Australia after the Coronavirus and Environmental Sustainability

Australia can be a better, fairer place after the coronavirus, if we’re willing to fight for it

Here is part of what Lenore Taylor points to in her article:

“Labor’s treasury spokesman, Jim Chalmers, looked to the postwar experience to argue for a new post-crisis social contract, focused on employment.

“When Curtin established the Department of Post War Reconstruction it was almost Christmas in 1942, and when Chifley was made minister by the start of 1943, most of Europe was still occupied by the Nazis and Japanese bombs were still falling on northern Australia.

“Those two Labor leaders knew that if Australia was to prosper after the war it needed to rewrite the social contract during the war, and to be meaningful, full employment needed to be at the core of it.”

The economist Mariana Mazucatto argues the crisis is an opportunity to work out how to do capitalism differently.

“This requires a rethink of what governments are for: rather than simply fixing market failures when they arise, they should move towards actively shaping and creating markets that deliver sustainable and inclusive growth,” she said, in arguments that have been backed by the Pope.”

.  .  .  .

  • Lenore Taylor is the editor of Guardian Australia

Some of the commentators mentioned in this piece have participated in a daily lunchtime briefing on ideas for Australia’s future after the crisis. The program can be found at

Environmental Sustainability


I reckon we cannot, just cannot go back to where we were. Environmental sustainability definitely has to be considered by governments all over the world after this crisis with the coronavirus. And we cannot, just cannot afford to leave people without any work. To my mind there is some work to do for every healthy person on this planet! In a caring society the sick, disabled or elderly people ought to be cared for!

We must not forget how important environmental sustainability is for the future of mankind!

Environmental Sustainability

When you go to the above link you find the following:

“The environmental challenges facing the world are growing in scale and complexity. These include climate change; an emerging global crisis in water availability and water pollution; record loss of biodiversity and long-term damage to ecosystems; pollution of the atmosphere; waste production and disposal; impacts of chemicals use and toxic substance disposal; damaged aquatic ecosystems; deforestation and land degradation; and achieving the critical goal of poverty eradication in an increasingly natural resource-constrained world.Environmental

Businesses have a critical role to play in addressing these challenges, with a responsibility to minimise their own environmental impact, and an opportunity to explore how they can have a net positive impact.

Principles 7, 8 and 9 of the UN Global Compact relate to environmental sustainability. The UN Global Compact’s Environmental Stewardship Strategy presents an integrative approach to manage a range of key environment issues, and is designed to help companies develop a comprehensive environmental strategy.”

Engagement Platforms

Caring for Climate
CEO Water Mandate
Food & Agriculture Business Principles

Key resources are available here

Stillness in Classrooms

Meditation education is having a real and positive impact on student learning and their wellbeing, writes the University of Melbourne’s Professor Lea Waters
Still waters … meditation is a way to help students enrich their education.

Imagine if we taught stillness in class

In our warp-speed world, stillness is a rare experience.

Parents are working longer hours and children’s lives are fully timetabled. Being “busy” has become the new social currency. It carries status. People marvel at those who are busy. The greeting “hello” has been replaced with the question “keeping busy?” It seems if you’re not busy, you’re not important.

Our addiction to being busy is having a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of children and teenagers. One in four young Australians experience symptoms of mental illness and mental illness accounts for over 50% of ill-heath statistics in 15-25 year olds. Children have forgotten how to be still. Their hearts, minds and bodies are always racing. What would happen if we taught stillness in schools and how do we go about doing this?

What would happen if we taught stillness in schools and how do we go about doing this?
Meditation education is proving to be an effective way to teach stillness in schools and is having a real and positive impact on student learning and wellbeing. The act of slowing down provides students with the opportunity to observe and understand how they think and feel. This enriches traditional academic education by showing students how they think and not just what to think.

Meditation is on the rise with schools bringing it into classes, sports fields, exam preparation, choir, school drama productions, school camps and academic learning. Meditation is the deliberate act of regulating our attention through observing our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations.

It can conjure up images of a yogi sitting in the lotus position chanting, but there are a wide variety of secular meditation practices that teach students how to focus their attention.

Self-observation exercises can be as simple as sitting, walking, eating, listening and learning with full attention.

Mindfulness-meditation is one for the more popular practices being taught at schools and involves a three-step mental process where students are asked to 1) focus their attention on a particular object (e.g. their own breathing), 2) notice when their attention has wandered away from the object and 3) bring their attention back to the attentional object.

Students engage in this practice with a stance of non-judgment and open curiosity which allows them to identify patterns in their thoughts and feelings, leading to a clearer mind and a more peaceful heart.

Groundbreaking research on meditation in schools is bringing together the three fields of psychology, education and neuroscience.

I led a team of researchers at the University of Melbourne who recently conducted a meta-review of meditation education that included 15 studies combining almost 1800 students from Australia, Canada, India, United Kingdom, United States, and Taiwan.

The results showed that meditation is beneficial in the majority of cases and led to higher optimism, positive emotion, self-concept, self-care and self-acceptance as well as reduced anxiety, stress, and depression in students. Meditation was also associated with faster information processing, greater attentional focus, working memory, creativity and cognitive flexibility.

The meditation programs that were the most effective were those that encouraged regular practice, those that went for a term or longer and those that were delivered by teachers (as compared to an external meditation instructor).

Our addiction to being busy is having a detrimental impact on children and teenagers, says Professor Lea Waters.

The meta-review found a strong case for infusing meditating into the culture of schools and making it a core part of teacher training. Schools can investigate the many youth-meditation programs that have been developed in countries such as Australia (Mindcapsules), Canada (Mindful Education), India (The Alice Project), Israel (The Mindfulness Language), United Kingdom (Mindfulness in Schools Project, DotB), and United States of America (Mindful Schools, MindUp, Learning to Breathe).

The idea of learning being supported by stillness and focused attention is an attractive and practical prospect for education and it is no surprise that meditation education is on the rise as a way to care for both the minds and hearts of our students and to provide some much needed down-time in a young person’s day.

Professor Lea Waters is Director of the Centre for Positive Psychology and Gerry Higgins Chair in Positive Psychology, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne


This is what I found in The Guardian:


Mass migration is no ‘crisis’: it’s the new normal as the climate changes
by Ellie Mae O’Hagan

What’s the common factor between the tragic deaths of refugees in the Mediterranean and the Arab spring? Food shortages driven by global warming

I’ve been interested in the way the migrant crisis is being debated in politics and the media. It’s that word – crisis – that is particularly striking. It suggests that what we’re seeing in across Europe is an aberration, a temporary disaster to be “solved” by politicians. Even the sight of ramshackle tents in Calais suggests a phenomenon that could be cleared away at any given moment.

In The Concept of the Political, the philosopher Carl Schmitt argued that, when presented with crisis, liberal democracies will put aside constitutional niceties in order to survive. The public consents to its government violating liberal values because crisis is a state of exception, which requires desperate measures.

Perhaps that explains why there has been so little uproar over supposedly civilised societies using terminology like “marauding” and “swarms”, and making policy decisions that result in hundreds of people drowning in the Mediterranean or languishing in detention centres. These things, we think, don’t reflect who we are as people. They are just necessary responses to this current crisis.

There is only one problem with calling this phenomenon of migration a crisis, and that is that it’s not temporary: it’s permanent. Thanks to global climate change, mass migration could be the new normal.

There are lots of estimates as to what we can expect to see in the near future, but the best known (and controversial) figure comes from Professor Norman Myers, who argues that climate change could cause 200 million people to be displaced by 2050.

In fact, it’s already happening. According to the Pentagon, climate change is a “threat multiplier” and does appear to be increasing risk of conflict.

Indeed a new study released in March suggests this is exactly what happened in Syria, after a severe drought in 2006. As the study’s co-author, Professor Richard Seager, explains, “We’re not saying drought caused the [Syrian conflict]. We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.”

Syria now has the highest number of refugees in the world. A new government-commissioned report on the looming climate-induced food shortage suggests that “the rise of Isis may owe much to the food crises that spawned the Arab spring”.

In his book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond points out that the most environmentally stressed places in the world are the most likely to have conflicts, which then generate refugees. Rapid climate change will environmentally stress lots of developing countries.

One day there could be Italians and Greeks in camps in Calais, as their own countries become even hotter and more arid
But it’s not just conflicts exacerbated by climate that will create refugees: climate change, in and of itself, is likely to cause mass migration. As Simon Lewis, professor of global change science at University College London puts it: “Climate and vegetation zones are shifting, so the Mediterranean will likely keep getting drier this century, with knock-on negative social and economic impacts. That will be tough for Spain, Italy and Greece, where significant numbers of people may move north, and of course, displaced people from elsewhere wouldn’t stay in the Mediterranean, they’d keep travelling north.”

In other words, the Mediterranean countries currently trying to cope with migrants from other parts of the world may eventually have a migrant crisis of their own. One day there could conceivably be Italians and Greeks in camps in Calais, as their own countries become even hotter and more arid.

In a 2014 paper, Migration as Adaptation, Kayly Ober suggests migration is a good way of dealing with the imminent effects of climate change. She argues that the international community’s thoughts should “turn from not only stemming greenhouse gas emissions, but also how to deal with an already altered world”.

The idea of millions of migrants being assisted to move to western Europe might scandalise the Daily Mail, but it shouldn’t – because migration might be a form of adaptation many Britons may also have to consider. According to the Environment Agency, 7,000 British properties may be lost to rising sea levels over the next century. These people too will need to be relocated.

So what do we do about climate migration? The first step is to change our perceptions. We need to process the fact that migration isn’t going to go away or be “solved”. In all likelihood, it will become more common; a new normal.

The second step is obvious – we must all be more active in pushing governments to take more decisive action to reduce global greenhouse emissions, so that more people can remain safely in their homes and communities. For its part, Britain must adhere to international commitments to reduce emissions in line with keeping warming below dangerous levels (in other words 2C above pre-industrial levels) as well as providing adequate funds for adaptation. Britain must also push for a strong equitable global deal in the Paris climate talks in December, seen by many as the “last chance” to avert catastrophic climate change.

And finally, we need to urgently address the current strategies western governments are using to deal with migration, and the almost rabid commentary that often accompanies those strategies. There is a strong case for Britain to take a substantial number of climate refugees: as the first country to industrialise, we need to take historical responsibility for climate change, and should take into account our historical carbon emissions and their effects when responding to mass climate migration.

The migration we are witnessing is not a state of exception: it is the beginning of a new paradigm – and how we choose to respond to it reflects on who we fundamentally are as a society. We must deal with the victims of this permanent crisis in a compassionate way, not just for their humanity but for our own.




Fresh Water Shortages

Water    The Observer

This article is written by , science editor!

“Why fresh water shortages will cause the next great global crisis
Last week drought in São Paulo was so bad, residents tried drilling through basement floors for groundwater. As reservoirs dry up across the world, a billion people have no access to safe drinking water. Rationing and a battle to control supplies will follow

Sunday 8 March 2015 11.05 AEDT Last modified on Monday 9 March 2015 07.12 AEDT

Water is the driving force of all nature, Leonardo da Vinci claimed. Unfortunately for our planet, supplies are now running dry – at an alarming rate. The world’s population continues to soar but that rise in numbers has not been matched by an accompanying increase in supplies of fresh water.

The consequences are proving to be profound. Across the globe, reports reveal huge areas in crisis today as reservoirs and aquifers dry up. More than a billion individuals – one in seven people on the planet – now lack access to safe drinking water.

Last week in the Brazilian city of São Paulo, home to 20 million people, and once known as the City of Drizzle,drought got so bad that residents began drilling through basement floors and car parks to try to reach groundwater. City officials warned last week that rationing of supplies was likely soon. Citizens might have access to water for only two days a week, they added.

In California, officials have revealed that the state has entered its fourth year of drought with January this year becoming the driest since meteorological records began. At the same time, per capita water use has continued to rise.

In the Middle East, swaths of countryside have been reduced to desert because of overuse of water. Iran is one of the most severely affected. Heavy overconsumption, coupled with poor rainfall, have ravaged its water resources and devastated its agricultural output. Similarly, the United Arab Emirates is now investing in desalination plants and waste water treatment units because it lacks fresh water. As crown prince General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan admitted: “For us, water is [now] more important than oil.”

Water stress and climate change Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Water stress and climate change. Click here for full size image. Illustration: Giulio Frigieri
The global nature of the crisis is underlined in similar reports from other regions. In south Asia, for example, there have been massive losses of groundwater, which has been pumped up with reckless lack of control over the past decade. About 600 million people live on the 2,000km area that extends from eastern Pakistan, across the hot dry plains of northern India and into Bangladesh, and the land is the most intensely irrigated in the world. Up to 75% of farmers rely on pumped groundwater to water their crops and water use is intensifying – at the same time that satellite images shows supplies are shrinking alarmingly.

The nature of the problem is revealed by US Geological Survey figures, which show that the total amount of fresh water on Earth comes to about 2,551,100 cubic miles. Combined into a single droplet, this would produce a sphere with a diameter of about 170 miles. However, 99% of that sphere would be made up of groundwater, much of which is not accessible. By contrast, the total volume from lakes and rivers, humanity’s main source of fresh water, produces a sphere that is a mere 35 miles in diameter. That little blue droplet sustains most of the people on Earth – and it is under increasing assault as the planet heats up.

Changing precipitation and melting snow and ice are already altering hydrological systems in many regions. Glaciers continue to shrink worldwide, affecting villages and towns downstream. The result, says the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, is that the fraction of global population experiencing water scarcity is destined to increase throughout the 21st century. More and more, people and nations will have to compete for resources. An international dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the latter’s plans to dam the Nile has only recently been resolved. In future, far more serious conflicts are likely to erupt as the planet dries up.Even in high latitudes, the one region on Earth where rainfall is likely to intensify in coming years, climate change will still reduce water quality and pose risks due to a number of factors: rising temperatures; increased levels of sediments, nutrients, and pollutants triggered by heavy rainfall; and disruption of treatment facilities during floods. The world faces a water crisis that will touch every part of the globe, a point that has been stressed by Jean Chrétien, former Canadian prime minister and co-chair of the InterAction Council. “The future political impact of water scarcity may be devastating,” he said. “Using water the way we have in the past simply will not sustain humanity in future.”

About Climate Change

I like very much this article in The Guardian about Climate Change:

Here is what Naomi Klein says in this article:

“It is our great collective misfortune that the scientific community made its decisive diagnosis of the climate threat at the precise moment when an elite minority was enjoying more unfettered political, cultural, and intellectual power than at any point since the 1920s. Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein
Sunday 8 March 2015 23.00 AEDTThe second in a major series of articles on the climate crisis and how humanity can solve it. In this extract taken from the Introduction to This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, the author calls the climate crisis a civilisational wake-up call to alter our economy, our lifestyles, now – before they get changed for us.
You can read the first extract here.
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING is published this week in paperback by Penguin, £8.99

The alarm bells of the climate crisis have been ringing in our ears for years and are getting louder all the time – yet humanity has failed to change course. What is wrong with us?

Many answers to that question have been offered, ranging from the extreme difficulty of getting all the governments in the world to agree on anything, to an absence of real technological solutions, to something deep in our human nature that keeps us from acting in the face of seemingly remote threats, to – more recently – the claim that we have blown it anyway and there is no point in even trying to do much more than enjoy the scenery on the way down.

Some of these explanations are valid, but all are ultimately inadequate. Take the claim that it’s just too hard for so many countries to agree on a course of action. It is hard. But many times in the past, the United Nations has helped governments to come together to tackle tough cross-border challenges, from ozone depletion to nuclear proliferation. The deals produced weren’t perfect, but they represented real progress. Moreover, during the same years that our governments failed to enact a tough and binding legal architecture requiring emission reductions, supposedly because cooperation was too complex, they managed to create the World Trade Organisation – an intricate global system that regulates the flow of goods and services around the planet, under which the rules are clear and violations are harshly penalised.

The assertion that we have been held back by a lack of technological solutions is no more compelling. Power from renewable sources like wind and water predates the use of fossil fuels and is becoming cheaper, more efficient, and easier to store every year. The past two decades have seen an explosion of ingenious zero-waste design, as well as green urban planning. Not only do we have the technical tools to get off fossil fuels, we also have no end of small pockets where these low carbon lifestyles have been tested with tremendous success. And yet the kind of large-scale transition that would give us a collective chance of averting catastrophe eludes us.

Is it just human nature that holds us back then? In fact we humans have shown ourselves willing to collectively sacrifice in the face of threats many times, most famously in the embrace of rationing, victory gardens, and victory bonds during world wars one and two. Indeed to support fuel conservation during world war two, pleasure driving was virtually eliminated in the UK, and between 1938 and 1944, use of public transit went up by 87% in the US and by 95% in Canada. Twenty million US households – representing three fifths of the population – were growing victory gardens in 1943, and their yields accounted for 42% of the fresh vegetables consumed that year. Interestingly, all of these activities together dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

Yes, the threat of war seemed immediate and concrete but so too is the threat posed by the climate crisis that has already likely been a substantial contributor to massive disasters in some of the world’s major cities. Still, we’ve gone soft since those days of wartime sacrifice, haven’t we? Contemporary humans are too self-centered, too addicted to gratification to live without the full freedom to satisfy our every whim – or so our culture tells us every day. And yet the truth is that we continue to make collective sacrifices in the name of an abstract greater good all the time. We sacrifice our pensions, our hard-won labour rights, our arts and after-school programmes. We accept that we have to pay dramatically more for the destructive energy sources that power our transportation and our lives. We accept that bus and subway fares go up and up while service fails to improve or degenerates. We accept that a public university education should result in a debt that will take half a lifetime to pay off when such a thing was unheard of a generation ago.

The past 30 years have been a steady process of getting less and less in the public sphere. This is all defended in the name of austerity, the current justification for these never-ending demands for collective sacrifice. In the past, calls for balanced budgets, greater efficiency, and faster economic growth have served the same role.”


You might perhaps like to have a look at this interview by The Spiegel:

Berlin, a City undivided

A city undivided: the fall of the Berlin Wall commemorated 25 years on
Germans recall the ‘sheer madness’ of the night in 1989 when thousands of East Berliners streamed across the border

Philip Oltermann in Berlin
The Guardian, Monday 10 November 2014 07.56 AEST
Jump to comments (42)
Germany Celebrates 25th Anniversary Of The Fall Of The Berlin Wall
The Brandenburg Gate stands illuminated during celebrations on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
As the long row of helium-filled white balloons lifted off one by one into the night sky over Berlin, Tina Krone managed to gulp down a tear and lit a sparkler. “I haven’t seen that many people on the streets for 25 years,” she said, surveying the crowds at Bernauer Strasse.

On 9 November 1989, when she and thousands of other East Berliners streamed across the border into the west shortly before midnight, only those old enough to remember the building of the wall had cried.

Krone and her friends, on the other hand, had simply been lost for words: “‘Madness, sheer madness’. I know it’s not very original of me, but I must have said that a thousand times that night.”

An active member of the East German dissident movement, she had received a call from a friend in the west at about 10.30pm: “Have you seen the news? They’re saying the wall is open.”

Illuminated balloons, part of the so-called Border of Light, rise into the sky at the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin.
Illuminated balloons, part of the so-called Border of Light, rise into the sky at the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. Photograph: Soeren Stache/Corbis
Because the closest border crossing to her at Bornholmer Strasse was already crowded, she and her partner jumped into their Trabant car to head to Kreuzberg.

When she had passed through the checkpoint at Heinrich Heine Strasse, a West Berliner thrust a bottle of beer into her hand, but she says she did not need to take a single sip to feel intoxicated.

In a bar, she and her partner met long-lost friends, who gave them a pile of western newspapers and a small colour TV as a welcoming gift. By daybreak, they were back at the checkpoint – there had been rumours that the border would close again at 8am.

Only when the guards waved them through for a second time did the reality sink in. “Then I knew there was no way back for the party bigwigs,” Krone says. “After that, it felt like our Trabi was flying us home.”

Whatever one’s views of the handling of the aftermath of the wall’s fall, memories of 9 November 1989 still have power. And while fall-of-the-wall anniversaries come and go, this year’s art installation, conceived by brothers Christopher and Marc Bauder, managed to create a rare thing: a memorial that felt both poignant and playful, thought-provoking but not maudlin.

People watch balloons marking the former border flying away in front of the Reichstag building.
People watch balloons marking the former border flying away in front of the Reichstag building. Photograph: Steffi Loos/AP
Since Friday morning, a so-called Lichtgrenze or “border of light”, made up of 8,000 balloons, has traced a section of the fallen wall across central Berlin for 15km (nine miles).

On Friday and Saturday night, thousands of Berliners old and young were out on the streets to walk along the old border.

Those who grew up in a divided Berlin are unlikely to ever forget the precise route of the old dividing line.

Krone says she still feels a bit queasy when she passes from east to west and recalls that it “hurt” the first time she passed under the Brandenburg Gate. The driver of the taxi in which she was travelling turned around and did it again, three times in total, “until it stopped hurting”.

But for tourists, it is surprisingly hard to tell these days where West Berlin used to start and East Berlin used to end. On Potsdamer Platz and near the central station, the area where the wall of light ran this weekend has been wholly renovated and is unrecognisable from the wasteland of 1989. In the hipper parts of Kreuzberg, the installation has reminded more recent arrivals that a country used to end right outside their doorstep.

German chancellor Angela Merkel walks along a section of the former Berlin Wall during celebrations for the 25th anniversary of its fall.
German chancellor Angela Merkel walks along a section of the former Berlin Wall during celebrations for the 25th anniversary of its fall. Photograph: Imago / Barcroft Media
At 7.20pm, with a considerable delay, the first balloon floated into the night sky in front of the Brandenburg Gate. The Berlin State Orchestra played Beethoven’s stirring Ninth Symphony and outgoing Berlin mayor, Klaus Wowereit, gave a short speech. “Walls made of concrete and walls in our heads are surmountable when people come together and take their fate into their own hands,” he said.

At Bernauer Strasse, the row of balloons took a sharp left into Mauerpark, once a section of the death strip, now a giant park for residents. Some people had climbed on to the strip of wall in front of the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn sports stadium to get a better view, as if in tribute to the pictures that were transmitted around the world in 1989.

Back then it was here, in the Prenzlauer Berg district, that the power of crowds forced the first border point to open. On Sunday, the locals’ famed impatience was once again on display: a number let go of their balloons early.

This year’s commemoration of the fall of the Iron Curtain may also feel more poignant because there is a palpable sense that peace in Europe in 2014 is more fragile than it was at the 20th anniversary in 2009.

People attend a memorial activity to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
People attend a memorial activity to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Photograph: Xinhua/Landov/Barcroft Media
In her speech at the wall memorial on Bernauer Strasse on Saturday afternoon, Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, had explicitly emphasised the geopolitical resonances of the event, instead of indulging in personal reminiscences.

“We have the strength to shape things, to turn things from bad to good, that is the message of the fall of the wall,” she said. “These days, that message is directed at Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and many, many other regions in the world.”

Merkel, who on 9 November 1989 had walked over into the west at the Bornholmer Strasse checkpoint on her way back from the sauna, with her wet towel still in her bag, said: “If one thing was wonderful about those days, it was the imagination that was being set free after having been suppressed for so many years.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, issued a statement on the anniversary, warning that “Europe must once again become a thing of the heart”. He said: “It was with passion and courage that the people tore down that which divided them, in search of peace, freedom, unity, democracy and prosperity. Two decades later, we must not forget that peace is not a given in Europe. More than ever, Europe must live up to its responsibility to safeguard freedom and peace.”

Hulda, 3, places flowers in between slats of the former Berlin Wall at the Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse.
Hulda, 3, places flowers in between slats of the former Berlin Wall at the Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
On Saturday, the former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev warned of a “new cold war”, brought about by the west’s mishandling of the aftermath of the fall of the wall.

“Instead of building new mechanisms and institutions of European security and pursuing a major demilitarisation of European politics … the west, and particularly the United States, declared victory in the cold war,” said the man behind the Soviet Union’s glasnost and perestroika reforms, speaking at a symposium near the Brandenburg Gate.

“Euphoria and triumphalism went to the heads of western leaders. Taking advantage of Russia’s weakening and the lack of a counterweight, they claimed monopoly leadership and domination in the world.”

The enlargement of Nato, Kosovo, missile defence plans and wars in the Middle East had led to a “collapse of trust”, said Gorbachev, now 83. “To put it metaphorically, a blister has now turned into a bloody, festering wound.”

This was published in the Guardian 2014, September 26

Please go to the link below if you want to see and read about these 10 objects that Neil MacGregor chose:

Ten objects that made modern Germany
To mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and ahead of a British Museum exhibition, Neil MacGregor chooses the icons that shaped the memories of the new nation

It is 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell and a new Germany was born. In the last quarter of a century the country has seen an unprecedented opening up of archives and a programme of national education and much public debate about the different inheritances of East and West Germany. There has also been an unprecedented building of monuments marking the horrors of the recent past. But what are the memories that German citizens bring to their new state? What, in short, does the world look like if you are German?

At the forefront of that memory is the Third Reich and the Holocaust.

But there is more than that, and one of the ways that German history is not like other European histories is that Germans consciously use it as a warning to act differently in the future. As the historian Michael Stürmer says, “for a long time in Germany, history was what must not be allowed to happen again”. This is very different from Britain or France, where most public engagement with history, in terms of monuments and memorials, is to honour valour and heroism, with little public recognition of any wrongdoing, or of follies that might have led to the wars in which the valour had to be demonstrated. What is striking about German war memorials is that they look forward not back – a characteristic clearly visible in their parliament building.

The historic Reichstag was burnt out in 1933, with the fire blamed on the communists and used to advantage by the Nazis. During the war it was badly damaged, then occupied by the Russians. After reunification the decision was made to restore it, but the marks of the 1933 fire, as well as graffiti made by Soviet soldiers, were left untouched, as a reminder to legislators that if you get things as wrong as Germany did then the consequences are unimaginably terrible. An MP travelling to the Reichstag today will pass not only the Holocaust memorial but also memorials to the killing of homosexuals, disabled people and Roma. When they get to the building, they find it topped by a huge glass dome, to which the public have access. So not only do you have an emblem of a transparent legislature, but the public can literally exercise oversight over their government – a direct reversal of the situation under both the Nazis and the Stasi.

In effect the building is a meditation on different aspects of history. I can’t think of another country in the world that lives so closely with the acutely uncomfortable reminders of its past in order to help it act more wisely in future.

In making our radio series, British Museum exhibition and book we have tried to look at objects that evoke memories of which pretty well all Germans can say “this is part of me”. Some are obvious, such as the Gutenberg Bible. Every German knows that Germany invented printing and, in that sense, made the modern world. But we have also tried to focus on elements that the British public might not be so familiar with, as well as areas of German history about which there is still a reticence in Germany. People talk about the Holocaust very honestly and fully, but subjects such as the huge civilian losses from allied bombing raids are little discussed, unlike in this country. Yet it remains a potent memory.

It has always been the British Museum’s job to present the history we need in order to make sense of now. Germany is the European state we most need to understand if we are going to comprehend both Europe, and the world.

• Germany: Memories of a Nation is on BBC Radio 4, Monday to Friday at 9.45am, for six weeks from 29 September. The exhibition opens at the British Museum on 16 October, Germany: Memories of a Nation by Neil MacGregor is published by Allen Lane on 6 November (£25).

Some Comments I made regarding the Russel Brand ‘Revolution’

auntyuta Says:

October 27, 2013 at 5:36 amChristopher Goodfellow, Saturday 26 October 2013 02.02 AEST
. . . . But the left is ripe for a unique, intelligent leader who can truly work with the protest movement. Often the underdog is simply the politician that breaks from the normal rhetoric and speaks in manner which sounds different to the existing political elite.

Brand hasn’t put in the work, but the stage is set, so to speak. Paxman rather likes Brand too, and that’s probably something that would help should he take up my call and lead the revolution. And, if you look closely, he’s already made the implicit nod he’ll take up the mantle: “I don’t need the right [to be involved in politics] from you, I don’t need the right from anybody, I’m taking it.”

“The existent political elite” is mentioned in the above comment. At present the voter has no alternative but to vote for the existent political elite of one of the two major parties who differ only slightly in what they want to achieve politically. For if you vote for one of the minor parties your vote does not really count. As far as I can see it is about the same in all the Western Democracies. For people who absolutely do want a change in policies there should be the opportunity to vote for a true alternative. I think many people who are as frustrated with the political system as Brand is, would welcome the chance to be able to vote for a change.

  • October 27, 2013 at 6:27 amThere is no alternative. I, like you wanted to believe our hard fought for votes meant something.
    This present political system is flawed and broken.
    Russell is saying he does not want to be a part of the old paradigm. He advocates for a total change – not politicians but “admin bods” which is really what politicians are or should be. Which is a type of public servant. The public is us – the tax payer – the majority. They should be looking after and serving us and not their corporate overlords and sponsors. It is reaching critical mass now, a tipping point .

    • auntyuta Says:

      October 27, 2013 at 6:59 amCome to think of it we should really all be some kind of public servants, namely do whatever is good for the general public. Not everyone has the same qualifications or abilities. We all need to keep learning right into old age and pass on the knowledge we have acquired. There are very well qualified and highly trained people in our society. We should value them for the work they do for the whole community.
      We should respect each other, not waste our energies abusing each other!
      I agree, our present political system seems to be rather flawed. “The existing political elite” may not want any changes. Someone belonging to this elite should point out to them that changes are necessary and genuinely welcome some new ideas by people who do not belong to the established ‘elite’.
      Personally I prefer a well functioning society to one where ‘chaos’ prevails. We need capable, well trained people for a well functioning society. But we also need new ideas for instance how corruption can be prevented. We definitely ought to introduce measures to slow down climate change as much as possible.