First of all:

My new book (in German) just appeared:

Warum wir auch bei Entwicklungshilfe
und Ernährung umdenken müssen.

Link to sample chapters and book.


  • We are individually the primary cause for our decisions and thus individually responsible for our actions. This can be shown based on a rationally founded but holistic world view, which includes emotions and all other un-rational aspects that determine our personality and thus our preferences in our free choices.

  • To limit climate change to the agreed levels, instantaneous intensification of implementing sustainable energy technologies by a factor of 3 to 6 on global scale is required, depending on climate goal to be reached. The climate goals can be reached by systematic implementation of existing technologies.

  • To eliminate hunger in the world, we must however change our behaviour. Technological advances alone will not allow us to cope with this challenge. A limitation of the number of children per couple to sustainable two and a preferentially plant-based nutrition are prerequisites to eradicate world hunger. These two factors are the main drivers, which can not be compensated by any other possibly technological developments. If we want to effectively fight world hunger, we have to foster sustainable behaviour transition.

  • Such a change in behaviour also determines how easily the sustainable energy transition will be achieved. The energy transition will not be as easy as it is presented in many published studies, because the global population growth was systematically too optimistically assumed in these studies. Therefore, bio-energy and a bio-economy, which are relatively easy to realize technologically, are only ethically justifiable if we limit population growth and release fertile land through purely plant-based nutrition. Without the corresponding individual behavioural changes, bio-energy and bio-economy are unethical as long as people on this planet go hungry - thus even today.

  • Since we are individually responsibility, we are also individually obliged to adjust our personal preferences in such a way that the sustainability of the entire system can be achieved. This includes in particular the limitation of the number of planned children to sustainable two and a plant-based diet, because only then the number of undernourished people can be reduced without other detrimental effect.

  • If this sustainability ethics shall be effectively realized, we have to individually grasp this systems view. This requires that not only political claims be voiced, but that the appropriate education of all groups of the population be promoted. We are an integral part of the overall system. We depend on this system and it depends on each and every one of us. We must understand our world as a lonely planet earth flying through the universe and trying to live as happy a life as possible. From such a perspective from a distance and with an awareness of the challenges humanity is facing right now - people are starving today - it is obvious that conflicts over regional or ideological dominance simply distract our time, energy and money from the real challenges. Instead, we should work together globally to solve the problems we face, including a reasonable challenge to our traditions.

  • The system will also have a tipping point with respect to positive development. If we do not succeed to effectively support the less developed countries in catching up in development, the population in these regions will continue to grow strongly, increasing hunger and misery there. This situation can lead to significant migration. Since the world's resources are limited, a situation may arise in which the rest of the world community no longer has sufficient means to effectively fight even the worst humanitarian disasters.

  • Implications for citizens and politicians are manifold, especially because politicians in a democratic environment can only realize what is accepted by the citizens. Otherwise they would simply not be re-elected. This in turn means that we have to re-invent societal discourse to a certain degree to be able to develop a sustainability ethics and then carry it into the political arena.

  • To guide individual behavior, we have to change our perspective as well. Only insisting on one's rights will not lead to sustainability. In a limited world obligations directly result. The question to be answered is, how we can contribute with our behavior to enhance the sustainability of the system as a whole. This requires a mindfulness with respect to our fellow humans, to fellow living beings and to the ecosphere.

  • Direct consequences for every human being are thus, listed in decreasing importance:

    • Develop Individual insight into the interrelationships, such as those compiled on this website. It will become clear that we have no right to merely claim rights. The limitedness of earthly resources inevitably leads to individual obligations.

    • Switch to a purely plant-based diet, which, contrary to many prejudices, is not more expensive or less tasty than today's conventional diet. Only in the first months of the transition some additional effort is necessary to identify vegan products e.g. in supermarkets.

    • Limiting the number of planned children to two per couple. Of course, every child must be equally loved. But because contraception can fail and because a second planned child can turn out to be a twin, even with the best of intentions, it is impossible to completely avoid a couple having more than two children. However, more than two children may no longer be parental purposes of life.

    • Reducing energy consumption, for example by reducing flights, taking greater account of fuel consumption when buying a car and better insulating houses.

    • Only then, i.e. with lower priority, are all the small savings in material and energy consumption important, because they all help to ease a successful transition to a sustainable life.

    • All in all, it must be clear that it is not politics alone that needs to change. On the contrary, sustainability must originate from the citizens, since only they have the freedom of individual decision, since they elect the politicians and since they decide which goods they use and buy for their lives.

  • The consequences for politicians are as follows

    • to accompany the relevant developments and, for example, to promote the transformation of energy systems through appropriate conditions of legislation.

    • to organise the social discourse that must accompany the mastering of the upcoming challenges. An overall concept for the sustainable energy transition must be developed, which also means that industry of different sectors, accompanying political measures, and demands on every citizen must be balanced and reliably planned. Only reliable planning is a prerequisite for industry to be able to plan and implement its own restructuring on a foresighted basis.

    • In this context, it is important for all political actors that they do not communicate the interrelations too simplistically. In particular, citizens should not be given the impression that politics alone can solve the challenges ahead with a few actions. A simplistic presentation challenges correspondingly simplistic counterarguments, which ultimately only strengthens populism. Therefore, on the contrary, the involvement of citizens and truthful communication should be the goal.

    • To support less developed regions in their development on an equal footing, for example by realising that expenditure on development aid is necessary at least at the same level as defence expenditure, in order, for example, to limit migration, which in extreme cases can pose major challenges for us.

  • There are also consequences for climate activists:

    • Climate activists also have to have a quantitative understanding of the interrelationships, because this is the only way they can inform citizens about these interrelationships properly and convincingly. Then it is possible to discuss the content instead of merely presenting the conclusions of ever new studies. Only then will the resulting political demands become comprehensible for the citizens.

    • Also climate activists should not describe the interrelations too simplisticly. It is not just politicians who can master the challenges. On the contrary, it depends on the personal influence of each individual citizen. Politics can only create a suitable framework, while the changes themselves will have to be achieved by industry and citizens alike.

    • The measures envisaged must account for the fact that each Euro can only be spent once, especially as the forthcoming restructuring of large economic sectors already represents a major economic challenge. Ultimately, however, it is a successful economy that provides us with the economic means to implement sustainability.

    • Climate activists must not only call for political action, but must also honestly and clearly communicate the consequences for each individual. Accordingly, the appropriate education of the citizens must be a major concern for them. Demands must not be lost in the small details, but clear priorities must be communicated. This is the only way to ensure that citizens do not lose themselves in secondary arenas without implementing the essential steps.

While the first points are the direct consequences of linking the considerations on our individual responsibility with those on sustainability, the latter need some more discussion.

The consequences for us individually are that only relying on rights and insisting on them may not be appropriate any more. Instead, we need to realize that in a limited world boundaries exist that lead to obligations that we need to take into account, in order to get or to keep the system sustainable. This requires an individually different perspective as compared to today. We need to realize the implications of our actions on the entire system, so that we can develop guidelines for our actions. The question we need to ask for any decision would then be how we can individually contribute by our behavior to enhance the sustainability of the system as a whole. This requires to develop a mindfulness for our fellow humans. On a larger scale this also needs to include mindfulnes for other living being, because they share the same environment and fate as we do, as well as the ecosystem.

While such a change in perspective appears a lot of effort, one has to be aware that this actually in large areas just means shifting the focus of attention without significantly more effort. If for example all the effort that we currently invest into selecting the optimal car with respect to its technical performance would instead be focussed on or at least include sustainability parameters, without significant additional effort sustainability could be continually enhanced. Similar considerations apply to many consumer aspects of our life like the next mobile phone or the next holiday destination. This also implies that we become aware of the  aspects of our life that are less sustainable, e.g. where we excessively use energy or food, which could be replaced be more sustainable options.

We have to realize that we are hardly able to understand all details of the many interactions that exist in our earthly ecosystem. At the same time we realize that the interactions are quite complex. As a consequence we are regularly surprised by the reactions of the ecosystem, for example with the hole in the ozone layer or with acid rain. We always realize the consequences of our actions only significantly after they started to become manifest. We rarely foresee such consequences. Realizing that the ecosystem is complex and only partially understood, we can only try to minimize human influence on this system. One way of such a minimization is to reduce population growth. Thus also from a systems perspective, limiting population growth is essential.

We also have to realize that there are no easy fixes for problems occurring in a complex system. The system is so complex that we can hardly overlook all consequences of any fix. The appropriate way to interact with a complex system is to induce small steps in a desired direction and then to carefully observe the reaction of the system. The direction of the changes then has to be continually adjusted so as to lead to a shift of the reaction of the system in the right direction. Unfortunately for sustainable energy transition and sustainable behavior transition, we do not have sufficient time to test small steps. Instead we have to rely on scenarios that are determined from past data, possibly including advanced models of economy, climate, etc. The majority of these scenario studies point in a single direction: If we want to live in wellbeing the described changes in technology and behavior are essentially required.

Since politicians depend on being re-elected, because also they would like to feed their family and pay the loan for their house, they can only step in a right direction at such a small speed that the citizens can follow. Since the citizens are hardly involved in the actual deliberations and decisions, they follow only slowly, so that the entire system can only creep forward. As a consequence it becomes obvious that it is the citizens who need to realize the urgent need to change technology and behavior, because only then such insight can be successfully introduced into the political arena. Thus, it is fundamentally important to improve the way, in which the challenges are communicated. It is obvious that just mentioning selected results of prominent studies may only increase the worries about the future but will not lead to the insight into the main interactions between major drivers as presented here.

Figure 1 schematically shows some of the key relationships between some of the major actors. It becomes clear that each actor has its own goals. The individual citizen wants to live his or her good life, buys and uses goods that are produced for him or her and expects politicians to organise the coexistence for him or her well. The company manager as well as every farmer wants to maximize his profit and that of his shareholders by satisfying the needs of the customers and negotiating the framework conditions with the politicians in such a way that he can achieve this very easily. Finally, as just stated, the politician wants to be re-elected and should control the production of goods in such a way that in the end citizens and producers are satisfied. None of these individual actors has the sustainability of the overall system in mind. Complicating the situation are a number of factors whose influence is exerted outside democratic legitimacy, such as the media, NGOs, lobbying and religions. Their influence is subject to their own rules, which do not necessarily facilitate the achievement of sustainability goals, even with the good will of all main actors. The consideration of these interactions makes it clear that only the citizen is able to live the freedom of his decision without restrictions. He decides which goods he buys and uses and which politicians he elects. That is why it is so important that citizens accept sustainability as a goal and act accordingly. Only then can politics and producers follow, since they depend on the decisions of the citizen.

Actors in the overall system

Figure 1: Schematic representation of some relationships between the main actors in the entire system.


Once, the citizens have gained a certain level of understanding for the major interacting drivers, major questions can be asked and answered in a way that may be acceptable to a society:

  • How can we manage to supply sufficient food for everyone? How can we support sufficient agricultural productivity in countires where people are undernourished? This means also that we need to reduce effectively buying land area from such countries, on which they grow crops and fruits for us for good money, for example via fair trade, and that could otherwise be used for more local production.

  • How can we support development of less developed regions? That implies not a one-way road for financial support, but both sides have to share responsibility on equal grounds. Thus, for example such support has to be linked with the aspects of sustainability of development and fertility, which is typically rather high in less developed regions.

  • How do we structure economy in a sustainable future? We have to be aware that while today fossil resources are demanded, in the future sufficiently fertile land area will be one basis for a profitable economy. How do we manage the corresponding transition?

  • Realizing that we would need to effectively question our traditions, also the influence of religions on the discourse need to be considered. Since several religions advertise to have many children, the influence of religion on these aspects of our behavior has to be reduced. Correspondingly the funding and organization of emergency missions for example to support in a hunger crisis has to be organized by public institution, possibly exclusively the UNHCR and not by organizations which are associated with specific religions.

  • A similar questionmark is required for NGOs (non-governmental organizations). While some NGOs have a large number of active members and thus a certain legitimization, others are rather small and the funding is not always transparent. Thus, also for NGOs quality standards would need to be defined. At the same time it has to be realized that legitimate NGOs can have an important contribution to the discourse, especially in those countries, in which democracy is weak or non-existent. Especially in those countries NGOs are the only chance to properly account for the corresponding citizen's will.

Many more questions can of course be asked and dicussed. The major interacting factors have been presented. Many factors have even been left out like the scarcity of water and the consequences of climate change. The goal was to arrive at a picture which is simple enough to allow grasping it sufficiently quantitatively so that it can be a guide for individual behavior and political decisions. While the text of this website will be continually refined, essentially new points will be introduced under the headline updates in the main menu.

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to sustainability