An open letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and all leading politicians worldwide: „Global survival as a matter of priority - self-deception or future?”


Dear general secretary of the united nations - Mr. Ban Ki-moon, dear politicians,

Owing to the ongoing world economic crisis, we are at risk of neglecting the world-wide threat of life on earth caused by the sinister transformation of our biosphere. In the long run, this also means an incredible aggravation of the global economic recession. In 2006, the British economist Stern already calculated that the damages inflicted by global warming will consume approximately 5-20% of the world’s overall GNP, if there is no reversal of the progressing climate change. Precarious environmental changes, uncontrollable climatic changes, and the upcoming termination of traditional resources and energy sources are threatening to end in human beings being culturally and socially paralyzed with shock. We turn our backs on reality; mankind increasingly gets into distress caused by its own hubris.

Klimaserie, Drawing 1, Courtesy: future research art center

The United Nations Environment Programme, the World Meteorological Organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and numerous other organisations and initiatives are trying to prevent the worst in the field of environmental and climate protection. Nevertheless, you know, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, that we are running out of time. The horrible facts definitely speak clearly for themselves. A new global network of knowledge and awareness about the causal relations of the factors, which endanger human existence, is badly needed. Therefore, policy has to bear substantial responsibility in a many ways. On the one hand, policy has to become the trustee of global resources through skillful and fair negotiation, just premises, and worldwide coordination. On the other hand, policy has to create general conditions for a prosperous economy and research, and, not least, it has to convince the people of the urgency of this effort via open and responsible information policy.

The capability of the natural regeneration of the atmosphere, the world’s oceans, the freshwater supplies, and the flora and fauna will definitely reach their limits; half of all agricultural soil is affected by degradation. In the same vein, the greenhouse gas emissions are a parameter for the alarming climatic change. Geoengeneering techniques like artificial protection shields for the atmosphere, synthetic carbon dioxide absorbing trees, or the fertilization of the oceans will not stave off this dramatic climatic tendency. Moreover, the necessary area of soil and waters to keep our life standard, to supply mankind with appropriate resources, and to provide possibilities of the absorption of waste and residues has already exceeded earth’s area by 20% in 1999. With a population of 6 billion people at that time, earth’s capacity of dealing with mankind was already more than reached. So, what should the life standard of an estimated 10 billion people be like in 2050? In this context, rising poverty and famines will lead to new wars for resources and incalculable migration.

Klimaserie, Drawing 2, Courtesy: future research art center

We are all part of mankind’s most ambitious experiment: the profound change and far-reaching reinvention of our environment caused by increasingly penetrative and complex interference in nature and the environmental system. Therefore, the main task of leading politicians has to be the global coordination of sustainable utilization concepts in order to preserve the invaluable and fundamental basis of life defined by earth, water and atmosphere. At the same time, an equitable balance between nations and peoples concerning interest and burden has to be ensured.

The Third Industrial Revolution highlights the increase of energy efficiency in terms of the production of machines and devices and their consumption of energy. Additionally, the enhancement of the level of efficiency of alternative energy production and the revolutionalization of mobility and transport is in the center of research, e.g. cars with alternative propulsion. There is a demand for aware and responsible consumers, but also for courageous politicians, who fix and claim advanced, legal conditions. In this regard, greater efforts in developing and using alternative fuels are a botch job and cannot be a sustainable solution because of famine, which is threatening parts of the world badly. Au contraire, the research funds used for renewable energy have to be expanded urgently. Green energy has already become economically affordable, especially if the consequential costs of conventional energy production are taken into account. But the percentage of renewable energy sources regarding the energy mix, and the planned increase in the future is still too low. Governments all over the world should raise a common energy fund to build up power supply systems that incorporate countries with a high solar radiation.

By the same token, new concepts have to be established to create sustainable economic cycles. Extensive economic growth has to be transformed into intensive economic growth through an increase of the efficiency of the resource utilization. Tremendous tasks that need urgent solutions!

You and all of us want to contribute to the liberation from this awkward situation in a fast and responsible way. We consider the EU’s cut of a 20% of its emissions and the willingness to increase up to 30%, if worldwide contribution is given, very encouraging. Therefore, we ask you, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, to do anything that is humanly possible to reach the conditions for the realization of this 30%. Thanks to the international effort of some politicians, there are numerous other optimistic attempts. For example, benefits should be granted for those states that stand up for the preservation of the rain forest and those who keep cutting it down should be fined, which is fair, considering that the rain forests work like giant cooling devices in the heating global climate. Another appropriate attempt is to start negotiations over fair prices for the mining of resources and compensations if resources are destroyed. Currently, as calculations have proven, the world is able to reduce global warming by 2°C by spending just one percent of its overall GNP. From an economic point of view, there is no other reasonable alternative to this. According to the Biosphere 2 Experiment, which took place in Arizona (USA) in the 90’s, 150 million US Dollar had to be spend to keep eight human beings alive in a more or less earth like environment that was made up of countless pumps and watergates assembled in a greenhouse. What would it cost to enable the whole population of the earth to live under such conditions for 2 years? Given the hostility of outer space, the value of our real biosphere is immeasurably high!

Klimaserie, Drawing 3, Courtesy: future research art center

In consideration of global warming and disastrous environmental destruction, human behaviour is characterized by selfishness and belittlement on the one side, and by fear and powerlessness on the other. Analyzing and understanding the complex circumstances in order to find a recommended course of action is the main task of this century. We need a fundamental caesura; an overarching change. Demand a radical change of thinking Mr. Ban Ki-moon! Where the basis of live is wasted and abused, charges must be pressed and to control this, Green helmet UN soldiers are required. We believe that the creation of completely new political instruments is necessary. There are already many valuable ideas, some of them are utopian, but others are quickly and straightforwardly feasible. A database in UNO’s custody encompassing environmental, scientifical, and technical knowledge should develop in order to regulate and coordinate any global environmental activities. The information provided by this database should be freely accessible to any person to elucidate when and why a certain environmental intrusion takes place. Events concerning environment from any place in the world could be reported to the database. This way, acute environmental disasters could be identified in cooperation with global early warning systems and measures could be taken to avoid the loss of life and to initiate a limitation of damage. It is a matter of shaping a vision to achieve unity in the face of the ongoing crisis!

Klimaserie, Drawing 4, Courtesy: future research art center

Compared to the overwhelming challenges mankind is facing, the clarification of the facts is done far too hesitantly. The environment and the climate have to be put on top of every person’s own agenda as well. Owing to the fact that everybody is part of the economic system and has a budget which he or she is responsible for, people have to adjust their household in order to make it fit for the future. The overall purchasing power of the people is mighty and can exert a powerful influence on the industry and the agriculture through purposeful and sustainable investment and purchasing decisions. Looked at from a national economic level, it is obvious to figure that sustainability does not equal sacrifice; it is rather a question whether we can turn the potential savings to advantage. If, for example, the daily household expenses can be minimized by the usage of energy saving lamps, an insulation of the house, or the use of solar energy, even a bigger expenditure will amortize rapidly. As we know, many of our beloved habits and customs do not contribute to our health, or a high expectation of life. Lacks of motion, the use of cars to travel short ways, or the excessive consumption of meat are just a few examples. Sometimes it is just expansive ignorance, like using unnecessarily the stand-by function, or cooking without a lid. Since everybody’s contribution is so crucial to the overcoming of the environmental, energy, and climatic crisis, clarification and education have to take place at the largest possible extent. In front of every school, at the entrance of every hall, and in all public places should be a stele, electronically providing up to date information and environmental notes for a world in constant fever. Besides the sheer transfer of data and factual knowledge, emotional tangibility should be created by the use of pictures to get a glimpse of the abstract, often irreproducible, and disastrous development of our earth. An internet platform attached to this informational system could be established as an alternative Think Tank that surely would be as successful as Linux or Wikipedia. With the invention of such a network and a database of knowledge and environmental know how, creative solutions are to be expected. Ignorance will not help!


In former times, man used to live with nature as one. He or she treated nature with respect, wanted to keep the universe in balance, so that no adversity befell him or her. Today, these ethical values have to be lifted onto a higher level and be made palpable, learnable, and enforceable in an entirely new context. We are about to venture into uncharted terrain because the ethical propositions we need, will have to be invented for the first time. For Immanuel Kant, such an efficacy of man over nature was unimaginable. For this reason, he applied his categorical imperative only to the dialogical interaction between human beings; nature as an ethical and legal authority was left out. How would someone in the 18th century have been able to explain to the scholar and explorer Alexander Humboldt the ability of man to melt the polar ice caps, or the power of heating up the oceans to a bathtub like temperature? The romantically hued pantheism of the pre industrial era was the last resort to look upon nature without taking the tremendous responsibility for further generations and their fragile environment into account. We have to accredit the superior agent biosphere an inexorable weight in any ethical interaction. It is obvious that nature determines our ability for economic activities, but nature does not need us. The illusion of blind and infinite growth has faded long ago. But the question of guilt gets inevitable because the man-made anthropogenic threat is empirically proven and no one seems to take responsibility. All negotiations are time consuming and tenacious. Meanwhile, the bedrock of our existence is being destroyed every second, and valuable time gets lost. For the Maldives, time has already run out. The incumbent president has initiated a worldwide unique program: annually, a certain part of the country’s budget will be spent on the acquisition of new land. Facing the sea-level rise, the archipelagic state is struggling to buy soil for the relocation of its people in time. Parts of India, Sri Lanka and Australia are under debate for a solution.

Klimaserie, Drawing 5, Courtesy: future research art center

Our civilization is in its present state, because nature has been annexed and made usable. However, myopia and self-deception, greed and arrogance corrupted the give-and-take basis leading to destructive long-term effects like global warming. Is human intelligence maybe smaller than that of animals concerning this matter? For example, foxes hunt for hares without intending to perpetuate the ability of reproduction for the prey. But they would never destroy the grassland hares need for nutrition. Mankind though evidentially destroys the basic food resources of its prey. Maybe we can compensate our lack of intellectual power, imagination, responsibility, and discipline with the creation of a new moral awareness, a thorough grasp of “good” and “evil”, and a strengthening of our conscience. Today, different virtues, unaccustomed values, and above all foresight are in great demand. Civilization has to strike a new path concerning their development. We, the inhabitants of the industrial nations, have been responsible for 80% of the world’s greenhouse gas emission so far, which is an undeniable fact. Now, we should start being a role model in the fight against the climatic catastrophe. The main interest of the world’s population, the survival of the Homo sapiens, must not be divided any longer by religious or political discrepancies. Scientists do already know that our children will not be better off compared to the present generation.

Klimaserie, Drawing 6, Courtesy: future research art center

Forecasts, scenarios, and digital simulations provide predictions, but how exact are they? The actual effects of the climatic change can not be anticipated in detail. Therefore, it is necessary to be prepared for a multiple of the predictions. For instance, the alarming ablation of the Arctic and the Greenlandic ice sheet is proceeding much faster than anticipated. The climatic catastrophe has already begun and the first effects are right before our eyes. Thus, it is impossible to go back to normal at a time when prognoses show that mankind will not be able to adapt to its environment in 50 years. You, we and all people in positions of responsibility have to take care because it is not only a matter of weather when we talk about the climate. Where we repeatedly reach the point at which we have to demand an ethical reorientation concerning the attitude of every single politician, entrepreneur, but also of every individual citizen. The responsibility of dealing critically with one’s own actions cannot be handed over!

We composed this open letter on the occasion of visiting the exhibition “2 GRAD, DAS WETTER, DER MENSCH UND SEIN KLIMA” in the Deutsches Hygienemuseum. We, K.H. Wagner, are two artists, who have been constantly investigating and analyzing problems of further developments with the help of our independent research program (future research program, frp) and arts.

Sincerely yours
K.H. Wagner

Prof. (emer.) Dr.-Ing. Michael F. Jischa, author of the book "Herausforderung Zukunft" and honorary president of the German association CLUB OF ROME, assumes patronage for the initiative "Open letter of the -future research program- to the UN secretary general about the climate debate and the topics involved in it.

Many people support the request this open letter is concerned with among others:

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Beck
Prof. Dr. Dieter Birnbacher
Prof. Annick Douguedroit
Prof. Dr. Wilfried Endlicher
Dr. Helmut Gebauer
Dr. Edgar Göll
Dr. Sabine Höhler
Kurt Lussi
Prof. Claudia Köhler
Prof. Dr. Karl-Siegbert Rehberg
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Sachs
Prof. Dr. Christian-D. Schönwiese
Prof. Dr. Markus W. Sigrist
Dr. Frank Sollondz
Dr. Bernd Stiller
Gabi Weitzel