In order to have as little recourse as possible to coal and nuclear power plants, Economics Minister Robert Habeck is proposing that Germans take shorter showers or even cold showers, much to the displeasure of the confrontational northern liberal Wolfgang Kubicki. He counters that he will shower until he is finished. My guess is that Kubicki has been whistling another song in the shower since the Habeck appeal and is taking more time than before to clean his body.
That’s the way it is with such appeals. Those to be reached counter with: why don’t you do better first! An unworthy interplay begins. “Why don’t you drive less?” – “As long as you still eat meat, I won’t drive less.”
We know this from our own childhood: the raised forefinger and advice with an instruction-like character go down very badly.
It’s even worse when they’re given by people who don’t take responsibility themselves. That’s how it feels when I read about Ben van Beurden. That’s the Dutch CEO of petroleum and natural gas giant Shell. The group made headlines a few days ago with a new record profit. 17.1 billion euros rang in the coffers of the oil giant. The record profits are particularly pleasing to Shell CEO van Beurden himself. He doubled his salary and a few days ago virtually declared himself and his company not responsible when it comes to more climate protection and the energy transition. “Supply has to adapt,” van Beuren explained, adding: “But it has to adapt to lower demand.” I’ll translate: As long as people want oil and demand it, Shell will continue to supply oil. It’s up to the others to get started.
From a business perspective, that may be fine. But who will take the first step now? Shell? No, the company doesn’t feel responsible. After all, the world wants oil and gas. The consumers? No, as long as there is still hot water, most people don’t want to take cold showers voluntarily. Politicians? No, because they are afraid of being caught between two stools and don’t know whether they should turn off the gas to the economy or to the households first, if it should become scarce.
Do you realize what is at stake here? We are shying away from responsibility. Of course, I think, I have no influence on what Shell does. But in my own household, I’m my own CEO, even if that doesn’t mean my three daughters listen to me. The raised forefinger doesn’t work at all there.
A little anecdote. When it comes to waste separation, I’m a stickler. So I also emphatically instructed my daughters to break down each recycled package into its various components. The reaction? Defiantly. They even started teasing me, wantonly dumping disposable deposit bottles in the yellow garbage can. Only to be amused by the way I had to fish the valuable raw materials out of the garbage can again.
I tried a different approach. With explanations, with empathy, with shared experiences. At some point, we applied the first compost produced from our own organic waste to our flower beds. A momentum of its own developed. In the meantime, we have become allies when it comes to waste separation and recycling.
Alliances – we need them on a social level, too. Only as allies can we achieve something. Together. Maybe Habeck should send a social media post from the cold shower and tag Wolfgang Kubicki in it. Let’s see if he doesn’t hurry up a bit more. And the Shell boss? He’ll earn less in the long run if we hurry to take a shower. As you can see, there’s a lot you can do yourself.