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German environmentalists: The means justify the ends

Posted by Lissa on June 25, 2012

I wrote back in September 2010 about how, for some people and in some instances, the means justify the ends. I was exploring the idea that results are not necessary for those who thinks their motives and actions are so wonderful that the lack of results is the merest pettifogging detail.

I thought of that again when I read about the German environmentalist craze.

And I don’t mean psycho enviroweenies threatening to blow up animal testing facilities, or even Green party representatives. I mean the fervent adherence to practices that will “save the environment” . . . even though there’s no evidence they they do and, in fact, may have real-time practical consequences that do NOT help.

Two examples from the article:

I sort my garbage. There are four symmetrically arranged containers in front of my front door: a blue one for paper and a yellow one for plastic on the right, along with a brown one for compost and a gray one for everything else on the left. It doesn’t look very nice. It also stinks a little, especially on summer days when I wouldn’t mind sitting outside. But I know that I have to make sacrifices.

The German ordinance on packaging is respected, and the product recycling regulations are held in high esteem. According to the rules of Germany’s dual system of waste management, when yoghurt containers are put into the recycling bin, they have to be “completely empty,” “drop-free” and “spoon-clean.” Some people even put the containers in the dishwasher before stuffing them into a yellow recycling bag.

But then something strange happens. My yoghurt container, which I’ve carefully rinsed and sorted, isn’t recycled at all. In fact, it’s dumped into an incinerator with all the rest of the garbage and burned.

Yes, this is allowed. By law, the dual system is required to recycle exactly 36 percent of plastic waste. Waste disposal companies can do what they want — and what is most cost-effective for them — with the remaining 64 percent. As a result, much of it ends up in waste incinerators for what’s called “thermal recycling,” bringing the cycle to a sudden end.


The government is even teaching our smallest citizens how important it is to treat precious water responsibly. The Environment Ministry’s children’s website admonishes them to “Think about how you can save water! Taking a shower is better for the environment than taking a bath. Turn off the water when you’re soaping yourself. Never let the water run when you’re not using it. And maybe you can spend less time in the shower, too.”

This is all very well and good, but there’s only one problem: It stinks. Our street is filled with the stench of decay. It’s especially bad in the summer, when half of Berlin is under a cloud of gas. [snip]

Our consumption has declined so much that there is not enough water going through the pipes to wash away fecal matter, urine and food waste, causing blockages. The inert brown sludge sloshes back and forth in the pipes, which are now much too big, releasing its full aroma. [snip]

The waterworks must now periodically flush their pipes and conduits. The water we save with our low-flow toilets is simply being pumped directly through hoses into the sewage system below. On some days, an additional half a million cubic meters of tap water is run through the Berlin drainage system to ensure what officials call the “necessary flow rate.”

Germany has a lot of water. It has many rivers and lakes. The amount of rain that falls from the skies over Germany is five times as much as the entire water requirements of the entire population and industry. Less than 3 percent of the country’s water reserves would be enough to supply all households.

The obvious solution to our pipeline problems would be to use more water again. But that’s not how the Germans work.

Apparently Germans are so determined to “Do The Right Thing!” for Mother Earth that the actual results – which are not good for Mother Earth, the air, the land or each other – become unimportant.

Can you think of other examples where this phenomenon takes place? I can!!

One Response to “German environmentalists: The means justify the ends”

  1. doubletrouble said

    Kinda the same thing, only different.
    We have to bring our waste to the dump, I mean, “recycling center” ourselves. Everything has to be separated- plastic by #, paper, c’board. glass by color, tin cans, etc.
    The great part is that once they have all the Styrofoam & other plastics in nice bags, much of it gets dumped into the incinerator, because there’s no market for it.

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