Our book of the month is The Green Lie by Kathrin Hartmann. Whether it’s electric cars, organic foods, biofuels or fair trade clothing, Hartmann argues that supposedly ‘sustainable’ solutions have nothing to do with climate protection or human rights, but only serve to enhance corporate profits. If we, as consumers, fall for fancy packing and labels, Hartmann believes we a doing nothing to help the environment or people in developing countries. So, what would really make a difference? Why are the great environmental and social problems of our age – including climate change – taking so long to fix?

Debating Europe’s Book Club is your chance to ask the authors your questions! Every month, we present a relevant book and collect your questions and comments, and then seek the author’s reaction.

Of course, it is easy for politicians and corporations to blame consumers for environmental harm and exploitation. But is that really fair? Particularly if all the “fair trade” and “eco-friendly” labelling confuses even government funding agencies? You sent us in your questions and comments on Kathrin Hartmann’s book, and we put them to her for her answers!

So, what do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from James, who put it like this:

Image of a citizenIf large numbers of people do something useless (like choosing to buy products falsely labelled ‘sustainable’) then it doesn’t make a meaningful difference. If anything, it may even be a net negative. If, however, legal restrictions are tightened (which cannot be done via consumer choice) then it can have a real impact.

Is he right? How would the author of The Green Lie, Kathrin Hartmann, respond to his argument that the best way to prevent catastrophic climate change is by states working together and introducing tougher rules and regulations?

I see three important places where new laws would really make a difference: agriculture, mobility, and rules for international companies.

European (and particularly German) agriculture is very export-oriented, which in turn leads to increased imports of raw materials for the food industry, telling beautiful ‘green lies’; if there were a higher degree of self-sufficiency in Europe and it was not a major source of grain production for the feeding troughs of livestock around the world, then it would make a huge difference. So we should try to be more self-sufficient.

The second would be mobility. A completely different mobility policy would be great, and it could take another ‘green lie’ out of the world. To prevent climate change, people must be discouraged from travelling individually. I do not mean they should use electric cars or fuel from palm oil, which in turn causes new climate problems in terms of things like biofuel. I mean: how do we create car-free inner cities? How do we create alternative transport systems? How do we make public transport affordable and accessible to all?

When I come to the companies, I believe that the call for a UN agreement that obliges international companies to prove that their supply chain is free of human rights violations and environmental destruction is right. Above all, companies must also be punished if that happens. That would also mean reducing the hurdles for those affected from the South to be able to sue against such companies. This would not change everything, but it would be a good start. Voluntarily rules for companies mean they only do what doesn’t hurt their profit margin, and unfortunately they do not help. New laws could make a difference.

We also had a comment sent in from Boris, who agrees with Kathrin Hartmann, though he suggests she doesn’t go far enough. Boris believes that the real ‘green lie’ is the notion that 7-8 billion people can be fed sustainably. He doesn’t believe it’s possible, not matter what we do? Is he right? Or is he being overly pessimistic?

No, that is – thank God – wrong! There are many studies that show we can easily feed up to 12 billion people. I always cringe when I hear that there are ‘too many people’. Who should decide on the right number? The problem is that much of our food crops end up in feed troughs and tanks. One-third of the ice-free area is used worldwide for meat production, but of course that is not sustainable! A very small part of the population lives on a huge ecological footprint.

The small farmers’ organisations in the countries of the South are all fighting for food sovereignty. The World Bank has initiated an agricultural report in which 500 scientists have worked to make it clear that our current agricultural model is doomed to failure. Farming is highly industrial with monocultures, with cash crops for biofuels and for the food industry, rather than with local people deciding what they want to grow and what they want to eat. I have been to the countries of the South a lot and whenever I have met small farmers who have been able to enforce their idea of ​​agriculture and have decided in solidarity and democratically, people are doing much better than anywhere else.

There is a great deal of evidence showing how agro-ecological farming is possible and also yields much higher yields than conventional agriculture, which ruins land, uses pesticides and keeps farmers dependent on large corporations. There are many positive examples of how things can be done differently. The important question is not what the solution is – we have long since known that – but who is preventing the solution from being implemented? Why haven’t sustainable solutions prevailed against large corporations? That’s where action from the EU is in demand.

Finally, we had a comment from Daniel asking how we can bring about the dramatic lifestyle changes Kathrin Hartmann is advocating given that we’re all so used to our little creature comforts. What would Hartmann say in response?

Of course, you’ll never be able to get everyone in society to rethink their lifestyle, but the amazing thing is – and Daniel has identified this well – that it’s no longer a question of informing people. Most people know that things cannot go on like this. So, instead of individuals changing their way of life, I think it’s much more important if we as a society trusted in the power of the citizen.

People need to be confident that protest can make a difference. But you will only achieve that if you join the protest yourself. I want to encourage everyone to emancipate themselves and look around. Which demo is interesting? Which petition can I sign? Can I join an NGO or a party? We can’t have a strategy for getting everybody to change their lifestyle. That would be manipulative and dangerous. I hope that many people recognise their political power and thus create a social movement that wants to change something. This is effective and you do not need every single person to sign up. If you are against something, then you have to mobilise to defend against it.

Why haven’t we stopped climate change yet? Is it because shifting public opinion is too hard? Or because vested interests are blocking change? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Pixabay (CC) – lenalindell20; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Hartmann © Stephanie Füssenich

52 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    How can you stop something that as not been proven to be real ? It’s like trying to pick the colour of the Emperor’s new clothes, pointless.

    • avatar

      It has been prouven. The proof is even makin its self clear. Look at the heat this summer. Wild fires everywhere globally

    • avatar

      Go back to worshipping daddy Peterson. Your opinion is as worthless as his looney lobsters.

    • avatar

      Sebastian Morning Comrade troll, how goes your war against free thinking ?

    • avatar

      Debating Europe Sebastian ignored your story, ignored my post and instead used the opportunity to attack & insult which makes him the very definition of a ‘troll’.

      Defintion of ‘Internet troll’

      troll noun [ C ] (COMPUTING) ​ someone who leaves an intentionally annoying message on the internet, in order to get attention or cause trouble. a message that someone leaves on the internet that is intended to annoy people. – Cambridge English Dictionary

      Are you now implementing compelled speech & defending his post and what is the problem with using the word ‘comrade’ ?

    • avatar

      Paddy black I’d love to but unless you have already signed up to the man made global warming ‘hypothesis’ you won’t get funding. none conformity will not be tolerated.

    • avatar

      I……already gave you the global wildfires and this seansons heat levels. But okey. Eache year we have had now gives record avarege global heatlevels.

    • avatar

      It has been proven time and time again. You just like to sit in your eco chamber ‘comerade’😂😂

    • avatar


      And 300 years a go Europe had a heatwave hotter than this one, 5,000 ago the Sahara desert was a lush forest coast to coast & 11,000 years a go Europe was buried under 5 miles of ice, are you claiming man made climate change was responsible for those to ?

      It is known that the planet is currently between ice ages & the global climate has changed every second of every day for its whole 4.5 billion year history so without any actually evidence to the contrary is it not more logical to say any current global change is part of the natural cycles of the plant rather than some unproven human involvement ?

      100% of pro global change scientists are funded by vested interest so the position of agreeing with them without evidence is bizarre, would you trust those same scientists if they were being funded by the petrochemical industry ? somehow I doubt it.

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Ivan Burrows Please stop calling people you disagree with “trolls” and “comrade”.

    • avatar
      Paddy black

      Well done Ivan. Why don’t you step away from social media rants and use your passion to write a scientific paper on your findings. Put it out to the worlds scientists. See if we can replicate your findings. Its that or remain a keyboard internet annoyance to the people doing real hard work. Write a paper Ivan or find a new less social or environmentally damaging hobby because 99.9% of the climate scientists (hard working professionals) agrees that we are changing the climate. So your evidence better be good. I’ll be waiting for your amazing ground breaking paper.

    • avatar

      Either way, greed for profits is the root cause of all harm to people and the earth.

    • avatar

      We can say the same about climatosceptic scientiste… Some of them were even paid by cigarette Company to say cigarettes aren’t bad for health…

    • avatar

      Julia There is nothing wrong with profit as long as the system it is generated in does not make peoples lives worse. Bill Gates for instance did far more good in the world with his billions than Mother Teresa could ever did with her good will.

    • avatar

      A.c. Exactly, so we can only base our opinions on the data collected and there isn’t any for man made climate change, there is only a hypothesis and conjecture based on that hypothesis.

    • avatar

      Omg dr ivan is working again on his flat earth theorys. Goodluck! Thanks for showing us again that you are the reason for churchills worst idea democracy saying.

      Being payed by Shell? Or do you realise they proven and knew about it for lets say 50 years already. So glad you are leaving the EU, so we actually work on real issues onstead of your faith.

    • avatar

      Arnout Thank you for yet another meaningless post comrade 8|

  2. avatar

    I would say that for some people it’s hard to understand, because they do not trust specialists that study the field. On the other hand most people only care about their material well-being, no matter if the Earth is wrecked in the process.

    • avatar

      You are making the ‘assumption’ that the Earth is being wrecked by man and that it is not just following the same process that started 4.5 billion years ago.

    • avatar

      I think oil spills and nuclear power plant accidents is evidence that the Earth is being wrecked by man. We have green energy options, but no, not profitable enough.

    • avatar

      Julia Pollution has nothing to do with climate change & green energy is highly profitable, it doesn’t work but it makes the windmill makers very rich indeed.

  3. avatar

    They work hard but in the other way….it’s more than obvious that they don’t want to

  4. avatar

    Greed for profits is the root cause of all harm to people and the earth.

  5. avatar

    I think we trust too much in renewable energy for changing things…
    Of course, we have to change mind about mobility. Seeing public transport only with capitalistic view (loss / profit / privatisation) will only increase individual mobility.
    But for me we never say enough than humankind pollutes because we start to become too much and we still want to be more… I think this question is ethically and politically hard to discuss.

  6. avatar
    John Costigane

    Climate change is entirely natural. Increased CO2 is beneficial to plant life and levels are far below the upper limit of this effect. All the scare mongering from climate alarmists have shown to be false. Science should be the pursuit of new knowledge. Knowledge of all factors affecting the natural climate, which is cross-generational, should be the focus of science.

  7. avatar
    catherine benning

    Why haven’t we stopped climate change yet?

    Climate change in unstoppable. It is, for the the umpteenth time, not man made. Yes, man has quite definitely polluted our environment, as well as the stratosphere, with debris, in some cases, catastrophically, akin to Fukushima, Japan and Chernobyl before it. Along with some others not so well publicised and the whole nuclear waste disaster, which continues to pollute at a level kept very quiet indeed. But, none of the abuse cited here or generally is the reason for the climate change we are seeing today.

    And for those of you paranoid about our present weather patterns, if you research weather over our last couple of centuries, you will see we get long hot spells and freezing cold spells periodically and at random, as the normal pattern of earths progress.

    What is different is, the core of the planet is warming. The sun is reacting quite differently to data we have to present and many of the planets in our universe are changing in an unusual form. Unusual to our scientific experience that is. And there is nothing man can do about it. Nature has decided, for its own health and survival, these changes are necessary, just as it has for billions of years. Panic is being instilled to create the kind of fear wanted to fleece you. This takes the consciousness from real changes to your political welfare that is going on under your noses, because of genuine fear we have of no power to stop it. Or ‘believing you’ have no power to stop it. Which is what is wanted by those who rule over us. It makes political movement easier for any ideology they want to create. We get in the way when we protest against their plans.

    Yes, collectively mankind should clean up its act. But, how many of you are still buying plastic and filling your shopping cart with billions of those treacherous bags found in the gut of sea creatures? This being one move we could all make to clean up our environment. /there are more moves we could make to clean house, but, we don’t really want to bother.

    Here are a couple of talks to give food for thought.



    • avatar

      I always say one must answer what percent of climate change is natural vs man made if you accuse man of changing it, because history proves that climate changed happened many times without man made causes long before the industrial age. Nobody has ever been able to answer that question. I even asked my Government once this question and it took them almost a week to respond and then they bitched about how I used a pseudonym to write them, and on the side they added two climate reports from the ipcc or whatever it’s called, but no clear 40% vs 60% or something to that effect and the climate reports don’t use such numbers either atleast the parts I read lol, pretty boring stuff. Ask your Govs(Environment Ministry, Foreign Ministry etc.) the same question and see what they answer back.

      Imagine for a second that the Earth was a ice box -50degrees Celsius globally, surely we would want to warm the planet, so how would we do it?co2, radiation, mirrors in space etc.?
      If we can’t warm it significantly on purpose then how can we warm it by accident?
      Don’t get me wrong I am against pollution of all kinds, I support mechanisms to reduce the pollution by 100% if possible without destroying our way of life. I just don’t like the climate change religion.

  8. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    Who is so Almighty or arrogant thinking earth’s climate can be changed? Please raise your hands! Who knows it all or better?

    Listening to e.g. a “Dr. John Harper on YouTube” is a more down to earth activity than reading climate Sci-fi or political fiction.

    One should rather concentrate to solve the solvable- (EU’s infamous “step by step”) which is our catastrophic global pollution problem where we are all complicit.

    Be that by raping our earthly habitat due to new innovations, designs & greed, the ever increasing range and volume of imported- exported (cheap- cheaper- china-est) consumer products that are being advertised to outclass and out-compete the next competitors.

    Supporting even a direct China rail-link to Europe to consume more, even faster, fastest, china-est! All that involves (some questionable) industries, scientists, financiers, investors, politicians and us consumers.

    It is us consumers who in the end buy and discard everything- some do it in a responsible & controlled fashion others anywhere, anytime and always without a blink and though of its consequences.

    What is easier- “changing” the climate or “changing” our behavior? Why not concentrate on the easier part in that equation- before trying to act & play Almighty?

  9. avatar

    Because you cannot change a natural phenomenon. Man and the technology of now is not beyond nature!

    • avatar

      We caused it so we kinda are.

    • avatar

      No we didn’t. Our civilization level is too low!

    • avatar

      The real question is if you were given 100billion us dollars and the goal of intentionally warming this planet by a amount that is noticeable globally, could you do it and how?
      I am not advocating it, it will hopefully remain a hypothetical, but if we are unable to prove that we can do this on paper then how can we do it at all.

  10. avatar

    Because people still eat meat. And it kinda shows how incapable we are to solving it.

    All we can do is point fingers instead of taking this sh*t seriously.

    And as seen in this post there are people that think that they are smarter and know more than the experts. Or even oil companies as shell who have none it for quite some time now………. If people still cant get around the flat earth argument and accept it isnt flat without doing their own calculations then we will never solve issues like these. Unless we drop their say. Because the majority of the people are not capable of being top scientists.

    • avatar

      Lol we eat meat, yes we do and we have eaten it since the beginning of humanity. Everything on this planet eats something. There are even plants that eat animals that they catch. This is the story of the Earth.

  11. avatar

    Because you have to control China and America too and that’s difficult

  12. avatar

    How much oil is burned by the armies of USA, Russia, China, Germany, France, UK, Italy, Austria, North Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Israel etc.?
    How often do diplomats fly in private jets?
    How long did the German Government know about the Diesel scandal before it became public knowledge?
    What about the dumping of radio active waste in barrels in the ocean around Europe and North America and probably Russia, China etc.?
    What secret technologies have been kept from us for decades that could have given us much cleaner energy?
    And many more questions that matter.
    Many of our leaders are not honest, they are part of the problem.

  13. avatar
    Jeff Jones

    Tackle organized Religion first, then when you have a majority of the planet on the same page as science you can affect the changes necessary for combating and reversing Man-Made Climate Change.

  14. avatar

    Well i believe a big problem is simply put that these changes she advocates, car free cities, less meat production, internationals cutting down on pollution, and ofcourse no more oil and gas will cut into the pockets of a lot of people. Many of whom are climate deniers especially for this reason. People cite overpopulation and its true. But not that we couldnt feed 8 billion people, but, what are all these cattle owners, slaughterhouse operators, meatshop operators, people who work in grill restaurants serving meat, etc. What are they going too do? Live of state welfare? Many countries dont have it.

    This is the fundamental problem that needs too be adressed.

    The second is large scale geoengineering

    If done it must be done in a coordinated manner

  15. avatar

    because it needs a lot of money and the governments, companies etc don’t want to spend their money on the environment.

  16. avatar

    We can’t stop it, just reduce i

  17. avatar

    Changing technology is not easy. Let’s continue the dialogue

  18. avatar

    Para o clima não há coletes amarelos infelizmente
    For the weather there are no yellow vests unfortunately

  19. avatar

    Βecause we know nothing of its causes and results and is continuing since the birth of Earth

  20. avatar

    Climate was always changing. It will and after the people.

  21. avatar

    Vested interests and nepotism or corruption. Some will lose millions and so they oppose any changes. Simple as that! Instead of investing all their money to switch to renewables or biofuels, they are wasting it in lobbying to halt or prolong this development!

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