Seeds of Change - Heiner Benking's Blog - 24 years - GLOBAL CHANGE - Challenges to Science and Politics    
 24 years - GLOBAL CHANGE - Challenges to Science and Politics
picture picture picture picture picture 30 May 2014 @ 13:32, by Heiner Benking

I have a very special anniversary today. Exactly 24 years ago was in the German Chancellery the opening of the exhibition "GLOBAL CHANGE - Challenges for Science and Politics. Opening Press Release German - English See a documentation, and an update in English: and some pictures.
Today or maybe for the 25th anniversary next year I would love to see an update of this in my view milestone project in the field of Environmental -Communication, -Management, -Research, -Education. It was the history and objective of such event series to the Chancellery to reach the broader public, to connect industry, media,... not just science and politics. This is why I would like to extend the title for an updated exhibition: GLOBAL CHANGE - Challenges to Science and Politics, the Public, Arts, Media, Industry ... in times of old and new, fast and slow, episodic and epochal GLocal Changes.

On this very special day today, I feel we need to revisit some learnings over the years, about the processes and outcomes, impacts and failures, at least as I experienced it, being now the "Curator" and agent of this exhibition for some years and originally only a contributing partner - as a consultant in a row of many major research institutions in Germany and last not least the German Administration, coordinated by Manfred Lange, National Global Change Secretariat, Eberhard Gockel, AGF, and in partnership with the GLOBAL CHANGE Research Community in many countries, the US Embassy, to only name a few of the contributors.
You understand, this was a milestone ...

in my career, and changed the focus of my life, nearly all, a rule-set reset, it provided a lot of breakthroughs, learnings and desperation. After some years the whole exhibition was to be destroyed, so I saved it and have shown it meanwhile only a few times, for example at the Rio 10 efforts ***** description or at the anniversary of 20 years Berlin Environmental Administrations in Berlin. ****** See the note below !

I am sticking my neck out as I feel a lot of learnings were not taken in, maybe it was too early, too complex, too challenging, but maybe it has to do with the people and interests involved. As you might recall "contrarians" or "deniers" and their interests were already those days on the table, our national research budget was dominated by Nuclear Research, and expectations, assumptions, and objectives were quite diverse, as you can imagine.

The Exhibition was very successful for 8 years. Only the section about "research projects" had to be updated again and again... The central corpus was not cast in stone, but remained somehow without any changes, except maybe the President of Germany on the bicycle changed, and so had the picture....

When it was discontinued I asked to keep it and display it further. Unfortunately a few posters / elements / eponats ere not available for me, but if you see the pictures you understand. More interesting is the "faring" of certain posters and what happened in between to the 2-3 breakthroughs of this exhibition. How they were received and continued its way as milestones I am thinking here about the search for a model for sustainable housing, A zero energy house, we were building for this exhibition with support of Isomax, Luxemburg (see below but also my very dear special nuggets, the poster SYSTEM EARTH and the Rubik’s Cube of Ecology, which made it even with the term "GLocal" into the WIKIPEDIA. "GLocal" into the WIKIPEDIA. - as an aside: In 1991 we helped establish a fair, the Geotechnica. I had the honour to manage the booth of the ALFRED WEGENER Exhibion with a poster exhibition presenting the Foundation, its Past, Status, Members, Future "Challenges" and an extra hall presenting the "Research and Co-ordination efforts of International Organisations". The title was LOCAL AND GLOBAL CHANGE. I had discussions over weeks as I proposed our new term GLocal. But no chance ! The argument GLOBAL CHANGE is good enough ! as it includes for some everything along and across scales and cultures. But I had with LOCAL and GLOBAL CHANGE at least a little success !

Read this update April-May 2010: we showed selected parts of the GLOBAL CHANGE exhibition in BERLIN Steglitz Zehlendorf on April 28 with 2 new introduction posters and will celebrate again under the title 1990 - 2010 - 2010 20 years GLOBAL CHANGE exhibition pls. see the 2 posters introducing the GLOBAL CHANGE April 28th 2010 in Berlin EXHIBITION and the full documentation of the GLOBAL CHANGE exhibition now made available online: (50 slides) we will create an guided tour through the exhibition a.s.a.p.

We are celebrating now at the DMY, (see below) so later more. I really feel excited as these young social and cultural designers are really eager and able to get where we wanted to go 20 years ago. So the youth has priority, and maybe I need to write a book about this...

In 2004 the general outline was already written. We prepared a section in 2004 about DIALOG and LEARNING for a well established Conference in Vienna. See my co-authors and the publications in the internet 2007, and the papers from 2004: description

Come back later ...

In a nutshell: WHAT ARE THE KEY ELEMENT - NEWs as I see it after 24 years
Central elements I feel we should remember and revisit were:

1. The poster: SYSTEM EARTH, presenting a scaffolding or grid to present disciplines/sectors in a matrix (see posters)

2. The exponat: The Rubik'sCube of Ecology = EcoCube description see a chapter by Anthony Judge description(copy on description the "systems" side of this design is covered in this Encyclopedia and I recommend this article in HAGIA CHORA: Mit anderen Augen sehen - Ein Welthaus verbindet Wirklichkeiten - PDF description - translation in progress: To See with Other Eyes - The “World House” links realities [pdf] English draft translation here the intro/abstract:
Our three-dimensional imagination capacity cannot only recognise living spaces in full. Heiner Benking also sees thinking as part of living space, which needs healing and to be down-to-earth. With the help of three-dimensional models he shows ways to under-standable pragmatism and ethics and makes the links in our “World House” recognisable.
With respect to Design (as I am now on the DMY see also this article from the Ulm School/Foundation of Designcongress MAN- MASS- MEDIA - Interaction and Manipulation:
See the abstract by the "editors" in English: At the moment, people's capacity to think three-dimensionally is underdeveloped. That is why studies examine the opportunity of three-dimensional intelligence and orientation. The 'panorama of knowledge' is a model designed to facilitate visual access as well as the interlacing of fields of knowledge. It provides a structure for navigation processes and at the same time, is a dynamic, modular and configurable system for a comprehensive architecture of knowledge.
These years in Ulm 1990 - 1998 were relevant for the further development of my cube-panorama design, but also a great time, travelling the world an heading "creative pool" in academic environments. I was in an institute FAW, rooted on the Eselsberg at the University, but designerly or in respect to arts, human touch, human interactions at the Kuhberg around the Youth comming from Berlin, studying Design (Nick Roericht - the "left over" of the early days of GESTALTUNG - Design after the war. See Nick Roericht: description .de:
Maybe revisit now the paper from 10 years !! ago: Designerly Tools for Learning which I did with Silvia Austerlic. See also her "worldmaking skills: [link] and the NRC Grand Challenges [link], where we had hoped for years to have enough "reputation" to get a project with a broadeer scope, beyond the "tunnel vision" projects which typically get funded. Here again our paper at INST TUAC 2004: [link] See also the other contributions in our session: 8.3 Dialog und Lernen: Neues & altes, pragmatisches & gemeinsames kommunizieren, lernen, entscheiden und handeln.

3. The exponat: "Zero Energy or "Low Energy or Passive House" looking into smart, energy efficient approaches in the field of housing, construction, town-planning we have been building with Edmond Krecké, ISORAST. Krecké was later included in the partners and contributors list. Looking into energy efficiency and energetic restaurations is a very important aspect and large market and aspect of climate change. And so was the discussion about the "right" approach and best technologies very "competitive" - this begins with the right "wording" / terminologies and took 2 decades to get started on a broader front with energy efficient buildings and restaurations. Lots of work and investments are needed in Germany and very much so in other countries of the world, and if you consider that 20 years to change on little our mindsets about our build infrastructures, than you know how much still needs be done about recycling, different building materials and "smart and ecological designs". To be clear the model of a "Passive House" was not the ultimate and optimal solution of sustainable building and renewal. It was a milestone to bring to public the issue of sustainable buildings and intelligent approaches to infrastructures in houses but also on the regional level, think about grey and blue water, sanitary and for example sewer systems, but also building materials, concrete, sand, energy.
The decision to include last minute a model of an advanced, integrated building design was received very controversially, but such central issues around living sustainably and the scales, proportions and consequences involved had to be brought to public attention. Discussions about alternative paths were important to raise public attention and awareness.

There is much to be told about many other aspects of this exhibition - come back ....

GRAVEL PIT from English update:

Challenges to Science and Politics
Bonn, May 1990 - A short summary by Heiner Benking

for pictures about this exhibition please follow the links

In 1988-1989, after the Global Change Conference in Moscow, initiatives were started world-wide to study the challenges to Science and Politics under the premise that their is something like Global Environmental. Each country was invited to present their view on the matter and present the status of what we know and what can be done in a synoptic exhibition which needs to address the public, science, industry, and politic at the same time.
The author of this summary was invited, beside the research centeres who can contribute, like National Research, Frauenhofer Institute, Max Planck Institutes, National Global Change Secretariats,... to contribute to such an overarching topic. See full list of partners can be found here. *******

Not only researchers or administrators with their in-depth knowledge, but also independent writers and synthesisers were finally involved, like a journalist in charge of PR and media of the German research centers (AGF), Eberhard Gockel, and a researcher from a center for arctic research (AWI) Dr. Manfred Lange who was later appointed head of the GLOBAL CHANGE secretariat (1992). By the way, inviting science writers and jounalists to do such jobs is the typical thing to do, when you want to make an exhibition for the public. You have to hire the "macroscopic" view, the step back from the issue, the ability to see and visualize relations, which you typically can not "afford" or maintain when you are personally involved and "in charge for certain details in your "field".

So what we are talking here about was a "one-time ever" event. According to my knowledge, no other country tried to put all the isues together to see the CHALLENGES synoptically already in the early 90ies. The problem is one of language and concepts, do be right and precise, and of context at the same time in order to be understood by children, scientists, politicians,... anybody. The other is neutrality, coherence and completeness, because everybody sees his work as of paramount importance and wants to present it, first to show is contribution, second to make sure funding continues or new programmes can find support out of the public or political will generated from the insight into "what is going on".

This paper is a report not only to make this exhibition more public, as it was somehow lost in the world-wide political agenday, the Berlin Wall disapeared, and the interest was suddenly in the new directly at hand "bonazas" of the East, not into long term perspectives of economy and ecology with dubious qualities, trends, scales...

The Exhibition made some records, it toured Germany for eight years and was so well received that is a backlog for another 3 years of towns or universities interested to host the exhibition. Due to this demand and the rapid change of research and insight it was necessary to update the temporal presentation of research projects and, like an eternal law, the number of posters presenting "unique" contributions of certain research institutes, grew gradually. The problem: research projects come and go but the central issues do not get the needed publicity when the interest is primarily on the most recent research initiative.

But the public showed much interest in the overall theme and as there was never a catalogue prepared, people poored in to see the exhibition. After the organizing and contracted institution, the AGF changed his name, becoming the Helmholz Society it became necessary to change the central posters with the names and do a general overhaul in1997-8 as some posters where worn out after so much travel, and also some changes had to be made as our insight into what is going on changed gradually, maybe marginally some might say. But beside that, there were short term changes to be considered. For example our president (Richard von Weizsaecker, on a bicycle to show life stile changes) had to leave his post and there is even an incoming president to be considered in 1999, as is predecessor might very well not be in place next year.

Fragmented interests, short sightedness and vested interests
This paper is written as the whole exhibition is endangered, even though as up to date than never before during the last 8 years, the experts have met and found that certain details, typically in their specific range of expertise need and update and even more naturally a new research programme! This is unacceptable to the author as his invited contribution was about to be implemented in the general (lasting) section and had been worked on for 8 years to present a new step in communicating complexity.

As a background inforamtion: During the last 11 years the number of posters presenting research efforts of certain institutions increased gradually and present the mayor part of the exhibition. Updating of such technology survey posters were costing a lot of money as their is a high fluctuation, but to no surprise thecentral posters, the content and context, how things are connected and what needs to be done remained unchanged or only with minimal changes.

We can summarise: Institution in charge of research and in search for money from politics, are in the wrong place as curators of exhibitions which have a theme which covers societal, political, cultural, philosophical dimensions.
It was possible to create the exhibition as independent thinkers and writers in that institution had the power to invite contributors and keep interests of certain institution in check. But when such persons retire, we are confronted with a very serious alternative, 1. the research centes consider Challenges to Science, Politics, even Culture and Humanities their turf and misuse the broad educational mission of the exhibition for their acquisition of research monies. 2. The administrator now in charge is not at all interested in the broader topic, even cherishes a "Contrarian View" and creates all to have experts decide that details are "OUT OF DATE". In this case such posters should have been considered: "Akquisition of funds from politics" and been disposed like brochures anyway after a couple of months or have to pay to be part of an exhibition which was invited by politics to show alternatives for society and cultures.

What can we learn from that, maybe also in view of the forthcomming Rio 10 preparations:

Money should be made available to pay for simple exhibitions explaining SYSTEM EARTH and the position and role of individuals and societies.
Institutions like UNESCO or Wuppertal Institute should be or should have been involved to secure that not one technological perspective is presented, but instead a wider or global picture involving societal and cultural issues, just as the HUMAN DIMENSION OF GLOBAL CHANGE was designed later, but is suffering like other institution in this "field" namely UNESCO from severe lack of financial power.
Other media should have been employed. It is not acceptable that not even a catalogue was produced for wider awareness of these relevant public issues, but instead posters were produced and exchanged on a frequent bases which can only present very limited activities and topics, issues which somehow do not match the broader theme of the exhibition. This also includes having the texts available on a CD-ROM and on the Internet ! and translated to other languages as many other countries have shown interest in the past. (the author has translated all posters in 1990 to have an English version, but there were no funds and interests for such a broader more public education theme. Maybe today an initiative again of the Chancellery or the BMBF (Ministry for Education and Research) is indicated.
The author has invested a lot of time and money for his contributions and was never paid at all. The exponats (exhibition pieces) he produced or travels and preparations he had to organise and produce exponats were not paid either. As an individual he sees it as an honour and priviledge to contribute to such relevant themes, but when urgent improvements are now not possible as the project leader retires and his predecessors want to discontinue the efforts - he sees it as his duty to speak up, make sure relevant contributions can find their place in future discussions, and secure that broad issues and themes are not utilised just for technology and research PR, or as the other option, disposed, as the findings and content of the exhibition were not designed to serve the view and interests and perspectives of one field or group only, but to present a global picture, a global view on the challenges Humanity is facing. A good and recent synopsis of what is at stake can be found in the 2001 roundtable "Is Humanity destined to Self-Destruct?" by Lynton Caldwell with invited comments from people who try to look beyond their field.


The author was asked many times "how come" how did you got involved and who paid you for the job. Why have you been mentioned as an individual. Here the answers:

I had also worked with international publishers like Kluwer's GeoJournal on themes like GLOBAL CHANGE 1988 (Moskow) ******** and integrated research and management, was part of the steering bodies of the German Society of Informatics (GI) on Environmental Applications (Informatik im Umweltschutz)
was a consultant to UNEP- HEM, an office to harmonise information about the Environment. As compatible and comparable data about the environment is a prerequisite to GLOBAL CHANGE research and considering access issues in a multitude of repositories, we already had contact to the German Chancellery, and
most of the mayor European research centers had been my clients in the mid and late 80ies when I was in the field of scientific data visualisation in applications and market development/marketing functions, so I knew the players and the applications add some article HERALD TRIBUNE TIMES and the UNIRAS product philosophy papers.******
had started some research initiatives on integrated environmental research and management projects like forest die-back research, infrastructure and evacuation planning in Alpine Regions (TOPOGRAMM) with ZEISS, INTERGRAPH and some ministries in Austria, Switzerland and Germany,
knew the co-ordinator of the exhibition Eberhard Gockel as a college form science writer organisations like TELI ******** and the respective fairs and conferences, and the scientific director Dr. Manfred Lange from his research work (see 3)
AND was willing to contribute for this important exhibition on short notice and without asking first about the monies and budgeds involved. Defiibuitely the exhibition is also on alternative energy and housing and help identify interesting approaches and technologies which lead "besidess" to my contributions. Such contributions included not only contacts, facts and figures, or designing and producing or identifying/designing exhibition pieces like the Black-Box or "low-energy" models for private houses (see model of the ISORAST house model as part of the exhibition) ******.
AND was looking for funds by sponsors, not asking to be paid but looking into the challenge of trying to find answers to such an "gargantuan" question and challenge.

In the year 2000 the author became "curator" of the exhibition and looks into bringing forward the results of the exhibition to a wider international public, on the web and in an updated version, so time and funds can be found.....

I will add here some texts to check broader issues and concerns:

See also this more general Session on Education and Dialog




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