Climate Heroes inspired by seminar in Berlin

At the beginning of each and every (cultural) exchange or new encounters with other people I ask myself: What do I bring for a start and what do I take with me in the end? By now I know: Afterwards I am never the same person as before and most of the time I do not want to be the same anyhow. I assume that most people make similar experiences, regardless of the nature of the encounter – it can be disappointing, but might as well be quite refreshing – yet, in both cases, at least in my opinion, it has the potential to change me. And it does so by helping me gain new insights into what I believed to know about myself and the world.
 
The group in front of the accommodation
 
By the way: This is no classic report on purpose, which means I will neither mention the different nationalities of the seminar, nor the specific experiences we made (highlights might be mentioned, however). Rather, I feel it to be important to tell something about my experiences with group dynamics, living together, life itself and, of course, the topic of the seminar. I am aware of the fact that the report is written from a subjective point of view, because I can only guess what insights other participants have gained and how they evaluate the experiences.
So, what do I bring? A huge interest in the topic (which is not entirely new for me), some experience with workshops and seminars, and the hope to meet like-minded people, which whom I can exchange views and discuss the topic, but also the expectation that I will be able to test and challenge myself on unfamiliar ground.
 
 
The group itself consisted of many different characters with diverse backgrounds, which had led them to this seminar in one way or another – they came from different specialist fields, had varied approaches to the topic of climate change and sustainability and they brought widespread general knowledge and the expectation to get the most out of this seminar: whether for improving workshop skills and leading their own workcamp, the formation of a NGO, as a preparation for an internship in a similar field, or simply, because the topic is of crucial importance for each and every one on this planet.
 
After the first “getting-to-know-each-other” sessions, it was relatively easy to guess what specific reasons we all had to participate and what knowledge and interest everyone had brought – not least of all because everyone presented a local initiative from their hometown or area, which makes an effort to create a more sustainable society. 
 
A lot of questions and the discussion of them were inspired by this and they came up at any hour of the night and day, whether it was at the breakfast table, ‘on the road’ or in an official workshop:
 
  • What does it mean to tackle the subject of climate change in everyday life? What can the individual do and where is the limit? What seems to be radical (and from whose point of view)?
  • Do we lose hope every once in a while in the belief of being able to actually make a change? How do we approach intolerance regarding environmental and ethical questions?
  • In how far are we – as inhabitants of developed countries –even able to grasp the concept of climate justice and what it would mean to live in a climate just world?
  • Is there a ‘right’ way of living and how arrogant is this question? What does it mean to be civilised, what is the meaning of ‘fair’? etc.
Apart from all these theoretical questions that can make you dizzy and which we have tried to answer in workshops about people’s ecological footprint, about climate justice and others, there were some more practical approaches to the question what it means to live a fair, sustainable and conscious life. The mostly vegan diet of the seminar – additionally, most of the food was ‘saved’ from disposal or donated – presented us with the wasteful behaviour of the ‘consumers’ society’, but also why it makes sense in an ecological way to relinquish meat and other animal products. Visiting an organic farm, that produces everything without the use of animals, showed us once more what it could and can be like. Back from the countryside and to the urban area, we went ‘shopping’ (or should I say ‘consuming’?) in a critical manner and discovered how complicated, misleading and devious any kind of product can be, and realised that it is all but easy to behave correctly – whatever that means nowadays. Additionally, we paid attention to energy in Germany and the energy transition while participating in a guided tour around the area of the Reichstag building – and once more, we became aware of the ambivalence of inventions and innovations that were highly appraised initially.
 
 
Inspired by all these new insights and, hence,  re-evaluated knowledge, the second part of the seminar was based on the question: What do I do with this knowledge and is there a way to pass the inspiration on in a workshop?  Planning our own workshop gave us the opportunity to specifically think about how to turn theory into practice: as before, the ideas were as diverse as the people, whether the workshop was about critical consumption, nutrition, plants and earth, ecological footprint or other topics related to climate change and sustainability – everyone seemed to be inspiring the others and inspired by them alike. All these people with different personalities were able to complement each other most of the time, but even though living together can be quite tough and it is not always easy to maintain a balance between one’s own needs and that of the group, the intense time and the common interest forge a bond between members of the group. Each and every one has to offer something and each and every one probably takes his or her most important insight home.
 
So, what do I take with me in the end? Enlarged interest in the topic, which has been fuelled by new knowledge; the revelation that climate concerns everyone in the world and that I am not the only one worrying. I am also happy about having been given the opportunity to test myself and glad to have come home with a feeling of motivation – especially since the topic can make you feel so small and powerless. On a personal level, I take new acquaintances with me and, what is most important: I see many aspects of my life more clearly, which is often achieved by inspiring conversations with other people, which can make one stand back from one’s life and re-evaluate it. I believe that through the seminar it became quite clear that climate change affects the lives of all people on earth and this leaves me standing there with the following question in mind – which we have only just started to answer in our group: What does it mean to lead a good life in times of climate change and how do we get there in the future?
 
 
 
Article written By Ina Constien, SCI Volunteer from SCI Germany