• “I have always wondered what a trigger this little word ‘feminist’ is. What we are striving for with these guidelines is something that should actually be self-evident in the 21st century.

    Women make up half of the society in any country. A feminist foreign policy is therefore not a fighting term, it is derived from our constitution. And it’s certainly not trivial. It is a hard security issue.”

    Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock presented the guidelines for her envisioned “feminist foreign policy” last week. Political opponents have derided her for the creation of what they felt was another meaningless buzzword, with one of them calling it the “emotional gratification of domestic politics”.

    Yet, Baerbock’s goals are simple: to create a foreign policy in which the human aspect prevails. That means bringing women to the forefront: “When women are safer,” she said, “Everyone is safer.”

    In Germany six months ago, the buzzword “hot autumn” was everywhere. This was not due to seasonally high temperatures, but reflected a growing fear at the time: Germany’s soaring energy prices would lead to mass-scale social unrest.

    As it turned out, skyrocketing inflation did not trigger riots in the streets. The German government was helped by a mild winter, but also took pre-emptive measures to reduce potential public disorder. But you would be mistaken in thinking energy issues didn’t capture the attention of the German people.

    In January, thousands of protestors swarmed into the village of Lützerath to prevent the extension of a coal mine. This time, the German government abandoned its soft mitigation strategy and opted for repression.

    On Twitter, climate activist Luisa Neubauer made a simple plea to her leaders: to be able to protest without being criminalised. But when it comes to respecting such civil liberties, Germany measures different demonstrations on different scales.

    Austerity is over in Germany! Two hundred billion Euro for reining in wild inflation and energy prices, another hundred billion for gearing up the military, and … 2.7 billion for humanitarian aid in 2023?

    What seems like a drizzle compared to other recent money showers is actually the world’s second-largest budget for global crisis and disaster relief, trailing only behind the United States. But while putting money on the table can be important, Germany glosses over one simple fact: that quantity doesn’t always equal quality.

    Relief en masse

    Germany’s budget for international humanitarian aid makes even the European Commission pale in comparison. But what the country needs is the organisational structure to put its money where somebody else’s mouth is. Instead, much of it is shoved into large organisations. “Help has to become a lot more localised,” criticised Ralf Südhoff, who heads the Centre for Humanitarian Action, a Berlin-based think tank.

    Ironically, this centralised trend is almost reversed within Germany itself. While the federal government is tasked with protecting its people in times of crisis, each of Germany’s sixteen states has its own relief services for natural disasters, 90 percent of which is run by trained volunteers. What they lack is funding and coordination, both between states and within the federal hierarchy.

    History lessons

    When in July 2021, the Ahr valley in Germany’s southwest suffered a devastating flood, push came to shove: more than 130 people died, because local authorities misinterpreted warning signs and issued evacuation orders too late. The area is prone to flooding, but history, too, was disregarded. Human lives could’ve been saved, had the state taken the existential threat of natural disasters seriously.

    Unfortunately, little has improved since. Warning sirens remain underfunded, joint protocols have hardly been established, and climate change issues still aren’t front and centre.

    When Karl Marx wrote his Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, he claimed that great historic events tend to repeat themselves: first as tragedy, then as farce. Tragedy has already happened in Germany. The farce is to believe we’ll heed the siren’s call next time.

    Germany is a winter sports nation, as measured by its 434 Winter Olympic medals and its 14 million citizens who take to the slopes every year. So it should come as no surprise that the country’s penchant for skiing and snowboarding has developed into a multi-billion euro industry.

    2.3 percent of Germany’s yearly GDP comes from sport and its associated spending. Winter sports rake in one fifth of that share (about 15 billion euros), while only requiring one fiftieth of the country’s athletic infrastructure expenses.

    Such robust profit margins incentivised about 400 southern municipalities to invest heavily in impeccable ski slopes. But winter sports tourism needs one essential ingredient: snow – and less of it is falling every year.

    Bavaria hosts eight of Germany’s ten biggest ski resorts. Climate change, however, is not on the region’s side, as the average annual temperature in the Bavarian Alps has increased by 1.5 degrees in the last 60 years.

    Piling onto that is the need for more energy-intensive snow cannons. One hectare of artificially powdered ski slopes requires up to three million litres of water (or 20,000 bathtubs), and Germany has no less than 93,000 hectares of track to maintain. Even with the cannons at work, half of Bavaria’s ski resorts are at risk of vanishing within the next 20 years.

    Despite existential threats and a swelling ecological footprint, winter sports in Germany remain a lucrative business for now. Lucrative enough to host a recent biathlon in the Bavarian town of Ruhpolding, despite no snowfall or sub-zero temperatures. But as the climate and energy crises rage on, the price to pay for a pure white terrain risks becoming unsurmountable.