 10:13pm in

One of the hallmarks of totalitarian systems is the criminalization of dissent. Not just the stigmatization of dissent or the demonization of dissent, but the formal criminalization of dissent, and any other type of opposition to the official ideology of the totalitarian system. Global capitalism has been inching its way toward this step for quite some time, and now, apparently, it is ready to take it.

Germany has been leading the way. For over a year, anyone questioning or protesting the “Covid emergency measures” or the official Covid-19 narrative has been demonized by the government and the media, and, sadly, but not completely unexpectedly, the majority of the German public. And now such dissent is officially “extremism.”

Yes, that’s right, in “New Normal” Germany, if you dissent from the official state ideology, you are now officially a dangerous “extremist.” The German Intelligence agency (the “BfV”) has even invented a new category of “extremists” in order to allow themselves to legally monitor anyone suspected of being “anti-democratic and/or delegitimizing the state in a way that endangers security,” like … you know, non-violently protesting, or speaking out against, or criticizing, or satirizing, the so-called “New Normal.”

Naturally, I’m a little worried, as I have engaged in most of these “extremist” activities. My thoughtcrimes are just sitting there on the Internet waiting to be scrutinized by the BfV. They’re probably Google-translating this column right now, compiling a list of all the people reading it, and their Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and professional associates, and family members, and anyone any of the aforementioned people have potentially met with, or casually mentioned, who might have engaged in similar thoughtcrimes.

You probably think I’m joking, don’t you? I’m not joking. Not even slightly. The Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution (“Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz”) is actively monitoring anyone questioning or challenging the official “New Normal” ideology … the “Covid Deniers,” the “conspiracy theorists,” the “anti-vaxxers,” the dreaded “Querdenkers” (i.e., people who “think outside the box”), and anyone else they feel like monitoring who has refused to join the Covidian Cult. We’re now official enemies of the state, no different than any other “terrorists” … or, OK, technically, a little different.

As The New York Times reported last week (German Intelligence Puts Coronavirus Deniers Under Surveillance), “the danger from coronavirus deniers and conspiracy theorists does not fit the mold posed by the usual politically driven groups, including those on the far left and right, or by Islamic extremists.” Still, according to the German Interior Ministry, we diabolical “Covid deniers,” “conspiracy theorists,” and “anti-vaxxers” have “targeted the state itself, its leaders, businesses, the press, and globalism,” and have “attacked police officers” and “defied civil authorities.”

Moreover, back in August of 2020, in a dress rehearsal for the “Storming of the Capitol,” “Covid-denying” insurrectionists “scaled the steps of Parliament” (i.e., the Reichstag). Naturally, The Times neglects to mention that this so-called “Storming of the Reichstag” was performed by a small sub-group of protesters to whom the German authorities had granted a permit to assemble (apart from the main demonstration, which was massive and completely peaceful) on the steps of the Reichstag, which the German police had, for some reason, left totally unguarded. In light of the background of the person the German authorities issued this “Steps-of-the-Reichstag” protest permit to — a known former-NPD functionary, in other words, a neo-Nazi — well, the whole thing seemed a bit questionable to me … but what do I know? I’m just a “conspiracy theorist.”

According to Al Jazeera, the German Interior Ministry explained that these querdenking “extremists encourage supporters to ignore official orders and challenge the state monopoly on the use of force.” Seriously, can you imagine anything more dangerous? Mindlessly following orders and complying with the state’s monopoly on the use of force are the very cornerstones of modern democracy … or some sort of political system, anyway.

But, see, there I go, again “being anti-democratic” and “delegitimizing the state,” not to mention “relativizing the Holocaust” (also a criminal offense in Germany) by comparing one totalitarian system to another, as I have done repeatedly on social media, and in a column I published in November of 2020, when the parliament passed the “Infection Protection Act,” which bears no comparison whatsoever to the “Enabling Act of 1933.”

This isn’t just a German story, of course. As I reported in a column in February, The “New Normal” War on Domestic Terror is a global war, and it’s just getting started. According to a Department of Homeland SecurityNational Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin(and the “liberal” corporate-media propaganda machine), “democracy” remains under imminent threat from these “ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority” and other such “grievances fueled by false narratives” including “anger over Covid-19 restrictions.”

These Covid-denying “violent extremists” have apparently joined forces with the “white-supremacist, Russia-backed, Trump-loving “Putin-Nazis” that terrorized “democracy” for the past four years, and almost overthrew the US government by sauntering around inside the US Capitol Building without permission, scuffling with police, attacking furniture, and generally acting rude and unruly. No, they didn’t actually kill anyone, as the corporate media all reported they did, but trespassing in a government building and putting your feet up on politicians’ desks is pretty much exactly the same as “terrorism.”

Or whatever. It’s not like the truth actually matters, not when you are whipping up mass hysteria over imaginary “Russian assets,” “white-supremacist militias,” “Covid-denying extremists,” “anti-vax terrorists,” and “apocalyptic plagues.” When you’re rolling out a new official ideology — a pathologized-totalitarian ideology — and criminalizing all dissent, the point is not to appear to be factual. The point is just to terrorize the shit out of people.

As Hermann Goering famously explained regarding how to lead a country to war (and the principle holds true for any big transition, like the one we are experiencing currently):

“[T]he people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”

Go back and read those quotes from the German Interior Ministry and the DHS again slowly. The message they are sending is unmistakeably clear. It might not seem all that new, but it is. Yes, they have been telling us “we are being attacked” and denouncing critics, protesters, and dissidents for twenty years (i.e., since the War on Terror was launched in 2001, and for the last four years in their War on Populism), but this is a whole new level of it … a fusion of official narratives and their respective official enemies into a singular, aggregate official narrative in which dissent will no longer be permitted.

Instead, it will be criminalized, or it will be pathologized.

Seriously, go back and read those quotes again. Global capitalist governments and their corporate media mouthpieces are telling us, in no uncertain terms, that “objection to their authority” will no longer be tolerated, nor will dissent from their official narratives. Such dissent will be deemed “dangerous” and above all “false.” It will not be engaged with or rationally debated. It will be erased from public view. There will be an inviolable, official “reality.” Any deviation from official “reality” or defiance of the “civil authorities” will be labelled “extremism,” and dealt with accordingly.

This is the essence of totalitarianism, the establishment of an inviolable official ideology and the criminalization of dissent. And that is what is happening, right now. A new official ideology is being established. Not a state ideology. A global ideology. The “New Normal” is that official ideology. Technically, it is an official post-ideology, an official “reality,” an axiomatic “fact,” which only “criminals” and “psychopaths” would deny.

I’ll be digging deeper into “New Normal” ideology and “pathologized totalitarianism” in my future columns, and … sorry, they probably won’t be very funny. For now I’ll leave you with two more quotes. The emphasis is mine, as ever.

Here’s California State Senator Richard Pan, author of an op-ed in the Washington Post: “Anti-vax extremism is akin to domestic terrorism,” quoted in the Los Angeles Times:

“These extremists have not yet been held accountable, so they continue to escalate violence against the body public … We must now summon the political will to demand that domestic terrorists face consequences for their words and actions. Our democracy and our lives depend on it … They’ve been building alliances with white supremacists, conspiracy theorists and [others] on the far right …”

And here’s Peter Hotez in Nature magazine:

“The United Nations and the highest levels of governments must take direct, even confrontational, approaches with Russia, and move to dismantle anti-vaccine groups in the United States. Efforts must expand into the realm of cyber security, law enforcement, public education and international relations. A high-level inter-agency task force reporting to the UN secretary-general could assess the full impact of anti-vaccine aggression, and propose tough, balanced measures. The task force should include experts who have tackled complex global threats such as terrorism, cyber attacks and nuclear armament, because anti-science is now approaching similar levels of peril. It is becoming increasingly clear that advancing immunization requires a counter-offensive.”

We’ll be hearing a lot more rhetoric like this as this new, more totalitarian structure of global capitalism gradually develops … probably a good idea to listen carefully, and assume the New Normals mean exactly what they say.

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CJ Hopkins
May 3, 2021
Photo: 1918 flu pandemic

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