Germany’s Environmental Transformation: From Pollution Haven to Environmental Leader
Schreurs, Miranda – 2009
How and why did Germany become a global environmental leader? Germany was not always an environmental trend setter. As in other European nations, after World War II both East and West Germany’s main goals were reconstruction and promoting economic development. Very little attention was given to environmental protection in the quest to rebuild. This was particularly true in industrial parts of East Germany where the wide-spread burning of coal and the uncontrolled release of toxic chemicals into waters and soil seriously scarred the land and adversely affected human health. In 1990 Der Spiegel declared the city of Bitterfeld, center of East Germany’s chemical industry, to be the dirtiest place in Europe. As Western Europe’s largest economy and one that had coal as its primary energy source, West Germany too suffered from severe pollution and degradation of natural areas. In a famous speech made in the early 1960s, the future German Chancellor, Willy Brandt, bemoaned the country’s poor air quality and called for a return of blue skies to the Ruhr, West Germany’s most heavily industrialized and a major coal producing region.