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As stated in the study of O'Lear and Dalby (2015), the environment plays an important part in the geopolitics of the world. In the current world, climate change is an emergent issue that is a concern for all. Agreed to Oberthür (2016), many countries are responsible for contributing to the harm to the environment and causing global warming. The countries of the world are thus required to do their part in tackling the climate change issue by looking after the environment. Similarly, as added by Jacobs (2016), Germany tries to do its part in looking after the environment and taking action in benefitting it. Germany has adopted many policies that minimize its contribution to global warming. The emission of CO2 gas in the environment was one of the areas the policies are targeted to. Furthermore, as per Ringel et al. (2016), Germany also aims at increasing the green, and many German cities, particularly Berlin, have planted many trees and plants to tackle the climate change issue. As stated by Thierfelder and Kabisch (2016), Berlin, the capital city of Germany had failed to adhere to the standards of the World Health Organisation (WHO). In response to the issue, the city has made a positive stance toward tackling the environmental issue. According to Visit Berlin (2020), the city has an environmental zone where the emission of harmful greenhouse gases is minimum. In this zone, only environmentally-friendly vehicles are allowed that do minimal damage to the environment. In this study, the environmental legacy of Germany and its capital will be discussed, analyzed, and evaluated. The study will look at the current environmental condition of Berlin and the policies taken by the government to tackle the climate change issue. The study will further glance at the past performance of Germany in its effort toward benefiting the environment.
Geopolitics is the concept of political actions, within the regional or international arena, for geographical motives, like expansion, access to key resources, etc. (Flint, 2016). The concept of geopolitics is prevalent throughout the world, throughout history, and in one form or another. In the case of Germany, the country shares a border with nine European countries and is located at the heart of Northern Europe (Smith, 2018). The geographical location of Germany that entails border sharing with countries like France and Russia has led to several political conflicts between the countries. On the other hand, Klinke (2018) has attributed the German concept of geopolitics to Carl Schmitt, who in the 1930s gave rise to the notion of ‘German Großraum’ or a greater German space. This was the first school of thought in the German geopolitics that initiated expansion and encouraged Germany to break out of its centric position in Europe and ally with other world powers.
However, the advent of geographical motives within German politics was not brought about by Carl Schmitt in the 1930s, rather it is much older than that. In the study of Reuber (2016), it is discussed that before World War I, Friedrich Ratzel incorporated population growth with territorial expansion. According to Ratzel’s teachings, Germany as a world power cannot limit itself within Europe, therefore expansion into other parts is needed. This is the classical view of geopolitics and the expansionist mindset found within several European states before World War I. Although, Klinke (2018) adds that Ratzel’s concept did not die down after the WW1, rather it set the foundation for the eventual geopolitics employed by the Nazis in World War II.
The worldview of Nazis was entangled between territorial might, along with concepts of spatiality. This gave rise to the Nazi German view of ‘Lebensraum’, which means a vital living space (Giaccaria and Minca, 2016). Conceptually, Lebensraum means adequate living space, in terms of population, economy, military prowess, etc. In Hitler’s Germany, the concept of Lebensraum was at the center and formed the basis of German Geopolitics of the time. This led to the initiation of World War II by the Germans and the inception of wars with Switzerland, Russia, England, France, etc. (Murphy, 2018). However, this is the historical perspective of geopolitics within Germany, the present state of geopolitics has abandoned the expansionist mindset. Friedman (2018) believes that the reunification of East and West Germany followed by entrance into the European Union, brought major changes in Germany’s geopolitics. The study further adds that with the most recent election results, a rise in nationalism has been seen within the country, therefore the future of geopolitics for Germany is more nationalist than expansionist, as seen in the past.
The environmental legacies according to Keeling et al. (2018) are natural changes occurring because of the predecessor of human unsettling influences. The unsettling influence might be a consequence of changes in land use and land spread, fire system, water preoccupations, and presentations of synthetic hydrological and biogeochemical systems (Schmidt and Regner, 2018). Bleicher, David, and Rutjes (2018) stated that the environmental legacies are significant because full comprehension of the elements of an ecological framework calls for acknowledgment of the drawn-out history and direction of changes. Numerous speculations have progressed concerning contrasts in the state of frameworks with and without environmental legacies (Sandlos and Keeling, 2016). According to Oxford Bibliographies (2020), and incorporated, process-arranged, verifiable perspective on natural, geomorphic, hydrological, and biogeochemical frameworks is required, and the investigation of environmental legacies related to the thought of environment and affectability on a landscape may uncover significant ramifications of the diligence of effects that may impact long haul strategies for overseeing worldwide change.
The geopolitical legacy of many countries has affected the current climate and environmental policies within them. According to Husted and de Sousa-Filho (2017), the geopolitical aspect of the territory of a country affects the availability of resources and energy production, which consequently affects the environmental efforts of the country. This is applicable in the case of various countries which lack energy and fuels and majorly export them from other countries (Rosenow, Kern, and Rogge, 2017). Whereas Newell (2019) has highlighted the green politics of the late 20th century as the biggest environmental legacy of past geopolitics. The legacy of green politics has proven well for sustainability purposes within industrialized countries such as Germany and Europe. The urban green space development within Berlin is also a part of many eco-friendly projects which are being considered sustainable in the country.
The impact of the activities of people on the environment is viewed as a characteristic of human life in geopolitical ideas and practice (Flint, 2016). Researchers such as (Le Billon, 2017; Harper and Snowden, 2017; Dalby, 2018) in their study discussed the possibility of impacting the environment of the world due to the supposed geopolitical issues. Geological highlights, qualities, and divisions in this sense were viewed as timeless, and consequently resistant to human modification in the past (Bjornerud, 2020). Geology was, in this manner, diminished to the job of essentially giving a regional platform on which the connections of states were formed (Greene, 2017). According to Power (2019) as a wide arrangement of compositions that originally got published in the mid1990s, basic geopolitics went under the boundaries of the order of geography. The initial research immediately multiplied into a broad exhibit of productions that assisted with forming the scholarly limits and directions of the new phenomenon of basic environmental effects of geopolitics. According to the work of Okereke (2018), the key issue for basic geopolitics is to uncover its different effects of it on the environment and the dangers that the environment faces due to the geopolitical tug of war. When the effects of the geopolitics on the environment are examined, the epistemological pathways are open up to decipher understandings about how geopolitics present dangers to society and how geopolitical assets enlighten society and account for the drive of the interaction of humans (Ide, 2016).
According to the UNHCR report, millions of individuals have been displaced by geopolitical events such as wars such as in Syria, which have destroyed the entire region and its environment (O’Reilly, 2019). The geopolitical instability is presently dominating the shaping process of the current world. Environment from the beginning of time has been a significant factor behind the process of molding the people and social practices however today it has become the most significant due to the non-eco-friendly processes carried out by the general public. The test at that point lies in making sense of the harmony between the geographical and environmental aspects. Geopolitics-on-Environment according to Dalby (2020) expects to give a one-stop specialty stage by conveying different talks and ideal models to tackle the heap ecological difficulties in the current situation and as well as in the past. According to Steffen, Crutzen, and McNeill (2016), due to the rapidly spreading awareness about environmental issues, great emphasis is being put upon the limits of human activities as the factors such as the population growth and industrialization has caused the ozone depletion and the other environmental issues. Blue and Tadaki (2020) agreed and stated that Geopolitics is the key to limiting human activities which are disturbing the ecological balances and harming the environment. Bryant, Straker, and Wrigley (2019) stated that the geopolitical approaches of the government should contain concern for the environment which can be helpful in its rebuilding.
The earliest concept of the environment within Berlin can be seen within the European wave of romanticism and its interpretation by the Germans. Wimborne (2012) has highlighted that romanticism in Germany taught a subject’s level of consciousness of the value of the natural world. This view of nature was the first of its kind registered within German history, in which people were encouraged to become aware of nature. Contrarily, Stone (2014) has specified that the school of thought of romanticism was more concerned with a person’s initial alienation from the natural world and subsequent reconciliation. Although this viewpoint takes into account nature, it only deals with human’s relationship with nature, rather than the protection or sustenance of nature.
However, this point of view of nature as given by the movement of romanticism did not last very long. In the early 20th century, romanticism declined and a general lack of priority was seen among Germans for environmental protection. According to the study by Keynes (2017), the fascist ideology that led to massive destruction in the country, made economic reconstruction and industrialization a top priority, making environmental protection of least importance for most Germans or people of Berlin. A turning point for Germany’s environmental policy can be seen after 1969, with the form of the coalition government of SPD and FDP (Rootes, 2014). The study further explains that the strategies of an Environmental Program formed by this government are based on three principles, precaution, causation, and corporation. These three principles are seen as the basis of environmental policy within Berlin even today.
Furthermore, in the 1980s, the civil society in Berlin became more vocal about environmental protection, with movements like ‘Waldsterben’ for forests and ‘Mutter Gegen Atomkraft’, which means mothers against nuclear power (Kirchhof and McConville, 2015). These gave rise to a cultural shift within the country, as more people became expressive of their opinions on problems of environmental sustainability. Lastly, at the end of the 20th century, the city of Berlin was planned and strategized as a safe and eco-friendly urban space, with the help of stringent environmental laws and guidelines (Bendt, Barthel, and Colding, 2013).
With the advent of the 21st century, the biggest changes to environmental laws were brought about by the Grand Coalition headed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Mushaben, 2016). Under this coalition, environmental laws were amended and a final product was presented in 2005, which prioritized nature. Juerges and Newig (2015) add that in the recent environmental laws, Germany as a member state of the EU is majorly influenced by EU environmental codes. These include aspects of nuclear waste, waste reduction, fossil fuel reduction, air quality, and water quality. The European Union has assisted and strategized, in terms of environmental laws in collaboration with German cities like Hamburg and Berlin. An example of this is the Green and Blue infrastructure currently employed by Berlin for biodiversity conservation, which is in line with the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 (European Commission, 2019). The official report further specifies the funding of these practices also, as the EU is responsible for a major chunk of financial resources for biodiversity conservation. In terms of Berlin’s internal policy framework, Federal Nature Conservation Act, Marine Strategy Framework, and waste reduction are only a few of the legislative guidelines (European Commission, 2019). Each law has been framed in different years, under different ministries, but all are encompassed under a single Environmental Law of Germany.
However, in the ratings of environmentally friendly cities within Europe, Berlin scored 16 coming behind most big cities like Paris, London, Vienna, etc. (Lopez, Santamarina, and Nowakowski, 2020). This is a low score for a city like Berlin, with various sustainable and reduction guidelines in place for each sector and at each stage. DW (2020) has attributed this low score to Berlin’s major issue of air quality, which is worse than in most urban city centers. The study further specifies that the Air Quality Index in Berlin has failed so miserably that it is in contradiction to EU laws and can even prove fatal for citizens of Berlin. On the other hand, Thierfelder and Kabisch (2016) believe that the sustainable laws enacted within the city of Berlin are more focused on visually pleasing projects, like open parks, urban spaces, etc. while key issues of air and water quality are usually overlooked. However, much has been done in terms of attaining sustainability in berlin, with goals of achieving net-zero carbon emissions within the city (Lopez, Santamarina, and Nowakowski, 2020). Even with such optimistic goals, Berlin still has a long way to go before becoming completely sustainable.
Urban green spaces are profoundly important for the well-being and prosperity of the urban occupants (Rahman and Zhang, 2018). Various studies such as the study of (Eisenman, 2016; Haas, 2016; Baldwin and King, 2018) discuss the positive attributes of urban green spaces that are beneficent for the urban populace, for example, by helping the urban atmosphere through temperature decreases or air filtration. Furthermore, Soga et al. (2016) demonstrated a quantifiable, positive psychological impact on urban inhabitants who have contact with nature, especially with elevated levels of biodiversity. According to McQuire (2017), the piece of the urban space which have a specific sum and quality and which are available in close to a private condition have demonstrated to be inconceivably useful for older individuals. However, Wüstemann, Kalisch, and Kolbe (2017) argued and stated that developing urban green spaces doesn’t benefit all of the urban population and is of no use to the majority of the urban population.
The city of Berlin in Germany is one case of a city with population growth in the world, the other cases also include Tokyo, Delhi, and Shanghai (Frantzeskaki and Kabisch, 2016). According to Feng and Tan (2017), the biggest city in the nation, Berlin is today home to 3.5 million occupants, the increment in population in the most recent decade has also come with an expansion in the size of neighborhoods and a decrease in green spaces. Concerning urban green spaces, the city contains open green spaces and forest regions which cover over 30% of the city territory (Aronson et al., 2017). Pietrzyk-Kaszyńska, Czepkiewicz, and Kronenberg (2017) stated that these spaces incorporate parks, private yards, distributions, burial grounds, recreational regions, sports grounds, and street greenery. The biggest urban green space in Berlin is Tempelhof the previous city air terminal which is one example where changing the use of the area has made a huge green space in the city (Berlin.de, 2020). According to Bernt, Grell, and Holm (2013), albeit being unique in Berlin, Tempelhof represents the experience of numerous old industrialized urban areas where downtown vehicle zones or huge waterfronts have been changed over to other land engagements. There is also a need to spread this practice to other parts of Germany with a smaller number of green spaces (Grunewald et al., 2017). Keeping the demographic change of Germany in mind there is a need of focusing on the elderly individuals and their accessibility to green spaces when developing such spaces in urban areas. According to Kabisch and Haase (2014), the elder population in Berlin mostly benefited from the high quality and good accessible urban green spaces of significant size.
The geopolitical legacy of Germany has affected the current climate and environmental policies within Germany and Berlin. According to O'Sullivan, Overland, and Sandalow (2017), the geopolitical aspect of the territory of a country affects the availability of resources and energy production, which consequently affects the environmental efforts of the country. This is applicable in the case of Berlin in Germany as well, as energy and fossil fuel are majorly exported from other countries (Pegels and Lütkenhorst, 2014). This incorporates the variable of geopolitics with the environmental sustainability efforts done by Germany.
In terms of the environmental legacy of geopolitics, the biggest source of influence for Germany has been the Nazis. Pluda (2019) has discussed that Nazis showed a positive attitude toward conservation practices, specifically in the case of animal testing and abuse. According to the study, major reforms and initiations were made under Nazi rule to bring sustainability to Berlin and other cities throughout Germany. On the other hand, Bradley and Hedrén (2014) have highlighted the green politics of the late 20th century as the biggest environmental legacy of past geopolitics. Berlin is considered the place of origin for green politics within Germany which led to the rise of Alliance 90 or the Green Party of Germany still active today. Rosol (2012) believes that the legacy of green politics has proven well for sustainability drives within Germany and even Europe, as most of Western Europe has seen the initiation of sustainable policy shifts from green party members. This includes the urban green space activities within Berlin that are regarded as eco-friendly projects.
Berlin is under geopolitical pressure due to issues, the vitality utilization and broad measure of populace development, improving access to vitality brings various advantages that are fundamental for humans and along these lines assists with making the conditions important for geopolitical security (Klinke, 2018). Poverty according to Dittmer and Bos (2019) poverty is an improvement concern as it diminishes the opportunities and satisfaction towards life for people and systems. Even more extensively, it is a danger multiplier because it causes or fuels a wide scope of issues, including poverty, social distress, displacement of people, and the fragility of the environment. Therefore, according to Cherp et al. (2017), there is an immense need of regulating the use of energy in berlin to reduce its effect on the environment the reduction of energy insecurity.
Berlin has also been under pressure due to its rapidly changing geopolitics, which has affected its environment drastically (O'Sullivan, Overland, and Sandalow, 2017). Berlin scored low in the ratings of environmentally friendly cities due to its air quality which is immensely poor due to the number of green spaces reduced for the settlement of the urban population (Arcadis, 2020). The frequent use of energy which is polluting the air in Berlin has made the air quality index of the city to be drastically low and has to be improved with biodegradable and renewable energy. This can also intensify the minimization of the energy insecurity in Berlin. The geopolitics of Berlin can be further aligned for the improvement of the city by increasing the number of projects for the development of urban green spaces and improving the laws overseeing the rights of individuals regarding the visitation of such places.
Like any other country in the world, Germany has had its contribution to climate change. It contributed to harming the environment as well as taking certain actions to contain its negative role in global warming. Berlin, being the capital of Germany, is the representative of Germany in respect to containing the emission of harmful greenhouse gasses. Germany has made certain efforts to make Berlin’s environment healthier. However, thus far, the efforts have not been sufficient when catering to the issue as the capital still faces environmental issues. Concerning the past legacy of Germany, the Nazis made significant efforts in benefiting the environment. However, after the defeat of Germany in World War 2 and the introduction of the notion of global warming, Germany is still behind other European countries when catering to the environmental issue. Berlin still has a low ranking when compared to other big urban cities of Europe when considered to be an environmentally friendly city. To tackle this issue, the city has developed an environmental zone where the emission of CO2 is considerably lower due to certain policies. Only environment-friendly automobiles are allowed to enter this zone and require a green sticker to pass through. Berlin’s environmental zone is a positive move, however, the city still has a long road ahead when solving the environmental problems.
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