July 31, 2022

HOW IT STARTED:

I reach the Reichstag dome’s upper platform, its glass floor doubling as the ceiling of the legislature. This democracy–under–glass is more than just window–dressing: Years of freewheeling multiparty debate have produced a remarkable national consensus. At an earlier press conference, I heard the impressively well–nourished federal minister of economics and technology boast that his conservative government would “march at the forefront to solve the mega–issue of climate protection—other nations can just follow!” He itemized the eco–Anschluss on stolid fingers: German wind farms in the North Sea; German hydropower plants in the Balkans; German windmills in Romania; German solar thermal projects in Spain; a vast half–trillion–dollar complex of solar turbines in the Sahara that will surge gigawatts to whole swaths of Europe. The goal of a carbon–free economy by mid–century may be, as one local enviro put it to me, das Blaue vom Himmel—“a hopeful blue sky”—but when the minister uttered the phrase “to rescue the world,” it sounded like he meant it.

—Marc Barasch, “How Green is My Berlin,” in the September 2010 issue of Condé Nast’s Traveler, as I quoted back then in an article titled, “Springtime for Algore: A Romantic Pilgrimage to Germany’s ‘Eco–Anschluss.’

How it’s going:

Cities in Germany are switching off spotlights on public monuments, turning off fountains, and imposing cold showers on municipal swimming pools and sports halls, as the country races to reduce its energy consumption in the face of a looming Russian gas crisis.

Hanover in north-west Germany on Wednesday became the first large city to announce energy-saving measures, including turning off hot water in the showers and bathrooms of city-run buildings and leisure centres.

Municipal buildings in the Lower Saxony state capital will only be heated from 1 October to 31 March, at no more than 20C (68F) room temperature, and ban the use of mobile air conditioning units and fan heaters. Nurseries, schools, care homes and hospitals are to be exempt from the saving measures.

“The situation is unpredictable,” said the city’s mayaor, Belit Onay, of the Green party. “Every kilowatt hour counts, and protecting critical infrastructure has to be a priority.”

—“German cities impose cold showers and turn off lights amid Russian gas crisis,” the Grauniad, Thursday.

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