“Fıx old not buıld green”

Eco-friendly buildings are gaining popularity for their positive impact on the environment, but are some of us left out when it comes to the locations and costs? Ariana Perez and Ecem Hepçiçekli report.

To Dr Gerlind Weber, a professor at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, eco-friendly buildings are not the most important factor. Instead, constructing the buildings on the right location where people can live without any need to have a car is more essential. “Before we ask how we can improve our buildings, we must ask where these buildings will stand,” she said.
We often see these tall new structures in the centre of major cities, where people can depend on just public transportation to reach their destination. The so-called push towards going green consists of taller buildings, luxurious reception areas and high tech architecture which all add to the new standard. However, can we all afford to pay this high lifestyle?

According to Manuela Brandstetter, Social Sciences lecturer at St Pölten University of Applied Sciences near Vienna, this contributes to an unequal society. “Eco-friendly, I suggest another term, it creates more space for controversy,” she said. “It creates space between two different people in terms of their wealth and undermines gentrification.”

Ms Brandstetter said that old buildings could be redeveloped into new eco-friendly houses and still be used, making it more economical for those who cannot afford the costs. Instead of investing the money in creating brand new eco-friendly structures, Dr Weber suggested it would be better to save that money and renovate old houses.

“Society must reserve money,” she said. “You can take 70 per cent of the money that is used to construct new buildings and correct the mistakes that we have done in the past by building bad houses, such as from the 50s to the 90s.”

According to Petra Hirschler, University Assistant at Vienna University of Technology, renewing the existent structures is the best approach for rapid improvement while still adding positively to the environment. “When you have new constructions, they just calculate the cost of the building and not the cost of the materials which are reused,” she said.

“If you were to get the whole picture again of what’s constructed and of course reorganise it, the location is already there, the infrastructure is already there and so you don’t have these external costs again.”

Analysing the strategy, many of these old buildings are in locations that are economical for people with lower salaries, without necessarily being in a central location. If money can be redressed to modernising timeworn buildings instead of starting from scratch, it would benefit residents that have purchased property years ago.

“It’s far better to stay in there,” Ms Hirschler stressed. “If you move in to a new eco-friendly flat and if you rent it now, you would pay far more than when you were paying for your old renting contract.”

Chına’s slowdown

Reforms needed for stock market efficiency

The slowing down in China, the world’s second largest economy, caused global panic. Is it a short-term or a long-term plunge? Sitao Xu, Chief Economist of Deloitte China, gave the answers. Ariana Perez and Ecem Hepçiçekli report.

Shanghai Stock Market benchmark index has now fallen by nearly 40 per cent from its mid-June peak.

During the summer period, what happened in China’s stock exchanges signalled a big challenge and affected many countries. “The slowing down won’t be for a long time but we need some fundamental market-based reforms,” said Sitao Xu, the Chief Economist of Deloitte China.

According to Mr Xu, the stock market in China is very inefficient. It’s not playing a significant role in terms of helping companies raise money. Also, consumers have only a small percentage of shares traded on China’s main stock market: 7 to 10 per cent compared with 30 per cent in the United States.

“That’s China’s weakness because in order to take the economy to next stage, you must have a well functioned stock market. But in the short term, it’s also China’s strength,” stated Mr Xu.

Last week, the on-going slowdown gained speed and China’s economy experienced a very rapid reduction, which caused world stock markets to close sharply down. The latest data showed that activity in China’s manufacturing sector during August contracted at the fastest rate in three years. According to Mr Xu, China’s position with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is very asymmetric and it must be adjusted. He explained that, in the past few years, China made some adjustments but they are still well below where they should be.

“In general, we need to ease restrictions in capital control, so people in China can invest more freely abroad. At the same time, those who are coming to China should face much fewer restrictions,” he said.

Another fundamental reform should be changing the companies being listed to improve corporate governance.

He emphasised companies are being listed in the stock exchange by an approval system, something he stressed needs to be changed. “Of course this approval system had resulted in corruption. That’s a serious problem, but I think the government has recognised that,” Mr Xu said.

“So, naturally, the government is trying to be a populist by supporting the market. We have to think this very hard, we have to confront the problem head on.”


Help Turkey, Economıst tells EU

The world’s largest community of Syrians escaping civil conflict has moved into Turkey. Despite its open-door policy, Turkey is failing to integrate about two million migrants, according to the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) 2015, a report released on June 23. “Turkey is shouldering a much larger of burden than richer countries in Europe and could be helped more by European Union,” stated Dr Rainer Münz, the head of the Austrian Erste Bank’s Research and Development Department.

Dr Münz says Turkey has developed a tolerance to refugees. “They don’t try to push refugees back to Syria or moving them on into Europe. So we, the West Europe, could do a lot more to help Turkey,” he added. The European Union can give both logistical and informational help, but also money to integrate migrants. According to the economist, the first step should be taken in the field of education. Children should be integrated by offering Turkish language classes.


Technology and Chıld Behavıour: Freak-Out at dınner tıme

Young children today spend more time looking at a screen instead of interacting with others. What could be the long term impact on them? 

Just a few years ago, children would inundate the parks right after school to go play for hours under the sun. Just a week ago, when I visited my six-year-old cousin he was playing with an iPad. He was so consumed by the game that he didn’t notice I had walked in.

Has technology changed the way children interact and communicate with those who surround them? Kathryn List, member of the Council at Alpbach and president of the American Institute for Musical Studies, said it can be equally good and bad.

“There is no question about it, innovations always have some sort of negative impact,” she said. “Certainly if a young person gets sucked in to only sitting with their technology is not a good thing, but I also find it hard to say that all technology is bad.”

Ms List explained that time management is key to children’s usage of technology. Damaging qualities resulted from little or no supervision including children’s patience which had greatly changed.

“I see a lot of very disturbing results of technology in education for young people,” she stated. “Young people have developed a lack of tolerance. They have become users rather than developers.”

According to Ms List, a solution to this problem can be found through the more traditional educational foundations, such as the arts. A balance between the old and modern and an understanding of the psychological aspect can help improve this new deficiency of patience found among the younger generations.

“I think the real way to the future is between these interdisciplinary discussions,” she said.

While she believes some young people are “handicapped” by the fact that their connection to the real world is through a device, she also highlights a positive side.

“Technology has, in the past, offered us huge rewards,” she added. “I think the main message is managing the usage and finding a way where the old and new meet in order to have more benefits instead of consequences.”

Ariana Perez and Ecem Hepcicekli report.

When gırls outperform boys

Women on the other side of the world are reversing gender inequality in education. In Malaysia, the number of female students is increasing annually, creating serious competition for males, Ecem Hepçiçekli reports.

Accessibility to higher education rate is nearly 100 per cent for female students, but a quota system equalises the numbers of men, according to Ille Gebeshuber, Professor of Physics in Malaysia National University.

Female students are performing better than males in secondary school and getting the highest grades more often than men, however not all are accepted by universities.

In the British grading system, which is currently used in Malaysia, the first quarter of the students considered as successful is predominantly female. In this case, there is a quota system not to cause a disparity in the number of male and female students.

Memorising helps

“If there were not any quota system for genders in our university, student ratio would be 98 per cent females and two per cent males. This is not acceptable,” Prof Gebeshuber stated. She thinks that people need role models from both genders for all professions.

On the other hand, female students might owe their success to their good memories. The Malaysian educational system in secondary school is mostly based on learning by heart and girls perform well in memorising.  Conversely, it doesn’t provide creativity or problem solving skills.

“When you learn something by heart, you learn something which everybody else knows. There’s nothing which discriminates you from the rest of the world,” said Prof Gebeshuber.

Teaching preferences

The role of teachers in training unique students is essential. Gebeshuber thinks that teachers like students who memorise all the subjects, know all the answers and do not cause any problems.

Nevertheless, they have to leave their comfort zone and challenge problematic kids. Strong will and curiosity must be taught from childhood in the same way for both females and males. Personal curiosity, having a strong will and being determined are the most important characteristics.

Yet a high number of female graduates in various study directions does not mean success all the time. Women, who work in professions that are hard to be accepted by society, sometimes give up.

Meetıngs – the cancer of nowadays’ workıng culture?

In the US alone, 11 million meetings take place every day. Yet, many doubt that they are of use to anyone. When done effectively, though, meetings might actually be able to save the world, says Toke Padulan Moeller from Art of Hosting. 

“I think excessive meetings are the cancer of nowadays’ workplace culture,” said Mr Moeller, one of the founders of a network that offers training on how to lead productive meetings, currently in Alpbach leading the Summer School on Facilitation and Participatory Leadership.

“Many of the meetings are just incredibly boring. You walk away after a few days and wonder what you got out of it. Most of them don’t go anywhere.”

Mr Moeller is not the only one to think this way. According to a questionnaire published inIndustry Week, one third of the managers surveyed felt that meetings were a waste of time.

“The main flaw of meetings nowadays is that no-one is listening to each other, but everyone is just trying to push through their own agenda,” Moeller said.

According to the Dane, a successful meeting should have a clear purpose, a topic everyone thinks is important, and should leave room for all participants to engage in a discussion. “Not only are such meetings much more useful, they also take up less time and financial resources,” he said.

Yet, to Mr Moeller, the Art of Hosting is not just about innovating the way meetings should work. He thinks it is a way to maintain peace in the world. “The two World Wars took place because people didn’t know how to talk and listen to each other,” he said. “The ingredients for the Third World War are in place and we need to learn how to meet and collaborate effectively before all of this goes too far.”

“We have to stop f***ing around with boring meetings that only create unconscious decisions with bad consequences. Future generations will thank us for that,” said Mr Moeller.

Sarah Remsky and Ecem Hepcicekli report.

“Greedy” Greeks ımage wrong, says welfare expert

The belief that no one works in Greece is a misguided concept shared among Germans, according to Dr Janneke Plantenga, Chair of Economics of the Welfare State at Utrecht University. She says Germans have been misled by a careless press and the lack of statistics. 

A poll recently demonstrated Germany’s discontent with Greece’s current pension system, she stated. German tabloids ran the front page headline “Nein” with a story below demanding billions to be cut from “greedy Greeks.” In addition, online users commenting on the issue exaggerated the facts showing that they are ill-informed.

“In real life, the situation is much more complicated,” Dr Plantenga explains. “I’m worried about the popular vote and the people because they do not have access to proper information and they don’t care about it. They see the negative and jump to conclusions.”

According to her research, Greece spends the highest amount of GDP in Europe on pensions. On the other hand, there is hardly any money to tackle unemployment (25.6 per cent as of March 2015) or disability insurance.
Greek pension

Dr Plantenga explained that these statistics are unknown to people in Germany. This absence of information, along with the poor knowledge in the press, infuriates Germans and contributes to the conclusion that Greeks are abusing the money given to them as an EU member.

On the contrary, the Greek population is at a greater disadvantage after pensions were cut by 40 per cent. This year, the average pension totals €833 a month, compared with €1,350 in 2009. The effective age at which Greek workers exit the labour market is 61.9 for men and 60.3 for women, against the OECD average of 64.2 for men and 63.1 for women.

“With more than a quarter of Greek workers jobless, many rely on parents and grandparents for financial support,” said Dr Plantenga. “Society should be more informed. That’s the duty of us both, scientists and journalists. We need to take good care of statistics and inform the future generations.”

Ecem Hepçiçekli and Ariana Perez report.