holy moly

As a professor I spend quite some time teaching students. I supervise a good number of master theses. I organize conference. I write scientific articles. I (try to) write for newspapers. I write many, many referee reports. I write recommendation letters for students. As you notice, from time to time I also write blog posts. Most of my time I spend behind a computer screen. Most of my articles see a fair amount of rejections before being accepted in journals. It is at times like these that some positive feedback really elevates the motivation. This just came in my inbox from one of my students this year:

Thank you so much for your lectures, you were such a caring, kind and good teacher to me. I wish you well for the future! 

That made me really happy. This kind of personal feedback, whether it comes from students or other researchers or just anyone out there, just puts a smile on the face. It would be great if people in general were to give treats like that more often.

I am tired of being quiet. For weeks now I have been reading about Trump, le Pen, Brexit, ignorant politicians who breed hatred, racism, about election campaigns that foster right-wing views and self-interest politicians. I have been reading about how international cooperations are blamed for poor national decision taking, and I have been reading about how countries can become great again if only they look at their self-interest at the expense of everyone else.

I wonder how one can be so stupid as to confuse money with greatness. The US was not accepted as a world leader because it was rich, but because it was open to everyone, provided opportunities regardless of gender, color and origin. The US, to a large part, was a haven for those forgotten souls out of other parts of the world that tried to find a new and good life. These ideals seems to be vanishing, and both dumb leaders, populism and uninformed press play a major role. Liberté, égalité and fraternité are those values that are supposed to represent the French, but nearly electing someone like le Pen as their leader makes one seriously doubt whether France will in future continue to be represented by those important three words.

And I have kept quiet. I have kept quiet as I believed that it is a mistake to provide a further platform to these idiots out there that have been elected to represent the apparent interests of voters. It is, however, becoming more and more clear that these `interests’ will eventually only lead to seggregation, violence, further hatred, wars, conflicts, inequality and further poverty (c.f. Trumps views on trade or the dumb Brexit vote).

Yet being quiet in the face of these unfortunate, self-interested, dumb and ignorant political decision-takers only gives them more attention than they deserve. I fully believe that the only choice that we have to minimize their influence is to show how their decisions are frankly out of touch with reality, out of their voters’ interests, and harm the poor, the forgotten, the international relations and the future of the country that they are supposed to represent. Trump is bashing those values that made the US a great country, and his “make America great again” slogan has, as of now, only made his own pockets great again. It is unfortunate that there are still many people out there who believe in his views but it is also my sincere opinion that, with enough information and effort, these people will come to see that there are alternatives without violence and hatred.

So what can we do?

I believe that everyone needs to question very carefully what is written. Information is the key. If you become scared of immigrants, Christians, Moslems or Buddhists, then go and meet some. Try to find out for yourself. Don’t just take the examples from a couple of stories as the general rule. Learn for yourself. Yes it takes time. But every bit of hatred that you feel the need to show to someone else is worth a couple of minutes of your time in order to see whether this hatred is necessary and useful.

Hatred, violence, and radical politicial positions that are against some indefensive minority will not make anyone better off. We all know that in our hearts. Some of us may be angry. Many of us feel that our lives could be better. Few us honestly believe that their situation is due to immigrants or could be improved through voting for some radical parties.

We hence need to make sure that there is more redistribution in society towards the poor and forgotten. No one needs a couple of millions on the bank account. No one truly needs a Ferrari or Hermes bag or the own private jet. Trump’s approach to politics however does promote exactly this. There is no way that someone like him can be allowed to complete his presidential term, or even have a second one. Similarly, if we do not want to have wars in Europe again, and if we want to promote the interests of the poor and those that need their interests to be represented, then we must fight those views that are against equality, society and a good life together. Being quiet is a mistake. I understood this now.

This is a call to everyone in society to stand up again, to cooperate, to promote values that help achieve common goals and united interests. Don’t be quiet.



Though this is mostly an environmental economics blog, I would like to add a few points to the latest international conflict that is heading political agendas worldwide, namely the Crimea crisis. In general, the newspapers we read are full of opinions on what should be done, the way we have to treat to Russia and what we are to expect from the unfolding international conflict. However, the positions taken in these newspapers tend to be those of reporters that re-iterate what they have been reading elsewhere, copying political statements from politicians that are anything but expects on Crimea. I mean – who would really dare to say that he/she is well-versed in both international positions (Russia and the rest of world) that are currently in conflict?

The idea of this blog entry is thus to provide a view of the Russian perspective into the crisis in order to understand why the conflict is unfolding in the way it does and what we should expect. This Russian perspective comes from an internationally highly accredited Russian professor, Alexei Savvateev, who kindly responded to my Questions & Answers requests.

Q: I am writing to you with regards to some concern about the situation in Crimea.

A: Yes. I expected this e-mail ! And I will try to answer very extensively.

Also, if there are any other people in the West who WANT to know the truth about Russia, please don’t hesitate to circulate my answer ! Any repost is welcome (lj, vk, facebook etc).

So, what do we have:

1. Historically, Crimea was Russian and Soviet during approx 100 years.. Then, Khruschev gave the Crimea to Ukraine – for some reasons which I do not understand, but that looks to be absolutely innocent – having that Ukraine was a part of USSR.

2. After the collapse of the USSR, the Crimea lost connection with the historical motherland. Situation worsened and worsened there, and they literally lost the hope to be with Russia. One of my friends, who has birthday today (!!), was in Crimea in August and she was stressed by the living condition the people are in. She said “The best present to my birthday is Crimea!”. And this happened – YESTERDAY was the referendum (96 per cent for Russia!), and the present is ready – for today’s birthday !!!!!!!

Q: What is your opinion on Putin’s course here?

A: Putin is a very democratic leader. Yes, – I am not joking ! When he introduced the homophobic laws, this was only because 85 per cent of population were against gay-parades and alike – Russians are very traditional. This does not mean that Russians, on average, can abuse gays – not at all!

But “do not ask – do not tell” is the formula which works here very good. Putin reacted to the population request – not to institutionalize gay relations.

Crimea is the same. Many Russians were extremely angry that Putin did not introduce the army to solve the Ukrainian political crisis; and to the public he could hardly explain why he was silent. But as for Crimea, he understood finally that he was losing ratings and reputation, unless he acted very definitely.

And he started. He never run across the law – we can hold up to 25 000 soldiers there, and we did hold (roughly) 23 000 of them! He talked to Tatareans in Crimea, and their Parliament refused to say “Yes” to Russia; then, he talked to the very poor Tatareans, and they, on the contrary, voted FOR Russia in this referendum (Strictly speaking, this is my guess, having the results. It could be principally possible that many Tatareans refused to vote (or abstained); however, there are some cases where Tatareans really voted for Russia. In total, 96 per cent voted for Russia – could you imagine such a pronounced demonstration of the political will?)

He did a heroic thing – he saved Crimea from the war. People heard of these “trains of happiness” which were ready to be send by the fascistic Kiev authorities, and if Russia were not invaded, there would have been a big bloodshed.

Q: How should the West react and should this anyhow be Western concern?

A: No. This should not be Western concern. This is entirely an intra-Russian case, and the West should take it as it is.

Q: What do you think is going to happen and what is the common belief in Russia at the moment?

A: Russians are excited. This (consolidation with Crimea) will cost us a fortune, but nobody here counts money. Putin’s ratings are maximal ever in his time of “tsarstvo”.

So far the answers, thanks to Alexei for a Russian view into the Crimea crisis!

As far as I understand from this, Russians view Crimea as part of Russia. I do not support the view that, since Crimea had historically belonged to Russia, this should be the reason for Russia to annex Crimea again. Opinions like these lead to never-ending conflicts and continued bloodshed.  However, the inhabitants of Crimea, made up of 60% Russians, voted in the recent referendum with a 96% majority to join Russia. Democratically speaking, this result is astonishing and shows that Crimea’s inhabitants would prefer to belong to Russia. Plus, Russia is less concerned about the costs than about the territory (Sergei Guriev argues that Putin’s move weakens trust in Russia and reduces investments in the future:

Now, there are two issues: Was the referendum well-done, and is it internationally legitimate? My guess is that even if the referendum was re-done by Ukraine or any neutral, international body, the outcome would be the same. However, there are issues with international laws. Clearly, international laws must be upheld. Nevertheless, there is a conflict between international laws and democratic opinion.

While the international laws prohibit this annexing of Crimea and Ukraine argues that the referendum was unconstitutional, the democratic opinion on Crimea is overwhelmingly in favor of joining Russia. An important question, thus, is whether this overwhelming majority wish of the Crimean population should be realized and what are the costs?

I am neither a historian nor a lawyer, so the following questions come to mind: In contrast to Mainland China which should not be allowed to annex Taiwan as the majority of the Taiwanese population does not want to be part of China, should it not be the case that any country should be allowed to annex Crimea as long as this receives the full support of the Crimeans?

Obviously this raises additional questions: Imagine an ethnic minority of any country decides to hold a referendum on whether the part of the city or region they live in should become independent territory, or should be annexed to any particular country they deem useful to them. If democratic vote would then be the only decisive criterion and this ethnic minority would win the vote, then how would countries look like in the future? What would be the concept of a country?

Are the envisioned sanctions that the EU imposed against Russia likely to work? Most likely they are only a political statement that says something: Look, we are against what you do and we act accordingly! But honestly, this is likely to be useless. Especially considering the potential reverse impact of Russia stopping natural gas exports to Europe, or oil exports, etc. This is not an international conflict in which sanctions are going to have any useful impacts. In effect, they very seldomly have had any impact at all.

1) Crimea will become part of Russia.
2) There will be further sanctions and international discussions by USA and the EU, but these will be quietly stopped at some point.
3) Ukraine and Russia will have a very strained relationship in the next few years. At best, Russia will try to compensate Ukraine in some way or another (e.g. cheaper natural gas deliveries).
4) International laws need to be re-written and re-analyzed in order to incorporated further cases like these, and there will be further cases. E.g. Tibet claims that China is currently `exporting’ many Chinese to Tibet (a claim disputed by China) – if they hold the majority (as Tibet online claims) then a similar referendum could be undertaken by China in order to annex Tibet.

UPDATE (21 March 2014):An interesting discussion of why Russia gave Crimea to the Ukraine:

Saṃsāra means “to perpetually wander”.


Earthlings means “those that inhabit the planet Earth”.

(or slightly better quality the original:

By choosing what you do,
You choose who you are,
And what you will be.

I am certain there are many more examples for Nuclear Panic is Money – people that try to raise panic and then profit financially from this… and I invite all readers to send these to me, I will add them in this post which I hope to continously update. I give you a good example here below.

So during the past weeks I have come across many different “studies” on the impact of Fukushima in Europe. While I certainly agree with the fact that we should stay vigilant and carefully observe what is going on, I also emphasize that, especially in these times, it is important to rely on as honest information and rational opinion as is possible. And it is not all-too-clear whether this is truly done and who uses what kind of information (see also HERE at project syndicate). So let me give you some examples. Thanks also to the hat-tip by Indridi Palsson, who is always helping to collect useful sources on nuclear issues from the net and up for a rational debate.

So here is my number 1 panic article (in German): Radioactivitiy reaches Europe – warning against  milk and  vegetables. Now I might be barking up the wrong tree, and if I do, I’d like to apologize already now. But honestly – this really looks soooo very much like a perfect example for Nuclear Panic is Money that I cannot let this opportunity slide:

In March 2011, some traces of Iod-131 were found in milk and vegetables in the South of France. In April 2011, the article by (which means centre of health) picked this story up and suggested that this is the case everywhere across Europe, and that some types of vegetables (like spinach or some salads) are “polluted extremely strongly”. The article continues to discuss about geiger counters and runs on foods that were produced prior to Fukushima… blah blah blah.

On the website it is also possible to see that the article has been updated on the 30th December 2013. Clearly, by that time it should have become clear that there were no runs on foods, no real need to go shopping with a geiger counter in the hand, and no more news on radioactive foods.

And if you think this is only an article written by a few panic pushers, then see this: It has more than 17 thousand facebook likes, more than this website here is likely to ever get (hopefully not though…).

I’ll first give you my view on why this website is writing articles in such a panic pushing way, and then some more background information on what is actually going on.

First things first. By sheer coincidence, that website has a shop attached to it. While reading the article on the left-hand side, you read about the products that will be helpful to reduce a potential impact of nuclear contamination, and then on the right-hand side the company, surprisingly, sells precisely those products that it just advocated in the article. Nuclear panic is money… Though the company claims on the website that it runs its website on donations, a closer look into the commercial registry shows that it is a joint stock corporation with its own collection department (Inkassoabteilung). Collection department basically means that if you cannot pay your bills to them then they are going to send some friends over that make sure you do…

One way the article suggest we could reduce our personal exposure to radioactivity is by using Betonit, a kind of mineral soil. This will cost you 30 euros per month, unless you also take their suggested mud pack, which would add a monthly bill of roughly 90 euros. So 120 euros a month, someone who panics may buy more – no wonder they need a collection department!

However, and somewhat surprisingly, apart from that webshop, I found no single other source for Betonit’s potentialy usefulness to reduce nuclear contamination. What I found instead was that it actually is used to reduce diarrhea, and is also an additive to shampoos…

I am certain there are many more examples for Nuclear Panic is Money… and I invite all readers to send these to me, I will add them in this post which I hope to continously update.

Now to my second point: Here is the information on the radioactive contamination in France. As one can see, it is negligible, and nearly indistinguishable from the natural radioactivity. In comparison, for example, the level of radioactivity measured in May 1986, after Fukushima, was more than a 1500 times higher, and levels are far far below European regulatory standards (see p.6 in report).

Now what is true is that, in the days after Fukushima, Iod-131 was elevated across the world, see below.


The German station that analyzes the amount of radioactivity in the air is called Schauinsland, and between the 21.3.2011 and 9.5.11, the amount of Iod-131 was much higher than before Fukushima, which happened on the 11.03.2011. But already two month later the amount of iod-131 was indistinguishable from the natural level, and this across all stations of the world apart from Japan.

So while their original article was written around the time of the most elevated iod-131 levels and thus panic-creation may be `understandable’, their recent update just a month ago should definitely have made use of the new information available.

For more information the reader is referred to HERE.

NOW – I am by no means saying that elevated radioactivity is unlikely to have an impact, and I have interated and re-iterated many times on the dangers of nuclear energy here in my blog, but I believe that objectivity is important when it comes to such important and wide-ranging topics, and special interests should be subdued. And by special interests I especially mean companies that then try to sell products that have no known proven effect on radioactivity in the body.

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According to these optimists the world is improving

According to these realists/pessimists/glass-is-half-empty-type-of-people, the world still sucks:

According to some, the important and depressing graph missing is number 32 – beer prices across Europe on the rise. That is, unless you live in Ireland, of course, then, based on chart 32, life has been looking increasingly optimistic since 2010.

Chart 32

courtesy: via from Eurostat

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