Monday, August 13, 2007

Günter Blobel and the Waldschlößchenbrücke

A few weeks ago I went to the “Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Lindau”. I think I’ll write a post on that meeting in general at some point, but one of the interesting things I did there was talk to Günter Blobel. Günter Blobel received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1999 for his discoveries on how proteins in the cell are directed to different places through sequences and receptors on proteins and in membranes.

He is also known for the fact that he donated his nobel prize winnings (~1 million dollars) to the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche in Dresden. (A famous church destroyed in the bombing of Dresden at the end of WWII) But I wasn’t aware that he has also been very active in the restoration of Dresden in general and as a child actually witnessed the firebombing in 1945. So seeing that he obviously has many connections to Dresden I wanted to ask him about this
controversial bridge that is about to go up, that many have been fighting. And let me tell you – I got an earful. Not surprisingly, he is vehemently against the bridge. He basically has the same feelings I and others do about the destruction of that land. “Go there. Sit there. Have a picnic” he says to realize what will be lost.

It turns out he’s actually being very active in following up on the bridge developments. From NYC, where he has a lab at Rockefeller, he says he talks every day to people in Dresden about this bridge and what can be done to stop it and/or promote alternatives. And because of this, because he has also been outspoken about it, the government leaders here pushing hard for the bridge hate him. And they even attack him.

There is an initiative for a tunnel to be built instead of the bridge. It has been shown that the tunnel is in fact feasible, and with no extra cost as compared to a bridge. Blobel brought up the point that, actually, part of the bridge plan consists of a significant tunnel to be dug extending partway to the entrance of the bridge. He says that from the people involved he has talked to, there is no good reason a tunnel cannot be continued all the way across.

In the end, after all his connections and efforts in Dresden, he has come to the conclusion that the main reason for the bridge is simply corruption and money. There seem to simply be no other reasonable explanations. And I’m starting to see this feeling echoed more around Dresden, as people seriously look into the alternatives.

Blobel was also frustrated with the lack of attention to this issue by Angela Merkel. That she’s been such an ‘advocate’ of the environment, of Germany being so green-conscious, of saving the trees, etc. But has not listened or given any significance to this fight in Dresden. In Blobel’s words, “Merkel will pay” for this if and when Germany loses a world heritage site. “The shit will hit the fan”.

Blobel says he has been practically made into a devil for his outspoken opposition to this bridge. He says he has been attacked by those in the government, accusing him often of interfering with Dresden and Saxony issues, of using his status for his own desires, of trying to usurp the democratic process. This is after all he’s done for Dresden. And now he has sponsors set up, unrelated to the bridge, but to further develop Dresden, the city he loves, but anything with his name on it is turned down immediately. Like poison.

I wanted to do something. But if a Nobel Laureate, who DONATED his prize to Dresden, who was THERE WHEN THE FUCKING BOMBS came down, who gives money and time, and has assembled connections in Dresden that he communicates with on a daily basis....if this guy sounds a bit defeated. Well. What can be done? He seems to have resigned (albeit still furiously passionate) that this is all about corruption and money. And there’s no way to stop it.

1 comment:

EuroTrippen said...

Well now I feel like a complete ass for opting out of the protest at the last minute in favor of chinese takeout & Psych episodes.

The dude seriously gave his entire winning to the Frauenkirche fund?? Man, I'd like to think I could aspire to that sort of nobility, but truth is I'd be on the phone with JP Morgan before the check was even cut.

Great, now I feel like a complete ass AND a greedy fucker...