Because you are part of the system.

Because you are part of the system.

Mr. Welzer, your FuturZwei foundation is committed to future viability. What is it?
Harald Welzer: That's quite simple, FuturZwei starts from the (also empirically confirmed) basic assumption: If we continue to manage the economy as we have done so far, we will not make it through the 21st century. Century. This is a very banal statement and the civilizational progress for our way of life has been shown by the fact that we have democracies which are constituted according to the rule of law and provide the people with very large scope of action. We think it is a wrong optic to understand transformation and change as something that is a disciplinary, technical question (experts have to do that now). The essence of modern societies is that change comes from below. From the living world. That is so. It doesn't come from science, it doesn't come from politics. And at the same time, people have room for maneuver. Since we don't know and nobody knows what an ecologically sustainable modern society looks like, why don't we look at what real experiments there are where people are trying to develop something in that direction. And these people have no lobby and no communication agency – they practically don't exist in the media perception. So Futur Zwei has become the PR agency for this emerging social movement.

How does FuturZwei go about it?
The communicative approach goes in two directions: On the one hand, we inform the society that these projects exist; on the other hand, we provide an exchange between the people who create the future. It is our concern not to inform the society in the classical sense, i.E. With a raised forefinger and in a diagram underlaid mode – rather we try ourselves in traditional story telling. We say: what these people are doing is interesting. And if it's interesting, you can tell a good story. And this is also interesting for someone who is not interested in sustainability. We tell the stories via different media; via our homepage, social media as well as in our print magazine. What we do is basically a little perforation of sustainability communication.

Whose stories does Futur Two tell?
The committed people whose stories we tell are a heterogeneous scene. These include companies that used to operate conventionally and now do things differently, as well as people who have joined together in eco-villages. And until today there is no connection between these people and projects. Futur Two is ultimately the connection between them through the medium of storytelling. We try to build a community and bring people together at different events.

An event like this (brenet status seminar) is rather diagrammatic and does not correspond to the kind of communication of storytelling that FuturZwei propagates. Do you see an event like today as a step in the right direction or rather critical?
I do not see this critically. I assume that the actors who are here are very well-intentioned, and that they are doing great things within the framework of their disciplines. But super stuff is not enough if there is no social context that is on top of the problem.This can even be shown by many examples. The most popular and well-known is the rebound effect, i.E. When several effects lead to the fact that the savings potential of efficiency increases are not or only partially realized. With all serious efforts towards a more sustainable world: Economic growth always leads to overcompensating everything that is pushed through with heart and soul, high commitment and great know-how and against many resistances. These isolated efforts bring too little, as long as the store runs the way it runs. And in the end, every energy-related renovation also has its own costs. Just as renewable energy always has its own effort, incl. Disposal effort. But this is not talked about, or only very reluctantly. Because those with renewable energies are the good guys. It would be simple, one must adjust the optics further, recognize connections and then one has other answers to questions, which were not asked before at all.

Futurzwei as a PR agency strengthens the individuals who live and do business sustainably. Is the way out of the growth ideology through individuals who exemplify alternative behavior??
Change cannot only be about individuals. But citizens who see themselves as political provide impulses. In a parliamentary democracy, the implementation of these impulses is a matter for the politicians. The problem is that politics does not get this mandate from civil society. This is a huge problem. To be more precise, I think we have at least a three-decade history of depoliticization. The majority of people are not interested in public affairs. They do it a little bit, for example when they do volunteer work, which also deserves great recognition.

If you have a society based on competition, performance, individualization and consumption, then the commonality is lost from sight and that is the essential factor: democracy requires commonality.

They no longer have any idea of what a state is, what modern society is. This is a real problem. Let's take the example of my students: When it comes to transformation, they are interested in communities and are totally enthusiastic when it comes to self-work, grassroots democracy and self-sufficiency of such communities. That's also nice when it works. But what do you do when the neighboring community makes the grassroots decision that you are allowed to rape women and beat up children?? Modern statehood is designed to prevent this and to encourage civilized interaction and the provision of room for maneuver beyond arbitrariness and actuality. But this awareness is no longer there.

Why not? That is due to neoliberalism. An orientation toward individuality increasingly slipping away. If you have a society that is geared to competition, performance, individualization and consumption, then what we have in common is lost from view, and that is the essential factor: democracy presupposes commonality. But the people do not have it any more. You can see this in the rise of right-wing populism: people don't understand how society works. They then say, we also want to be asked and things like that: That is, so to speak, a lack of political education and a lack of basic understanding. People also do not understand what a police is or what the task of a court is.

Is it too complex to understand?
No. But no one told them that.

Millions of people like a good deed on the internet, while content about sustainable development gets little attention. Why?
That's the other point we want to draw attention to with FuturZwei: This whole sustainability communication is so technical and so data-oriented – no one in the world cares – really, no one does.

And it does not lead to alternative individual actions…
Yes, and above all: the actors of this data-based communication themselves do not behave differently!

Because they are part of the system?
Yes, nobody thinks about whether it would be possible not to fly to the climate conference now. I left conventional science for exactly that reason. At that time, we established the research focus on climate culture at this institute of cultural studies. Scientific Agenda Setting. It worked well and everyone was interested. But when you sit with 8 people at a workshop, one from Brazil, one from Argentina and the remaining 6 also flown in from another continent, to spend two days discussing what could be done for the climate, then you realize: this is completely pointless. I cannot do that anymore. We can't continue in the operating system and at the same time say that the operating system should be different. One must and can learn from social movements and from forms of protest, one must always become practical in the attempt of the other. That's what the EcoCenter does, for example.

And there the whole sustainability movement has a real shortcoming: it is totally overintellectual. It is total nonsense to believe that people act on the basis of knowledge, they simply don't.

Can you give an example of how one can become practical in the attempt of the other one?? Can you explain that?
A successful social movement is itself already an experience of the Other. Take the famous Rosa Parks example: Parks was arrested because she refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white passenger. Their sitting, that is the production of a different situation. It is highly explosive. Highly dangerous. This immediately forms a story that can be retold and where thoughts are reproduced and experiences are had. Just as participation in a demonstration is itself a community experience. Or if you look at 1968, hippie movement: Participation in a festival is itself already an exit from normal life, it transports a different experience, it shows that it can also be different, it can also go differently. And this moment is something completely different from classical enlightenment, i.E. Information. Information does not guide action. But the experience that something can be better, that changes the action. I think that is the crucial point. And that's where the whole sustainability movement has a real shortcoming: it's totally overintellectual. It's total nonsense to think that people act on the basis of knowledge, they just don't.

On the basis of what?
On the basis of practice and immediate practical requirements, to which they react and which differ x-fold on the day. I'm giving you an interview now, and I'm responding to a request that is different from going out for wine with friends. These situationally different immediate demands are what guides action and practice, of which very many parts are completely unconscious. The world is the world you grow into and you do things and the most powerful things are the things you don't notice.

They say that the strongest things are not noticed. Why?
I am currently making an attempt to write a social utopia. In doing so, I pondered: What is actually being talked about in the whole eco-. Sustainability movement never talked about? The post-growth discussion does not talk about companies – although we probably have difficulties to imagine how to change economy without companies as actors. Infrastructures are almost absent from the transformation debate. So, in a way, the whole foundation of our life in modern societies does not appear. The role of institutions is almost non-existent. Interpersonal relationships and communication between people, how they deal with each other, etc., are also completely missing. For that, for example, energy occurs quite often. It is quite interesting to sort it that way.

Should we be interested in soft factors, in a sense the fabric that lies between what is being talked about??
Yes, there is a lot in between, and that's what makes the world, the in between! But that does not happen! Niko Paech, for example, who I find inspiring in his own way, does not mention society. This does not exist in the concept. There are data, which then lead to a social layout. But everything in between, everything that people do, doesn't actually occur. I think you have to think about it the other way around and talk about what has been kept silent in many theories and sustainability communication so far.

One of our summer projects was a mobility challenge: It is about sustainable travel behavior, target group are young people. With a travel grant, they are traveling in teams for 2 weeks and writing blog posts and giving radio interviews at the same time, so that the message is carried that a sufficiency-based travel behavior is sustainable in the broadest sense. The idea was that the young people would form a community, because they would then in turn involve their friends. This also goes in the direction of storytelling and starts directly in the life world of young people – is this an example of story-based sustainability communication??
Yes, absolutely.

How can we tell stories that inspire people from different social and cultural backgrounds?? People who are not already interested in sustainability?
By talking about other things. After an event, a young woman approached me and said: it's interesting what you're talking about, but I live in a rural area, and when I come up with sharing concepts, no one understands it. Then I said: You think no one understands this, but they've spent their whole lives on it. Ask how houses were built in the past, they were often built collectively, with a lot of sharing. This was concrete help, which is also not altruistic, but if you now help to build my house, I am obliged to help to build yours as well. This is sharing at its best. That's why I would always try to start as follows: What are they actually already doing in their communities and where can we start?? Sustainability is not something that has to be invented – it is already there! At present, sustainability is unfortunately rather buried: We have a radical retreat from sustainable practices in a global perspective, and in this respect one must rather look at what can still be saved in a museum-like way.

Can you give an example of a sustainable practice that doesn't need to be reinvented, but can be saved from burial?
Yes, for example in the food sector. Not so long ago it was normal to use the whole animal when eating meat. It's not new, but it's totally disappearing. It's something that people have been doing all the way back to the 70s.

But also out of a certain compulsion. Can we not share as well anymore because we can have everything without sharing?
Yes, because we can have everything. Switzerland or Germany was much more sustainable 50 years ago, in fact in every phase it was a more sustainable world: the space for movement was smaller, the handling of food was different, the occupied living space was smaller, the children went to school on foot or by bike. There was only the word sustainability not. That is the only difference. Unfortunately, people today act as if we had to invent sustainability. Yet it used to be there, and today we are moving further and further away from sustainable behavior. If we want to communicate successfully, we have to look for and find the links to sustainable practices. One of the mistakes of the ecological scene is that it doesn't even look for the points of contact, but always despairs of the fact that people don't want to hear what they have to say. But this is true for everyone. There is a beautiful book called Protest by a Serbian ex-activist who now runs a revolutionary consulting agency, and in this book he says quite wonderfully: If they want to change something, then what they want is first of all only interesting for them and their grandmother. Because their grandma likes everything they do. But that doesn't mean they can assume it would be of interest to anyone else. Because people have to do their job etc. You can't generalize your own concern. So you have to translate it in a way that it fits into the life worlds of the people themselves. And that is a total vacuum in our scene.

They say everything was more sustainable 50 years ago. Do we have to live like we did 50 years ago?
No, saying that many things were more sustainable in the past does not mean that everything was better in the past. It just means that we can look at what worked better back then than today and we can combine that with things that work better today than back then. Of course, 50 years ago in Switzerland we had a society that was more sustainable in many ways – but it was also much more unequal in terms of gender relations, for example, and had a different occupational structure because women worked much less outside the home. Today things are different, which can be seen as progress in civilization. The key is to combine the elements that were good then with those that are good now. It is not at all about wanting to go back to the 60s.

That's reassuring. To behave sustainably basically means to live future-oriented. But this future does not have such positive connotations, as you yourself say. What can we do to make people believe in a future worth living in again??
We have to create images of the future. That's why I'm currently trying to write a utopia. So that one can offer something, where one could want to go. Today nobody wants to go anywhere. With FuturZwei we have conducted conversations with young people with the question: What do you dream of?? What kind of future do you envision?? These conversations were quite depressing, because the young people are all self-censoring. One says it would be great if we lived more sustainably and didn't waste so much anymore. The next one says that would be great, but will never happen. This self-censorship is ultimately the merit of my generation and I find it very shameful. We have left the young people with no optimism for the future. That's why we should stand up and show that something else is possible, and that it's much more interesting and attractive than the world we have today.

Lack of imagination?
Yes! Radical. There is a lack of appropriate language, a lack of imagery, a lack of imagination. The breadth of life models and the idea that the world could be better than it is right now. But we have to realize that this different and better has to do with myself.

If you are allowed to live in a society that provides you with so much in every way, then you have no right to be pessimistic.

They criticize the 5before12 eco-movement. At the same time, we have good reasons to be pessimistic about climate change and its consequences. Many people don't know what they can do themselves, others do a lot, but don't see any effect in what they do and resign themselves. Where do you get your optimism from, Mr. Welzer? Hope?
We live better than any generation before. The standard of living, life expectancy and health of the average person is higher and better than it was for Louis XIV. If you are allowed to live in a society that provides you with so much in every way, then you have no right to be pessimistic.Besides, it's too late for pessimism.

If you could directly influence individuals in their behavior, what behavior would you wish for?? Green consumption, involvement in politics or business, civil disobedience, etc.?
Each according to his possibilities. You who work at the eco-center have many more opportunities than someone who works in a conventional company where they have to work on completely different things like sustainable strategies. I have much greater ones, because I am, so to speak, a modern court jester, my possibilities of action are very great, theirs are also very great, those of the garbage driver are much smaller, those of the supermarket cashier are also smaller, but that doesn't mean that they can't all do a great deal. That's why there are of course also people who do simple work but are in the voluntary fire department or in the Red Cross or in refugee aid or wherever else. First of all, it is always a total overload when everything you do has to be totally effective. Secondly, one does not know at all which impulse leads to which consequence. An action is not devalued by the fact that it has brought nothing.It has already brought more as an attempt than not to undertake the attempt. You have to relieve people, it's never about the revolution or the big transformation – I think it's a completely stupid approach that overburdens people. Because every form of change in the right direction does something and minimally it always does more than if you had not taken the step. In the end, it's about a cultural program; I always like to call it gymnastics, where you successively practice other manners, other ways of behaving as a counter-gymnastics to the constantly rehearsed program of the consumer society.

The fat years are over..
The fat years are over! I like that. We don't need these fat cars, we don't need fat products. Let's do the lean world and rejoice that the fat years are finally over.

What you are saying is basically that we should use our privileges…
Yes, we have to use our privileges and give them away in the medium term.

Can we prepare for giving up privileges in a positive sense? Is it about renunciation?
One can practice different behavior. But no, it is precisely not about doing without. What you should avoid at all costs is getting into this abandonment issue. Take the example of the city. Today. Think about all the things we do without in Zurich today. There is a tremendous amount that comes together: We give up space to move, to rest, to safety, to space. Or the example of Munich: There, 12% of the area is parking: Is that not renunciation? As a sustainably thinking person I can stand up and say: I don't want to give up the lives of children who die in traffic, I don't want to give up green space because parking lots clog up everything, etc. Even in a non-sustainable world, we are constantly doing without things, so we have to ask ourselves the questions: What does the city actually look like in the 21st century?. Century from. How we wish them? Would the city look freer if there were no more cars?? When sustainable living is associated with doing without, the tables should be turned and people should realize that even in a consumer society where we seem to be able to have everything, we do without an incredible amount of things.

Why is it still so difficult to get people excited about a sustainable lifestyle??
It is always difficult. For Martin Luther King, it was also difficult to keep a civil rights movement going. What is there has an insane mental gravity. People like things to stay the way they are; that provides orientation. If I do something different than before, I first have a loss of orientation, I am no longer in line with everyone else. I come under a new pressure of legitimacy. I also have to justify this to myself. All this is not so trivial.

Then why does flying to New York for a weekend not make people disoriented?? 20 years ago it would have been unthinkable that this practice will be so easily accepted.
People are not disoriented because they are acting in accordance with a dominant social model. They are also told that Christmas Shopping in New York is great.

Exactly, but how did such a model catch on so quickly??
This is a tricky question. The possibility of opening up space is a luxury. This massive mobility is actually upper class luxury. Many forms of everyday consumption and tourist consumption were upper class luxury a few years ago. The ecological problem always starts when what was limited to a few reaches the masses. Christmas shopping in New York was able to establish itself so quickly because it is psychologically attractive to want to live like George Clooney or to be like him. These are the ideal types that are behind it. And since we are a society that relies heavily on status and individualization, it's not surprising that individuals try to make a profit by doing everything George Clooney does. After all, these are all exaggeration stories. It's about who can tell the better story. We as an eco-movement don't have any undercutting stories where you could say: you poor bastard, I'm doing much less. I can just sit on the grass. Stupid looking into the clouds. But that is not cool.

In the meantime, there is also a tendency in the sustainability scene to advertise with celebrities in order to convey the message: I want to be like George Clooney. But should we really get involved and try to motivate people to behave differently using the same means as the dominant advertising industry does? Do we want to live in a society where everyone wants to live like one person?
No. But I still think there is something right about the idea of a role model. The big problem that the ecological scene has is that there are no role models for a different lifestyle. All the football stars, all the actors, all the people: Eco is not a role model at all.

The people who live ecologically sustainable already exist, but they are not publicly visible.
But that means we have a huge problem! We have totally done something wrong if eco-being has such a negative connotation! I also think it's a huge mistake that there is no sustainability aesthetic. Well, I wouldn't call it that if it existed, because that's where it starts. Being eco just has to be great, it has to be sexy, it has to have an expressive character, it maybe has to have its own fashion, it has to have a lifestyle. All this does not exist. Our scene produces diagrams, and the world we want to abolish produces images and experiences.

For example an unforgettable experience on a cruise ship?
Exactly. You go into a container and consume world without seeing it, totally great. No seriously, the images and experiences it produces are much more powerful than fact-based diagrams.

Do we need to go on the cruise ships to make a difference?
Yes, actually we have to get on there. But to get rid of them. Not to make such trips ecologically a little better. Recently I was portrayed in the AUTO BILD in the series "in the car with". Usually people show their Jaguar. In my case it was called: In the car with Harald Welzer, pictured with a Toyota Starlet small car, year 1995, top speed 158km/h. SUV's I referred to in the interview as an error in human history. I thought it was great to be pictured there. Readers got excited about my presence and thoughts, but these are exactly the impulses we can and should put into the system. This is where our thoughts must go. We have to be on the cruise ships, we have to be in the Auto BILD, we have to be in the fashion magazines.

But how to get in?
In my case, this was possible on the initiative of an editor who pushed his idea through against resistance in the editorial office. This person uses his room for maneuver where he is and enables ecological thoughts in a car-friendly magazine. He uses his job for the opposite. This is exactly what we need, and this is what we can build on.

Which future-oriented wishes do you have? For people, the environment, nature?
I have the wish that the civilizing process, which has led to such societies as ours, will be continued. In particular, the intangible goods that we have today, such as freedom, rule of law, democracy should be maintained while at the same time it must succeed in organizing the metabolism, which underlies it all, differently. This would be my personal wish. Because when I talk about transformation, I want a lot of things to stay the way they are. But for this to be possible, we have to build the conditions quite differently than they have been so far.

And distinguish the good from the bad…
Yes, sort: What did the 20. Century in the sense of emancipation of people, equality of conditions, safety, security of life, etc. Brought? At present there are many things that will prevent us in the future from maintaining exactly what we value today. Then I have to change the part. This is the Range of Transformation. If I look at it this way, I might get a completely different story. The fat years are over, I like that, it's an exciting story.

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