N ot long ago, when the Fridays for Future-movement gained momentum, public discourse turned for a short time to the question of whether renouncing consumption or state bans could be effective means to meet the challenges of climate change. Those who voted in favour of such measures had to quickly recognise the extraordinary resistance that words such as “renunciation” or “ban” were causing in wide circles of their contemporaries.
Especially orthodox supporters of the doctrine of economic liberalism stood out in this debate with pithy words. Christian Lindner, for example, head of the German Free Democrats (FDP), said: “I do not want to renounce, and I do not want others to have to renounce either”. Today, in times of pandemic and shutdown, this quote sounds like the reaction of a stubborn twelve-year-old who has not understood what time it is. It doesn’t only sound like it, but it actually is.
That is precisely the lesson that we must now learn: in times of crisis, renunciation is an option. And the sooner you start, the better.
As far as Corona is concerned, we in Europe probably waited three or four weeks too long, should have closed borders and prevented skiing holidays much earlier. The follow-up costs would have been much lower than anything that came later.
As for climate change, we probably waited three or four decades too long. Nobody wants to imagine the price we will have to pay one day. Today, we have to ask ourselves: Do we want to stay nailed down and desperately shout “I don’t want to give up!” – “I want freedom of movement”? No, because we can’t afford that anymore. We have to realize that the time is past when we could pretend with impunity that our own will was the measure of all things – and not the factual existence of this world, which demands responsible action from us and not a stubborn defiance.
But Corona not only teaches that renunciation is sometimes inevitable. It teaches above all that it is possible to make renunciation. Yes, that it is much easier than we all thought. Certainly, even now there are still a few stubborn people who feel sorry for themselves because of forced renunciation. But the majority of people seem to realize that renunciation does not kill them – that renunciation can rather enrich them: with the most precious of all treasures, with time.