Sustainable Listening 5: Going to Work While the World Ends (or Nearly)?


The unique event series, Sustainable Listening, curated by iHeartBerlin at Staatsoper Berlin, fuses classical music with pressing contemporary climate issues. This edition centered on how we allocate our time to work and whether it could be better spent saving the planet or simply relaxing.

When Amazon introduced their autonomous store concepts in the US, it sparked many discussions. Would AI take our jobs, or would it improve our lives by allowing us to engage in more meaningful work instead of monotonous tasks like cashiering? However, these debates became moot. In April, Amazon announced they would phase out the concept. What seemed like AI magic was, in reality, powered by thousands of underpaid remote Indian workers who added items to carts and charged customers based on what they took. The illusion of the autonomous store crumbled, proving financially unsustainable – the cashiers were merely moved off-site, monitoring customers remotely.






This is one of the examples discussed by political scientist and expert Lasse Thiele at the latest edition of Sustainable Listening. His research and consultancy explore the intersection of social work-life ideas and environmental concepts. From his perspective, we are trapped in an absurd conundrum: we need work to finance our daily lives, yet much of this work consumes resources and damages our planet, the very foundation of our existence. How can we escape this cycle? Thiele’s standpoint, presented during the evening, is straightforward.

Why don’t we recognize that sustainability, and perhaps renouncing certain luxuries (like flying for a weekend trip), could lead to a significant improvement in our quality of life? For example, we could spend less time working in front of a computer.

Can we even imagine a world without capitalism?

Envisioning a sustainable transformation away from capitalism and the daily harm our industrial world inflicts on the planet is challenging and often seems impossible. This article, too, is written on a computer (made with unsustainable materials) after my regular work hours because I need to spend my primary hours on projects that pay my rent and bills.





Yet, within the magical climate capsule of Sustainable Listening, everything seemed possible. Between Lasse Thiele’s talk segments, musicians from the Staatsoper performed a carefully chosen repertoire. Work and time have always fascinated composers. One piece, in particular, by Italian composer Luigi Nono, struck an emotional chord. It is based on recordings from a steel and iron processing plant near Genoa. Nono recorded the sounds and workers’ voices, intertwining them with parts for pre-recorded and live soprano. He exaggerated and distorted individual phonemes to highlight the human emotions of working in such harsh conditions.

After the concert and speeches, the audience did not disperse like they usually do in theater or the opera. Instead, they stayed to discuss and reflect on what they had experienced. 

Even if you did miss this special edition of Sustainable Listening, there is no need to beat yourself up. You will have a chance next time since this is a regular event occurring twice a year.  For the next editions in March and June 2025 the ticket pre-sale starts in a few weeks on June 22nd, 2024.

Speaker: Lasse Thiele

Music: Gebrüder Teichmann & Staatskappelle and Opera ensemble.

Big Thanks to BRLO for providing beer that was handed out for a donation for a good cause. 

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<a href="" target="_self">Claudio</a>