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Maiken's adventures

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on January 28, 2008 at 3:21:12 pm
 

Ich schreibe das auf Englisch, damit auch unsere Englisch-sprachigen Besucher mitlesen koennen.

 

 January 26, 2008

 

Have you ever tried to type on your laptop in a plane while the person in front of you leans all the way back? Honestly, I had to stick my elbows out almost onto my neighbors nose to be able to reach the keyboard.  I sure envied those rich guys in first class! So, after a short night on the airplane during which I reordered and cut and animated and fixed up my talk with my elbows sticking into my neighbors face, I arrived at 5 am in Frankfurt, at 8 am in Berlin, took the bus for 30 minutes to the train station, caught the train from Berlin to Dessau, had a 40 min layover in some deserted town WITHOUT a bakery close to the train station (tragic!!), and finally arrived around 12 am in Dessau.  A short walk got me to my very fancy hotel .  After re-ordering my talk, I first slept for 2 hours, before re-ordering and cutting my talk some more. 

 

I gave my talk in the Bundesumweltamt (UBA), the National Environmental Agency, a large new, very fascinating building. 20% of its energy is derived from renewable sources (the roof is covered with solar panels), it has geothermal heat, lights that automatically turn on and off, depending if anybody is around, lights that adapt their brightness to the amount of natural light available, ,..I was very impressed).  The Bundesumweltamt wants to practice what they teach, so they are trying to have as little a footprint as possible. A newspaper report of my presentation is here.

 

My presentation took about 1 h 10 min. The first one in German is always hard, especially since I had just arrived that morning (and, as I mentioned, I had reordered and cut and added and fixed up my talk until 1 minute before the presentation). In spite of the length, hardly anybody of the ca 120 people attending left after the talk, but stayed for ca 40 minutes of heated discussion on what needs to be done: If we are still talking way too nicely, and ought to tell people to sacrifice; if our governmental system works for a global crisis like climate change; if technology is the answer;  if our politicians are doing enough; what’s happening in Antarctica; if nuclear power is one way for a solution; if there is a way to reverse the bad events coming;  and , of course, the usual skeptic, what evidence is there that it is NOT the sun?  Some frustrated feelings came out of people who are tired of politicians just talking. Great wonderful sowing ground for political action! 

 

The audience was very involved, one of the best I have ever had. I was quite nervous about this talk, because first of all, I had reorganized it so much, that I wasn’t 100% sure of where was which slide any more.  Second, I’d love to have a job with the UBA. Third, the UBA has published a lot of research and statements on climate change, and is thus much more aware of the German side of things.  Fourth, Dessau has a 20% unemployment rate, and I wasn’t sure how frustrated people might be, and how they would react to my talk.   All that made me a lot less confident during the entire talk. Still, I feel it was a much bigger success than I had hoped for, even though I did not get a job offer – yet  ;-)

Out of 42 people who filled out the TCP questionnaire (unfortunately I hadn’t copied more – I didn’t expect so many people), 28 are interested in TCP, and 31 are highly concerned and believe we need immediate action.  11 are somewhat concerned. Nobody was NOT concerned.

 

What better thing to do than going to a bubble bath and sauna in the Wellness area of my hotel -  after a presentation that urges everybody to save energy…but I must admit, it does feel very good to relax in a nice warm bath after a long day. One talk down, 20 more to go.  Time to sleep after, a long, good day.

 


January 27, 2008.

 

I woke up starving, so I went to have breakfast in the hotel – finding an array of 4 different types of muesli, with 10 types of covering, ranging from nuts and prunes and seeds; a spread of fresh buns and all kinds of marmelades; Joghurts, Quark, cheese, …I felt like a queen, or at least close to one.  After a good long breakfast with 3 cups of coffee (I have to get my energy from somewhere!), I went off for a walk through a drizzly and grey Dessau. 

 

Fist, I walked by several Bauhaus buildings from the 1920’s and 1930’s.  I am not a connoisseur of architecture, I guess, but I couldn’t find those buildings very attractive. They sure have straight corners and lines.  However, I did love to hear the Great Tits, European Robins, and European Blackbirds singing in the park close by.  Those birds are one of the main things I am missing in the states.

 

Walking through downtown, I was amazed and shocked to see the number of dilapidated buildings, and the number of buildings that clearly need fixing up.  After 19 years it seemed time still hasn’t caught up with the eastern part of Germany.  I had a very interesting talk about the old and new eastern Germany with one of the hotel employees, a “native.”

 

He said that many people would like the wall to go back up.  Why? Take Dessau: whereas it used to be a striving city of 130,000 inhabitants during DDR times, it now has about 75,000 inhabitants. The former steel industry, with Russia having been the main export area, has collapsed after the reunification, and lots of jobs were lost.  People still get paid less in eastern compared to western Germany. Even governmental employees get paid lower rates in eastern Germany, even though living expenses are comparable. So, even though people are now free to travel, many still cannot do so because they cannot afford to.

 

Or take the school system.  Whereas in former eastern Germany, all students went to the same school (as they do in the states), they now are divided into different school systems, depending on their performance, dividing society into different social groups from a very early age (about 10 years) which are hard to overcome later.

When I asked how life used to be in a society in which one couldn’t trust one another, because a lot of people would spy on each other, he dismissed my comment, saying that it isn’t much better nowadays.

 

It will be interesting to talk with more people, and to get more of an understanding how people in the east feel about the west, and to learn how we can improve the situation.  If people are discontent with their lives in general, it will be hard to motivate them to act on the planet’s behalf.  Or, maybe to the contrary, it will give them a goal, somewhat to work for in a society where the future seems so insecure and unstable for many.  If we can instill people with a belief in the worth and ability of themselves as actors in our planets largest ever endeavor to avert a global catastrophe, then, maybe, we could actually empower people to create a strong grass-root movement especially in the eastern part of Germany.

 

With that positive thought and hope in my mind, I am now traveling from Sachsen-Anhalt to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, changing trains in Berlin.  If you love trains, you will love the new Berlin main train station. It is absolutely stunning.  Instead of having the train tracks next to each other, they are next to each other AND on top of each other.  A huge building of stacked train tracks.  How anybody was able to create such a monstrous building, AND have it make look pretty, is amazing.

 

I am staying in an amazing beautiful house with solar panels and wood water heating, and stayed up way too long discussing initiatives to oppose coal plants, the differences between east and west (easterners stand in line close together than others, and shake hands with EVERYBODY in the room when coming in), had a bit too much of good German white wine, and lay awake for ours that night considering how to meet Angela Merkel.

 

January 28

 

Today I have been quite deadly tired and dizzy.  All the new impressions and way too little sleep are catching up.  Now I am sitting in the NABU office in Schwerin, the capital of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Actually, I am starving, so I am going to go see what bakery I can find. My talk for tonight was not reported by the local newspaper, so it will likely just be a small crowd, which can actually be more fun than many. Well, either way it is always fun to have the opportunity to make a difference.

 

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