[and here they come - the new economist/ecologists... let's see if this makes it's way to UofT..]
Harald Welzer's career as a critic of growth began with a few simple reflections. Just how progressive is it, he asked himself, when millions of hectares of land are used elsewhere in the world so that we keep down the cost of meat? How modern is it when producing a kilogram of salmon in a supposedly sustainable way requires feeding the fish five to six kilograms (11 to 13 pounds) of other types of fish?
Until a few months ago, Welzer specialized in studying the psyche of Nazi criminals. He has also written about climate wars. His current bestseller, "Selbst denken," has now made him the figurehead of a movement that radically questions the growth model of the Western economy.
Welzer was also recently named a professor in transformation design at the University of Flensburg, in northern Germany. When a local journalist asked him what transformation design is, he replied: "We don't exactly know yet ourselves." But the goal of the discipline, he added, is to counter the "systematic scam" created by an industry that produces things that break unnecessarily or are hardly capable of being repaired. Welzer wants to "design corridors" in which companies would be given time to transform faceless, no-name products into durable products with an origin and a history....
But such slimmed-down jobs would hardly be enough for many people, says an older man. He hears that a lot, says Paech, especially when he speaks at union functions, where he is routinely grilled by his audience. Besides, says the economist, all the hype about jobs in our supposed knowledge society is in fact questionable. "What exactly are we doing?" he asks. "As we anxiously invoke competitiveness, we train younger and younger delegators with touchscreens to manage the dirty work, forcing Indians to whom the work is being outsourced halfway around the world to work extra hours so that we'll continue to be flooded with consumer goods." By now, some of his listeners are nodding in agreement.
Paech recently spoke at an event sponsored by Volkswagen, the German automotive giant. "I was in the lion's den, being showered with malice," he says. At a certain point, he asked what the workers did during the economic crisis, when so many saw their hours reduced under the Kurzarbeit program, the "short-time work" program that the German government used during the crisis to avoid layoffs by encouraging companies to reduce workers' hours while making up for some of the workers' lost salaries and benefits itself. "We worked in the garden, did things in the neighborhood and fixed things," they told Paech.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan