Archivo de la categoría: Artículos de opinión


Fashion – David Bowie

Fast Fashion Pollution and Climate Change

‘Fast Fashion’ is a term used to define a highly profitable and exploitative business model that is “based on copying and replicating high end fashion designs”. The clothes are mass-produced, with workers often working in inhumane conditions, and are purposefully designed to be frail with a limited lifespan as designs change quickly and are cheap to produce. They are also consumed at a higher rate and so the expectations for the clothes’ lifespan decrease, leading to multiple ethical and sustainable issues. Fast fashion pollution creates not only long-term and potentially irreversible environmental damage, but exacerbate the effects of climate change. 

Fast fashion is fast in more ways than one. The rise of fast fashion is intertwined with the rise of social media and influencer culture. Consumer demand and tastes have become insatiable and ever-changing, leading to fast fashion companies rushing to reproduce items whenever an influencer posts a photo wearing a new outfit. However, they are not simply reacting to consumer demand but are also creating it. The clothes produced by these companies are purposefully not made to last; a strategy known as planned obsolescence. Due to fast changing trends, producers respond by manufacturing clothes more and more rapidly, which means that designs are not well stress-tested and cheap synthetic fabrics are used to keep costs low. With its reliance on unsustainable plastic fabrics, the industry’s enormous water usage, and the unethical treatment of its workers, the rise of fast fashion has had devastating consequences on the world. 

Fast Fashion and Climate Change 

Fashion and its supply chain is the third largest polluting industry, after food and construction. It emitted 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, releasing 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, more than the shipping and the aviation industry combined. If it continues at the same pace, the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions are predicted to increase by more than 50% by the year 2030.  These emissions come from the processes along the industry’s supply chain, from the raw materials to production and processing to transport and shipping. 

Fast Fashion Pollution

Due to how affordable fast fashion clothing is and how quickly trends come and go, the substantial increase in clothing consumption has led to a substantial increase in textile production. Global per capita production of textile increased from 5.9kg per year to 13kg per year from 1975 to 2018. Global consumption of apparel has risen to an approximate 62 million tonnes per year and is projected to further reach 102 million tonnes by the year 2030. As a result, fast fashion brands are producing twice the amount of clothes today than in the year 2000. This dramatic increase in production has also caused an increase in both pre- and post-production textile waste. Due to the number of cut outs for the clothing, a large number of materials get wasted as they cannot be used any further, with one study predicting that 15% of fabric used in garment manufacturing is wasted. Post-production, 60% of approximately 150 million garments produced globally in 2012 were discarded just a few years after production. Despite such high rates of textile waste, textile recycling remains too low, with 57% of all discarded clothing ending up in landfills, which poses multiple public health and environmental dangers as toxic substances including methane, a greenhouse gas that is at least 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide, are released when landfills are burned. 

Fibre production – which uses multiple pesticides, herbicides, and much more which can leach into the soil and reduce fertility, biodiversity, and cause much more harm to the natural environment – and textile manufacturing – which uses chemicals during spinning, weaving, and other processes – bring about toxic substances are a cause for concern even before the garment even has a chance to be sold. Not only does this fast fashion pollution lead to high environmental negative impacts from the chemicals, but it also creates an unsafe environment and increases risk of health issues for factory workers, cotton farmers, and even the consumers. Furthermore, the synthetic materials that are used are the primary reason for microplastics entering the oceans, usually through the water used in washing machines, accounting for 35% of all microplastics. To lower the price and produce clothing items for cheap, polyester is a popular material choice, which consists of plastic and releases a larger amount of carbon emissions than cotton. Not only is plastic slow to degrade in the ocean, it also creates a toxic substance when it degrades, which is harmful for marine life and marine ecosystems. These microplastics also end up in the human food chain, causing negative health effects. 

The fashion industry also uses large quantities of water; in fact, consuming one tenth of all the water used industrially to clean products and run factories, totalling 79 billion cubic metres in 2015. Currently, 44 trillion litres of water is used annually for irrigation, 95% of which is used for cotton production. It was estimated that 20% of water loss suffered by the Aral Sea was caused due to cotton demand and consumption in the EU. Furthermore, the textiles and fashion industry has caused a 7% decrease in local groundwater and drinking water globally, and especially in water stressed manufacturing countries such as India and China. 

Developing countries bear the burden of these environmental impacts from fast fashion pollution, while most of the consumption is done in the developed countries. Textile production occurs largely in developing countries due to cheap manufacturing and labour costs, and lax environmental regulations as compared to the developed countries. At the end of the cycle, the waste would be shipped back. However, this practice has reduced due to many countries banning the import of waste, including textile waste. 

It is essential for the textile and fashion industry to mitigate its environmental impacts caused by excessive water usage, release of toxins into the environment, and large amounts of waste generated. On an individual level, consumers can help by reducing their consumption of fast fashion, as it is more important for this industry to ultimately completely abandon the fast fashion business model, which, at its core, promotes overproduction and overconsumption, consequently also leading to high amounts of material waste. 


The environmental costs of fast fashion

New season, new styles, buy more, buy cheap, move on, throw away: the pollution, waste, and emissions of fast fashion are fueling the triple planetary crisis.

The annual Black Friday sales on 25 November are a reminder of the need to rethink what is bought, what is thrown away, and what it costs the planet.

Sustainable fashion and circularity in the textiles value chain are possible, yet this century the world’s consumers are buying more clothes and wearing them for less time than ever before, discarding garments as fast as trends shift.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is spearheading an initiative towards a zero waste world. As part of this ambitious outlook, UNEP has partnered with Kenyan spoken word poet Beatrice Kariuki to shed light on high-impact sectors where consumers can make a real difference.

“We need circular industries where old looks are made new,” Kariuki says in the video. “Less packaging, more reuse. Threads that last.”

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation, a UNEP partner, has estimated that a truckload of abandoned textiles is dumped in landfill or incinerated every second. Meanwhile, it is estimated that people are buying 60 per cent more clothes and wearing them for half as long.

Plastic fibres are polluting the oceans, the wastewater, toxic dyes, and the exploitation of underpaid workers. Fast fashion is big business, and while the environmental costs are rising, experts say there is another way: a circular economy for textiles.

At this month’s UN Climate Conference (COP27) in Egypt, UNEP and the non-profit Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) held an event on ‘Circular Systems for a Net Positive Fashion Industry’, which drew industry leaders to discuss routes towards a circular economy for the industry, with less waste, less pollution, more reuse, and more recycling.

Now, UNEP and GFA are spearheading a consultation across the fashion industry to define a path towards becoming net-positive—meaning an industry that gives back more to the world than it takes out. UNEP is also producing a roadmap towards sustainability and circularity in the textile value chain and working on shifting the narrative of the sector, looking at the role of consumption with a guideline to sustainable fashion communication.

The fast fashion business model of quick turnover, high volume, cheap prices is under pressure from consumers who are demanding change. They want resilient garments from a sustainable industry, a goal supported by the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion.

A prominent example of how the garment industry can embrace the principles of a circular economy is the US outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, winner of a UN Champion of the Earth award in 2019.

Patagonia has gone further still, announcing earlier this year that it would transform into a charitable trust with all profits from its US$1.5 billion in annual sales going towards climate change, making the planet its only shareholder. There are many others in the industry also making important changes.

This week, UNEP organized a timely webinar titled, ‘Shifting the Fashion Narrative: Rethinking aspiration in a world of overconsumption,’ available to watch here.

To fight the pervasive impact of pollution on society, UNEP launched #BeatPollution, a strategy for rapid, large-scale and coordinated action against air, land and water pollution. The strategy highlights the impact of pollution on climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and human health. Through science-based messaging, the campaign showcases how transitioning to a pollution-free planet is vital for future generations.


Why Fashion Needs to Be More Sustainable

The pandemic slowed fast fashion to a standstill. Now as the world opens up and we are socializing and going places, we want to dress up again. But after living a confined and simpler life during COVID, this is a good time to take stock of the implications of how we dress. Fashion, and especially fast fashion, has enormous environmental impacts on our planet, as well as social ones.

Since the 2000s, fashion production has doubled and it will likely triple by 2050, according to the American Chemical Society. The production of polyester, used for much cheap fast fashion, as well as athleisure wear, has increased nine-fold in the last 50 years. Because clothing has gotten so cheap, it is easily discarded after being worn only a few times. One survey found that 20 percent of clothing in the US is never worn; in the UK, it is 50 percent. Online shopping, available day and night, has made impulse buying and returning items easier.

According to McKinsey, average consumers buy 60 percent more than they did in 2000, and keep it half as long. And in 2017, it was estimated that 41 percent of young women felt the need to wear something different whenever they left the house. In response, there are companies that send consumers a box of new clothes every month.

Fashion’s environmental impacts

Fashion is responsible for 10 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and 20 percent of global wastewater, and uses more energy than the aviation and shipping sectors combined.

Impacts on water

Global fashion also consumes 93 billion metric tons of clean water each year, about half of what Americans drink annually.

Cotton is an especially thirsty crop. For example, one kilogram of cotton used to produce a pair of jeans can consume 7,500 to 10,000 liters of water—the amount a person would drink over 10 years. Cotton production also requires pesticides and insecticides, which pollute the soil; runoff from fertilized cotton fields carry the excess nutrients to water bodies, causing eutrophication and algal blooms.

The dyeing process for fabrics, which uses toxic chemicals, is responsible for 17 to 20 percent of global industrial water pollution.

Seventy-two toxic chemicals have been found in the water used in textile dyeing.

Contributions to climate change

To feed the fashion industry’s need for wood pulp to make fabrics like rayon, viscose and other fabrics, 70 million tons of trees are cut down each year. That number is expected to double by 2034, speeding deforestation in some of the world’s endangered forests.

The fashion industry produces 1.2 million metric tons of CO2 each year, according to a MacArthur Foundation study. In 2018, it resulted in more greenhouse gas emissions than the carbon produced by France, Germany and the UK all together. Polyester, which is actually plastic made from fossil fuels, is used for about 65 percent of all clothing, and consumes 70 million barrels of oil each year. In addition, the fashion industry uses large amounts of fossil fuel-based plastic for packaging and hangers.


Less than one percent of clothing is recycled to make new clothes. The fibers in clothing are polymers, long chains of chemically linked molecules. Washing and wearing clothing shorten and weaken these polymers, so by the time a garment is discarded, the polymers are too short to turn into a strong new fabric. In addition, most of today’s textile-to-textile recycling technologies cannot separate out dyes, contaminants, or even a combination of fabrics such as polyester and cotton.

As a result, 53 million metric tons of discarded clothing are incinerated or go to landfills each year. In 2017, Burberry burned $37 million worth of unsold bags, clothes and perfume. If sent to a landfill, clothes made from natural fabrics like cotton and linen may degrade in weeks to months, but synthetic fabrics can take up to 200 years to break down. And as they do, they produce methane, a powerful global warming greenhouse gas.

Microplastic pollution

Many people have lived solely in athleisure wear during the pandemic, but the problem with this is that the stretch and breathability in most athleisure comes from the use of synthetic plastic fibers like polyester, nylon, acrylic, spandex and others, which are made of plastic.

When clothes made from synthetics are washed, microplastics from their fibers are shed into the wastewater. Some of it is filtered out at wastewater treatment plants along with human waste and the resulting sludge is used as fertilizer for agriculture. Microplastics then enter the soil and become part of the food chain. The microplastics that elude the treatment plant end up in rivers and oceans, and in the atmosphere when seawater droplets carry them into the air. It’s estimated that 35 percent of the microplastics in the ocean come from the fashion industry. While some brands use “recycled polyester” from PET bottles, which emits 50 to 25 percent fewer emissions than virgin polyester, effective polyester recycling is limited, so after use, these garments still usually end up in the landfill where they can shed microfibers.

Microplastics harm marine life, as well as birds and turtles. They have already been found in our food, water and air—one study found that Americans eat 74,000 microplastic particles each year. And while there is growing concern about this, the risks to human health are still not well understood.

Fashion’s social impacts

Because it must be cheap, fast fashion is dependent on the exploited labor force in developing countries where regulations are lax. Workers are underpaid, overworked, and exposed to dangerous conditions or health hazards; many are underage.

Of the 75 million factory workers around the world, it’s estimated that only two percent earn a living wage. To keep brands from moving to another country or region with lower costs, factories limit wages and are disinclined to spend money to improve working conditions. Moreover, workers often live in areas with waterways polluted by the chemicals from textile dyeing.

How can fashion be more sustainable?

As opposed to our current linear model of fashion production with environmental impacts at every stage, where resources are consumed, turned into a product, then discarded, sustainable fashion minimizes its environmental impact, and even aims to benefit the environment. The goal is a circular fashion industry where waste and pollution are eliminated, and materials are used for as long as possible, then reused for new products to avoid the need to exploit virgin resources.

Many designers, brands, and scientists — including students in Columbia University’s Environmental Science and Policy program— are exploring ways to make fashion more sustainable and circular.

Less waste

Since 80 to 90 percent of the sustainability of a clothing item is determined by decisions made during its design stage, new strategies can do away with waste from the get-go.

To eliminate the 15 percent of a fabric that usually ends up on the cutting room floor in the making of a garment, zero waste pattern cutting is used to arrange pattern pieces on fabric like a Tetris puzzle.

Designer YeohLee is known as a zero waste pioneer, employing geometric concepts in order to use every inch of fabric; she also creates garments with the leftovers of other pieces. Draping and knitting are also methods of designing without waste.

3D virtual sampling can eliminate the need for physical samples of material. A finished garment can sometimes require up to 20 samples. The Fabricant, a digital fashion house, replaces actual garments with digital samples in the design and development stage and claims this can reduce a brand’s carbon footprint by 30 percent.

Some clothing can be designed to be taken apart at the end of its life; designing for disassembly makes it easier for the parts to be recycled or upcycled into another garment. To be multifunctional, other garments are reversible, or designed so that parts can be subtracted or added. London-based brand Petit Pli makes children’s clothing from a single recycled fabric, making it easier to recycle; and the garments incorporate pleats that stretch so that kids can continue to wear them as they grow.

3D printing can be used to work out details digitally before production, minimizing trial and error; and because it can produce custom-fit garments on demand, it reduces waste. In addition, recycled materials such as plastic and metal can be 3D printed.

Sustainable designer Iris Ven Herpen is known for her fabulous 3D printed creations, some using upcycled marine debris; she is also currently working with scientists to develop sustainable textiles.

DyeCoo, a Dutch company, has developed a dyeing technique that uses waste CO2 in place of water and chemicals. The technology pressurizes CO2 so that it becomes supercritical and allows dye to readily dissolve, so it can enter easily into fabrics. Since the process uses no water, it produces no wastewater, and requires no drying time because the dyed fabric comes out dry. Ninety-five percent of the CO2 is recaptured and reused, so the process is a closed-loop system.

Heuritech, a French startup, is using artificial intelligence to analyze product images from Instagram and Weibo and predict trends. Adidas, Lee, Wrangler and other brands have used it to anticipate future demand and plan their production accordingly to reduce waste.

Mobile body scanning can help brands produce garments that fit a variety of body types instead of using standard sizes. 3D technology is also being used for virtual dressing, which will enable consumers to see how a garment looks on them before they purchase it. These innovations could lead to fewer returns of clothing.

Another way to reduce waste is to eliminate inventory. On-demand product fulfillment companies like Printful enable designers to sync their custom designs to the company’s clothing products. Garments are not created until an order comes in.

For Days, a closed-loop system, gives swap credits for every article of clothing you buy; customers can use swap credits to get new clothing items, all made from organic cotton or recycled materials. The swap credits encourage consumers to send in unwanted For Days clothes, keep them out of the landfill, and allow them to be made into new materials. Customers can also earn swap credits by filling one of the company’s Take Back bags with any old clothes, in any condition, and sending it in; these are then resold if salvageable or recycled as rags.

But perhaps the least wasteful strategy enables consumers not to buy any clothes at all. If they are mainly concerned about their image on social media, they can use digital clothing that is superimposed over their image. The Fabricant, which creates these digital garments,  aims to make “self expression through digital clothing a sustainable way to explore personal identity.”

Better materials

Many brands are using textiles made from natural materials such as hemp, ramie or bamboo instead of cotton. Bamboo has been touted as a sustainable fabric because it is fast-growing and doesn’t require much water or pesticides; however, some old growth forests are being cut down to make way for bamboo plantations. Moreover, to make most bamboo fabrics soft, they are subjected to chemical processing whose toxins can harm the environment and human health.

Because of this processing, the Global Organic Textile Standard says that almost all bamboo fiber can “not be considered as natural or even organic fibre, even if the bamboo plant was certified organic on the field.”

Some designers are turning to organic cotton, which is grown without toxic chemicals. But because organic cotton yields are 30 percent less than conventional cotton, they need 30 percent more water and land to produce the same amount as conventional cotton. Other brands, such as North Face and Patagonia, are creating clothing made from regenerative cotton—cotton grown without pesticides, fertilizers, weed pulling or tilling, and with cover crops and diverse plants to enhance the soil.

Textiles are also being made with fibers from agriculture waste, such as leaves and rinds. Orange Fiber, an Italian company, is using nanotechnology to make a sustainable silky material by processing the cellulose of oranges. H&M is using cupro, a material made from cotton waste. Flocus makes fully biodegradable and recyclable yarns and fabrics from the fibers of kapok tree pods through a process that doesn’t harm the trees. Kapok trees can grow in poor soils without much need for water or pesticides.

In 2016, Theanne Schiros, a principal investigator at Columbia University’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and assistant professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), mentored a group of FIT students who created a bio-design award-winning material from algae. Kelp, its main ingredient, is fast growing, absorbs CO2 and nitrogen from agricultural runoff, and helps increase biodiversity. With the help of Columbia University’s Helen Lu, a biomedical engineer, the team created a bio-yarn they called AlgiKnit. Having received over $2 million in initial seed funding, the start-up, based in Brooklyn, is scaling up for market entry.

Schiros and Lu also developed a microbial bioleather. The compostable material consists of a nanocellulose mesh made through a fermentation process using a culture of bacteria and yeast. Schiros explained that these bacteria produce cellulose nanofibers as part of their metabolism; the bacteria were used in the fermentation of kombucha as early as 220 BC in what was Manchuria and in vinegar fermentation as early as 5,000 BC in Egypt. Biofabrication of the material is 10,000 times less toxic to humans than chrome-tanned leather, with an 88 to 97 percent smaller carbon footprint than synthetic (polyurethane) leather or other plastic-based leather alternatives. The fabrication process also drew on ancient textile techniques for tanning and dyeing. Schiros worked with the designers of Public School NY on Slow Factory’s One x One Conscious Design Initiative challenge to create zero-waste, naturally dyed sneakers from the material.

Schiros is also co-founder and CEO of the startup Werewool, another collaboration with Lu, and with Allie Obermeyer of Columbia University Chemical Engineering. Werewool, which was recognized by the 2020 Global Change Award, creates biodegradable textiles with color and other attributes found in nature using synthetic biology. “Nature has evolved a genetic code to make proteins that do things like have bright color, stretch, moisture management, wicking, UV protection—all the things that you really want for performance textiles, but that currently come at a really high environmental cost,” said Schiros. “But nature accomplishes all this and that’s attributed to microscopic protein structures.”

Werewool engineers proteins inspired by those found in coral, jellyfish, oysters, and cow milk that result in color, moisture management or stretch. The DNA code for those proteins is inserted into bacteria, which ferment and mass-produce the protein that then becomes the basis for a fiber. The company will eventually provide its technology and fibers to other companies throughout the supply chain and will likely begin with limited edition designer brands.

Better working conditions

There are companies now intent on improving working conditions for textile workers. Dorsu in Cambodia creates clothing from fabric discarded by garment factories. Workers are paid a living wage, have contracts, are given breaks, and also get bonuses, overtime pay, insurance and paid leave for sickness and holidays.

Mayamiko is a 100 percent PETA-certified vegan brand that advocates for labor rights and created the Mayamiko Trust to train disadvantaged women.

Workers who make Ethcs’ PETA-certified vegan garments are protected under the Fair Wear Foundation, which ensures a fair living wage, safe working conditions and legal labor contracts for workers. The Fair Wear Foundation website lists 128 brands it works with.

Beyond sustainability

Schiros maintains that making materials in collaboration with traditional artisans and Indigenous communities can produce results that address environmental, social and economic facets of sustainability. She led a series of natural dye workshops with women tie dyers in Kindia, Guinea, and artisans in Grand-Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire, and collaborated with New York designers to make a zero-waste collection from the fabrics created. The project connected FIT faculty and students to over 300 artisans in West Africa to create models for inclusive, sustainable development through textile arts, education, and entrepreneurship.

Partnering with frontline communities that are protecting, for example, the Amazon rainforest, does more than simply sustain—it protects biodiversity and areas that are sequestering carbon. “So with high value products that incorporate fair trade and clear partnerships into the supply chain, you not only have natural, biodegradable materials, but you have the added bonus of all that biodiversity that those communities are protecting,” she said. “Indigenous communities are five percent of the global population, and they’re protecting 80 percent of the biodiversity in the world…Integrating how we make our materials, our systems and the communities that are sequestering carbon while protecting biodiversity is critically important.”

The need for transparency

In order to ensure fashion’s sustainability and achieve a circular fashion industry, it must be possible to track all the elements of a product from the materials used, chemicals added, production practices, and product use, to the end of life, as well as the social and environmental conditions under which it was made.

Blockchain technology can do this by recording each phase of a garment’s life in a decentralized tamper-proof common ledger. Designer Martine Jarlgaard partnered with blockchain tech company Provenance to create QR codes that, when scanned, show the garment’s whole history. The software platform Eon has also developed a way to give each garment its own digital fingerprint called Circular ID. It uses a digital identifier embedded in the clothing that enables it to be traced for its whole lifecycle.

Transparency is also important because it enables consumers to identify greenwashing when they encounter it. Greenwashing is when companies intentionally deceive consumers or oversell their efforts to be sustainable.

Amendi, a sustainable fashion brand focusing on transparency and traceability, co-founded by Columbia University alumnus Corey Spencer, has begun a campaign to get the Federal Trade Commission to update its Green Guides, which outline the principles for the use of green claims. When the most recent versions of the Green Guides were released in 2012, they did not scrutinize the use of “sustainability” and “organic” in marketing. The use of these terms has exploded since then and unless regulated, could become meaningless or misleading.

What consumers can do

The key to making fashion sustainable is the consumer. If we want the fashion industry to adopt more sustainable practices, then as shoppers, we need to care about how clothing is made and where it comes from, and demonstrate these concerns through what we buy. The market will then respond.

We can also reduce waste through how we care for our clothing and how we discard it.

Here are some tips on how to be a responsible consumer:

  • Buy only what you need
  • Buy from sustainable brands with transparent supply chains
  • Learn how to shop for quality and invest in higher-quality clothing
  • Choose natural fibers and single fiber garments
  • Wear clothing for longer
  • Take care of clothing: wash items less often, repair them so they last. Patagonia operates Worn Wear, a recycling and repair program.
  • Upcycle your unwanted clothes into something new
  • Buy secondhand or vintage; sell your old clothes at Thred Up, Poshmark, or the Real Real.
  • When discarding, pass clothing on to someone who will wear it, or to a thrift shop
  • Rent clothing from Rent the RunwayArmoire or Nuuly

“I think the best piece of clothing is the one that already exists. The best fabric is the fabric that already exists,” said Schiros. “Keeping things in the supply chain in as many loops and cycles as you can is really, really important.”


tiny BEEings – great food

Why bees are essential to people and planet

The greatest pollinators

Bees are part of the biodiversity on which we all depend for our survival.

They provide high-quality food—honey, royal jelly and pollen — and other products such as beeswax, propolis and honey bee venom.

As the landmark 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) notes, “Sacred passages about bees in all the worlds’ major religions highlight their significance to human societies over millennia.”

Beekeeping also provides an important source of income for many rural livelihoods. According to IPBES, the western honey bee is the most widespread managed pollinator globally, and more than 80 million hives produce an estimated 1.6 million tonnes of honey annually.

And pollinators contribute directly to food security. According to bee experts at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, a third of the world’s food production depends on bees.

When animals and insects pick up the pollen of flowers and spread it, they allow plants, including many food crops, to reproduce. Birds, rodents, monkeys and even people pollinate, but the most common pollinators are insects, and among them, bees.

Bees at risk from pesticides, air pollution

But sadly, bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, are increasingly under threat from human activities.

Bee populations have been declining globally over recent decades due to habitat loss, intensive farming practices, changes in weather patterns and the excessive use of agrochemicals such as pesticides. This in turn poses a threat to a variety of plants critical to human well-being and livelihoods.

Air pollution is also thought to be affecting bees. Preliminary research shows that air pollutants interact with scent molecules released by plants which bees need to locate food. The mixed signals interfere with the bees’ ability to forage efficiently, making them slower and less effective at pollination.

While the vast majority of pollinator species are wild, including more than 20,000 species of bees, the mass breeding and large-scale transport of pollinators can pose risks for the transmission of pathogens and parasites. According to the IPBES report, better regulation of their trade can decrease the risk of unintended harm.

Taking urgent action

But there are positive signs.

In May 2018, the European Union upheld a partial ban on three insecticides known as neonicotinoids to mitigate the lethal threat they pose to bees and their trickle-down effect on pollination as a whole.

This August, when world leaders gather in Kunming, China, at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP 15), they are expected to finalize the post-2020 biodiversity framework, which calls for, amongst other things, the reduction of pesticides by at least two thirds by 2030.

“Increasing crop and regional farm diversity as well as targeted habitat conservation, management or restoration, is one way of combating climate change and promoting biodiversity,” says UN Environment Programme (UNEP) biodiversity specialist Marieta Sakalian. “Governments need to take the lead.”

It is precisely to encourage governments, organizations, civil society and concerned citizens to protect pollinators and their habitats that the UN has declared 20 May World Bee Day.

World Bee Day raises awareness of the essential role bees, and other pollinators play in keeping people and the planet healthy. The date coincides with the birthday of Anton Janša, who in the 18th century pioneered modern beekeeping techniques in his native Slovenia and praised the bees for their ability to work so hard while needing so little attention.

For further information please contact Marieta Sakalian, Senior Programme Management Officer and Coordinator for Healthy and Productive Ecosystems at UNEP.

This World Bee Day, join the conversation on #WorldBeeDay, and do your part to #Savethebees

Here are some actions you can take to help preserve bees and other pollinators:

  • Plant nectar-bearing flowers such as marigolds or sunflowers for decorative purposes on balconies, terraces, and gardens
  • Buy honey and other hive products from your nearest local beekeeper
  • Raise awareness among children and adolescents on the importance of bees and express your support for beekeepers
  • Set up a pollinator farm on your balcony, terrace, or garden
  • Preserve old meadows, which feature a more diverse array of flowers, and sow nectar-bearing plants
  • Cut grass on meadows only after the nectar-bearing plants have finished blooming
  • Use pesticides that do not harm bees, and spray them in windless weather, either early in the morning or late at night, when bees withdraw from blossoms



With its black and gold stripes, translucent wings and signature furry body, the bee is a common sight in woods and gardens around the world. But do you know how important this creature is to our planet, and the threats it is facing?

Often seen buzzing from flower to flower, bees have been around for millions of years. But they’re in severe decline and a world without these winged invertebrates is sadly becoming more of a possibility. These tiny creatures are an integral part of most ecosystems and if they became extinct, the planet could be in serious trouble.

Why are bees important?

Bees have an important part to play in maintaining our planet. We need them to pollinate the food we need to survive and many of the trees and flowers that provide habitats for lots of other wildlife. 

Perfect pollinators 

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, approximately 80% of all flowering plants are specialised for pollination by animals, mostly insects like bees. Pollination is crucial because many of our vegetables, fruits and the crops that feed our livestock rely on it to be fertilised, so without it, we could go hungry.

While there are other methods of pollination, including by other animals and wind, wild bees can pollinate on a much bigger scale. Estimates suggest it would cost UK farmers an incredible £1.8bn a year to manually pollinate their crops. 

Honey makers

Honey bees, Apis mellifera, produce honey. This sickly sweet golden liquid is valuable not only for its saccharine taste, but also due to its medicinal properties and the fact it is so energy dense.

Why are bees disappearing?

Bees are in decline on a global scale as they face many threats, some of which threaten our trees and woods too.

Habitat loss

An increase in urban developments and invasive farming methods means that many of the areas bees once called home no longer exist. In the wild, several species of bee nest in hollow trees, so as more trees are destroyed, so are the bees’ homes. Wildflower meadows and other areas abundant in flowering plants are also in serious decline, reducing an important food resource for bees. 

Climate change

Climate change and the extreme weather it can cause disrupts bee nesting behaviour and alters the normal seasonal timings, so flowers may bloom earlier or later than expected. Planting more trees is helping to mitigate some of the effects of climate change, but it’s still a serious issue that could prove deadly for many of our bees. 

Parasites and diseases

Parasites and diseases are another big threat. The varroa mite, Varroa destructor, is a parasitic mite which clings to the back of the honey bee, passing diseases and viruses to it and gradually draining its strength.

Invasive species

Some non-native species can cause havoc for our native species – the Asian hornet, Vespa velutina nigrithorax, for example, eats honey bees.

How you can help bees

Grow bee-friendly flowers

One of the easiest ways to help out bees is by planting lots of bee-friendly flowers. Dedicate an area of your garden if you have one – even a single window box or pot on a balcony can be a lifeline. Bees favour a wide range of flowering plants, including foxglove, birdsfoot trefoil and red clover. Plant them easily with our seedball mix tailored to attract bees – you don’t need to be green-fingered, just scatter them and watch them grow!

Stop using pesticides

You can make a big difference to bees and other wildlife by stopping using pesticides in your garden. Some pests provide food for crucial pollinators, so leaving them to be controlled naturally is the best choice if you want to help save bees.

Help a bee in need

Often during summer you can spot a solitary bee unmoving on the ground. Chances are it’s exhausted and in need of a quick pick-me-up. You can help out a tired bee by mixing two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water and placing it near the bee so it can help itself to this homemade energy drink.

Provide shelter for bees

Like most invertebrates, bees need shelter to nest and hibernate in. You can create your own or buy a ready-made bee hotel – just hang it up in a sunny sheltered spot and watch bees filling the tubes during the spring and summer months.


Why are Bees Important?

Save the bees is a common plea — not just from Friends of the Earth. You’ve likely seen it plastered on t-shirts, on mugs, and on images online. But why are bees so important? 

The simplest answer is that bees pollinate food crops. Pollination occurs when insects — like bees and other pollinators — travel from one plant to the next, fertilizing the plant. Bees have little hairs all over their body that attract pollen. When the pollen from a flower sticks to a bee, it then travels with the bee to its next destination. When a bee lands on the next plant or flower, the pollen is distributed which results in cross-pollination. This process is what later yields fruits, vegetables, and seeds. 

Bees are one of the world’s most important pollinators for food crops — each day we rely on bees and other pollinators. In fact, out of every three bites we consume relies on pollination. Yet bee populations continue to decline due to the rampant use of pesticides and other environmental factors — like climate change. We cannot stress how important bees are — not only to people, but to the overall environment. 

Reasons Why Bees Are Important

A vast majority of flowering plants rely on pollinators to reproduce. As we mentioned above, fruits and vegetables all rely on pollinators transporting pollen from one flower to the next. But the value of bees goes beyond just supplying countless fruits and vegetables. Bees are also responsible for nuts, coffee, and even spices — but we can get to that shortly. Here are the top 5 reasons why bees are important, they: 

  • Help produce 1/3 of our food supply
  • Help provide ½ of the world’s fibers, oils, and other raw materials
  • Help create many medicines
  • Provide food for wildlife
  • Help prevent soil erosion
Why Are Bees Important To Humans

Could you imagine walking into your grocery store and not seeing the shelves lined with food? There would be few fresh fruits or vegetables. There would be no products containing honey, almonds, coffee, and chocolate! Even milk and beef would be in short supply. That’s right — pollinators like bees are responsible for plants that feed cattle — like alfalfa.   Pollinators are responsible for an extensive amount of the foods that we consume. Pollinators (including moths, flies, beetles, birds, bats and more) are also  part of maintaining the lungs of our planet. Pollinators help the growth of many trees as well as other plants! They are truly a keystone species – a vital part of many ecosystems. 

So taking a step back to look at why bees are important to humans, the answer is very clear. Bees are a cornerstone of our food system and along with other pollinators, they help support the plants that provide the air we breathe.

Why Are Bees Important To The Environment

Nearly 90% of flowering plant species on the planet require pollinators to aid in reproduction. This not only provides a food system for wildlife, but it also creates shelter for animals. 

Why Are Honey Bees Important

There are over 20,000 bee species across the globe with 4,000 of them being native to the U.S. One of the most notable bees is the honey bee. 

The honeybee is responsible for nearly a third of crop pollination. But these hardworking insects produce more than that! They have six hive products — pollen, honey, beeswax, royal jelly, propolis, and venom. These are all collected and used for nutritional and medical purposes by humans.  

What Will Happen If Bees Keep Dying?

There is no way to overstate the importance of bees. 

The wind does play a role in pollination, so we cannot overlook the fact that we would have some food to eat — just nothing that would be tasty to eat day in and day out. The wind is responsible for the pollination of corn and wheat. But the majority of our nutritious foods are bee-assisted. No almonds. No apples. No cherries. The list goes on and on. Humans would lose a healthy, vibrant diet. 

Then what? It’s possible that advancements in technology would find ways to pollinate by “hand” — or by drone — we really don’t know what the future holds. But hand-pollinating is expensive. And guess where those costs would be absorbed? By consumers! IF you could get your hands on fresh fruits and vegetables — it would cost you an arm and a leg. 

Bee declines warn us that we are on a toxic track. The same pesticides that are killing bees threaten many other insects, which are the basis of our ecosystems.  And these toxic chemicals contaminate the air and water.  They even linger in soil for months or years, harming the vital soil communities we need to grow our food. If we step up to save the bees, it means that we’ll be saving so many other creatures, too. But we know that if we keep losing our bees, we’ll be living in a world with troubles greater than paying $50 for an orange.



The vast majority of plant species– almost 90%, in fact– rely on pollinators to reproduce. Pollination is the process by which pollinators help plants to produce fruit (technically anything with seeds on the inside, so that includes things we normally think of as vegetables, like cucumbers, green beans and tomatoes) by transporting pollen from one flower to another. There are approximately 200,000 different species of animals around the world that act as pollinators. Of these, about 1,000 are vertebrates, such as birds, bats, and small mammals, and the rest are invertebrates, including flies, beetles, butterflies, moths, and bees. Pollinators provide pollination services to over 180,000 different plant species.

Pollinators help plants survive, and plants:

  • Produce ⅓ of our food supply by giving us countless fruits, vegetables, and nuts
  • Provide ½ of the world’s oils, fibers (such as the cotton used to make clothes), and other raw materials
  • Are used to create many medicines
  • Provide food and cover for wildlife
  • Keep waterways clean
  • Prevent soil erosion
  • Produce the oxygen we breathe
  • Absorb CO2, counteracting global climate change

Globally, pollinators are responsible for pollinating more than 1,200 crops. 87 of the leading 115 food crops, or about 75%, depend on pollinators. Every year, pollinators contribute more than $217 billion to the global economy, and $24 billion to the US economy. If we consider the indirect products of plants, such as milk and beef from cows fed on alfalfa, the value of pollinator services in the US would increase to an incredible $40 billion.



Honey bees are among the most numerous and efficient pollinator species in the world. Considering that the average honey bee can visit more than 2,000 flowers in one day, these bees greatly increase the chances of a plant producing a fruit or vegetable.

Honey bees are the species most commonly used as commercial pollinators in the US. They are managed and used to pollinate over 100 crops grown in North America, and contribute $15 billion to the US economy every year. Many crops, such as almonds, which contribute $4.8 billion to the US industry each year, rely on honey bees for more than 90% of their pollination.

But honey bees don’t only pollinate crops– they also pollinate wild and native plants, thus contributing to all the environmental and societal benefits attributed to pollinators in general above.



Honey bees are clearly vital parts of our ecosystem, acting as highly efficient pollinators of our food crops as well as for wild flora. We need bees to keep our crops and earth healthy, but in recent years their numbers have been decreasing by the billions. This decline has been linked to several factors, including parasites such as varroa mites, which bite bees and infect them with fatal viruses (read more about varroa mites here!), the use of pesticides which poison bees, and monoculture farming, which prevents them from having a varied diet.

Last year, in 2016, 44% of managed beehives in the US died. The number of managed honey bee colonies in the United States has declined steadily over the past 60 years, from 6 million colonies (beehives) in 1947 to 4 million in 1970, 3 million in 1990, and just 2.5 million today. Overwintering loss rates have increased from the historical rate of 10-15% to approximately 30%, and beekeepers have collectively lost approximately 10 million beehives.



Did you know that there are 4,000 different bee species native to North America? These bees vary widely, from cuckoo bees to bumble bees. Some are smaller than an eighth of an inch, while others are more than an inch long. They range in color from metallic green or blue to dark brown or black to striped red or orange.

Native bees are often overlooked because they aren’t domesticated, or because some of them don’t look like «traditional» bees (fuzzy, black and yellow). But these bees are the original residents of North America, who quietly and industriously pollinate our crops side by side with the honey bee.

Native bees might not spend much time in the spotlight, but they make a huge contribution to our environment and our economy. In 2009, the crop benefits from native insect pollination in the United States were valued at more than $9 billion dollars.

Sadly, native bees are struggling just as much as honey bees. Many species are endangered (read more about their endangerment here), and a few have already gone extinct. The factors that harm managed honey bees also harm wild bees, such as parasites, pathogens, and poor nutrition due to monoculture farms. A study published by the National Academy of Sciences last year found that wild bees may be disappearing in California’s Central Valley, the Midwest’s corn belt, the Mississippi River Valley and other key farm regions. Between 2008 and 2013, modeled bee abundance declined across 23% of US land area.

Now more than ever we must find new and innovative ways to protect these national treasures and preserve the balance of our ecosystem.


Three Ways to Help the Bees From Home

Are you feeling cooped up and restless during the COVID-10 outbreak? One way to take a break and make a difference is by helping the bees and the environment… from your home! Research shows that being outside can help improve your physical health and mental outlook. Even better, helping our furry friends during their peak season of busy-bee activity will substitute positive vibes for the constant negative news stream and relieve tinges of cabin fever – a win-win! Luckily, you can do three simple things from your backyard (or even your small apartment balcony) to help our local pollinators! 

Put Out a Water Feeder for Bees

Bees are extremely busy at this time of year. Forager bees visit up to 2,000 flowers a day and can fly up to six miles a day! Bees drink water like all creatures, but they also need water to bring back to their hive or nest. Native bees need water for mud, which they nest with. Honey bees use water to dilute honey, feed babies, and regulate the temperature within the hive. They do the renowned waggle dance to communicate to their sisters where good nectar sources are located, but they can also spread the word on a good water source that way as well. 

One great way to help hydrate our thirsty pollinator friends is to provide a bee bath or bee water feeder! Take a shallow dish or bowl, put some rocks or marbles in it, and add just enough fresh water that the tops of the stones are not submerged. If you have a garden, you can put your bowl or dish on top of an upside-down flower pot somewhere protected and shady. If you don’t have a garden, set your dish outside wherever you are able. Change the water frequently and clean the bee bath weekly! Here is a great example. 


  • Shallow dish or bowl
  • Stones or marbles
  • Fresh water
  • Optional: plant pot (as a base for the dish) 

Plant Pollinator-Friendly Plants

Another way to help is to cultivate a bee-friendly garden. Bees are at their busiest right now and they can use all the nectar and pollen they can find! To start, learn about your area’s microclimate. Check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Map to see where plants will thrive in your space. Planting native plants and flowers is key for attracting bees! 

Do you want to ONLY eat kale all day every day? Like us, bees love a diversity of food to eat! Planting a variety of plants is a great way to attract many types of pollinators. This resource from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources has all you need to know on how to plant a successful bee garden in California! Some fan-favorite plants are lavender, lilacs, clover, honeysuckle, bee balm, aster, buddleia, (aka butterfly flowers, but bumblebees love them too), sunflowers, and poppies. Bees also love easy-to-grow herbs like sage, rosemary, oregano, mint, chives, fennel, and thyme! 

Low on space or resources? Even a balcony in a busy urban area is a promising location for flowers! To maximize space and minimize cost, consider plants that have both nectar and pollen such as coneflower, thyme, or blanketflower. Your local pollinators will appreciate whatever you can provide! 

Another thing to do is to relax on the weeding! Some weeds do an excellent job of supporting wildlife; lawn clovers and dandelions are quite popular for pollinators. Oh, and remember to stay away from using pesticides

Find out how to avoid seeds with pesticides and where to acquire seeds here!

Provide Homes for Native/Wild Bees

Honey bees get a lot of media attention, but native or wild bees are struggling quite a lot too. North America has around 4,000 native bee species and according to the Center of Biological Diversity, 1 in 4 native bee species in North America is currently at risk of extinction! One of the greatest hurdles that native bees face is habitat loss. Honey bees can live with up to 50,000 bees in a hive, whereas almost every native bee species is solitary and prefers to live and nest alone. 

You can easily provide a place for native bees to live! Most native bee habitats are in the ground or in other cavities, like a rolled-up leaf or a hollowed-out piece of wood. Leave a small section of your available landscape unmulched for ground-nesting bees! Another great way to help these important creatures is by making a bee house. One popular way to make these is by drilling holes in a block of wood, but make sure to replace them every year, as the bees nest in them by creating mud walls to keep their larvae safe. You could also leave a small area of the garden completely undisturbed to let nature take its course! 


chirigotas, cuartetos, comparsas y coros – calles de música y arte

Carnaval de Cádiz


Carnaval de Cádiz 2023. De Interés Turístico InternacionalDel 16 al 26 de febrero. La ciudad entera se vuelca con el carnaval, es una ocasión perfecta para conocerla y disfrutar del ingenio y la gracia de los gaditanos.

La música carnavalesca se oye por cualquier rincón de la ciudad, se ultiman los detalles de los disfraces (en Cádiz se conocen como «tipo»), algunos de ellos verdaderas obras de arte y el gaditano vive con toda su alma uno de los acontecimientos lúdicos más esperados, quizá de los carnavales españoles el que tiene una imagen más jocosa y divertida.

Frente a la espectacularidad de otros carnavales, la imagen jocosa y divertida del Carnaval de Cádiz lo convierten en una fiesta única, que merece la pena conocer. Durante estos días no faltan otros espectáculos para que la fiesta en Cádiz sea completa.

El Concurso Oficial de Agrupaciones Carnavalescas comenzará el 17 de enero 
La Gran Final del Gran Teatro Falla se celebrará el 17 de febrero.

Las cuatro modalidades participantes -coros, comparsas, chirigotas y cuartetos-, de las tres categorías -adulto, juvenil e infantil-, presentarán sus coplas ante un jurado para llegar a la Gran Final. Al finalizar la Gran Final comienza la fiesta en la calle.


Las Chirigotas. Están compuestas por aproximadamente 12 personas, clasificadas en: Tenores, Segundas y Altos. Los instrumentos que normalmente utilizan son Bombo, Caja y Guitarra; además de aquéllos que puedan corresponderse con el tipo. El repertorio es el mismo que el de las Comparsas: Presentación, Pasodobles, Cuplés y Popurrí. Siendo su fuerte los Cuplés. Suelen ser las agrupaciones más divertidas pues utilizan con frecuencia la sátira y el doble sentido.

Las Comparsas. Cuentan con aproximadamente 14 componentes, clasificados en: Tenores, Segundas, Octavillas y Contraaltos. Los principales instrumentos que utilizan son Bombo, Caja y Guitarra, además de acompañarse con otros relacionados con el tipo.Su repertorio se compone de Presentación, Pasodobles, Cuplés y Popurrí. Destacando los Pasodobles. Son las agrupaciones con apariencia más seria, aunque sus letras no están en absoluto exentas de aspectos críticos y reivindicativos.

Los Coros. El Coro es la agrupación que cuenta con más miembros, aproximadamente cuarenta y cinco personas. Sus componentes suelen clasificarse en Bajos, Segundas, Tenores y Orquesta. Entre los instrumentos que utilizan figuran laúdes, guitarras, bandurrias, así como otros en función del tipo. El repertorio suele estar compuesto por: presentación, tangos, cuplés, y popurrí; siendo los tangos lo más característicos de estas agrupaciones.

Los Cuartetos. Agrupación de tres a cinco componentes. Su repertorio consta de Presentación, Parodia, Cuplés y Popurrí. El plato fuerte de los cuartetos es la Parodia, en la cual representan una historia que suele estar relacionada con el tipo. Como instrumentos sólo cuentan con parejas de palos, con los que se acompañan durante el repertorio, sirviendo además para coordinarlos al cantar. Es una agrupación muy complicada, al tener que actuar con el objeto de hacer reír al público.



El Disfraz es el verdadero rey del carnaval. Bien de forma individual, en pareja, o en grupo; disfrazarse es casi obligado, sobre todo el primer sábado de carnaval. Puedes comprar uno en algunas de las tiendas que se dedican casi en exclusiva a este negocio. Los momentos ideales para lucir tu disfraz son el primer sábado de Carnaval y en cualquiera de las cabalgatas que se celebran.

Carrusel de Coros

Los carruseles de coros se celebran los días festivos del carnaval, tradicionalmente alrededor de la plaza de abastos. Los coros cantan sobre bateas y ofrecen sus tangos a las miles de personas que abarrotan la plaza. El éxito de los carruseles está provocando que se abran nuevos recorridos por otras calles y plazas de la ciudad durante la semana. Si visita Cádiz el primer domingo de Carnaval, no deje de acercarse a presenciarlos, nunca antes de la una de la tarde, y podrá disfrutar de varias horas de alegría. En los numerosos bares de los alrededores podrá saborear los típicos productos de la tierra y hacer un descanso entre las actuaciones.


Dos son las cabalgatas que se celebran durante los carnavales. La del primer domingo recorre la avenida de entrada a la ciudad y congrega a miles de visitantes en un espectáculo lleno de colorido y alegría. Se ha calculado que más de 100.000 personas, entre gaditanos y foráneos, invaden la avenida de acceso a la ciudad, convirtiéndose, muchas veces, en personajes activos en la representación. Este incesante desfile de carrozas, grupos de disfraces y agrupaciones, necesita más de 4 horas en recorrer los, aproximadamente, 3.500m. que abarca su itinerario.La segunda cabalgata, conocida como la “Cabalgata del Humor” se celebra el último domingo y recorre el casco histórico, con la más bullanguera muestra de disfraces y participación callejera que pueda verse.


Las llamadas agrupaciones “ilegales” o, también denominadas, “familiares”, nacieron hace varios años como una forma más de participación popular en el Carnaval. Multitud de charangas compuestas por grupos de amigos, compañeros de trabajo, peñas, familias, etc. rivalizan con las agrupaciones “oficiales en sus repertorios.La puerta del Edificio de Correos, en la plaza de las Flores, se convierte durante el Carnaval en el auténtico “Teatro Falla” de estas agrupaciones.


Un respiro para el PLANETA – Un regalo para las PERSONAS

Frente al Black Friday de la escasez, un Día sin Compras con abundancia de alternativas

Un año más Ecologistas en Acción se suma al Día sin Compras, una jornada de huelga simbólica de consumidoras y consumidores que se organiza, desde 1992, en todo el mundo en contraposición al Viernes Negro (Black Friday) y el Ciberlunes (Cyber Monday).

Procedente de Estados Unidos, el Viernes Negro, prolongado al Ciberlunes de rebajas en la compra por Internet, se ha convertido en una de las jornadas más consumistas del año a nivel global, impulsada por el lanzamiento de ofertas para incentivar las compras y comenzar la campaña navideña. Por el contrario, el Día sin Compras se propone como un día para reflexionar y cuestionar el actual modelo de producción y consumo que muestra claros síntomas de agotamiento, a la vez que resulta incompatible con el contexto de crisis climática.

Este año, tanto la campaña del Black Friday como la posterior de navidad se van a desarrollar en un contexto de escasez material sin precedentes cercanos, por problemas de suministros que muestran la falta de resiliencia del sistema de producción y consumo que no es capaz de responder a una situación de dificultad.

Los problemas de suministro están ocasionados por diversas causas, como cierta reactivación de la demanda tras la pandemia a la que las cadenas de producción aún no se han adaptado, pues además éstas cuentan con una gran especialización territorial y están diseñadas para distribuir inmediatamente lo producido y minimizar el almacenaje. Pero el discurso oficial esconde otro factor, y es que muchos estudios científicos muestran que estamos llegando a los límites de disponibilidad, tanto de distintos materiales, como de diversas fuentes energéticas.

Sin embargo, este es el factor de mayor importancia, pues aunque la corrección del resto puede contribuir a estabilizar la situación, la escasez a la que nos vamos a enfrentar, tanto de petróleo como de diversos materiales empleados en las cadenas de producción, hacen vislumbrar un futuro en el que estas situaciones se repetirán mostrando que el modelo de consumo continuo e ilimitado es incompatible con un planeta que es finito.

En cualquier caso, se trata de un sistema insostenible ambientalmente por su dependencia de los combustibles fósiles y su incidencia sobre el clima, el impacto de la extracción de materias primas o la generación de residuos. Pero también es insostenible socialmente, pues se basa en la reducción máxima de los costes laborales, con su incidencia sobre las trabajadoras y los trabajadores, y que contribuye a la concentración de la riqueza al quedar controlado por gigantes como Amazon, expulsando a miles de pequeñas/os productoras/es y comerciantes.

El éxito de modelos como el de Amazon se asienta en alentar un consumo compulsivo, de productos procedentes de cualquier parte del mundo, con un solo clic que, obviando los impactos, permite poder disponer del bien en unas pocas horas y a bajos precios.

Este modelo necesita fechas como el Black Friday y el Cyber Monday, donde el consumo se vuelve aún más voraz e innecesario, impulsado por grandes ofertas e importantes campañas publicitarias con mensajes que asocian la compra de productos a añorados momentos de felicidad. Sin embargo, ese efímero momento de satisfacción que genera la compra no contribuye a ninguno de los aspectos de nuestra vida vinculados a la felicidad. Estudios como los de Grant y Terman concluyen que la calidad de las relaciones sociales es el principal ingrediente para lograrla, por lo que se mantiene una constante espiral de insatisfacción.

Por todo ello,hay que ser consciente de que con las pautas de consumo se contribuye a configurar la sociedad actual, por lo que se debe elegir si se quiere seguir alimentando un modelo, representado por la codiciosa sonrisa de Amazon, que acentúa la crisis climática, a la vez que, en un contexto de escasez, concentra aún más la riqueza en unas pocas manos.

Ecologistas en Acción trata de que el Día sin Compras sirva como toma de conciencia sobre la necesidad de dar un giro radical a un sistema que debe crecer continuamente para generar riqueza, que se manifiesta en un modelo de consumo compulsivo, y que ignora los límites físicos del planeta. De acuerdo a ello, se propone una reflexión sobre las verdaderas necesidades y la forma de satisfacerlas, poniendo en valor aquellas formas de consumo que contribuyan a hacerlo de una forma más justa y sostenible.

En consecuencia, desde Ecologistas en Acción se propone lo siguiente:

  1. Combate la compra compulsiva, la única opción para enfrentar la grave situaciín actual es reducir los niveles de consumo, buscando satisfacer las verdaderas necesidades materiales e ignorando y combatiendo los estímulos al consumo que se reciben continuamente. De esta manera, además, se puede contribuir a satisfacer otras necesidades no materiales, dedicando parte del tiempo que ocupa el consumo a estar con los seres queridos.
  2. Cubrir las necesidades básicas sin comprar. Es la solución más sostenible: reparar, intercambiar, compartir, crear… Existen diversas alternativas colectivas como talleres de reparación, tiendas gratis, mercadillos o cooperativas de trueque, pero también hay otras formas de actuar a menor escala, como intercambiar ropa con una amiga o un amigo, juguetes con los que no juega la niña/o con una de sus amigas/os…
  3. Si se necesita comprar un producto, apoyar la producción local y al pequeño comercio y de proximidad. De esta manera se reduce el impacto producido por el transporte de larga distancia, pero también se apoya a pequeñas/os productoras/es y comerciantes, contribuyendo a un mejor reparto de la riqueza.
  4. Aplicar criterios de compra sostenible y justa. Los productos ecológicos tienen menor impacto ambiental y los de comercio justo mejor repercusión social, aunque para que estos no se vean minorados es importante recurrir a canales de distribución cortos y justos, como grupos de consumo, tiendas de comercio justo, mercadillos de productores o supermercados cooperativos. También se puede participar en los mercados sociales existentes en distintos territorios, que forman red de producción, distribución y consumo que funciona con criterios éticos, democráticos, ecológicos y solidarios.


Talking about football WHILE



Talkin’ Bout a Revolution – Tracy Chapman

Don’t you know
They’re talking about a revolution?
It sounds like a whisper
Don’t you know
Talking about a revolution?
It sounds like a whisper

While they’re standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in the unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

Don’t you know
Talking about a revolution?
It sounds like a whisper

Poor people gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people gonna rise up
And take what’s theirs

Don’t you know you better run, run, run, run, run, run
Run, run, run, run, run, run
Oh, I said you better run, run, run, run, run, run
Run, run, run, run, run, run

‘Cause finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution
‘Cause finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution, oh no
Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution, oh

I’ve been standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in the unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

Don’t you know
Talking about a revolution?
It sounds like a whisper

And finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution
Yes, finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution, oh, no
Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution, oh, no
Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution, oh, no

Cuando el chapapote nos llegó a las orejas

hilillos de mentiras

se estiraban tierra adentro


una marea blanca de

voluntariosas manos

con temblorosa impotencia

arrancaban del espeso

manto negro

un clamor de furia:


20 años del ‘Prestige’: «Tenían como norma mentir y rezar para que el fuel se volviese transparente»

Se cumplen dos décadas de la mayor catástrofe ambiental del país, aún con el grueso de las indemnizaciones en el aire. Analizamos con un activista y un marinero los peores momentos de la marea negra y qué supuso la movilización social histórica que evidenció una mala gestión política.

Las 15.15 horas del 13 de noviembre de 2002 quedaron grabadas para siempre como el momento en el que se comenzaría a escribir uno de los capítulos más oscuros de la historia de Galicia. Con tinta negra, por supuesto. En una jornada marcada por temporales con olas de hasta ocho metros, los servicios de Salvamento Marítimo recibieron un mensaje de socorro de un buque situado a 28 millas náuticas -unos 50 kilómetros- de cabo Finisterre (Fisterra, A Coruña). Cinco minutos antes, el capitán de un petrolero monocasco llamado Prestige había escuchado lo que describió como “una explosión”. Fue mucho más que eso.

Este domingo se cumplen dos décadas de aquel mayday, el preludio de una tragedia que comenzó con un barco escorando y perdiendo combustible que solicitaba abrigo en puerto, pero cuyo desenlace fue acabar hundido a más de 3.500 metros de profundidad, a cerca de 320 kilómetros de la costa fisterrana y partido en dos.

De las 81.589 toneladas de las que disponía su capacidad de carga, el petrolero portaba 76.972,95 de fuelóleo -fuel o fueloil– de alta densidad tipo M-100. Más allá de tecnicismos, aquello que cuando llegó a la costa tiñéndola de negro se llamó chapapote. El que fue el combustible del peor desastre medioambiental registrado en el país es a su vez el menos biodegradable de todos los derivados del petróleo.

Bastan solo unas cuantas cifras para comprender la dimensión de esta tragedia que acabó evidenciando una crisis de gestión del Gobierno popular de José María Aznar y desatando un movimiento social sin precedentes en Galicia. Un total de 2.980 kilómetros de costa afectada y, de ellos, 1.137 playas. Solo en el primer año, los miles de voluntarios retiraron 90.566 toneladas de crudo y arena contaminada. De entre esos restos, también sacaron 20.000 aves muertas, aunque Greenpeace calcula que murieron 200.000. Y de esos voluntarios, 1.923 personas acabaron con problemas respiratorios.

Sin embargo, la moneda tiene dos caras. Después de una década de investigación judicial y una causa que abarcó 400 horas repartidas en 89 sesiones, la mayor parte del grueso de las indemnizaciones sigue en el aire. El Tribunal Supremo (TS) las acabó fijando en 2.500 millones de euros, intereses de demora y costes procesales incluidos, para los perjudicados: España, Francia, Xunta y 265 particulares, entre empresas, cofradías y ayuntamientos.

El Alto Tribunal responsabilizaba así a la naviera del barco -sin activos- y a la aseguradora británica The London Steam–Ship Owners Mutual Insurance Association (The London P&I Club). Sin embargo, la compañía recurrió a un laudo arbitral llevando la pelota al tejado de la justicia británica.

En mayo, el Tribunal de Justicia de la Unión Europea (TJUE) dictaminó que prevalece el fallo de la justicia española sobre el arbitraje británico, fijando el pago en 855 millones de euros. Cabe recordar que la Fiscalía cifró en 4.442 millones de euros los costes de los perjuicios ocasionados por la tragedia. Más del doble de lo que se aspira a conseguir.

Esta es la situación económica, pero ¿hubo alguna persona sentenciada en este ingente proceso? La respuesta pasa inevitablemente por el nombre de Apostolos Mangouras, el capitán del Prestige. Fue el único en hundirse judicialmente con el barco, al ser condenado, en un principio a una pena de nueve meses de cárcel por desobediencia grave a la autoridad. Después se amplió a dos años por delito medioambiental.

Ni el jefe de máquinas, Nikolaos Argyropoulos, ni el único cargo público de la Administración imputado, el exdirector de la Marina Mercante José Luis López Sors, fueron declarados culpables. De hecho, la justicia avaló la decisión de este último de remolcar el barco lo más lejos posible, dando el argumento perfecto tanto a la Xunta de Manuel Fraga como al Gobierno de Aznar de justificar una gestión que ha sido puesta en entredicho en numerosas ocasiones.

La realidad es que ningún Ayuntamiento quería meter en su puerto a aquella patata caliente flotante para extraer el combustible, una carga valorada en 10 millones de euros. Curiosamente, la opción que contentaba económicamente a la empresa armadora, llevar el petrolero al resguardo de un muelle, era la misma que pudo haber minimizado el área de impacto de la afectación ambiental a un solo punto. No fue así y el fuel afectó a la costa lusa, gallega, cántabra, vasca y francesa en diversas oleadas.

Aquella decisión determinó un periplo de seis días, 437 kilómetros y muy pocas líneas rectas en el que pasaron cerca de tres horas en aceptar ser arrastrados por el remolcador Ría de Vigo -subcontratado a una empresa privada- aún estando al lado del petrolero. La razón es que entretanto la empresa negociaba la cuantía de un rescate millonario. No fue hasta la tarde del jueves 14 -y tras cierta presión ejercida contra el capitán, que sería detenido en cuanto puso un pie en tierra- cuando comenzaron a desplazar el Prestige.

Con los motores encendidos del petrolero por orden de las autoridades españolas, el remolcador lo llevó primero en dirección norte hacia Francia, un rumbo que fue corregido el viernes 15, se desconoce si por orden del Gobierno galo o por la amenaza de un nuevo temporal. El sábado 16 continuó en dirección sur hacia la zona marítima de Portugal, hasta que el domingo 18 las autoridades lusas -y la corbeta Joao Coutinho– invitaron al remolcador a cambiar de planes.

El lunes 18, tras relevar el remolcador chino De Da al Ría de Vigo y tras el tercer aviso de la Armada portuguesa, volvían a modificar su trayecto optando por alejarlo lo máximo posible hasta el destino final. El martes 19, el buque se partió en dos. Y, al día siguiente, la marea negra ya asolaba 300 kilómetros de costa.

“Me di cuenta de que una cosa era la realidad y otra la versión oficial de los hechos. Venía escuchando la radio camino a Muxía [el primer punto que tocó el chapapote] y decían que el barco estaba en alta mar, que estaba perfectamente remolcado y que no había ningún riesgo”, recuerda para El HuffPost Bieito Lobeira, uno de los portavoces de la plataforma Nunca Máis, apuntando a lo que ocurría realmente: “En la mañana del 14 de noviembre, el Prestige se divisaba perfectamente desde la costa de Muxía, a unas cuatro millas, a la deriva y con riesgo de impacto”.

“Ahí empezó ya el festival, el espectáculo de manipulación informativa, al servicio de las tesis gubernamentales de minimización del problema de ocultación”, apunta el también político del Bloque Nacionalista Galego (BNG), quien explica que optaron por informarse por Instituto Hidrográfico de Portugal. Los organismos y la prensa internacionales eran la opción que muchos prefirieron para saber lo que pasaba antes que el denominado gabinete de crisis. “Ya lo decían los Siniestro [Total], ‘¡menos mal que nos queda Portugal!’”, apunta irónicamente.

Precisamente, de aquel gabinete salieron auténticas citas, escenas y propuestas memorables formuladas por protagonistas de la talla del por aquel entonces delegado del Gobierno en Galicia, Arsenio Fernández Mesa; el vicepresidente y portavoz del Ejecutivo, Mariano Rajoy; el ministro de Fomento, Francisco Álvarez-Cascos; el de Agricultura y Pesca, Miguel Arias Cañete, el de Medio Ambiente, Jaume Matas; el presidente de la Xunta, Manuel Fraga o el conselleiro de Pesca, Enrique López Veiga.

“Fue un esperpento. Hay una de esas cosas que quedan siempre en la memoria. Recuerdo a Arsenio Fernández de Mesa delante de un mapa confundiendo meridianos y paralelos”, rememora Lobeira del mismo hombre que dijo que “el destino del fuel en el fondo del mar es convertirse en adoquín”, opinando que “no daba una sensación especialmente tranquilizadora, ¿no?”.

Lo cierto es que declaraciones como la del titular de Defensa, Federico Trillo, admitiendo que valoraron bombardear el buque tampoco lo fueron. “Se pensó en bombardear el petrolero Prestige con aviones F-18 para producir el incendio del combustible o el hundimiento del buque”, reconoció en aquellas fechas. Mas no fueron solo las palabras lo que causaron indignación en el pueblo gallego. Hechos como el propio Fraga se encontrase de cacería cuando el barco se hundía, Matas en Doñana o Cascos en el Pirineo catalán fueron determinantes.

Bieito Lobeira pone el foco también en que la catástrofe medioambiental no era algo ajena para Galicia, sino que formaba parte de una situación “gravísima”, pero sobre todo “reiterada”. “Tenemos un largo historial de accidentes marítimos, los datos oficiales indican que somos el primer punto en cuanto a episodios de contaminación marina de toda Europa y a nivel mundial somos el segundo, solo por detrás de la Sudáfrica”, detalla de lo que califica como un “histórico abandono institucional tan brutal que se llegaba a naturalizar que estábamos condenados desde grandes mareas negras a los sentinazos -práctica ilegal que cometen algunos barcos de vaciar combustible en el mar-”.

Prueba de lo que defiende fue el naufragio del petrolero griego Mar Egeo en 1992 frente a la costa coruñesa, dejando con este unas 67.000 toneladas de crudo. También el embarrancamiento del Casón en la costa fisterrana en 1987, cuando el buque de mercancías panameño acabó sufriendo un incendio de parte de su carga. Básicamente unos 5.000 bidones, sacos y contenedores de productos químicos inflamables, tóxicos y corrosivos.

Tampoco el grito que unió a la sociedad era nuevo. “Había unos antecedentes muy jodidos. Tengo que reconocer que cuando optamos por la marca Nunca Máis lo que hicimos era una copia de lo que ya reclamaron las mariscadoras de la ría de O Burgo (Coruña) diez años antes”, reconoce Bieito Lobeira.

Así se forjó el gran pulso social, la otra marea. El histórico integrante de Nunca Máis tiene muy claro que la creación de un colectivo conformado por unas 600 entidades -desde asociaciones de madres y padres, clubes deportivos a trabajadores- jugó un “antes y un después” en los años siguientes. “Estoy convencido de que si no llega a ser por la presión social y política que se hizo desde Nunca Máis, ya no digo que no habría ayudas, pero desde luego no tendrían la dimensión que tuvieron”, esgrime.

Lobeira cita como ejemplo la histórica movilización en la capital gallega del 1 de diciembre. Los cálculos son complicados, según la Policía se estima que hubo más de 150.000 personas en la protesta ante la Catedral de Santiago, pero se calcula que esa cifra pudo superar los 200.000 participantes. “Caían chuzos, era el peor tiempo posible para una movilización, pero la AP-9 quedó desbordada y Audasa se vio obligada a levantar las barreras de los peajes. En el Obradoiro, una señora plaza, hubo que repetir hasta tres veces el manifiesto mientras se vaciaba y llenaba de nuevo”, destaca.

“Nunca, nunca en la historia de Galicia hubo una movilización de esas características, pero es curioso, aquello provocó que el Consello de la Xunta se reuniese de urgencia y aprobase las primeras ayudas”, señala el político nacionalista. El conselleiro de Pesca fue más simbólico en sus declaraciones del 17 de diciembre. “Nadie se quedará sin turrón”, dijo López Veiga, deslizando que “y si luego puede venir el mazapán por parte del Gobierno central y de la Unión Europea, mejor”.

Nadie se quedó sin su parte, pero la pesca estuvo prohibida durante un año en Galicia hasta el límite con Portugal. Y si hay una anécdota que define el potencial de estas ayudas, es la que llegaba con fuerza de muchos pueblos costeros. Hubo quien brindó deseando la llegada de otro Prestige. Y hubo quien vio cierto servilismo en esos comentarios y gestos. Ni unos ni otros acostumbran a pronunciarse en público.

Más allá de las ayudas, muchas de las reivindicaciones básicas de Nunca Máis se materializaron cambiando radicalmente las dotaciones de los servicios de salvamento españoles, precisa Lobeira. Por ejemplo, la implementación de un buque anticontaminación que ahora tiene base en A Coruña, también de otro “buque de salvamento potente”, un avión de vigilancia de vertidos o la implementación de un dispositivo de separación del tráfico marítimo en Fisterra con separación a 42 millas y dos carriles, así como del control por satélite del litoral.

No obstante, Lobeira también tiene muy claro que quedan cosas pendientes. Continúan reclamando que Salvamento Marítimo no sea una competencia centralizada y situada en Madrid -donde está la base de operaciones-, también que sea un servicio completamente público y que sus medios no estén subcontratados a empresas privadas. Pero quizás sus demandas y críticas más graves pasan por exigir que se recuperen las cerca de 10.000 toneladas de residuos contaminados guardados en una balsa de pluviales. “Hay diez mil toneladas procedentes de la operación de limpieza del Prestige que todavía están sin tratamiento, almacenadas en Sogarisa, en As Somozas”.

20 años después, tampoco faltan preocupaciones sobre los restos de fuel que no pudieron ser retiradas completamente de los restos del pecio y sobre la presencia de oxígeno que puede traer aparejada la temida corrosión. El político del BNG explica que todavía hay “cerca de 1.100 toneladas del carburante” y que han reclamado que se baje al fondo para comprobar si hay fugas o el estado estructural. “No queremos llevarnos la sorpresa una mañana de que nos sale una mancha de fuel”, sentencia.

La catástrofe del Prestige dejó un buen puñado de fotografías icónicas. Desde el hundimiento a cámara lenta del barco a los miles de personas que conformaron la marea blanca de voluntarios recogiendo el chapapote de las playas o directamente de embarcaciones. En la primera línea de este grupo estuvo el bateeiro Nito Dios, quien fue retratado sobre una pequeña planeadora arrancado el crudo con sus propias manos. Esa fue la realidad a la que se enfrentaron centenares de marineros que sin más equipo que sus propios útiles y embarcaciones salieron a detener lo indetenible.

Jubilado hace tres años, Dios revive para El HuffPost aquel episodio. “Son momentos de recuerdo de lo que pudo ser y no fue, de lo que pudo acabar con nuestro medio de vida”, comienza a exponer recordando cómo se subió a la planeadora con otros tres compañeros de la cofradía de A Illa de Arousa para tratar de frenar lo que Rajoy aseguraba horas antes que no llegaría a las Rías Baixas. La primera mancha de fuel, de unas 11.000 toneladas, golpeaba Muxía y Fisterra, pero también llegaba a las puertas de la ría arousana, en la parroquia de Aguiño (Ribeira, A Coruña).

A la altura de Corrubedo se encontraron con un enorme barco alemán y “ya vimos lo que había”. A este profesional del mar le cuesta describir la sensación de “cabreo” que sintieron al toparse delante del fuel con una embarcación ya trabajando en la retirada justo después de que les dijesen que la marea negra no llegaría. Aquello mismo que acabaría sacando con sus propias manos. “Miraban para nosotros como si estuviéramos locos”, reconoce de la sorpresa de los tripulantes del gran barco que veían cómo una pequeña embarcación no dudaron en ponerse a retirar el crudo.

“Mintieron tanto y tanto que creo que es imposible mentir más, ni que hubieran ido a una escuela especial de mentiras”, destaca Dios, subrayando que “tenían como norma mentir y simplemente rezar para que el fuel se volviese transparente”. Si ya es complicado explicar el sobreesfuerzo de sacar el chapapote directamente del agua, también lo es describir las condiciones. “El hedor era… marineros curtidos acababan vomitando”, precisa. De las manos pasaron a los capachos -cubos grandes-, a esos capachos comenzaron a hacerle agujeros para facilitar los trabajos: “Aprendíamos sobre la marcha”.

Y frente al desamparo de las autoridades, nació la solidaridad. Dios admite que los marineros ”éramos el primer frente, pero honestamente, era nuestra vida, nuestro trabajo”, pero fue la unión de toda la sociedad la que marcó la diferencia. El bateeiro explica que en tierra los albañiles, carpinteros, herreros, las mujeres, los jóvenes que se negaron a ir a la escuela para ayudar en el muelle. Todos ellos “funcionaban como una máquina engrasada”, hasta los panaderos que traían bocadillos para llevar de un puerto a otro: “Cada uno aportaba lo que podía”.

Sin embargo, era una lucha que se repitió constantemente. “Cada mañana que volvíamos a la boca de la ría, allí estaba otra vez [el fuel]”, recuerda el experimentado profesional de unas tareas que se alargaron hasta febrero. Llegaron a salir hasta 400 embarcaciones solo en la ría de Arousa y, literalmente, fueron las primeras barreras de contención [humanas]. El primer fin de semana tras llegar la marea negra, hubo 10.000 voluntarios que se desplazaron a Galicia.

Nito Dios tampoco puede olvidar momentos de cómo rescataron a algún pájaro completamente empapado de fueloil a la altura de la Islas Cíes, mientras la línea que abrían en la gigantesca mancha se iba cerrando a su paso. “A veces tenías que poner buena cara, por lo menos para parecerlo aunque no lo sintieras”, rememora del estado de ánimo que se vivía entre todos aquellos que ayudaban, admitiendo que casi no tenía tiempo de parar en tierra.

Tampoco contribuían a poner buena cara al mal tiempo -en Galicia está más popularizado el dicho de que ‘dicen que llueve y nos mean encima’- las posiciones de las autoridades implicadas. El bateeiro reconoce que ha sido especialmente indignante volver a ver a algunos de los personajes, como el conselleiro de Pesca haciendo declaraciones en el primer programa especial de ‘Salvados’.

“Ellos tenían que haber tomado la decisión de coger el barco y decir, a ver, ¿dónde es el mal menor? Para eso están los responsables y si como responsable no sirves, dimite y vete”, opina Nito Dios de la falta de concreción en la toma de acciones en aquella época. Una época, por cierto, marcada por la inminente celebración de elecciones municipales.


Xosé Manuel Pereiro: «Si hoy hubiera otro Prestige, también habría medios que dirían que no es verdad lo que estamos viendo con nuestros ojos»

Xosé Manuel Pereiro (Monforte, 1956) era delegado de Televisión Española (TVE) y
corresponsal de El País cuando un petrolero en apuros naufragó frente a las costas gallegas
tras seis días vagando por el océano a lomos de la errática gestión de las autoridades locales y estatales, provocando la mayor catástrofe ecológica de la historia de España. Coordinador de Chapapote (Libros del KO) y autor de Prestige, tal como foi, tal como fomos –Prestige, tal como fue, tal como fuimos– (Galaxia), que se han publicado estos días, es codirector de Luzes y uno de los periodistas que más han estudiado el siniestro y la emergencia económica, social y medioambiental en la que derivó y que canalizó el movimiento Nunca Máis. También conoce, porque la vivió en primera línea, la estrategia de mentiras y desinformación que la acompañó la primera y, probablemente, más burda de las que desarrollaron los Gobiernos de Aznar.

¿No le da un poco de miedo constatar que quienes gestionaron la catástrofe del Prestige no sólo dicen que volverían a hacer lo mismo, sino que es lo que hay que hacer en un caso así?

No me extraña teniendo en cuenta que esa decisión la tomaron sin tener en cuenta ningún tipo de consulta o criterio técnico. Dependió del pie con el que se levantó ese día el ministro de turno. Aunque habría que recordarles que un año antes habían hecho un ejercicio nacional de salvamento para prever un incidente similar, y la solución técnica que se les ocurrió entonces fue apartar el barco de la costa.

Hay una cierta cadencia de entre 10 y 20 años en los accidentes de petroleros en la costa de A Coruña: el Urquiola en 1976, el Mar Egeo en 1992, el Prestige en 2002. Da un poco de yuyu.

Cruzo los dedos. La legislación europea ha mejorado, pero los medios siguen siendo los mismos. Mejor dicho, la falta de medios sigue siendo la misma.

¿Dónde estaba usted cuando se conocieron las primeras noticias sobre un petrolero en problemas?

A cien metros de la redacción, iba camino de mi casa y nos llegó la noticia de que el temporal había derribado una grúa en la calle Real de A Coruña y había matado a dos mujeres. Estábamos hablando con el concejal que se encargaba de Protección Civil y un compañero especializado en marítima le preguntó por un petrolero en apuros. El concejal no tenía ni idea. Durante entre 12 y 24 horas, la noticia fueron las mujeres fallecidas, porque además había muerto otra por otra caída de una grúa ese mismo día en Santurzi. Entré en directo en el informativo de primera hora de La Primera y me preguntaron primero por las señoras, y luego por el Prestige, si era cierto que el capitán del barco se resistía a ser remolcado. Me pareció que ya entonces empezaban a verter tinta de calamar.

¿Cómo vivió aquellas maniobras del entonces director de informativos, Alfredo Urdaci, para tapar desde la televisión pública lo que estaba pasando?

Empecé a hacer reportajes sobre el Prestige hasta que tuve la mala idea de preguntarle a un sargento de Rianxo -del primer contingente de soldados españoles que llegaron a las playas bastante tiempo después de que empezara a llegar petróleo, y que venían a preparar comidas para los voluntarios- si no pensaba que más vale tarde que nunca. A partir de ahí dejé de hacer reportajes.

¿No le da un poco de miedo constatar que quienes gestionaron la catástrofe del Prestige no sólo dicen que volverían a hacer lo mismo, sino que es lo que hay que hacer en un caso así?

No me extraña teniendo en cuenta que esa decisión la tomaron sin tener en cuenta ningún tipo de consulta o criterio técnico. Dependió del pie con el que se levantó ese día el ministro de turno. Aunque habría que recordarles que un año antes habían hecho un ejercicio nacional de salvamento para prever un incidente similar, y la solución técnica que se les ocurrió entonces fue apartar el barco de la costa.

Hay una cierta cadencia de entre 10 y 20 años en los accidentes de petroleros en la costa de A Coruña: el Urquiola en 1976, el Mar Egeo en 1992, el Prestige en 2002. Da un poco de yuyu.

Cruzo los dedos. La legislación europea ha mejorado, pero los medios siguen siendo los mismos. Mejor dicho, la falta de medios sigue siendo la misma.»La legislación europea ha mejorado, pero los medios siguen siendo los mismos»

¿Dónde estaba usted cuando se conocieron las primeras noticias sobre un petrolero en problemas?

A cien metros de la redacción, iba camino de mi casa y nos llegó la noticia de que el temporal había derribado una grúa en la calle Real de A Coruña y había matado a dos mujeres. Estábamos hablando con el concejal que se encargaba de Protección Civil y un compañero especializado en marítima le preguntó por un petrolero en apuros. El concejal no tenía ni idea. Durante entre 12 y 24 horas, la noticia fueron las mujeres fallecidas, porque además había muerto otra por otra caída de una grúa ese mismo día en Santurzi. Entré en directo en el informativo de primera hora de La Primera y me preguntaron primero por las señoras, y luego por el Prestige, si era cierto que el capitán del barco se resistía a ser remolcado. Me pareció que ya entonces empezaban a verter tinta de calamar.

¿Cómo vivió aquellas maniobras del entonces director de informativos, Alfredo Urdaci, para tapar desde la televisión pública lo que estaba pasando?

Empecé a hacer reportajes sobre el Prestige hasta que tuve la mala idea de preguntarle a un sargento de Rianxo -del primer contingente de soldados españoles que llegaron a las playas bastante tiempo después de que empezara a llegar petróleo, y que venían a preparar comidas para los voluntarios- si no pensaba que más vale tarde que nunca. A partir de ahí dejé de hacer reportajes.

¿Por orden de la dirección?

Sí. Después de aquella pieza apagué el teléfono, y por la mañana tenía un montón de llamadas y mensajes de un número con el 91 delante. Era el jefe de sección: «¡Joder, Pereiro! ¿Cómo me haces esto? ¡Estás loco!». Al día siguiente, mientras hablaba por teléfono, vi entrar a Urdaci por la puerta de la delegación. Nos saludamos, pero no me dijo nada.

O sea, que fue un desembarco de la dirección para tomar el control de la información que se daba desde aquí.

Sí. Desde entonces me tocó hacer el parte de manchas: la mancha está aquí, va hacia el norte por el viento, al sur… Información meteorológica, vamos. Mis expectativas no eran llegar a director de informativos de TVE, y en El País sí podía contar lo que estaba pasando. Uno de esos días llamé al que era jefe de prensa de Mariano Rajoy y me dijo: «Vamos a ver, ¿esto es para TVE o para El País«. Le respondí: «David, la verdad es la verdad en cualquier medio».

¿Cómo se convive con la sensación de trabajar para un medio que estaba contando mentiras?

Nunca me prohibieron decir «marea negra» ni nada similar. Sé que hubo otros periodistas a los que sí, pero también es cierto que se presiona a quien se puede. En cualquier caso, lo que sí sucedió es que había muchas diferencias entre las informaciones que se hacían aquí y las que se hacían en Madrid. A mí nadie me reprochó nunca nada cuando fui a hacer reportajes a los pueblos a donde había llegado el chapapote, y hubo gente de TVE que sí sufrió eso.

Hubo directos de Urdaci rodeado de vecinos increpándole. ¿No se sentía usted mal al ver cómo la gente insultaba al medio para el que usted trabajaba?

Yo trabajo en un medio, pero no le entrego mi alma. En cuanto a Urdaci, después de aquella entradilla ya no se sabía nunca dónde estaba.

El problema de que se minimizara desde la televisión pública la llegada de la marea negra no era sólo ético, sino que impidió que se tomaran medidas efectivas contra ella.

Fue una huida hacia adelante. Negaron el problema. Y al negarlo, concluyeron que ni siquiera la Xunta podía hacer algo. Por eso se levantó la gente. La lectura del Gobierno fue: «Esto está pasando a 600 kilómetros, así que no está pasando». Y la sensación que tuvo la sociedad gallega fue que el Gobierno la engañaba y la Xunta no hacía nada. La Administración, el Estado entendido en su sentido amplio, desapareció de Galicia. Sus representantes se dedicaban a contar mentiras, a decir que la cosa estaba cojonudamente bien, que las playas estaban esplendorosas, como dijo el exministro de Defensa Federico Trillo, o que gracias a la actuación de las autoridades se había evitado una marea negra, como dijo Arias Cañete, exministro de Agricultura y Pesca, seis horas después de que se chapapotearan 190 kilómetros de costa.

¿La prensa gallega tuvo un comportamiento distinto?

Durante un tiempo, los periodistas tomamos el control de lo que pasaba. Las directrices nos sobrevolaban, pero las redacciones se convirtieron en lo que tienen que ser: núcleos de debate sobre lo que es noticia o no. En prácticamente todos los medios gallegos sucedió eso.

¿Usted cree que los periodistas y los medios responderían ahora de la misma manera, o, visto lo visto, sería imposible que una empresa periodística dejara la gestión informativa de otra catástrofe en manos de su redacción?

Ahora hay tanta polarización en los medios que algunos incluso dirían que no es chapapote, sino chocolate a la taza. Y habría un enorme follón en redes. La del Prestige fue la primera gran crisis en España que ocurrió cuando ya funcionaba Internet, aunque entonces las únicas redes sociales eran los sms y las listas de correo. En general, en épocas de crisis, los periodistas siempre acaban arrimando la mano al timón. Habrá gente a la que le dicten una consigna y la siga, pero mucha otra se acogerá a la doctrina de Bartleby, el escribiente: «Preferiría no hacerlo». En una crisis, cualquier cadena de mando se resiente. En la Xunta y en el Gobierno nadie cuestionó en público la decisión de apartar el Prestige de la costa, pero en las conversaciones internas, muchos la criticaron.

Alejarlo de la costa en una ruta de navegación que exponía al mar el costado dañado.

Decían que era una chatarra, pero aguantó siete días y 40.000 golpes de mar, según la sentencia. Lo llevaron de un lado a otro, encendieron los motores, que son 200.000 caballos de potencia… López Veiga, exconselleiro de Pesca de la Xunta, se justificó años después diciendo que su teoría era que era mejor alejar el barco porque así el chapapote tardaría más en llegar y estaríamos mejor preparados. Pero no fue así porque no había medios. En la ría de Arousa, quienes trataron de contener el vertido fueron los marineros, las mariscadoras, la gente, haciendo barreras con almohadas y cojines. En Galicia contábamos con ocho kilómetros de barreras, que igual sirven para cercar un barco en una ría, pero no para una mancha de cientos de kilómetros con un vertido de 60.000 toneladas. Aunque, en palabras del delegado del Gobierno, Arsenio Fernández de Mesa: «Hay una cantidad clara, y es que la cantidad exacta no se sabe».

Si el barco se hubiera refugiado en la ría de Corcubión, como se barajó, no se habría hundido y no habría vertido esas 60.000 toneladas que algunos elevan a 70.000.

Sí, pero el PP se lo planteó como un problema político, que podía llevarle a perder alcaldías y, con ellas, diputaciones. No hubo otro cálculo que ese. A las dos horas del primer SOS del capitán del barco, el director general de la Marina Mercante, López Sors, le dijo al director general de Salvamento Marítimo que había que alejar el barco hasta que se hundiera.

Es razonable que en una situación así se puedan tomar medidas equivocadas, pero no se entiende que una vez que se constata que no han funcionado los mismo implicados sigan diciendo años después que hicieron lo correcto.

Si hubieran debatido el asunto y si la conclusión a la que hubieran llegado fuera que lo mejor era alejar el barco, podrían asumirlo como un error. Pero insisto en que ese debate nunca existió. Claro que fue una decisión apresurada; la tomaron en dos horas, al remolcador Ría de Vigo ni siquiera le había dado tiempo a llegar a donde estaba el petrolero.

Volviendo a ese tiempo breve en el que los periodistas y las redacciones tuvieron el control de la información, todo eso se terminó en cuanto Aznar delegó en Rajoy la gestión de la crisis. Rajoy contactó con los propietarios de los medios y al día siguiente se prohibió a los periodistas hablar de «manchas» y de «marea negra», términos que se sustituyeron por «galletas» y «lentejas» de chapapote.

En TVE no fue así. Quizás porque en un informativo de televisión la información está menos jerarquizada, en el sentido de que son tres, cuatro o cinco piezas como mucho, no como un periódico, que tenía muchísimas más. Pero en el resto de los medios sí se notó. Los medios gallegos contaron hechos hasta que apareció Nunca Máis, y entonces empezaron a hacerse las preguntas equivocadas: quiénes son estos tipos, quién está detrás, quién paga las banderas de Nunca Máis… En vez de preguntarse por qué había surgido el movimiento y tratar de responder a esa pregunta. Desde entonces, en la prensa dejaron de mandar la realidad y la verdad y empezaron a mandar los intereses del poder. ABC La Razón sacaron las fotos de los líderes de Nunca Máis como si acabaran de salir de Alcalá Meco, cayeron las demandas de Manos Limpias, la investigación del fiscal general del Estado, Jesús Cardenal…

¿En todo eso no pudo influir que el poder considerara a Nunca Máis como una herramienta política de la oposición, no como un movimiento ciudadano?

El esqueleto de Nunca Máis era el Bloque Nacionalista Galego, que pensó que una manifestación que habían convocado los sindicatos para protestar por la gestión de la crisis y las consecuencias del vertido, y que fue el inicio del movimiento, no debería ser sectorial, sino un acto de repulsa nacional. Nunca Máis no era un plataforma convencional de partidos y sindicatos. Entre las 365 organizaciones que la formaron, y lo recuerdo porque eran tantas como los días del año, había desde asociaciones ecologistas y vecinales hasta multinacionales de la acuicultura como Stolt Sea Farm. Y es cierto que, también durante un tiempo, Nunca Máis tuvo poder real. Porque era un movimiento transversal y abierto, lo que permitió que tuviera la enorme dimensión social que tuvo. Para mí, incluso más que el No a la guerra y que el 15M.

¿Nunca Máis fue resultado de la gestión del naufragio o de las mentiras?

Fue el resultado de la sensación de orfandad que sintió la sociedad gallega. «El Gobierno central nos engaña, el de aquí no se mueve y obedece». Fraga, que era un tipo que estaba todos los días en la calle, desapareció por completo, en una época en la que la ciudadanía tenía la impresión de que la Xunta mandaba en Galicia más que el Gobierno de España. Abandono y engaño.

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On the Show tonight

Who Invented Television?

Multiple inventors deserve credit for the technology, which had its origins in the 19th century.

The way people watch television has changed dramatically since the medium first burst onto the scene in the 1940s and ‘50s and forever transformed American life. Decade after decade, TV technology has steadily advanced: Color arrived in the 1960s, followed by cable in the ‘70s, VCRs in the ‘80s and high-definition in the late ‘90s. In the 21st century, viewers are just as likely to watch shows on cell phones, laptops and tablets as on a TV set. Amazingly, however, all these technological changes were essentially just improvements on a basic system that has worked since the late 1930s—with roots reaching even further back than that.

Early TV Technology: Mechanical Spinning Discs

No single inventor deserves credit for the television. The idea was floating around long before the technology existed to make it happen, and many scientists and engineers made contributions that built on each other to eventually produce what we know as TV today.

Television’s origins can be traced to the 1830s and ‘40s, when Samuel F.B. Morse developed the telegraph, the system of sending messages (translated into beeping sounds) along wires. Another important step forward came in 1876 in the form of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, which allowed the human voice to travel through wires over long distances.

Both Bell and Thomas Edison speculated about the possibility of telephone-like devices that could transmit images as well as sounds. But it was a German researcher who took the next important step toward developing the technology that made television possible. In 1884, Paul Nipkow came up with a system of sending images through wires via spinning discs. He called it the electric telescope, but it was essentially an early form of mechanical television.

TV Goes Electronic With Cathode Ray Tubes

In the early 1900s, both Russian physicist Boris Rosing and Scottish engineer Alan Archibald Campbell-Swinton worked independently to improve on Nipkow’s system by replacing the spinning discs with cathode ray tubes, a technology developed earlier by German physicist Karl Braun. Swinton’s system, which placed cathode ray tubes inside the camera that sent a picture, as well as inside the receiver, was essentially the earliest all-electronic television system.

Russian-born engineer Vladimir Zworykin had worked as Rosing’s assistant before both of them emigrated following the Russian Revolution. In 1923, Zworykin was employed at the Pittsburgh-based manufacturing company Westinghouse when he applied for his first television patent, for the “Iconoscope,” which used cathode ray tubes to transmit images.

Meanwhile, Scottish engineer John Baird gave the world’s first demonstration of true television before 50 scientists in central London in 1927. With his new invention, Baird formed the Baird Television Development Company, and in 1928 it achieved the first transatlantic television transmission between London and New York and the first transmission to a ship in mid-Atlantic. Baird is also credited with giving the first demonstration of both color and stereoscopic television.

In 1929, Zworykin demonstrated his all-electronic television system at a convention of radio engineers. In the audience was David Sarnoff, an executive at Radio Corporation of America (RCA), the nation’s biggest communications company at the time. Born into a poor Jewish family in Minsk, Russia, Sarnoff had come to New York City as a child and began his career as a telegraph operator. He was actually on duty on the night of the Titanic disaster; although he likely didn’t—as he later claimed—coordinate distress messages sent to nearby ships, he did help disseminate the names of the survivors.

Utah Inventor Battles Giant Corporation

Sarnoff was among the earliest to see that television, like radio, had enormous potential as a medium for entertainment as well as communication. Named president of RCA in 1930, he hired Zworykin to develop and improve television technology for the company. Meanwhile, an American inventor named Philo Farnsworth had been working on his own television system. Farnsworth, who grew up on a farm in Utah, reportedly came up with his big idea—a vacuum tube that could dissect images into lines, transmit those lines and turn them back into images—while still a teenager in chemistry class.

In 1927, at the age of 21, Farnsworth completed the prototype of the first working fully electronic TV system, based on this “image dissector.” He soon found himself embroiled in a long legal battle with RCA, which claimed Zworykin’s 1923 patent took priority over Farnsworth’s inventions. The U.S. Patent Office ruled in favor of Farnsworth in 1934 (helped in part by an old high school teacher, who had kept a key drawing by the young inventor), and Sarnoff was eventually forced to pay Farnsworth $1 million in licensing fees. Though viewed by many historians as the true father of television, Farnsworth never earned much more from his invention, and was dogged by patent appeal lawsuits from RCA. He later moved on to other fields of research, including nuclear fission, and died in debt in 1971.

Sarnoff, with his company’s marketing might, introduced the public to television in a big way at the World’s Fair in New York City in 1939. Under the umbrella of RCA’s broadcasting division, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), Sarnoff broadcast the fair’s opening ceremonies, including a speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The Rise of a New Medium

By 1940, there were only a few hundred televisions in use in the United States. With radio still dominating the airwaves—more than 80 percent of American homes owned one at the time—TV use grew slowly over the course of the decade, and by the mid-1940s, the United States had 23 television stations (and counting). By 1949, a year after the debut of the hit variety show Texaco Star Theater, hosted by comedian Milton Berle, the nation boasted 1 million TV sets in use.

By the 1950s, television had truly entered the mainstream, with more than half of all American homes owning TV sets by 1955. As the number of consumers expanded, new stations were created and more programs broadcast, and by the end of that decade TV had replaced radio as the main source of home entertainment in the United States. During the 1960 presidential election, the young, handsome John F. Kennedy had a noticeable advantage over his less telegenic opponent, Richard M. Nixon in televised debates, and his victory that fall would bring home for many Americans the transformative impact of the medium. 


The First TV: A Complete History of Television

From the Moon Landing to M*A*S*H, from the Olympics to “The Office,” some of the most critical moments in history and culture have been experienced worldwide thanks to the wondrous invention of television.

The evolution of television has been one full of slow, steady progress. However, there have been definitive moments that have changed technology forever. The first TV, the first “broadcast” of live events to screen, the introduction of “the television show,” and the Streaming Internet have all been significant leaps forward in how television works. 

Today, television technology is an integral part of telecommunications and computing. Without it, we would be lost.  

What Is a Television System?

It’s a simple question with a surprisingly complex answer. At its core, a “television” is a device that takes electrical input to produce moving images and sound for us to view. A “television system” would be both what we now call television and the camera/producing equipment that captured the original images.

The Etymology of “Television”

The word “television” first appeared in 1907 in the discussion of a theoretical device that transported images across telegraph or telephone wires. Ironically, this prediction was behind the times, as some of the first experiments into television used radio waves from the beginning. 

“Tele-” is a prefix that means “far off” or “operating at a distance.” The word “television” was agreed upon quite rapidly, and while other terms like “iconoscope” and “emitron” referred to patented devices that were used in some electronic television systems, television is the one that stuck.

Today, the word “television” takes a slightly more fluid meaning. A “television show” is often considered a series of small entertainment pieces with a throughline or overarching plot. The difference between television and movies is found in the length and serialization of the media, rather than the technology used to broadcast it.

“Television” is now as often watched on phones, computers, and home projectors as it is on the independent devices we call “television sets.” In 2017, only 9 percent of American adults watched television using an antenna, and 61 percent watched it directly from the internet.

The Mechanical Television System

The first device you could call a “television system” under these definitions was created by John Logie Baird. A Scottish engineer, his mechanical television used a spinning “Nipkow disk,” a mechanical device to capture images and convert them to electrical signals. These signals, sent by radio waves, were picked up by a receiving device. Its own disks would spin similarly, illuminated by a neon light to produce a replica of the original images.

Baird’s first public demonstration of his mechanical television system was somewhat prophetically held at a London Department store way back in 1925. Little did he know that television systems would be carefully intertwined with consumerism throughout history.

The evolution of the mechanical television system progressed rapidly and, within three years, Baird’s invention was able to broadcast from London to New York. By 1928, the world’s first television station opened under the name W2XCW. It transmitted 24 vertical lines at 20 frames a second.

Of course, the first device that we today would recognize as television involved the use of Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs). These convex glass-in-box devices shared images captured live on camera, and the resolution was, for its time, incredible.

This modern, electronic television had two fathers working simultaneously and often against each other. They were Philo Farnsworth and Vladimir Zworykin.

Who Invented the First TV?

Traditionally, a self-taught boy from Idaho named Philo Farnsworth is credited for having invented the first TV. But another man, Vladimir Zworykin, also deserves some of the credit. In fact, Farnsworth could not have completed his invention without the help of Zworykin.

How the First Electronic Television Camera Came to Be

Philo Farnsworth claimed to have designed the first electronic television receiver at only 14. Regardless of those personal claims, history records that Farnsworth, at only 21, designed and created a functioning “image dissector” in his small city apartment.

The image dissector “captured images” in a manner not too dissimilar to how our modern digital cameras work today. His tube, which captured 8,000 individual points, could convert the image to electrical waves with no mechanical device required. This miraculous invention led to Farnsworth creating the first all-electronic television system.

Zworykin’s Role in the Developing the First Television

Having escaped to America during the Russian Civil War, Vladimir Zworykin found himself immediately employed by Westinghouse’s electrical engineering firm. He then set to work patenting work he had already produced in showing television images via a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT). He had not, at that point, been able to capture images as well as he could show them.

By 1929, Zworykin worked for the Radio Corporation of America (owned by General Electric and soon to form the National Broadcasting Company). He had already created a simple color television system. Zworykin was convinced that the best camera would also use CRT but never seemed to make it work.

When Was TV Invented?

Despite protestations from both men and multiple drawn-out legal battles over their patents, RCA eventually paid royalties to use Farnsworth’s technology to transmit to Zorykin’s receivers. In 1927, the first TV was invented. For decades after, these electronic televisions changed very little.

When Was The First Television Broadcast?

The first television broadcast was by Georges Rignoux and A. Fournier in Paris in 1909. However, this was the broadcast of a single line. The first broadcast that general audiences would have been wowed by was on March 25, 1925. That is the date John Logie Baird presented his mechanical television.

When television began to change its identity from the engineer’s invention to the new toy for the rich, broadcasts were few and far between. The first television broadcasts were of King  George VI’s coronation. The coronation was one of the first television broadcasts to be filmed outside.

In 1939, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) broadcasted the opening of New York’s World’s Fair. This event included a speech from Franklin D. Roosevelt and an appearance by Albert Einstein. By this point, NBC had a regular broadcast of two hours every afternoon and was watched by approximately nineteen thousand people around New York City. 

The First Television Networks

The First Television Network was The National Broadcasting Company, a subsidiary of The Radio Corporation of America (or RCA). It started in 1926 as a series of Radio stations in New York and Washington.  NBC’s first official broadcast was on November 15, 1926.

NBC started to regularly broadcast television after the 1939 New York World’s Fair. It had approximately one thousand viewers. From this point on, the network would broadcast every day and continues to do so now.

The National Broadcasting Company kept a dominant position among television networks in the United States for decades but always had competition. The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), which had also previously broadcast in radio and mechanical television, turned to all-electronic television systems in 1939. In 1940, it became the first television network to broadcast in color, albeit in a one-off experiment.

The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) was forced to break off from NBC to form its own television network in 1943. This was due to the FCC being concerned that a monopoly was occurring in television.

The three television networks would rule television broadcasting for forty years without competition.

In England, the publicly-owned British Broadcasting Corporation (or BBC) was the only television station available. It started broadcasting television signals in 1929, with John Logie Baird’s experiments, but the official Television Service did not exist until 1936. The BBC would remain the only network in England until 1955.

The First Television Productions

The first made-for-television drama would arguably be a 1928 drama called “The Queen’s Messenger,” written by J. Harley Manners. This live drama presentation included two cameras and was lauded more for the technological marvel than anything else.

The first news broadcasts on television involved news readers repeating what they just had broadcast on radio. 

On December 7, 1941, Ray Forrest, one of the first full-time news announcers for television, presented the first news bulletin. The first time that “regularly scheduled programs” were interrupted, his bulletin announced the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

This special report for CBS ran for hours, with experts coming into the studio to discuss everything from geography to geopolitics. According to a report CBS gave to the FCC, this unscheduled broadcast “was unquestionably the most stimulating challenge and marked the greatest advance of any single problem faced up to that time.”

After the war, Forrest went on to host one of the first cooking shows on television, “In the Kelvinator Kitchen.”

When Was the First TV Sold?

The first television sets available for anyone were manufactured in 1934 by Telefunken, a subsidiary of the electronics company Siemens. RCA began manufacturing American sets in 1939. They cost around $445 dollars at the time (the American average salary was $35 per month). 

TV Becomes Mainstream: The Post-War Boom 

After the Second World War, a newly invigorated middle class caused a boom in sales of television sets, and television stations began to broadcast around the clock worldwide.

By the end of the 1940s, audiences were looking to get more from television programming. While news broadcasts would always be important, audiences looked for entertainment that was more than a play that happened to be caught on camera. Experiments from major networks led to significant changes in the type of television programs in existence. Many of these experiments can be seen in the shows of today.

What Was the First TV Show?

The first regularly broadcast TV show was a visual version of the popular radio series, “Texaco Star Theatre.” It began tv broadcasts on June 8, 1948. By this time, there were nearly two hundred thousand television sets in America. 

The Rise of The Sitcom

In 1947, DuMont Television Network (partnered with Paramount Pictures) began to air a series of teledramas starring real-life couple Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns. “Mary Kay and Johnny” featured a middle-class American couple facing real-life problems. It was the first show on television to show a couple in bed, as well as a pregnant woman. It was not only the first “sitcom” but the model for all the great sitcoms since.

Three years later, CBS hired a young female actor called Lucille, who had previously been known in Hollywood as “The Queen of the B (movies).” Initially trying her out in other sitcoms, she eventually convinced them that their best show would include her partner, just as Mary Kay and Johnny had. 

The show, entitled “I Love Lucy,” became a runaway success and is now considered a cornerstone of television. 

Today, “I Love Lucy” has been described as “legitimately the most influential in TV history.” The popularity of reruns led to the concept of “syndication,” an arrangement in which other television stations could purchase the rights to screen reruns of the show.  

According to CBS, “I Love Lucy” still makes the company $20 Million a year. Lucille Ball is now considered one of the most important names in the history of the medium.

The “sitcom,” derived from the phrase “situational comedy,” is still one of the most popular forms of television programming. 

In 1983, the final episode of the popular sitcom “M*A*S*H” had over one hundred million viewers glued to their screens, a number not beaten for nearly thirty years. 

In 1997, Jerry Seinfeld would become the first sit-com star to earn a million dollars per episode. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, a sitcom about the immoral and crazy owners of a bar, is the longest-running live sitcom ever, now into its 15th season.

When Did Color TV Come Out?

The ability of television systems to broadcast and receive color occurred relatively early in the evolution of electronic television. Patents for color television existed from the late nineteenth century, and John Baird regularly broadcast from a color television system in the thirties.

The National Television System Committee (NTSC) met in 1941 to develop a standardized system for television broadcasts, ensuring that all television stations used similar systems to ensure that all television systems could receive them. The committee, created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), would meet again only twelve years later to agree upon a standard for color television.

However, a problem faced by television networks was that color broadcasting required extra radio bandwidth. This bandwidth, the FCC decided, needed to be separate from that which sent black and white television in order for all audiences to receive a broadcast. This NTSC standard was first used for the “Tournament of Roses Parade” in 1954. The color viewing was available to so few systems as a particular receiver was required.

The First TV Remote Control

While the first remote controls were intended for military use, controlling boats and artillery from a distance, entertainment providers soon considered how radio and television systems might use the technology. 

What Was The First TV Remote?

The first remote control for television was developed by Zenith in 1950 and was called “Lazy Bones.” It had a wired system and only a single button, which allowed for the changing of channels.

By 1955, however, Zenith had produced a wireless remote that worked by shining light at a receiver on the television. This remote could change channels, turn the tv on and off, and even change the sound. However, being activated by light, ordinary lamps, and sunlight could unintentionally act on the television.

While future remote controls would use ultrasonic frequencies, the use of infra-red light ended up being the standard. The information sent from these devices was often unique to the television system but could offer complex instructions. 

Today, all television sets are sold with remote controls as standard, and an inexpensive “universal remote” can be purchased easily online. 

The Tonight Show and Late Night Television

After starring in the first American sitcom, Johnny Stearns continued on television by being one of the producers behind “Tonight, Starring Steve Allen,” now known as “The Tonight Show.” This late-night broadcast is the longest-running television talk show still running today.

Prior to “The Tonight Show,” talk shows were already growing popular. “The Ed Sullivan Show” opened in 1948 with a premier that included Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, and a sneak preview of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.” The show featured serious interviews with its stars and Sullivan was known to have little respect for the young musicians that performed on his show. “The Ed Sullivan Show” lasted until 1971 and is now most remembered for being the show that introduced the United States to “Beatlemania“.

“The Tonight Show” was a more low-brow affair compared to Sullivan, and popularized a number of elements found today in late-night television; opening monolog, live bands, sketch moments with guest stars, and audience participation all found their start in this program. 

While popular under Allen, “The Tonight Show” really became a part of history during its epic three-decade run under Johnny Carson. From 1962 to 1992, Carson’s program was less about the intellectual conversation with guests than it was about promotion and spectacle. Carson, to some, “define[d] in a single word what made television different from theater or cinema.”

The Tonight Show still runs today, hosted by Jimmy Fallon, while contemporary competitors include “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert and “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah.  

Digital Television Systems

Starting with the first TV, television broadcasts were always analog, which means the radio wave itself contains the information the set needs to create a picture and sound. Image and sound would be directly translated into waves via “modulation” and then reverted back by the receiver through “demodulation”.

A digital radio wave doesn’t contain such complex information, but alternates between two forms, which can be interpreted as zeros and ones. However, this information needs to be “encoded” and “recoded.”

With the rise of low-cost, high-power computing, engineers experimented with the digital broadcast. Digital broadcast “decoding” could be done by a computer chip within the tv set which breaks down the waves into discrete zeroes and ones. 

While this could be used to produce greater image quality and clearer audio, it would also require a much higher bandwidth and computing power that was only available in the seventies. The bandwidth required was improved over time with the advent of “compression” algorithms, and television networks could broadcast greater amounts of data to televisions at home.

Digital broadcast of television via cable television began in the mid-nineties, and as of July 2021, no television station in the United States broadcasts in analog.

VHS Brings the Movies to TV

For a very long time, what you saw on television was decided by what the television networks decided to broadcast. While some wealthy people could afford film projectors, the large box in the living room could only show what someone else wanted it to.

Then, in the 1960s, electronics companies began to provide devices that could “record television” onto electromagnetic tapes, which could then be watched through the set at a later time. These “Video Cassette Recorders” were expensive but desired by many. The first Sony VCR cost the same as a new car.

In the late seventies, two companies faced off to determine the standard of home video cassettes in what some referred to as a “format war.” 

Sony’s “Betamax” eventually lost to JVC’s “VHS” format due to the latter company’s willingness to make their standard “open” (and not require licensing fees).

VHS machines quickly dropped in price, and soon most homes contained an extra piece of equipment. Contemporary VCRs could record from the television and played portable tapes with other recordings. In California, businessman George Atkinson purchased a library of fifty movies directly from movie companies and then proceeded to start a new industry.

The Birth of Video Rental Companies

For a fee, customers could become members of his “Video Station”. Then, for an additional cost, they could borrow one of the fifty movies to watch at home, before returning. So began the era of the video rental company.

Movie studios were concerned by the concept of home video. They argued that giving people the ability to copy to tape what they are shown constituted theft. These cases reached the Supreme Court, which eventually decided that recording for home consumption was legal. 

Studios replied by creating licensing agreements to make video rental a legitimate industry and produce films specifically for home entertainment. 

While the first “direct to video” movies were low-budget slashers or pornography, the format became quite popular after the success of Disney’s “Aladdin: Return of Jafar.” This sequel to the popular animated movie sold 1.5 Million copies in its first two days of release.

Home video changed slightly with the advent of digital compression and the rise of optical disc storage. 

Soon, networks and film companies could offer high-quality digital television recordings on Digital Versatile Discs (or DVDs). These discs were introduced in the mid-nineties but soon were superseded by high-definition discs. 

As possible evidence of karma, it was Sony’s “Blu-Ray” system that won against Toshiba’s “HG DVD” in home video’s second “Format War.” Today, Blu-Rays are the most popular form of physical purchase for home entertainment.

First Satellite TV
On July 12, 1962, the Telstar 1 satellite beamed images sent from Andover Earth Station in Maine to the Pleumeur-Bodou Telecom Center in Brittany, France. So marked the birth of satellite television. Only three years later, the first commercial satellite for the purposes of broadcasting was sent into space.

Satellite television systems allowed television networks to broadcast around the world, no matter how far from the rest of society a receiver might be. While owning a personal receiver was, and still is, far more expensive than conventional television, networks took advantage of such systems to offer subscription services that were not available to public consumers. These services were a natural evolution of already existing “cable channels” such as “Home Box Office,” which relied on direct payment from consumers instead of external advertising.

The first live satellite broadcast that was watchable worldwide occurred in June 1967. BBC’s “Our World” employed multiple geostationary satellites to beam a special entertainment event that included the first public performance of “All You Need is Love” by The Beatles. 

The Constant Rise and Fall of 3D Television

It is a technology with a long history of attempts and failures and which will likely return one day. “3D Television” refers to television that conveys depth perception, often with the aid of specialized screens or glasses.

It may come as no surprise that the first example of 3D television came from the labs of John Baird. His 1928 presentation bore all the hallmarks of future research into 3D television because the principle has always been the same. Two images are shown at slightly different angles and differences to approximate the different images our two eyes see.

While 3D films have come and gone as gimmicky spectacles, the early 2010s saw a significant spark of excitement for 3D television — all the spectacle of the movies at home. While there was nothing technologically advanced about screening 3D television, broadcasting it required more complexity in standards. At the end of 2010, the DVB-3D standard was introduced, and electronics companies around the world were clambering to get their products into homes.

However, like the 3D crazes in movies every few decades, the home viewer soon grew tired. While 2010 saw the PGA Championship, FIFA World Cup, and Grammy Awards all filmed and broadcast in 3D, channels began to stop offering the service only three years later. By 2017, Sony and LG officially announced they would no longer support 3D for their products.

Some future “visionary” will likely take another shot at 3D television but, by then, there is a very good chance that television will be something very different indeed.

LCD/LED Systems

During the late twentieth century, new technologies arose in how television could be presented on the screen. Cathode Ray Tubes had limitations in size, longevity, and cost. The invention of low-cost microchips and the ability to manufacture quite small components led TV manufacturers to look for new technologies.

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) is a way to present images by having a backlight shine through millions (or even billions) of crystals that can be individually made opaque or translucent using electricity. This method allows the display of images using devices that can be very flat and use little electricity.

While popular in the 20th century for use in clocks and watches, improvements in LCD technology let them become the next way to present images for television. Replacing the old CRT meant televisions were lighter, thinner, and inexpensive to run. Because they did not use phosphorous, images left on the screen could not “burn-in”.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) use extremely small “diodes” that light up when electricity passes through them. Like LCD, they are inexpensive, small, and use little electricity. Unlike LCD, they need no backlight. Because LCDs are cheaper to produce, they have been the popular choice in the early 21st century. However, as technology changes, the advantages of LED may eventually lead to it taking over the market.

The Internet Boogeyman

The ability for households to have personal internet access in the nineties led to fear among those in the television industry that it might not be around forever. While many saw this fear as similar to the rise of VHS, others took advantage of the changes.

With internet speeds increasing, the data that was previously sent to the television via radio waves or cables could not be sent through your telephone line. The information you would once need to record onto a video cassette could be “downloaded” to watch in the future. People began acting “outside of the law,”very much like the early video rental stores.

Then, when internet speed reached a point fast enough, something unusual happened.

“Streaming Video” and the rise of YouTube

In 2005, three former employees of the online financial company PayPal created a website that allowed people to upload their home videos to watch online. You didn’t need to download these videos but could watch them “live” as the data was “streamed” to your computer. This means you did not need to wait for a download or use up hard-drive space.

Videos were free to watch but contained advertising and allowed content creators to include ads for which they would be paid a small commission. This “partner program” encouraged a new wave of creators who could make their own content and gain an audience without relying on television networks.

The creators offered a limited release to interested people, and by the time the site officially opened, more than two million videos a day were being added.

Today, creating content on YouTube is big business. With the ability for users to “subscribe” to their favorite creators, the top YouTube stars can earn tens of millions of dollars a year.

Netflix, Amazon, and the New Television Networks

In the late nineties, a new subscription video rental service formed that was seemingly like all those who came after George Atkinson. It had no physical buildings but would rely on people returning the video in the mail before renting the next one. Because videos now came on DVD, postage was cheap, and the company soon rivaled the most prominent video rental chains.

Then in 2007, as people were paying attention to the rise of YouTube, the company took a risk. Using the rental licenses it already had to lend out its movies, it placed them online for consumers to stream directly. It started with 1,000 titles and only allowed 18 hours of streaming per month. This new service was so popular that, by the end of the year, the company had 7.5 million subscribers.

The problem was that, for Netflix, they relied on the same television networks that their company was damaging. If people watched their streaming service more than traditional television, networks would need to increase their fee for licensing their shows to rental companies. In fact, if a network decided to no longer license its content to Netflix, there would be little the company could do.

So, the company started to produce its own material. It hoped to attract even more viewers by investing a large amount of money on new shows like “Daredevil” and the US remake of “House of Cards.” The latter series, which ran from 2013 to 2018, won 34 Emmys, cementing Netflix as a competitor in the television network industry. 

In 2021, the company spent $17 Billion on original content and continued to decrease the amount of content purchased from the three major networks.

Other companies took note of the success of Netflix. Amazon, which started life as an online bookstore, and became one of the largest e-commerce platforms globally, began to produce its own original in the same year as Netflix and has since been joined by dozens of other services around the world.

The Future of Television

In some ways, those who feared the internet were right. Today, streaming takes up over a quarter of the audience’s viewing habits, with this number rising every year. 

However, this change is less about the media and more about the technology that accesses it. Mechanical Televisions are gone. Analog broadcasts are gone. Eventually, radio-broadcasted television will disappear as well. But television? Those half-hour and one-hour blocks of entertainment, they are not going anywhere. 

The most-watched streaming programs of 2021 include dramas, comedies, and, just like at the beginning of television history, cooking shows.

While slow to react to the internet, the major networks all now have their own streaming services, and new advances in fields like virtual reality mean that television will continue to evolve well into our future.


You Are What You Watch? The Social Effects of TV

There’s new evidence that viewing habits can affect your thinking, political preferences, even cognitive ability.

Other than sleeping and working, Americans are more likely to watch television than engage in any other activity.

A wave of new social science research shows that the quality of shows can influence us in important ways, shaping our thinking and political preferences, even affecting our cognitive ability.

In this so-called golden age of television, some critics have pointed out that the best of the form is equivalent to the most enriching novels. And high-quality programming for children can be educational. But the latest evidence also suggests there can be negative consequences to our abundant watching, particularly when the shows are mostly entertainment.

The harm seems to come not so much from the content itself but from the fact that it replaces more enlightening ways of spending time.

‘Sesame Street’ as a social experiment

Cognitive ability is a complex characteristic that emerges from interactions between biological dispositions, nutrition and health, parenting behaviors, formal and informal educational opportunities, and culture.

Studying the connection between intelligence and television consumption is far from straightforward, but researchers have developed compelling ways to isolate the effects of television.

Some of the best research has been done on the television program “Sesame Street.” The show, which began in 1969, was meant to develop early literacy, numeracy and emotional skills for children of preschool age. A detailed analysis of the show’s content in its first and second years reveals that 80 percent of the program was dedicated to those goals, with the rest meant to entertain.

Researchers randomly assigned groups of low-income children age 3 to 5 into an experimental group and a control group. In the experimental group, parents were given access to the show if they lacked it and encouraged in person once a month to have their children watch the show.

Almost all (93 percent) parents of children in the experimental group reported that their children subsequently watched the show, compared with roughly one-third of children in the control group (35 percent). Among watchers, those in the experimental group also watched more frequently.

Over six months, from November 1970 to May 1971, the experimental group gained 5.4 I.Q. points — a large effect — relative to the control group and showed stronger evidence of learning along several other dimensions. Gains in cognitive performance were especially large for those who viewed the show frequently relative to those who did so rarely or never. A more recent meta-analysis of published research in 15 countries shows that “Sesame Street” has similar effects around the world.

In newly published research, the economists Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine examined longer-term effects of “Sesame Street” by comparing the educational outcomes of children and young adults in counties more or less likely to have access to the program during its early years. They found that children living in counties with better “Sesame Street” coverage were less likely to be held behind a grade level.

Other experimental research is consistent with the original “Sesame Street” findings. Low-income prekindergarten children scored higher on a social competence index six months after being randomly assigned to an experimental group, in which their parents were encouraged to replace age-inappropriate television with educational television.

Less reading and more watching

In Norway, and a handful of other developed countries, average I.Q. scores have declined slightly in recent years, after rising for many decades. This is known as the negative Flynn effect, a variation of the more famous Flynn effect, which is named after the psychologist who first published comprehensive evidence of I.Q. gains over time. Among native Norwegian men taking an exam at age 18 for military conscription, those born in 1974 scored two I.Q. points higher than those born in 1987.

In an academic article published this year, the Norwegian economist Oystein Hernaes and his co-authors attributed some of this decline in I.Q. scores to access to cable television, which also coincided with a sharp decline in reading. After the introduction of cable in 1981, Norwegian teenagers and young adults drastically cut back on daily time spent reading from 1980 to 2000, and increased their time watching TV. Moreover, relative to public television, cable television had far less educational content and was focused on entertainment and advertisements.

To estimate the effect of cable television on I.Q. scores, the Norwegian scholars analyzed data on the introduction of cable network infrastructure by municipality. They calculated years of exposure to cable by considering the age of eventual test takers when cable became available in their municipality. They controlled for any potential geographic bias by comparing siblings with greater or less exposure to cable television based on their age when cable infrastructure was put in.

They estimate that 10 years of exposure to cable television lowered I.Q. scores by 1.8 points. In related research, Mr. Hernaes finds that exposure to cable television reduced voter turnout in local elections.

We know that education increases cognitive ability, so it stands to reason that educational television would also have a positive effect.

Concerns about culture are hardly novel: Plato made a case for regulating the quality of artistic productions to avoid the corruption of youth and weakening of their character. Twenty-three centuries later, it is easier than ever to placate children as well as lose yourself in entertainment options — in the ocean of online videos, podcasts, cable, and streaming shows and movies.

These options are most likely harmless. Some provide relaxation, and others may modestly reshape cultural attitudes for the better; one study found that the introduction of cable TV empowered women in India. High-quality shows and films can be inspiring, even edifying.

Still, media providers and advertisers compete aggressively for our attention. Most lack the altruistic motivations that guided the producers of the original “Sesame Street.” The evidence from social science suggests that biased or sensationalist news programs may misinform citizens or discourage civic engagement, and that we should also be cautious about what we give up for the sake of entertainment.


Positive And Negative Effects Of Television On Society – 2022 Guide

The media can affect the lives of people, especially children, positively and negatively. This happens in all periods of life and all cultures and areas. Judging by numerous studies on the role of television as a medium in the lives of children and people – today TV is one of the key means of socialization. It influences our behavior, attitudes, and worldviews.

Today, TV is one of the key factors in upbringing and education. It is because it represents a collection of sources of information and entertainment – for all generations and in all world cultures. What are the positive and negative effects of television in society? We will try to explain it in this text.

Impact Of Television: Between Good And Bad

Scientists and the public often have a divided view of the media and the television itself. On the one hand, we consider TV to be very positive. Great hopes and expectations are invested in the idea of media that can enrich children’s lives, change unhealthy behaviors, stimulate imagination and creativity, expand education and knowledge, encourage inclusion and tolerance, reduce disparities between social strata and contribute to the development and civil society.

On the other hand, there are growing concerns that watching television can dull the senses, stifle imagination and spontaneous behavior, produce an insensitivity to the pain of others, encourage destructive behaviors, perpetuate stereotypes, lead to moral decay, suppress local cultures – and contribute to alienation from society.

A Blend Of Entertainment And Education

From the research that was conducted all around the world, it is clear that TV shows intended for kids are very effective in achieving various development goals. For example, educational TV shows among preschoolers have been shown to motivate children and achieve school readiness, and literacy.

Therefore, TV can effectively help in teaching certain elements of future schooling programs. This modern type of approach is also associated with developmental communication. Strategies that combine all the advantages and positive aspects of entertainment and education, the so-called ‘edutainment’ (a word made from the terms education and entertainment) – are especially important for children. Thus the appeal and popularity of entertainment are used to achieve social change and promote the well-being of the individual and society.

Good Effects Of Television

When used properly, television can be a wonderful medium. It is just important to choose the right content. A large number of satellite channels today allow us to choose the content we will watch. The content depends on the number of channels and the choices available to you. Satellite TV is very easy to set up and the service technicians you choose to help you with it.

When it comes to this type of choice, you can find out here more information that may be helpful to you. A program that encompasses multiple themes and relationships between characters – is much better than one that contains a monotonous story. The more complex, the better – psychologists say.

Numerous studies show that people who watch documentaries about wildlife and natural beauty – often feel energetic and benevolent. Even looking at photos of nature will lower blood pressure and relax muscle tension.

Good Sides of the TV

1. It Brings Information

Television is a medium that conveys information excellently, whether it is about the wonders of nature, human achievements, or space travel. We have to admit that we learned a lot from television.

2. Helps You Learn Foreign Languages

Some studies are showing an increase in foreign language vocabulary in preschool children, but in adults as well.

3. Good Educational TV Programs Encourage Further Learning

A television program can stimulate an interest in fact-finding, conversation, or some new activity.

4. Encourages Reflection On The World

As your child grows, you will be able to use television pictures and events as a starting point for many discussions about values, sexuality, alcohol/drug use, etc. Television is also the most powerful medium that conveys images of many of the problems that today’s societies face, thus enabling the spread of awareness of many of today’s problems.

The More Complex – The Better

Programs can be educational and inspiring. Sometimes a child will find it easier to understand, for example, the growth of a plant by watching a documentary. Children who watch educational, non-aggressive children’s programs, according to research, show better results in reading and math tests. The more complex things they see on TV – the easier it will be to understand them, some research claims.

Better Learning And Fast Adoption Of Information

Preschoolers who watch informative and educational programs also prefer to watch documentaries in adulthood. Children who watch educational shows in preschool often have better grades, value education more, and are less aggressive, scientists claim.

Negative Sides Of Television

1. Bad Posture

Children who spend a lot of time in front of the screen behave improperly. The Germans tested 1,600 children between the ages of 6 and 17 and concluded that 40% of them could not stand properly, upright.

2. Aggression

TV content that is not adequately adapted to certain ages causes changes in the behavior of young people. Namely, watching the explicit content of violence – increases the risk that young people themselves adopt such a form of behavior as ‘normal’. It is similar when it comes to explicit sexual content.

3. Heart Problems

People who did not get enough exercise in childhood are six times more likely to have heart problems in adulthood. Sitting in front of the TV promotes obesity, high blood pressure, and cholesterol – which over time seriously damages health.

4. Speech And Concentration

Children under the age of 12 should not watch television at all – not even age-appropriate programs. According to some U.S. research, it is limiting their development. Experts especially point out the overload of the senses/brain due to constant, rapid changes in shots and scenes.

And How Does That Affect Our Physical Health?

People who spend a lot of time in front of the TV usually exercise a little, are sluggish, sit too much, have a broken posture, have severe back pain, suffer from unhealthy snacks, etc. People usually starve in front of the TV and then cram in unhealthy food – all of which affect blood sugar levels, accelerated weight gain, especially due to fast food.

What Happens To The Brain?

In neurobiology, there is a term called brain plasticity (neuroplasty). It is about the ability of the brain to adapt to the environment. The neurons in our brain are constantly working to ensure that adjustment. Those good sides could be pushed aside over time if we are often exposed (as is the case with TV) to watching alcoholism, murder, crime, lies, gambling, etc.


TV Is King – The Tubes (1979)

I wish I was the man with the mechanical heart
I’d conquer all my enemies alone
I’d tear the guys apart
Then scatter the pieces

I wish I was the man in the soundproof booth
I wish I had a chance to stump the band
Or maybe tell truth
And maybe I could win a color television

I really love my–television
I love to sit by–television
Can’t live without my–television

TV is king
You’re my everything

I wish I had the girl with the bouncy hair
We’d ride off in a brand new car
Or fly a plane somewhere
Like probably Jamaica

I brush my teeth, shampoo my hair, and shave my face
Apply the necessary aerosol
In the appropriate place
And we’ll spend the night together watching television

I can’t turn off my–television
Don’t really know why–television
I understand my–television

You got your works in a drawer and your color’s on track
You have to break away but you always come back
You make a hundred changes but you’re always the same
You make me so excited and you make me so lame
You’re just a tube full of gas and a box full of tin
But you show me your charms and I want to jump in
Oh if only your chassis was covered with skin
‘Cause TV you’re my everything

I really love my–television
I love to sit by–television
Can’t live without my–television
I can’t turn off my–television
Don’t really know why–television
I understand my–television
I really love my–television

TV is king
You’re my everything
TV is king

Women playing Jazz

Women in jazz still face many barriers to success – new research

There are are relatively few female musicians in jazz. Recordings led by women formed only one-fifth of the top 50 albums NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll over 2017 to 2019, and this seems to be a long-term trend: a survey of British jazz musicians in 2004 suggested 14% were female.

Rather than there being explicit barriers to entry, scholarly attention has focused on gender differences in preferences and socialisation: men seeing concerts as a male space, and male musicians more likely to be encouraged to continue following early experience of playing with others – particularly in terms of learning improvisation and taking a solo from a young age.

It’s a cliché that music is a meritocracy, in which success is seen to arise from a combination of talent and effort. If women are not present in jazz, it is often assumed to be because they cannot play well enough, play the wrong instruments, or simply prefer other musical genres and the cultures around them.

It is likely, though, that some female musicians find the professional environment hostile. In recent years, we’ve seen extensive reporting about sexist assumptions in the jazz industry, as well as accounts of sexual harassment. Clearly, changes are still needed on the industry side. But what about the audiences? Are they helping to shape the sexism that is being reported in jazz?

Interrogating the numbers

Our new research paper combines analysis of John Chilton’s Who’s Who of British Jazz, an archive of career histories from 2004, with data on the recordings made by each of these musicians drawn from the continually updated Lord Discography. We also examine jazz audiences via the government’s 2016 Taking Part survey of cultural participation.

Chilton gives a rich picture of the history of British jazz careers — there is no better single source giving such detail on career histories for a large number of jazz musicians. Careers are generally lifelong, and so we would not expect dramatic shifts to have taken place among the community of professional musicians since his book was published. Taking Part gives more contemporary information on the jazz audience.

Among audiences, the government survey data showed that more men than women report attending jazz concerts, and that the gap is larger for jazz than for rock. By comparison, women are more likely to attend classical concerts than men. Female jazz performers therefore face primarily male audiences, and rely on them to buy recordings too.

For musicians, our analysis suggests that men tended to play with men, and women – represented in yellow in the network diagram below – also tend to play with men. Although there have been celebrated female-led initiatives and female-only bands, women are still dependent on men for their careers. Our longer-run perspective also supports findings from analysis of female representation in jazz festivals published in December 2020.

Part of this lack of women reflects the history of the genre. The world of pre-second world war jazz was overwhelmingly male. It was a time when it was near-taboo for women to play professionally in nightclubs and dance halls, at least outside female-only bands. In earlier decades, many jazz musicians honed their trade in the armed forces. The expansion of jazz tuition by universities made a difference: jazz programmes run by universities were more open to women than informal or military training routes, providing access to networks and credentials.

Instrument choice and audience preferences

There is also some evidence that women are pigeonholed as vocalists: 60% of the female musicians in our dataset are vocalists compared with 2% of male musicians. Moreover, the female musicians in our dataset play slightly fewer instruments on average than the male musicians. Our analysis finds that this lower versatility is in turn associated with making fewer records. Learning fewer instruments in the first place may therefore be one of the reasons for the recording gender gap.

On the recordings side, we see a clear and consistent gap between male and female musicians in the numbers of records made, even when taking training, instrument choice and period of birth into account. This suggests that women face structural constraints in getting recorded, whether due to having shorter careers, or a tendency for male musicians to be selected in preference.

Our triple focus on audiences, collaborations and recordings gives us a new perspective on gender inequalities – one which encourages us to think afresh about how things could be different. Jazz audiences tend to be older and predominantly male. Ultimately, they fund the festivals and recordings which provide opportunities to female artists: their musical preferences and preferred concert experiences matter, and festival programmers have to take them into account.

Assumptions about what the audience wants tend to reproduce the male-dominated world of jazz. Audiences can play a part in challenging these assumptions. They can do this by being open to different live music experiences, and most importantly, by supporting and investing in talented female jazz musicians.


Inroads finally seem possible in what traditionally has been a man’s musical world

The Piacenza Jazz Club in Italy is home to a music school. So when acclaimed pianist and singer Dena DeRose had down time before a recent show there, she perused the books in the teaching studio. Pulling from the shelf one jazz biography after another, she couldn’t find a single one about a woman instrumentalist.

“Some of them were written in the 1990s, and they were still not up to date,” said DeRose. “Women are still not written about in history books. You can count on one hand — Mary Lou Williams or Melba Liston — and they’re not even mentioned.”

For DeRose, who heads the vocal jazz department at the KUG Jazz Institute/University for Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria, the book problem encapsulates the continuing challenge for female musicians in an industry dominated by men. It’s also why she was happy to accept Harvard music senior lecturer Yosvany Terry’s invitation last fall to do a residency as part of a year “Celebrating Women in Jazz.” Part of the Learning From Performers Program, the program culminates this week with a visit from award-winning singer and musician Cassandra Wilson, who as a master in residence will be a speaker and performer next week with the Harvard Jazz Bands.

“Women are not celebrated enough, and they are contributing incredibly,” said Terry, who has gigged with DeRose and Wilson. “When you look back in history, there was not only racism for many of these women, but the male-dominated society was even more of a factor. It was rare to find female jazz musicians touring regularly. For women to play an instrument [in bands] is very hard. They have to really work hard to prove they are good musicians, and then face sexism such as ‘Oh, she sounds like a man.’ No, she sounds like an accomplished musician.”

Terry said that, historically, women who pursued careers as jazz musicians were often isolated. Families discouraged their daughters from being part of a music scene laden with sexism, alcohol, and drugs.

As a case in point, there’s the great trombonist Melba Liston, who played in Dizzy Gillespie’s big band with the likes of saxophonists John Coltrane and Paul Gonsalves, and pianist John Lewis. In Linda Dahl’s book “Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen,” Liston, who died in 1999, told the author: “I just had to prove myself, just like Jackie Robinson.”

“It’s not what they intend to do — the brothers would not hurt for nothing. They would give me money, they would take care of me, or anything. But they wouldn’t let me have the job,” Liston told Dahl.

Diana Gerberich hasn’t experienced that kind of sexism in her 21 years, but the baritone saxophonist does appreciate her unique place as the only female member of the Harvard Monday Jazz Band.

“It’s true there still aren’t many women in jazz, but on stage the gender barriers fall away,” said Gerberich, a junior who is concentrating in anthropology. “I’m glad I’m able to be an example and a representative for women in jazz. I also hope to inspire other women who feel like they’re out of place and to show it’s possible to cut through boundaries, enjoy jazz and not worry about gender differences.”

Gerberich, who grew up in Wilbraham, Mass., idolizing Ella Fitzgerald as well as Gerry Mulligan, fell in love with the sax at an early age, saying the brass instrument matched her vivacious personality.

“It tends to be a more prominent instrument in jazz. I’m Italian. I have a very loud voice, and I have a lot of energy,” she said.

Though she originally played classical saxophone, she joined her elementary school jazz band at age 11, drawn to the energy with fellow musicians and the audience.

“In jazz you really get a visual of the audience engaging with the music. For other styles of music, there is less audience interaction,” said Gerberich, who was one of two women in the 2013 National Association for Music Education’s All-National Jazz Band. “I love the personal touch that comes through jazz and the unique style that each musician contributes.”

Talents like Gerberich make Ingrid Monson, the Quincy Jones Professor of African-American Music and African and African American Studies, hopeful for the future, and she ticked off names of prominent contemporaries such as Esperanza Spalding, Patricia Barber, Diana Krall, and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, who received a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music at age 11.

“I think we’re at a cultural turning point,” said Monson, pointing to a progressive shift in society that she hopes will create more opportunities for women in music. “I’ve been fascinated by the Black Lives Matter movement, which was founded by queer black women. Its mission statement includes transgender people, and you see in the movement people taking that seriously. Also, Beyonce’s “Lemonade” video album brought women and girls to the center of the future of social justice. There are more people speaking up, and this is happening in jazz too.”

Monson, who will interview Wilson on Wednesday at the Leverett House Library Theatre, said many women in jazz still feel “caught between their love of jazz and the way their gender is often considered out of place within it.”

“Many cultural signs work against you. There’s a way in which a man playing a saxophone is cool or more manly. With women, it’s the opposite effect,” she said. “The ethos is if you have enough talent you’re going to be fine, but it takes a certain type of woman to do this.”


The Women Who Changed Jazz

One of the interesting things about the rise and rise of jazz education is that it has increasingly had to walk a tightrope between the real world of jazz and jazz as taught in the classroom. A key educational objective is helping young musicians achieve a high standard of professional competence. By the 1980s, educators such as David Baker, Jamey Aebersold and Jerry Coker had written exhaustive textbooks to aid students achieve this end, breaking down the methodology and techniques of jazz improvisation into a series of modules based on quantifiable and analysable aspects of bop. They became the basis for what Gary Burton has described as the means by which students learned ‘how harmony works and what the grammar of this music is in order to play better’.

Jazz music that preceded the emergence of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie receded in importance as this music was deemed irrelevant to students seeking to enter a contemporary music scene. Today, to all intents and purposes, jazz history begins with bebop.

This is a shame, and it loses sight of the fact that the jazz that preceded it was far from trivial. As the inevitable canon formation took place, what emerged was a gendered construction biased towards the male of the species – Wynton Marsalis, for example, endorses this ‘patriarchal continuum’. Although he expresses a deep respect for women as individuals and performers, he emphasises the role of men as carriers of the jazz tradition. Some academics have argued this is part of a contemporary anti-feminist backlash. Who knows? Far more likely is that jazz writing and histories that began emerging in the late 1930s and 40s were by male writers (with the notable exception of Helen Oakley Dance) and tended to be constructed around the ‘great man’ theory of [jazz] history. However, it’s clear that a significant slice of interesting jazz history has gone missing – take the aforementioned Helen Oakley Dance, for example. How many know that she was responsible for introducing pianist Teddy Wilson to Benny Goodman, then a rising star in the jazz firmament? Goodman formed the Benny Goodman Trio with Wilson in 1935, by presenting an interracial group in venues throughout the USA – and if you think American society today has its racial problems, just imagine what it was like back then.

If Goodman was stung by racist comments in the press, he didn’t show it. In 1936 he formed the Benny Goodman Quartet with the addition of Lionel Hampton. Helen Oakley, as she was then, played a powerful role in breaking down segregation. When she helped coordinate Benny Goodman’s landmark 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert, a major event that saw jazz enter a citadel of American culture, she arranged for a contingent of musicians from the orchestras of Count Basie and Duke Ellington to perform with Goodman and his musicians on the Carnegie Hall stage. It was a big statement towards breaking down racial barriers in apartheid America.

Going back a bit further in jazz history, trumpeter Joe ‘King’ Oliver moved to Chicago in 1918, but it wasn’t until 1922 he and his Creole Jazz band became an overnight sensation at Chicago’s Royal Gardens. Pianist in the band was Lil Hardin, who had studied at Fisk University, and when Oliver sent to New Orleans for a young Louis Armstrong, history was made. Their incredible duets became the talk of the town, while Lil and Louis became an item with talk of wedding bells in the air. In 1924, word of Armstrong’s prodigious talent reached New York and Fletcher Henderson, leader of the top black band in New York, sent for him. It’s fair to say Armstrong impressed, the country boy quickly making a name for himself while becoming very popular with the ladies. Word reached Lil. In 1925 she sent a telegram, something along the lines of ‘you get back to Chicago or you’re out of the door’. Louis replied: ‘I’LL BE THERE!’.

Lil was also an entrepreneur, forming a band to feature her husband, whom she billed as ‘The World’s Greatest Trumpet Player’; she was also behind a contract with the OKeh label. Billed as Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five (the band only existed in the recording studio), the Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings are recognised as a foundation stone of jazz, Armstrong convincingly demonstrating jazz as a soloist’s art and influencing the whole history of the music. But what if Lil had chosen to break things off with Louis and he remained in New York living it up? Jazz might have taken a quite different turn.

Another forgotten name from this period was Leora Henderson. She was a trumpeter, arranger, music copyist, had a good business head and was married to Fletcher Henderson. She was the glue that kept the Henderson Orchestra together; her husband was so laid back he was almost horizontal, and after a road accident in 1928 became even more so. It fell to Leora to call rehearsals, hustle for work, organise tours, ‘extract’ and copy individual parts from her husband’s scores. She was the power behind the throne.

If a trumpeter was late for a gig (alcohol was the drug of choice in pre-bop America) Leora stood in: Herman Autrey, who played with Henderson before being featured with Fats Waller; he said she was a better trumpeter than Russell Smith, then regarded a top NYC trumpeter. She is thought to have deputised, uncredited, on several Henderson recordings. The period 1928-34 coincided with Henderson’s most productive period as an arranger, but in 1934 he was forced to disband the Orchestra, and within months a clarinet player called Benny Goodman bought 18 of his arrangements for his own, newly-formed band. Within a year Goodman made a breakthrough to American youth, recognised as the beginning of the Swing Era (or Big Band Era). Goodman commissioned more arrangements, but always gave credit to Henderson for his success. Henderson’s writing style introduced a relaxed ‘swing’ style that provided the blueprint for an era. But if Leora hadn’t kept Fletcher’s show on the road from 1928, jazz history might have been very different.

One of the biggest stars in jazz you never heard of was pianist Hazel Scott. With perfect pitch, she was playing the piano two-handed at the age of three. Her family thought they were witnessing a miracle. At eight she was studying at Juilliard, where the school’s founder chanced on Scott practicing; “I am in the presence of a genius” he’s on record as saying. At age 13, her mother – a musician and friend of Billie Holiday and Lester Young – got her an intermission job at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC. Her first job was to follow the Count Basie Orchestra. Stage fright or not, she brought the house down. She was on her way. When Cafe Society opened in 1938, Scott became the headliner at age 19 – there’s a photo of Count Basie, Teddy Wilson, Scott, Duke Ellington and fellow teenage prodigy Mel Powell gathered around her at the piano.

By now, thanks to Billie Holiday’s encouragement, she was singing too – and very good at it. President Roosevelt’s wife Eleanor, the First Lady, ‘dropped in’ to see her perform and invited her to join her afterwards for supper. Friend to the biggest names in jazz she was just 22 years old and regarded as New York’s Queen of Jazz. She married Congressman Adam Powell, Jr, toured the USA in the 1940s to rave reviews, all the while fighting against discrimination.

The first African American woman to have her own TV show, she was hauled in front of the notorious House of Un-American Activities in 1950. Facing down the now-discredited Senator Joseph McCarthy, who accused her of communist sympathies, she defended herself eloquently, but it destroyed her career. Her TV show was cancelled, concert and nightclubs closed their doors and she moved to Paris. When she returned to the US she had slipped into obscurity, dying in 1981 at the age of 61 from cancer.

Una Mae Carlise was a pianist, singer and another pioneer – she was the first black woman to be credited as the composer of a song on the Billboard chart, and the first to host her own regular nationally broadcast radio show, while also writing for major stars such as Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee.

By comparison, pianist Jutta Hipp came from a different planet. Born in 1925, she taught herself jazz piano growing up in Nazi Germany, where she studied for an art degree. When the war was over, she supported herself as a professional jazz pianist, working with the top German jazzers of the time, Emil and Albert Mangelsdorff, Joki Freund and Hans Koller. In 1955 she moved to New York and was the first woman instrumentalist to record for the Blue Note label. An object of awe in the clubs (she was a strikingly beautiful redhead) she was dubbed the ‘Frauleinwunder’ but she only enjoyed 15 minutes of fame; after three albums for Blue Note, she became difficult to work with, left jazz, turned to drink and in 1958 found work as a seamstress. She died a recluse in 2003, aged 78.

The multi-talented Valaida Snow also experienced life under the Nazis, but in her case, it was from inside a prison. An excellent trumpeter, she played a dozen instruments, sang, danced, did arrangements for her big band and others, and appeared in Hollywood films.

Dubbed ‘Little Louis’ and ‘Queen of the Trumpet’ by none other than WC Handy, as an African American woman top billing in New York and Chicago somehow eluded her, she made no recordings in the US, but moved to Europe where she did and found the stardom she craved. In Denmark when World War II broke out, she was arrested, imprisoned and became ill but by way of prisoner exchange in 1942 she got back to the States. Her health never really recovered and she died in 1956, age 52; but what a life!

Every self-respecting jazz fan has heard of Billie Holiday, but Billie Rogers? From a musical family she had perfect pitch, learned piano, organ, accordion, double bass and soprano sax and, from age eight, trumpet, which became her first instrument. She played in a family band and was discovered by Woody Herman working in a bar in Los Angeles in 1941. He hired her on the spot. Until then Herman had a polite band with a hit ‘Woodchopper’s Ball’.

When Rogers joined, she beefed up the trumpet section, sang and would come down from the horn section as a featured soloist in her own right. She was soon a major draw for the band, featuring on Herman’s now legendary ‘Dancing in The Dawn’. There’s not too much of her on record, this was the AFM recording ban, but there are broadcasts and V Discs that show how she transformed Herman’s band. She left Herman in 1943, but his 1944 band showed her influence with a roaring trumpet section led by Pete Candoli that sent the jazz world on their collective ear. Until Laurie Frink in the 1980s and 1990s, Billie Rogers was the only female to have ever held down a regular chair in the trumpet section of a major US big band. Fair to say there’s a lot more evidence to dispel the great man theory of the jazz canon, but one thing’s sure – jazz history does indeed need revisiting.


10 Women in Jazz Who Never Got Their Due

We’re often taught to think of jazz’s history as a cavalcade of great men and their bands, but from its beginnings the music was often in the hands of women. Listen to some of the greatest.

Young, female instrumentalists have been establishing a firmer footing in jazz, taking some of the music’s boldest creative steps and organizing for change on a structural level. But this isn’t an entirely new development.

While we’re often taught to think of jazz’s history as a cavalcade of great men and their bands, from its beginnings in the early 20th century women played a range of important roles, including onstage. During World War II, right in the heart of the swing era, all-female bands became a sensation, filling the void left by men in the military. But in fact they were continuing a tradition that had begun in the vaudeville years and continued, albeit to a lesser degree, in jazz’s early decades.

Prevented from taking center stage, many female instrumentalists became composers, arrangers or artists’ managers. Buffeted by sexism from venue owners and record companies in the United States, they often went abroad to pursue careers in Europe or even Asia. As was also true of their male counterparts, the African-American women who helped blaze some of jazz’s earliest trails had to innovate their way around additional roadblocks.

“These jazz women were pioneers, and huge proponents in disseminating jazz and making it a global art form,” said Hannah Grantham, a musicologist at the National Museum of African American History and Culture who studies the work of female jazz musicians and contributed notes to this list. “I don’t think they’ve been given enough credit for that, because of their willingness to go everywhere.”

The piano and organ were considered more socially acceptable instruments for young women to play, and few serious fans of jazz would be unfamiliar with the names Mary Lou WilliamsMarian McPartlandHazel ScottShirley Scott or Alice Coltrane. But the ranks of female jazz genius run much deeper than that. Here are 10 performers who made a big impression in their day, but are rarely as remembered as they should be in jazz’s popular history.

Lovie Austin, pianist (1887-1972)

Lil Hardin met her future husband Louis Armstrong in 1922, when he joined her as a member of King Oliver’s famed Creole Jazz Band. Hardin, who studied at Fisk University and had an entrepreneurial streak, helped bring Armstrong forward as a bandleader, serving as his first manager, pianist and frequent co-composer. After they split up around 1930, she found some success with her own big band, but stepped away from performing years later after determining that male promoters would never be willing to promote her on the same level as men.

Valaida Snow, trumpeter (1904-1956)

Valaida Snow’s career was a wildfire: a thing of great expanse and then rapid, wrenching exhaustion. She was a master of the trumpet but played a dozen other instruments, as well as singing, doing arrangements for orchestras, dancing, and appearing prominently in early Hollywood films. When the pioneering blues musician and composer W.C. Handy heard her play, he dubbed her “Queen of the Trumpet.” Denied a proper spotlight in Chicago and New York, Snow became a star abroad, touring for years in East Asia and Europe. She wound up stuck in Denmark during World War II, becoming ill while imprisoned there. She escaped in 1942 and spent the rest of her career back in the United States, although her health never recovered.

Peggy Gilbert, saxophonist (1905-2007)

As a grade-school student in Sioux City, Iowa, Peggy Gilbert quickly became accustomed to cutting against the grain. The daughter of classical musicians, she was told in high school that the saxophone was unsuitable for a young woman — but she taught herself anyway. A year after graduating she started her first band, the Melody Girls. In 1938, outraged at an article in DownBeat magazine headlined “Why Women Musicians Are Inferior,” she penned a retort that the magazine published in full. “A woman has to be a thousand times more talented, has to have a thousand times more initiative even to be recognized as the peer of the least successful man,” she wrote. Talent and initiative were two things Gilbert possessed. She went on to lead ensembles for decades, on the vaudeville circuit and the Los Angeles scene, eventually becoming an official with the musicians’ union there. She continued to perform well into her 90s, and died at 102.

Una Mae Carlisle, pianist (1915-1956)

Just like better-remembered contemporaries such as Fats Waller and Louis Jordan, Una Mae Carlisle made jazz that was also R&B and also pop — before the Billboard charts had effectively codified those genres. She was publicly known best as a singer, but she played virtuosic stride piano and composed prolifically too. Part black and part Native American, Carlisle was a pioneer in various ways, as Ms. Grantham pointed out. Carlisle was the first black woman to be credited as the composer of a song on the Billboard charts, and the first African-American to host her own regular, nationally broadcast radio show. She wrote for stars like Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee, and recorded her own hit singles, often with famous jazz musicians as her accompanists, before illness tragically shortened her career.

Ginger Smock, violinist (1920-1995)

A blazing player whose personality was as big and effusive as her talents, Dorothy Donegan piled her mastery of classical, stride, boogie-woogie and modern jazz piano into boisterous, often ribald performances. An old-school performer at heart, she could amaze and amuse an audience in equal measure. Donegan’s career was book ended by illustrious performances: In 1943, with dreams of becoming a professional classical pianist, she became the first black instrumentalist to give a concert at Orchestra Hall in Chicago. Time magazine covered it, and it set her on a path to renown, although a career in classical music was off-limits because of both her gender and her race. Fifty years later, she performed at the White House for President Bill Clinton. For all her accomplishments, Donegan made it clear in interviews that she felt sexism had prevented her from joining her male contemporaries in the music’s pantheon.

Jutta Hipp, pianist (1925-2003)

Hailing from Leipzig, Germany, Jutta Hipp taught herself jazz as a child growing up in the Third Reich, secretly listening to international radio broadcasts. She was forced to flee her hometown at age 21, after the war left it in ruin; she supported herself by becoming a professional jazz pianist. Hipp eventually became the first woman bandleader to record for Blue Note Records, whose proprietors were German expatriates. But with true stardom escaping her, she eventually abandoned her career as a professional musician for the stability of job working with seamstresses, although she never totally gave up playing.

Clora Bryant, trumpeter (1927-2019)

A self-proclaimed “trumpetiste,” Clora Bryant was part of the first generation of bebop musicians innovating in Los Angeles clubs, and she joined a handful of all-female ensembles in the years during and after World War II. Bryant became a featured soloist in the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the most famous ensemble of its kind, then joined the Queens of Rhythm. Through the esteemed trombonist Melba Liston she met Dizzy Gillespie, who became her mentor. And as her career went on, she mentored countless musicians herself as a respected elder on the L.A. scene.

Bertha Hope Booker, pianist (1936-)

Bertha Hope’s career bloomed alongside that of her husband Elmo Hope, whose economic hard-bop style was not altogether different from hers. They released a joint album together in 1961, but after his untimely death she focused on raising their children, performing intermittently around the New York area and remaining close with many musicians on the scene. Years later, she remarried, to the bassist Walter Booker; since then she has recorded a handful of albums and become a respected elder among younger New York musicians, including the bassist Mimi Jones, who recently made a documentary about her mentor titled “Seeking Hope.”


Just Some Female Jazz Singers & Musicians:

Bessie Smit

June Christy

Billie Holiday

Dina Washington

Sarah Vaughan

Julie London

Nina Simone

Ella Fitzgerald

Anita O’Day

Mary Lou Williams

Peggy Lee

Blossom Dearie

Carmen McRae

Helen Merrill

Emily Remler

Alice Coltrane

Shirley Horn

Abbey Lincoln

Betty Carter

Dakota Staton

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Diana Krall

Cassandra Wilson

Madeleine Peyroux

Amy Winehouse

Bobbi Humphrey

Dianne Reeves

Terri Lyne Carrington

Eliane Elias

Norah Jones

Carla Bley

Toshiko Akiyoshi

Melissa Aldana

Der sprechende Körper


Die Macht der wortlosen Sprache

Der Körper ist niemals stumm. Wenn Menschen zusammenkommen, reden sie miteinander – sogar wenn sie nicht sprechen. Die vorgereckte Brust ist ebenso eine Botschaft wie die kleine Veränderung der Sitzhaltung, die geöffnete Handfläche, aber auch die Farbe der Krawatte oder das dezente Parfüm.

Mimik, Gestik, Haltung und Bewegung, die räumliche Beziehung, Berührungen und die Kleidung sind wichtige Mittel der nonverbalen Kommunikation – eine uralte Form der zwischenmenschlichen Verständigung. Auf diese Weise klären wir untereinander, ob wir uns sympathisch sind und ob wir uns vertrauen können.

Der Körper verrät unsere wirklichen Gefühle, wer wir sind und was wir eigentlich wollen. Die nonverbalen Botschaften sind oft unbewusst und gerade deshalb so machtvoll. Ohne Körpersprache sind die täglichen sozialen Beziehungen gar nicht denkbar.

Wissenschaftler haben herausgefunden, dass 95 Prozent des ersten Eindrucks von einem Menschen bestimmt werden von Aussehen, Kleidung, Haltung, Gestik und Mimik, Sprechgeschwindigkeit, Stimmlage, Betonung und Dialekt – und nur fünf Prozent davon, was jemand mit Worten sagt.

Und die Einschätzung der Person geschieht in weniger als einer Sekunde. Weil wir das körperliche Verhalten schwerer kontrollieren und beherrschen können als die verbalen Aussagen, gilt die Körpersprache als wahrer und echter.

Weltsprache oder Geheimcode?

Aber lauern da nicht viele Missverständnisse? Stimmt unser Eindruck? Sind unsere Botschaften eindeutig und werden wir verstanden? Die Wissenschaft geht davon aus, dass bestimmte Basis-Gefühle wie Angst, Furcht, Glück, Trauer, Überraschung und Abscheu bei allen Menschen bestimmte nonverbale Ausdrucksformen hervorrufen.

So gilt beispielsweise das Stirnrunzeln in so gut wie allen menschlichen Kulturen als Zeichen von Ärger. Das Lächeln wird weltweit als positives Signal und Sympathiezeichen eingesetzt. Auch die Deutung solcher Signale ist universell, sie werden überall verstanden.

Es gibt aber auch viele Körpersignale, die sich kulturell entwickelt haben und so missverständlich sind wie die verschiedenen Wortsprachen. So kann eine für uns gewöhnliche Haltung in anderen Teilen der Welt Empörung hervorrufen. Zum Beispiel ist das Übereinanderschlagen der Beine für viele Araber und Asiaten eine Beleidigung, weil so die Sohlen von Füßen und Schuhen sichtbar werden – und die gelten in manchen Kulturkreisen als unrein.

Gruppen von Menschen, Gesellschaften und Kulturen entwickeln ein eigenes System von nonverbalen Botschaften, einen eigenen Code. Nur wenn man diesen Code kennt, kann man ihn richtig verstehen und benutzen.

Es gibt also Körpersignale, die wir alle verstehen und anwenden und solche, die kultur- oder regionalspezifisch sind. Hilfreich ist es in jedem Fall, die Möglichkeiten der Körpersprache gut zu kennen, sie lesen und einsetzen zu lernen.

Schau mir in die Augen, Kleines – die Mimik

Der Blick der Augen hinterlässt einen intensiven Eindruck, nicht nur beim Flirten. Wenn wir angeblickt werden, fühlen wir uns beachtet. Blickzuwendung kann Aufmerksamkeit, Zuneigung oder Freundlichkeit bedeuten. Den Blickkontakt zu meiden signalisiert dagegen oft Desinteresse, Gleichgültigkeit oder auch Scham. Und ein zu langes Anstarren wird meist als aufdringlich und aggressiv empfunden.

Die Augenbewegung ist ein wichtiger Bestandteil der sogenannten Mimik, dem Begriff für die Ausdrucksbewegungen des Gesichts. An der Mimik können wir die seelischen Vorgänge in einem Menschen am besten ablesen. Pokerspieler versuchen deshalb, durch starren Gesichtsausdruck zu verhindern, dass ihr Gesicht verrät, wie gut oder schlecht ihre Karten sind.

Wissenschaftler dagegen versuchen, auch den besten Lügnern im Gesicht zu lesen. Kalifornische Forscher haben die kleinen, unbewussten Muskelbewegungen bei Mimikveränderungen intensiv untersucht. Damit wollen sie eine eindeutige Beziehung zwischen der Bewegung der Gesichtsmuskeln und den zugrunde liegenden Gefühlen der Menschen herausfinden.

Reich mir die Hand – die Gestik

Eine Faust mit nach oben gestrecktem Daumen wird in vielen Teilen der Welt als Zeichen der Zustimmung verstanden. Aber in manchen Gegenden ist es eine Geste der Obszönität: in Sardinien zum Beispiel, in Teilen von Westafrika, Kolumbien und Nahost.

So ist es mit vielen der bewusst geformten Handzeichen. Sie sind ein Bestandteil der Kommunikation einer bestimmten Kultur und können auch nur dort richtig verstanden werden.

Diese bewussten Gesten machen jedoch nur einen Teil der Gestik aus, die die Gesamtheit unserer Handbewegungen bezeichnet.

Häufiger und vielfältiger bewegen sich die Hände, während wir sprechen. Diese Gesten sind meist unbewusst. Sie verstärken und begleiten die verbale Rede. Auch Menschen, die glauben, ihre Hände ruhig zu halten, unterstreichen ihre Worte durch Handbewegungen.

Sogar am Telefon gestikulieren wir. Forscher haben herausgefunden, dass im Gehirn die Zentren für Sprache und Handbewegungen im selben Bereich angesiedelt sind und vermuten daher die fast zwangsläufige Verbindung von Wort und Hand.

Mit beiden Beinen fest auf dem Boden – Haltung und Bewegung

Wer sicher steht, hat einen ausgeprägten Realitätssinn, sagt der Volksmund. Und eine gerade Haltung zeige einen aufrechten Charakter. Die Körperhaltung soll demnach Aufschluss über die Wesenszüge des Menschen geben.

So weit geht die wissenschaftliche Theorie nicht, aber einen Zusammenhang zwischen der seelischen und der körperlichen Lage stellt auch sie fest. Wenn wir trauern, sind wir zusammengesunken, die Schultern hängen herab und wir wirken kraftlos und verschlossen.

Eine offene Haltung im Brust- und Halsbereich dagegen signalisiert Furchtlosigkeit und Selbstbewusstsein. Ähnliches gilt für Bewegungen. Wer sich im Gespräch vorbeugt, zeigt Aufmerksamkeit. Wer verkrampft an der Kleidung fummelt und nur auf der Stuhlkante sitzt, gilt als unsicher.

Auch der Gang des Menschen spiegelt die emotionale Befindlichkeit. Versuche haben ergeben, dass wir erkennen, ob die Person, die vor uns läuft, männlich oder weiblich ist, und auch, ob sie fröhlich oder traurig daherkommt.

Körperhaltungen können auch antrainiert sein und gezielt eingesetzt werden, um eine bestimmte Wirkung zu erzielen. So reckt ein Mann seine Brust, um stark und selbstbewusst zu erscheinen. Eine Frau schlägt die Beine übereinander, weil sie anmutig wirken will und ein Jugendlicher hängt lässig auf dem Stuhl, um seinen Protest auszudrücken.

«Störe meine Kreise nicht!» – Nähe und Berührung

«Störe meine Kreise nicht!» So soll Archimedes den anrückenden Römern zugerufen haben und daraufhin erschlagen worden sein. Die Anwesenheit und Nähe eines anderen Menschen bis hin zum Körperkontakt besitzen eine direkte und starke Wirkung. Eine Ohrfeige oder ein Kuss sind körperliche Botschaften, die jeder versteht.

Für die richtige Distanz zu anderen Menschen haben wir ein feines Gespür und instinktiv nehmen wir in einem Raum den Platz ein, der für uns angenehm ist. Wenn wir zu Nähe gezwungen werden, wie zum Beispiel im Fahrstuhl, versuchen wir, die anderen zu ignorieren, und vermeiden jeden Blickkontakt.

Das Distanzempfinden ist kulturell geprägt. In Japan etwa gilt ein größerer Abstand als angenehm als in Europa. Ein Japaner könnte daher einen Europäer im Gespräch als aufdringlich empfinden, wenn dieser immer etwas näher kommen möchte, als es dem Japaner lieb ist. Der Europäer hält dagegen möglicherweise den Japaner für distanziert, wenn dieser immer etwas zurückweicht.

Auch bei Berührungen sind kulturelle Unterschiede festzustellen. In den westlichen Ländern haben sich Berührungen zwischen Freunden und Bekannten, Umarmungen und Küssen auf Wange oder Mund weitgehend durchgesetzt. Dennoch ist Europa eine Region, in der der Körperkontakt im Vergleich zu anderen Kulturen eher selten ist.

Kleider machen Leute – Kleidung und Schmuck

Im Karneval sieht man ganze Gruppen von verkleideten Marsmenschen, Clowns, Hexen – oder auch Cola-Dosen. Durch das gleiche Kostüm zeigen die Menschen ihre Zugehörigkeit zu einem Verein.

Im Alltag ist dies nicht anders. Jede Gemeinschaft oder Gesellschaft hat einen Kleidungs-Code. Vor einem Vorstellungsgespräch überlegen wir sorgfältig, was wir anziehen. Wir wissen, wie wir Trauer durch unsere Kleidung zeigen oder wie wir durch ausgefallene Accessoires im Freundeskreis beeindrucken können.

Auch wer sich den gängigen Kleidernormen nicht anpassen will, sendet eine deutliche Botschaft. Täglich entscheiden wir bewusst oder unbewusst darüber, wie wir durch unsere äußere Erscheinung wirken wollen: indem wir uns schminken, Rock oder Hose anziehen, durch die Wahl der Krawatten-Farbe und den Schmuck, den wir anlegen.

Die Kleidungs-Codes unterscheiden sich stark in den verschiedenen Kulturen – besonders die Ansichten darüber, wie viel nackte Haut in der Öffentlichkeit präsentiert werden darf. Auch werden unterschiedliche Teile des Körpers tabuisiert. In vielen europäischen Ländern zeigen sich Frauen mit unverhüllten Haaren in der Öffentlichkeit, was in islamisch geprägten Ländern undenkbar ist.

Dagegen ist es bei einigen afrikanischen und südamerikanischen Völkern bis heute üblich, dass weder Frauen noch Männer im Alltagsleben ihren Oberkörper bedecken – zum Beispiel bei den Himba in Namibia, den Nyangatom und den Hamar in Äthiopien und den Huaorani in Ecuador –, was wiederum in westlichen Ländern einen Skandal verursachen würde.

Kleidung und Schmuck sind also Ausdrucksformen der Körpersprache, die wie kein anderes Mittel den kulturellen Gepflogenheiten folgen.

Die Profis der Körpersprache

Manche Menschen haben die Körpersprache zu ihrem Beruf gemacht. Die Pantomime ist eine sehr alte darstellende Kunst, bei der die Handlung und der Charakter nur durch Mimik, Gestik und Bewegung ausgedrückt werden. Bereits um 400 vor Christus ist die Pantomime als Kunstform in Griechenland nachgewiesen.

Auch der Clown-Künstler verzichtet meist auf Worte. Da er die Menschen zum Lachen bringen will, setzt er Körpersprache meist übertrieben ein, etwa indem er Grimassen schneidet oder stolpert. Charlie Chaplin war einer der berühmtesten wortlosen Darsteller des vergangenen Jahrhunderts.

Eine weitere besondere Form der Körpersprache ist der Tanz. Bewegung ist ihre Form des Ausdrucks. Die Geheimnisse der nonverbalen Kommunikation beherrschen diese Profis perfekt.


Wie unser Körper spricht und warum wir nichts davon wissen

Wenn wir uns unterhalten, wählen wir unsere Worte genau. Wir versuchen, alles, was wir sagen, passend zu formulieren: nett, aggressiv oder ärgerlich. Doch etwas an uns spricht viel lauter – ohne dass es unser Gegenüber versteht: unser Körper.

Marietta und Ole sitzen sich in der Mittagspause gegenüber. Sie reden über den Unterricht und was sie von der Lehrerin halten. Marietta stützt ihren rechten Ellbogen auf den Tisch vor sich. Sie lächelt. Ole nickt. Er freut sich schon auf die nächste Stunde. Oberflächlich sprechen die beiden nur über die Schule. Wer aber genauer hinsieht, erkennt eine zweite Sprache: die Sprache des Körpers. Auch Ole hat seinen Ellbogen auf den Tisch aufgestellt, aber seinen linken. Er lächelt ebenfalls und sein Oberkörper ist Marietta zugewandt. Die beiden sitzen nebeneinander auf der grauen Holzbank. Es sieht fast so aus, als würde Marietta in einen imaginären Spiegel blicken. Denn Ole spiegelt Mariettas Körperhaltung in vielen Punkten. Was das mit dem Gespräch zu tun hat? Mit dem Inhalt wenig, aber auf einer anderen, der nonverbalen Ebene, sprechen die beiden auch miteinander. Sie sagen: «Hey, ich find’ dich nett. Du bist mir sympathisch.»

Unbewusste Botschaften

Körpersprache ist nicht nur etwas, das wir sehen können. Der Mensch hat fünf Sinne: Hören, Sehen, Schmecken, Riechen und Fühlen. Mit diesen Sinnen nimmt er die Körpersprache seines Gegenübers wahr. Alles, was nonverbal ist, also ohne Worte läuft, zählt zur Körpersprache. Die Kommunikation zwischen zwei Menschen läuft in drei Ebenen ab. Die anscheinend offensichtlichste ist die verbale Ebene. Das, was inhaltlich gesprochen wird. Die tonale Ebene meint das Wie: Wie sage ich etwas. Auf der nonverbalen Ebene spricht dann unser Körper in Mimik, Gestik, Körperhaltung, Kleidung und vielem mehr. «Diese drei Ebenen müssen als Einheit funktionieren», erklärt Meike Fabian. Sie ist die stellvertretende Leiterin der Akademie für Darstellende Kunst in Regensburg und schult ihre Schüler unter anderem auch in der Wahrnehmung der Körpersprache. «Körpersprache geht schon los bei Dingen, die ich selbst beeinflussen kann, also meinen Schmuck, meine Kleidung, mein Make-Up», zählt Meike Fabian auf. «Meine Haltung, meine Mimik und Gestik kann ich auch noch etwas beeinflussen. Das ist aber schon schwerer.» Dinge, die von innen kommen, wie Atmung oder Körpergeruch sind demnach ebenfalls Teil der Körpersprache.

Erster Eindruck entscheidet

Aber auch Eigenschaften, die nicht in meiner Hand liegen, zählen zur Körpersprache. Zum Beispiel: Bin ich ein Mann oder eine Frau. Bin ich dick oder dünn. Durch diese Dinge schließe der Gegenüber sofort auf die Lebenserfahrung eines Menschen. «Jeder erzählt seine Geschichte, schon lange bevor er den Mund aufgemacht hat», bringt es Meike Fabian auf den Punkt.

Das bestätigt auch Andrea Nitzsche. Sie ist Diplom-Sozialpädagogin und Trainerin für Körpersprache. Der erste Eindruck entsteht innerhalb von Sekunden, in denen wir jemanden wahrnehmen. «Das ist unser Instinkt, der immer noch vorhanden ist. Es war früher besonders wichtig, sofort zu wissen, ob der Mensch gegenüber eine Bedrohung ist oder nicht.

Vorurteil auf. Natürlich könne uns unser Körper verraten, wenn wir gerade schwindeln, aber es reiche eben nicht nur ein Zeichen wie die Hand am Mund aus. Ein weiteres Zeichen dafür könne laut Andrea Nitzsche zum Beispiel ein eingefrorenes Lächeln sein. «Hier lächelt nur der Mund. Das hat ein bisschen was von Zähne zeigen. Bei einem echten Lächeln sieht man das auch an den Augen. Sie strahlen dann richtig», erklärt die Expertin. Nervöse Stressflecken oder auch ein hektisches Stolpern beim Sprechen können ebenfalls darauf hindeuten – müssen es aber nicht.

Den Körper programmieren

Wer nervös ist, neige übrigens auch zu Schattenbewegungen. Es kann sein, dass sich jemand gern die Haare aus dem Gesicht streicht, obwohl sie gar nicht stören. Diese Bewegung gibt demjenigen Sicherheit in einer Situation, in der er sich gerade überfordert fühlt. Das kann bei Referaten in der Schule oder auch beim ersten Date sein. Andrea Nitzsche hat für solche Situationen einen besonderen Tipp: «Mehr ausatmen als einatmen kann helfen, etwas ruhiger zu werden.» Ansonsten helfe es, seinen Körper positiv zu programmieren. «Das geht. Ich muss von dem überzeugt sein, was ich gerade mache. Dann wirkt auch mein Körper souveräner», erklärt Andrea Nitzsche. Will ich also dieses Referat für eine gute Note halten und will ich das für mich selbst, strahlt auch mein Körper mehr Souveränität aus, als wenn ich mir sage: «Hilft ja nicht, da muss ich durch.»

Für besonders Nervöse hat Andrea Nitzsche noch einen Geheimtipp: «Wer seine Lieblingsklamotten anzieht, fühlt sich schon viel wohler. Auch das wirkt auf mein Gegenüber. Außerdem hilft es, sich am Morgen schon seine Lieblingssongs vorzusingen und sich zu sagen: Jetzt geht’s mir gut. Was ich heute mache, ist etwas, wofür es sich lohnt.»

Wer etwas aufmerksam ist und auch darauf schaut, was seine Mitmenschen sagen, obwohl sie eigentlich nichts sagen, versteht seinen Gegenüber oft besser. Das kann auch bei Streitereien helfen. Aber keine Angst: Völlig durchschaubar werden wir deshalb nicht für andere: Körpersprache wirkt genauso wie Wortsprache und Stimmlage nur als Gesamtpaket. Gedankenlesen können auch Körpersprache-Experten nicht.

So wirkt deine Körpersprache auf andere


Wie viel Platz wir brauchen, also wie viel Anspruch wir auf unser Territorium haben, zeigt wie selbstsicher wir sind.

Hier nimmt Marietta viel Platz ein durch die weit auseinanderstehenden Beine, ihren offenen Oberkörper und ihre Hände, die sie in die Hüfte gestemmt hat.


Hier ist das Gegenteil zu sehen. Marietta braucht so wenig Platz wie sie nur kann. Sie verschränkt ihre Arme vorm Körper genauso wie ihre Beine. Außerdem hat sie ihren Kopf leicht eingezogen.


Verschränkte Arme, vom anderen abgewandter Oberkörper, hochgezogene Augenbrauen


Zugewandter Körper, offene Haltung, Lächeln, lockere Armhaltung


Gestik: Wenn Körper sprechen

Die Emotion steckt im Detail und benötigt einen geübten Blick, um decodiert zu werden: Gefühle drücken sich oft in Mimik und Gestik aus. Forschern gibt diese wortlose Sprache Rätsel auf.

Das Lächeln, das die Mundwinkel umspielt, der leicht zurückgeneigte Kopf, die sich unmerklich aufrichtende Haltung des Oberkörpers – es handelt sich um die typischen Ausdrücke von Stolz. Auch Scham entfaltet sich innerhalb von nur vier bis fünf Sekunden, in denen eine Reihe von kleinsten Gesten aufeinanderfolgt: der Blick wird abgelenkt, ein Lachen geht in ein Lächeln und wieder in kontrolliertes Lachen über, der Kopf neigt sich nach unten, die Hände fassen unwillkürlich ins Gesicht.

Für Gestikforscher sind solche Körperreaktionen leicht entschlüsselbar. Die Fragen, die sich an das menschliche Gestikrepertoire anschließen, sind indes mannigfaltig und beschäftigen Neurowissenschaftler, Anthropologen und Linguisten gleichermaßen. Wie entsteht gestische Bedeutung? Wie setzen sich verschiedene Gesten zusammen, um eine Emotion abzubilden? Welche Bedeutung haben Gesten für Alltagskonversationen? Welche Gesten sind erlernt, welche gehören zum Grundrepertoire menschlicher Affekte? Sind sie universell oder unterscheiden sich bestimmte Gesten innerhalb der Kulturen?

Es braucht nicht nur Interdisziplinarität, sondern auch ein ganzes Arsenal an Geisteskraft, diesen Fragen nachzugehen, und so kamen jetzt über 300 Wissenschaftler der „Internationalen Gesellschaft für Gestikforschung“ (ISGS) zu einer einwöchigen Konferenz an der Europa-Universität Viadrina in Frankfurt/Oder zusammen. Unterteilt in mehrere Themenkomplexe (Zeichensprache, Kunst und Film, Neurobiologie oder Kognitionswissenschaft) widmeten sich insgesamt knapp 200 Vorträge den neuesten Ergebnissen der Gestikforschung. „Nach dieser Konferenz wird es schwierig für die Linguisten zu behaupten, dass Sprache nur aus Wörtern besteht. Vielmehr sind komplexe Körpergesten am Prozess der Bedeutungsproduktion mit beteiligt“, resümiert Cornelia Müller, Professorin für Angewandte Sprachwissenschaft an der Viadrina und Herausgeberin der Zeitschrift „Gesture“.

Seitdem zum ersten Mal in den frühen 80er Jahren eine Gruppe von Berliner Wissenschaftlern Gesten auch von einem linguistischen Standpunkt aus untersucht, und im Jahr 2000 die Freie Universität Berlin unter der Leitung von Müller das „Berlin Gesture Project“ ins Leben gerufen hatte, hat die Gestikforschung als interdisziplinäres Paradigma par excellence sämtliche Fachbereiche affiziert. Laut Müller hat sich Deutschland international als besonders prominenter Standort für Gestikforschung etabliert. Entsprechend hoch war die Fördersumme der Volkswagen-Stiftung, die das mehrjährig angelegte Projekt „Towards a Grammar of Gesture: Evolution, Brain and Linguistic Structures“ (ToGoG) an der Viadrina mit fast einer Million Euro fördert.

Den Erfolg all dieser Unternehmen sieht Müller nicht zuletzt darin begründet, dass Gesten einerseits ein universales Phänomen sind, also für alle Menschen gleichermaßen Relevanz besitzen. Andererseits seien Gesten auch abhängig von kulturellen Neuentwicklungen, die es zu untersuchen gelte. „Jüngere Kulturtechniken wie das Telefonieren mit dem Handy gehen innerhalb relativ kurzer Zeit in unser Gestenrepertoire über und schaffen neue Codes“, erklärt Müller. Sie hält ihre Faust ans Ohr, Daumen und kleinen Finger abgespreizt, ein Mobiltelefon imitierend – eine Geste, die vor einem Jahrhundert noch unverständlich gewesen wäre.

Zu den Aufgaben der Gestikforschung zählt heute, nicht mehr nur einzelne Gesten auf ihre Bedeutung zu befragen, sondern auch die Wechselwirkung zwischen Sprechakt, Gestik und individueller Körperdisposition zu analysieren. So untersuchten Mary Copple, Mone Welsche und Cornelia Müller vom Exzellenzcluster „Languages of Emotion“ der Freien Universität Berlin das Phänomen der Alexithymie, die sogenannte Gefühlsblindheit: Menschen mit Alexithymie haben Schwierigkeiten, Gefühle adäquat zu beschreiben. „Etwa zehn Prozent der deutschen Bevölkerung ist alexithymisch“, so Copple. „Mithilfe der Gestikforschung wollten wir herausfinden, ob diese Menschen bestimmte Gefühle tatsächlich nicht empfinden, oder ob es sich um ein kognitives Problem handelt, sie zu artikulieren.“ 50 Stunden Videomaterial mit Interviews von 100 Versuchsteilnehmern – die Hälfte davon alexithymisch – sollte Aufschluss über das Auftreten sogenannter Posture-Gesture-Mergers (PGMs) geben, die spontan und intuitiv erfolgende Verschmelzung von Körperbewegung und Gestik beim Sprechen. „PGMs sind nicht intentional erlernbar sondern unmittelbare Ausdrücke einer Persönlichkeit, die sich in einem Gesprächsmoment besonders engagiert“, sagte Copple. So beugten sich beispielsweise manche Menschen plötzlich nach vorne, wenn sie etwas ausriefen, oder fielen in sich zusammen, wenn sie verunsichert würden.

Die Analyse des Videomaterials ergab, dass Menschen mit Alexithymie deutlich weniger PGMs produzierten – auffälligerweise jedoch nur dann, wenn sie zu ihren Gefühlen oder emotional besetzen Themen befragt wurden. Sollten sie Fragen aus einem Intelligenztest beantworten, zeigten sie eine normal hohe Anzahl von PGMs. „Das weist darauf hin, dass alexithymische Menschen bei geistiger Arbeit entspannter sind und entsprechend mit einer größeren Selbstverständlichkeit intuitiv gestikulieren“, schlussfolgerte Copple. Bei Alexithymie handele es sich also wahrscheinlich eher um eine kognitive Unzulänglichkeit, Emotionen und deren Ausdruck intuitiv synchronisieren zu können. Daran knüpften sich auch Fragestellungen für zukünftige Forschung: „Wir wollen untersuchen, ob PGMs bei Männern und Frauen unterschiedlich auftreten.“

Die Art und Anzahl der Gesten hängt indes nicht nur vom einzelnen Sprecher ab. Vielmehr müsse auch der kulturelle und sprachliche Raum betrachtet werden, in dem sich jemand bewege, so Tasha Lewis vom Marianopolis College im kanadischen Montreal. Sie stellte die Ergebnisse ihrer Studie vor, in der sie sechs englische Muttersprachler in einem Sprachkurs in Barcelona beobachtet hatte um herauszufinden, ob sich ihre Gestik verändern würde. Der Erwerb des Spanischen bedeutete auch einen Wechsel der Sprachfamilie, denn Englisch ist eine germanische, Spanisch eine romanische Sprache, in der meist bei Aussprechen des Verbs gestikuliert wird. „Ältere Studien haben behauptet, man behalte sein muttersprachliches Gestikmuster bei Erwerb einer Fremdsprache bei“, so Lewis. Die Auswertung ihres Videomaterials hätte jedoch ergeben, dass die Teilnehmer im Verlaufe ihres Sprachkurses zunehmend der spanischen Satzstruktur gemäß ihre Gesten platziert hätten. „Dieses Ergebnis stützt die hohe Bedeutung des Lernens im fremden Land“, bilanzierte Lewis. „Die subtilen Aspekte der Kommunikation, wie Gestik, fördern den umfassenden Erwerb einer Fremdsprache.“

Die nächste Konferenz der ISGS findet 2011 in Lund (Schweden) statt. „Bis dahin wird eine weitere beachtliche Zahl an Publikationen zur Gestikforschung erschienen sein“, so Müller. Vielleicht, hofft sie, schlage sie auch Wellen außerhalb des universitären Rahmens. Nicht zuletzt für Schauspieler dürfte ein detailliertes Wissen über Geschichte und Funktionsweisen von Gesten außerordentlich interessant sein.


Was Gesten verraten

Die Körpersprache ist reich an versteckten Botschaften: Mit Armen und Beinen, Händen und Füßen geben Menschen so manches über sich preis. Ausladende Gesten und Selbstberührungen sind besonders viel sagend.

Team-Meeting: Ein Kollege kratzt sich am Kopf, ein anderer wippt beständig mit den Füßen, und eine Kollegin zwirbelt versonnen eine Haarsträhne um den Finger. Ob mit Händen oder Füßen: In den meisten Fällen laufen solche Bewegungen völlig unbewusst ab. Körpersprache gilt deshalb als echter, unverfälschter und verlässlicher als die gesprochene Sprache. Stimmt das? Und was verraten Gesten wirklich über das Gegenüber?

Lange hielt man die Körpersprache für bloßes Beiwerk. Dass sie einen Grundpfeiler der Kommunikation darstellt, erkannte als einer der Ersten der Psycholinguist David McNeill von der University of Chicago Anfang der 1990er Jahre. Für ihn waren Gesten »in Form gegossene Gedanken«. Wer genau auf sie achte, könne beinahe in die Köpfe hineinsehen, erklärt er in seinem Buch »Hand and Mind«.

Einstudierte Körpersprache hinkt hinterher

Noch bevor sie zu sprechen beginnen, teilen sich Babys mit Gesten mit. Typischerweise zeigen sie schon mit einem Jahr gezielt auf Dinge in ihrer Umgebung. Ob unsere Vorfahren Gesten benutzten, bevor sie sich mit Lauten ausdrückten, oder ob sich beide Formen der Kommunikation im Lauf der Evolution parallel entwickelt haben, ist noch unklar. Gewiss ist hingegen: Auch wenn wir uns längst verbal ausdrücken können, reden wir weiter mit Händen und Füßen. Und das sogar, wenn niemand zuschaut, denn die Bewegungen helfen beim Denken.

Wir betonen damit zum Beispiel, was uns wichtig ist. Etwa mit der Taktstockgeste, die Politiker häufig nutzen, wenn sie eine flammende Rede halten: Daumen und Zeigefinger formen dabei einen Ring, und wie ein Dirigent verleiht der Sprecher dem Gesagten mit dem Auf- und Abschnellen des unsichtbaren Stabs einen Beat. Sind solche Gesten einstudiert, erkennen wir das recht schnell. Sie wirken nicht spontan und hinken dem Gesagten leicht hinterher.

Südländer reden angeblich besonders viel mit den Händen. Doch das stimmt so nicht: Deutsche und Südeuropäer fuchteln beim Reden gleich viel. Der entscheidende Unterschied: »Südeuropäer neigen zu ausladenderen Gesten«, sagt Cornelia Müller von der Europa-Universität Viadrina in Frankfurt an der Oder. Die Professorin für Sprachgebrauch und Multimodale Kommunikation hat die Gestik deutscher und spanischer Sprecher miteinander verglichen: »Nordeuropäer gestikulieren aus dem Handgelenk, Südeuropäer eher aus Schulter und Ellenbogen.« Deswegen spielen sich diese Gesten weiter weg vom Körper auf Kopfhöhe ab, während Deutsche eher verhalten vor der Brust gestikulieren.

Auch das Gegenüber beeinflusst die Gestik. Unbewusst verhalten wir uns zuweilen wie soziale Chamäleons: Wir lehnen uns nach vorne, wenn die andere Person das tut, oder schlagen wie sie die Beine übereinander. Passt sich jemand in seiner Gestik und Körperhaltung auffallend an, so deutet das auf Sympathie hin.

Die Körpersprache lässt aber auf mehr als das schließen. Gesten können verraten, was im Gegenüber gerade vorgeht. Ein Hinweis darauf, dass jemand angespannt, gestresst oder verlegen ist, sind spontane, unbewusste Selbstberührungen. Der Impuls, sich kurz an den Hals, das Kinn, die Nase oder Wange zu fassen, lässt sich nur schwer unterdrücken.

Selbstberührungen wirken beruhigend

Der Psychologe Martin Grunwald vom Haptik-Forschungslabor der Universität Leipzig hat untersucht, warum dieser Impuls vor allem in Stresssituationen auftritt. Er und sein Team gaben Versuchspersonen eine Gedächtnisaufgabe. Während diese sich anstrengten, das Gelernte im Kopf zu behalten, fassten sie sich häufiger ins Gesicht, und die im EEG vor und nach der unbewussten Berührung gemessenen Hirnströme unterschieden sich stark. »Wir erklären diese Veränderungen damit, dass der kurze Berührungsreiz jene Hirnaktivität verstärkt, die für eine Stabilisierung des emotionalen Zustands und eine Stabilisierung des Arbeitsgedächtnisses verantwortlich ist«, sagt Martin Grunwald. Das heißt: Spontane Selbstberührungen helfen offenbar, sich zu beruhigen und zu konzentrieren.

Gesten liefern also Anhaltspunkte zur momentanen Verfassung des Gegenübers. Aber offenbaren sie noch mehr über seine Person? Eine 2021 veröffentlichte Metaanalyse beschäftigte sich mit dieser Frage.

Die Forschungsgruppe um den Psychologen Simon Breil von der Universität Münster analysierte dafür 32 Studien zum Zusammenhang zwischen nonverbalen Signalen und der Persönlichkeit, erhoben mit Fragebogen zu den »Big Five«, den fünf zentralen Persönlichkeitsdimensionen. Zusätzlich erfassten manche Studien noch die Intelligenz. Zu den Merkmalen der Körpersprache zählten Handbewegungen, Haltung, die Breite des Stands und die Schrittlänge. Die große Frage: Spiegelt sich in ihnen der Charakter eines Menschen wider?

Die kurze Antwort: Ja. Den stärksten Zusammenhang fanden die Forschenden für das Merkmal Extraversion. Wer als extravertiert gilt, ist herzlich, gesellig, durchsetzungsfähig, aktiv, abenteuerlustig und fröhlich. Diese Kontaktfreudigkeit sieht man entsprechenden Zeitgenossen offenbar relativ leicht an. Neben einer ausdrucksstarken Mimik, einer lauten Stimme, einem gepflegten und modischen Äußeren wiesen auch eine entspannte, dem Gegenüber zugewandte Haltung und ausholende Gesten auf Extraversion hin.

»Nicht jeder, der gerade wild gestikuliert, ist extravertiert«, stellt Simon Breil klar. »Aber von allen Charaktermerkmalen, die wir uns angeschaut haben, schlug sich Extraversion am stärksten in der Gestik nieder. Wer geselliger ist und gerne auf andere zugeht, gestikuliert tendenziell mehr.« Zudem neigten extravertierte Menschen weniger dazu, sich kleinzumachen oder nervös herumzunesteln. Insgesamt nahmen sie mehr Raum ein und zeigten in der Regel eine entspannte und offene Körpersprache.

Für die anderen Charaktermerkmale fanden sich weniger Hinweise: Verträglichere Menschen machten im Schnitt etwas kleinere Schritte; gewissenhafte berührten sich etwas seltener am Körper und im Gesicht, hatten einen breiteren Stand und eine aufrechtere Haltung. Eine solche Haltung zeugte außerdem auch von Offenheit für neue Erfahrungen. Emotionale Labilität spiegelte sich ähnlich wie Introvertiertheit in einer steiferen Körperhaltung und nervösem Zappeln wider.

Die gefundenen Zusammenhänge waren allerdings nicht sehr groß. »Ja, es gibt Hinweise auf die Validität der Körpersprache im Hinblick auf die Persönlichkeitsdeutung. Die sind aber auf einem sehr, sehr niedrigen Niveau«, sagt Uwe Kanning. Er ist Professor für Wirtschaftspsychologie an der Hochschule Osnabrück und beschäftigt sich kritisch mit unwissenschaftlichen Methoden in der Personalauswahl. Ihm zufolge lässt sich nur ein kleiner Anteil der Persönlichkeitsunterschiede aus der Körpersprache vorhersagen.

»Wenn man einzelne körpersprachliche Merkmale betrachtet, bewegt sich das zwischen null und fünf Prozent. Die höchsten Zusammenhänge findet man für Extraversion. Für Intelligenz zum Beispiel gibt es gar keine«, berichtet Kanning. »Fügt man verschiedene körpersprachliche Merkmale zu einem Gesamtbild zusammen, steigt die Zahl wahrscheinlich maximal auf zehn Prozent«, schätzt er. Das heißt umgekehrt: 90 Prozent der Charakterunterschiede lassen sich nicht aus der Gestik herauslesen.

Die Bedeutung der Körpersprache wird überschätzt

An der Idee, dass sich das Innerste in der Gestik offenbart, ist also durchaus etwas dran – nur eben nicht so viel wie vermutet. »Menschen überschätzen die Bedeutung von Körpersprache«, sagt Simon Breil. »Gerade beim ersten Eindruck, wenn wir noch nichts über die Person wissen, verlassen wir uns stark darauf, etwa beim Dating oder im Bewerbungsprozess.«


„Sei einfach, wie du bist“

Nicht nur was wir sagen, sondern auch das, was in unserer Mimik, im Blickkontakt, in Gestik und Körperbewegung mitschwingt, spiegelt unsere Persönlichkeit wider. Wie wir mithilfe unserer Körpersprache – nicht nur im Vorstellungsgespräch – nonverbale Signale senden und warum sich diese nur schwer steuern lassen, erläutert der Psychologe, Autor und Coach Markus Väth.

Herr Väth, wir kommunizieren, auch wenn wir gerade nichts sagen. Wie das?

Markus Väth: Jeder Mensch sendet neben dem, was er sprachlich mitteilt, bestimmte Signale. Wir sprechen zusätzlich zu inhaltlichen Äußerungen nonverbal mit unserem Körper – durch Mimik, Gestik, Körperhaltung und -bewegung.

Viele haben die Sorge, dass sich ihre Körpersprache – etwa in Vorstellungs­gesprächen – negativ auf das Gesagte auswirkt, weil sie mit dem Fuß wippen oder die Arme verschränken. Beides gilt ja als No-Go, oder?

Markus Väth: Man sollte sich nicht zu viele Sorgen darüber machen, wie bestimmte Verhaltensweisen gedeutet werden könnten. Zuschreibungen wie „No-Go“ empfinde ich als problematisch. Da geistert viel Pseudowissen umher – im Internet, aber auch durch Personaler-Köpfe. Es ist schwierig, Körpersignale zu interpretieren, gerade wenn man dem Gesprächspartner das erste Mal gegenübersitzt. So müssen verschränkte Arme nicht zwangsläufig Zurückweisung signalisieren. Ich selbst etwa nehme diese Haltung ein, wenn ich intensiv nachdenke. Das hat nichts mit Abwehr zu tun. Sitzt ein Bewerber beispielsweise etwas schief da, ist das nicht zwingend mangelndem Respekt und Desinteresse geschuldet, sondern kann einfach nur bedeuten, dass das Hotelbett unbequem war.

Kann man auf seine Körpersprache überhaupt einwirken?

Markus Väth: Körpersprache lässt sich nur äußerst schwer trainieren. Und in Vorstellungsgesprächen schaltet der Stress einstudierte Körpersprache oft schlicht aus. Daher ist es schwierig, seine nonverbale Kommunikation bewusst zu beeinflussen.

Man kann sich also positiv wirkende Signale nicht antrainieren?

Markus Väth: Klar kann man versuchen, Gestik und Mimik gezielt einzusetzen – verbal auf den Gesprächspartner einzugehen und gleichzeitig all das Nichtgesagte, das nebenher mitschwingt, zu kontrollieren und zu steuern, erfordert jedoch jahrelanges konsequentes Üben. Sonst wirkt es schnell künstlich und wenig überzeugend. Es dauert, bis sich solche Verhaltensweisen einschleifen und in Situationen, in denen wir unter Druck stehen, abgerufen werden können. 

Also darf die Mimik Ihrer Meinung nach auch mal entgleisen und das Lächeln verrutschen?

Markus Väth: Meiner Meinung nach ja. Ein eingefrorenes, angespanntes Passfotolächeln wirkt wenig authentisch. Da lächelt nur der Mund, die Augen jedoch nicht, das bleibt dem Gesprächspartner nicht verborgen und verwirrt eher. Ein Funke springt so nicht über.

Und wie verhält es sich mit nervösem Zappeln oder wildem Gestikulieren?

Markus Väth: Gesten unterstreichen ja im besten Fall das Gesagte. Nimmt das Herumfuchteln und Zappeln jedoch überhand, kann es helfen, die Bewegung zu kanalisieren. Zum Beispiel indem man einen Stift in den Händen hält. 

Und was wollen Sie jungen Menschen sonst noch mitgeben, die vor ihrem ersten Vorstellungsgespräch stehen?

Markus Väth: Seid einfach, wie ihr seid. Viel wichtiger als einstudierte körpersprachliche Verhaltensweisen sind die Grundregeln der Höflichkeit. Ein Händedruck zur Begrüßung, dem Gegenüber dabei in die Augen schauen – das kann man in der Familie oder im Supermarkt üben – und sich auf einen kurzen Smalltalk einlassen ist die halbe Miete für einen gelungenen Gesprächsbeginn. Das beste Mittel, die Körpersprache zu verbessern, ist, voller Selbstvertrauen in das Gespräch zu gehen. Wenn man von seinen Fähigkeiten überzeugt ist, dann strahlt man auch leichter Souveränität aus.


More Bricks in the Wall?

Pink FloydThe Wall

THOUGH IT IN no way endangers the meisterwerk musical status of Dark Side of the Moon (still on the charts nearly seven years after its release), Pink Floyd’s twelfth album, The Wall, is the most startling rhetorical achievement in the group’s singular, thirteen-year career. Stretching his talents over four sides, Floyd bassist Roger Waters, who wrote all the words and a majority of the music here, projects a dark, multilayered vision of post-World War II Western (and especially British) society so unremittingly dismal and acidulous that it makes contemporary gloom-mongers such as Randy Newman or, say, Nico seem like Peter Pan and Tinker Bell.

The Wall is a stunning synthesis of Waters’ by now familiar thematic obsessions: the brutal misanthropy of Pink Floyd’s last LP, AnimalsDark Side of the Moon‘s sour, middle-aged tristesse; the surprisingly shrewd perception that the music business is a microcosm of institutional oppression (Wish You Were Here); and the dread of impending psychoses that runs through all these records — plus a strongly felt antiwar animus that dates way back to 1968’s A Saucerful of Secrets. But where Animals, for instance, suffered from self-centered smugness, the even more abject The Wall leaps to life with a relentless lyrical rage that’s clearly genuine and, in its painstaking particularity, ultimately horrifying.

Fashioned as a kind of circular maze (the last words on side four begin a sentence completed by the first words on side one), The Wall offers no exit except madness from a world malevolently bent on crippling its citizens at every level of endeavor. The process — for those of Waters’ generation, at least — begins at birth with the smothering distortions of mother love. Then there are some vaguely remembered upheavals from the wartime Blitz:

Did you ever wonder
Why we had to run for shelter
When the promise of a brave new world
Unfurled beneath a clear blue sky?

In government-run schools, children are methodically tormented and humiliated by teachers whose comeuppance occurs when they go home at night and “their fat and/Psychopathic wives would thrash them/Within inches of their lives.”

As Roger Waters sees it, even the most glittering success later in life — in his case, international rock stardom — is a mockery because of mortality. The halfhearted hope of interpersonal salvation that slightly brightened Animals is gone, too: women are viewed as inscrutable sexual punching bags, and men (their immediate oppressors in a grand scheme of oppression) are inevitably left alone to flail about in increasingly unbearable frustration. This wall of conditioning finally forms a prison. And its pitiful inmate, by now practically catatonic, submits to “The Trial” — a bizarre musical cataclysm out of Gilbert and Sullivan via Brecht and Weill — in which all of his past tormentors converge for the long-awaited kill.

This is very tough stuff, and hardly the hallmark of a hit album. Whether or not The Wall succeeds commercially will probably depend on its musical virtues, of which there are many. Longtime Pink Floyd fans will find the requisite number of bone-crushing riffs and Saturn-bound guitar screams (“In the Flesh”), along with one of the loveliest ballads the band has ever recorded (“Comfortably Numb — “). And the singing throughout is — at last — truly firstrate, clear, impassioned. Listen to the vocals in the frightening “One of My Turns,” in which the deranged rock-star narrator, his shattered synapses misfiring like wet firecrackers, screams at his groupie companion: “Would you like to learn to fly?/Would you like to see me try?”

Problems do arise, however. While The Wall‘s length is certainly justified by the breadth of its thematic concerns, the music is stretched a bit thin. Heavy-metal maestro Bob Ezrin, brought in to coproduce with Roger, Waters and guitarist David Gilmour, adds a certain hard-rock consciousness to a few cuts (especially the nearfunky “Young Lust”) but has generally been unable to match the high sonic gloss that engineer Alan Parsons contributed to Dark Side of the Moon. Even Floydstarved devotees may not be sucked into The Wall‘s relatively flat aural ambiance on first hearing. But when they finally are — and then get a good look at that forbidding lyrical landscape — they may wonder which way is out real fast.


Behind the Meaning of “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)” by Pink Floyd

In a world of love songs, Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” inevitably stands out. 

The defiant anthem is a satirical view on formal education, a loud protest against authority, and it became one of Pink Floyd’s most recognizable songs. 

Here we’ll dive into the song’s context, composition, and success.

Just one part of the story.

“Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” is as it’s descriptor indicates, only one part of the story. There are three sections of “Another Brick in the Wall” on Pink Floyd’s 1979 rock opera album, The Wall. All three parts total eight odd minutes of building up emotional walls. 

The beginning, “Part 1,” sets the scene with the protagnoist’s first blow from life. His father abandons the narrator, whether that is in death or otherwise, and creates a level of distress. Daddy, what else did you leave for me? / Daddy, what’d ya leave behind for me?

“Part 2,” which we will get to, continues the assembling of emotion. Then, “Part 3” concludes the trilogy with the determination that everyone has simply been just bricks in the wall

Recording an unexpected beat and children’s choir.

Roger Waters, singer/songwriter and bassist for Pink Floyd, wrote the “Another Brick in the Wall” song series and the band recorded the songs for several months in 1979. 

For “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2),” the underlying beat leans into the themes and sounds of disco. And according guitarist David Gilmour, the band’s producer Bob Ezrin, has suggested this sonic turn. “[Ezrin] said to me, ‘Go to a couple of clubs and listen to what’s happening with disco music,’” Gilmour recalled in a 2009 interview with Guitar World, “so I forced myself out and listened to loud, four-to-the-bar bass drums and stuff and thought, Gawd, awful! Then we went back and tried to turn one of the parts into one of those so it would be catchy.”

Another unique aspect of “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” is the children’s choir that sings the second verse of the song. The collection of young singers was composed of 23 children from the Islington Green School in North London. After recording, the childrens’ part was overdubbed 12 times to give the effect of many, many more children singing. 

Ezrin explains their decision to use a children’s choir: “[W]e sent [engineer] Nick Griffiths to a school near the Floyd studios [in Islington, North London]. I said, ‘Give me 24 tracks of kids singing this thing. I want Cockney, I want posh, fill ’em up,’ and I put them on the song. I called Roger into the room, and when the kids came in on the second verse there was a total softening of his face, and you just knew that he knew it was going to be an important record.”

Lyrics: Say a lot with little.

The lyrics themselves while not necessarily elaborate, speak volumes. 

We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teacher, leave them kids alone
Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!

It’s a pretty glaring critic of the education system, but Waters explained that it wasn’t so much of a blanket statement on education itself, but rather a statement to inspire a sense of individuality. 

“Obviously, I care deeply about education. I just wanted to encourage anyone who marches to a different drum to push back against those who try to control their minds rather than to retreat behind emotional walls,” Waters told The Wall Street Journal in 2015.

Further explaining how he arrived at these lyrics, Waters revealed that his own experiences in school left a bad taste in his mouth.

“The lyrics were a reaction to my time at the Cambridgeshire High School for Boys in 1955, when I was 12,” Waters told The Wall Street Journal. “Some of the teachers there were locked into the idea that young boys needed to be controlled with sarcasm and the exercising of brute force to subjugate us to their will. That was their idea of education.”

Success and its haters.

Pink Floyd released “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” as a single, their first single release after “Point Me at the Sky” in 1968. The track topped the charts in 14 different countries, including the United States and the U.K. The song also garnered a Grammy nomination and a spot on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list in 2010. 

Not everyone liked the track, however. The single and the subsequent album were banned in South Africa in 1980 after the lyrics were used by school children to protest their educaiton under apartheid. Prime minster Margaret Thatcher was also reported to have “hated it.”

All in all, it’s just another brick in the wall
All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall


Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2 by de Pink Floyd

We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teacher, leave them kids alone

Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone
All in all, it’s just another brick in the wall
All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall

We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers, leave them kids alone

Hey, teacher, leave us kids alone
All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall
All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall

If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding
How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?
You! Yes, you behind the bike stands
Stand still, laddy!

40 years later: Are we still just another brick in the wall?

They tell us we are the next generation. A representation of greatness, a symbol of hope, a future of prosperity. They tell us we have the power to fix all the wrongs in this world, make it a better place for all. And then they throw us into the deep end of the pool, expecting us to stay afloat. They don’t even flinch when we become just another brick in the wall.

Pink Floyd shattered the traditional notion of a song with their album “The Wall,” which is widely regarded as one of the best concept albums ever produced. Its most popular single, “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2),” issued a provocative social statement on the British education system in the 1950’s. 

Although Waters wrote “Another Brick in the Wall” about another country and an earlier generation, the song’s lyrics and key concepts stay relevant to our own education system today. 

We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control

Our educational institutions have systematically failed to adapt to change. They continue, even during these unprecedented times, to evaluate student performance based solely on rote memorization rather than progress and learning. We are labeled by our grades, which seems like the ultimate determinant of our futures. Our stomachs drop when a teacher hands back a grade, and we realize we underperformed on an exam. But shouldn’t failing be a learning experience  rather than a punishment? And who decided that letter grades were supposed to determine what we could achieve in our lives? School is not supposed to be a series of memorized algebraic calculations or properly formatted, multi-paragraphed english essays; it’s intended to help us acquire new knowledge and skills, to teach us to collaborate and, most importantly, to inspire us.

However, Waters paints a bleak, but accurate image of the education system in his lyrics; he explains that education revolved around a set of rigid ideas to which all students were expected to conform and teachers were meant to enforce. Just like Roger Waters and his generation, we are being taught to put our heads down and  color inside the lines. But what we truly need is for education to encourage free thinking and critical thought, releasing students and teachers from the confines of the curriculum. 

The reality of our current educational system: we don’t need this type of “education.”  

No dark sarcasm in the classroom; Hey! Teachers leave those kids alone

During our foundational years, we spend most of our lives in school. Yet, so many of us are scared to speak up in class, talk to our teachers or ask our counselors for help.

More than 40 years ago, Waters felt as though teachers served to chastise students whenever they stepped out of line. He too believed that his teachers simply enforced the “rules” of the classroom, turning his educational experience into one of isolation.

From kindergarten through senior year, the same set of rules are designed to mold us into the “ideal student,” one who displays only acceptable behavior in the classroom. 

Don’t speak without raising your hand; don’t go to the bathroom before you ask; don’t talk back to teachers. 

Those who do not follow such rules are deemed “bad children” and punished accordingly. In the music video for “Another Brick in the Wall,” the teacher punishes the main character for reading poetry because it did not fall within the classroom’s guidelines. 

This is where the real question lies: when did school become more intimidating than inviting? As we sit in our Zoom classes, many are too afraid to unmute themselves. We build psychological walls to protect ourselves. School is still an unfriendly, increasingly isolating environment for many students. It can be terrifying to speak up to a teacher, and often “unacceptable” to voice your opinion when an adult says it’s not right.  

The needless rules some teachers impose and the constant fear many students face reinforce Waters’ idea that if teachers cannot create a welcoming learning environment, they really should leave us kids alone. 

You’re just another brick in the wall

As kindergarteners, we are eager to be “grown up,” excited about everything  the world has to offer and filled with innocence. During our last years in high school, that curiosity has dimmed, replaced by a mask of stress, sleeplessness and cynicism.

Pink Floyd sketched this transformation through their lyrics: “you’re just another brick in the wall, all in all it’s just another brick in the wall.”

The education system is a machine, taking us in at kindergarten and spitting us out in 12th grade, isolated and alone,  feeling like just another stitch in the fabric of society. It strips us of our humanity and our individuality as we make our way through the factory; it reminds us at every turn that we are always replaceable.

Yet, we aren’t. We are unique individuals, with passions, motivations and intrinsic drives. We are not clones molded by the education system. We will never be replaceable. We are not “just another brick in the wall.” Let’s stop letting them tell us we are.