The Law Of Unintended Consequences Bites Germany's Environmental Movement

Call it yet another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Germany's push to become “greener than everyone else” is now showing some of the major downsides of the quasi-religious environmental movement.

We buy organic food, put E10 in our gas tanks and switch to green electricity. Our roofs are covered in solar panels and our walls plastered with insulation. This makes us feel good about ourselves. The only question is: What exactly does the environment get out of all this?

The answer is not much, really. One downside to a lot of the environmental measures being taken is that things stink more than they used to, literally.

Showerhead technology has undergone rapid development in recent years. Less water, more air, says the European Union's environmental design guideline. Gone are the days when it was enough for a showerhead to simply distribute water. Today an aerosol is generated through a complicated process in the interior of the showerhead. The moisture content in the resulting air-water mixture is so low and the air content so high that taking a shower feels more like getting blow-dried.

..."Think about how you can save water! Taking a shower is better for the environment than taking a bath. Turn off the water when you're soaping yourself. Never let the water run when you're not using it. And maybe you can spend less time in the shower, too."

This is all very well and good, but there's only one problem: It stinks. Our street is filled with the stench of decay. It's especially bad in the summer, when half of Berlin is under a cloud of gas.


Our consumption has declined so much that there is not enough water going through the pipes to wash away fecal matter, urine and food waste, causing blockages. The inert brown sludge sloshes back and forth in the pipes, which are now much too big, releasing its full aroma.

...But toxic heavy metals like copper, nickel and lead are also accumulating in the sewage system. Sulfuric acid is corroding the pipes, causing steel to rust and concrete to crumble. It's a problem that no amount of deodorant can solve.

The waterworks must now periodically flush their pipes and conduits. The water we save with our low-flow toilets is simply being pumped directly through hoses into the sewage system below. On some days, an additional half a million cubic meters of tap water is run through the Berlin drainage system to ensure what officials call the "necessary flow rate."

Save water on one end, but blast huge amounts of water through the sewer systems to flush out what used to flow easily before the days low flush toilets and low-flow shower heads on the other end? I'll bet the Greenies didn't see that coming. Net savings? Probably somewhere on the negative side of the balance sheet, particularly if one takes into account the increased maintenance and replacement costs of the infrastructure. What makes this even more ironic is that Germany isn't suffering from water shortages by any means, yet they're acting as if the country is located in an arid climate.

As the author of the article states, much of Germany's environmental regulations and requirements are more of the “this makes me feel good about my contribution to saving the environment” type than any real efforts to “save” the environment. In other words, it's all feel-good legislation with a net-negative outcome.

The Spiegel article goes on to list a litany of failed environmental issues that are costing the German economy billions of Euros while giving little in return, including energy efficiency requirements that cause more problems than they solve, and intensive recycling efforts that end up with a lot of the materials saved from the landfill being “thermally recycled” - burned to generate electricity – which has its own environmental issues.

As much as we can point to Germany's problems with going green, we can't assume we won't go to the extremes the Germans have. All we have to do is look at California to see how many of their environmental regulations have done far more harm than good. While there are differences between Germany and California, one of the biggest being large parts of California being arid, many of the same side effects are being felt there as well. We can't assume that many of the same actions taken in California won't make it to the rest of the states, particularly if Obama's rogue EPA gets its way.

(H/T Small Dead Animals)