column Esther Schweins


We protect the things we love

Esther Schweins about her life with climate change and the tightrope walk between defeatism and a basic sense of trust.

About Mrs Schweins
Esther Schweins

Esther Schweins is an actress and television presenter. Most recently, she guided viewers through Mehr wissen – besser leben, a series about sustainability on German TV channel NDR.

“We’ll have to wait in sea,” says one glacier to another. Once they’ve been softened up, the two glaciers will change their state of matter. Yet at the same time, they’ll remain what they’ve always been: water. A substance we either have in too great or too small an abundance in some places today. And one we’ll either have too much or too little of in many places in the future. It makes no difference to water whether it exists as ice, sea, a puddle or a cloud of vapour, whether it sloshes around in a bottle of San Pellegrino or rages through the ocean as a tidal wave.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” they used to murmur 35 years ago in the corridors of power, the world of business and the table talk at the local pub, as researchers demanded emergency action to limit greenhouse gases and avert the threat of climate change. I was made aware of the news at a seminar held in our small-town school hall. “Hey,” we thought, “if these experts have got us feeling scared here in provincial Germany, then surely our governments know about it and will act accordingly.” But it didn’t come to pass. Even by that point, we’d already gone into freefall and crashed down hard. It’s only now that the impact is being discussed.

Sometimes I can’t believe my ears when I’m told “it’s time to act.” No, friends, it was time to act! Time has not run out on us; we have let it pass in vain. At times, I think that we’ll barely be able to keep global warming below the two-degree mark, the tipping point established by scientists. That would require our emissions to be reduced to zero within the next 30 years. The measures that would have to be taken on a global scale would be so numerous, the necessary changes so revolutionary, the certainties to be cast aside so entrenched, the hardships to be imposed on everyone so unpleasant that we’re already stuck talking in the language of mere possibility when it comes to containing the rise in temperature. Let’s face it, we’re boiling the ocean on this one. But we can still get the polar bears out easily enough. What a sad case of circular reasoning. Is that really what we’re going for?

Enjoy the text read by the author herself (in German language) (KfW Group/Esther Schweins).

Making this point is disheartening, I’ve been told. “It's disappointing that you, of all people, don’t believe in this.” Just a second – a minute ago I was still an activist! I didn’t even use hairspray in the nightclub bathroom back then, and now I’ve supposedly gained spoilsport status?

Deep in my heart, I’m an idealist and would rather keep fighting for what I think has been lost. Now, with that said, the fun really starts: We’ve got to get on with making some fundamental decisions! We have to want to do what’s right without any great hope for success. Wow, there’s one for you! Nothing we do is meaningless. I firmly believe that. But what we don’t do also means something. Actions, thoughts and feelings going hand in hand – a desire to be good, true, nurturing, protective. Jokes being the exception – they’re allowed to have a sting to them.

Everything that strengthens our communities strengthens us for a future in which the individual will have to stand up and chip in for their neighbour. Against a backdrop of imminent catastrophe, the world needs to unite. One way or another. Will I live to see this? I wouldn’t bet the house on it. I want to pay my way with a positive contribution, and I’m a happier person when I’m not hankering for a return on my investment. Belief is about standing firm in what you hope for – having a sense of conviction in something, even if you’re unable to see it materialise. Ultimately, belief doesn’t come from miracles – miracles come from belief. When all is said and done, I believe in humanity! In the future, people will do good things on a small scale to help realise the larger vision. To even conceive of a future where our destiny is still in our hands, we need one thing: true love for our planet! After all, we protect the things we love.

Published on KfW Stories: 15 September 2020.