The training course „Climate change and political education“ took place in Berlin 29.6.-10.7.2013. The participants came from all over Europe and everyone had different political, economical and educational backgrounds. It was organized by Solar e.V. and consisted of different kind of educational methods.

The subject climate change has been at issue for common people for over a decade. Still not so many people are trying to change the reasons of climate change. Some scientists predict a total devastation of civilization within 50 years. On the other hand the common people have only few means to be instrumental in fighting the carbon-dioxide levels. Therefore stopping climate change should be a common goal for mankind. We all gathered to Berlin in order to share and invent ideas how to change the thinking of people to achieve the goal.

I heard about the course from my university in Finland. It was a pleasant surprise that my application was accepted. I’ve never been in this kind of training course before nor visited Berlin. The cling of Climate change and political education is really wide topic and I suppose that none of the participants from five different European countries had a clear image what would the next almost two weeks include. We all had a large variety of backgrounds all from actors, lawyers, architects and environmental university students. Nonetheless we all had a common factor: we all wanted to be part of fighting climate change both regionally and globally.

Tourism as part of climate change

All the participants traveled all the way from Turkey, Portugal, Italy or Finland to Berlin, and so it happened that on the first day we were given a lecture about the environmental issues of traveling. Most of us came to Berlin with a plane, which is ironic since aircraft is the most polluting way of transportation. Hence, we were given a survey task in which we needed to interview tourists around the iconic sightseeing of Berlin: Brandenburg Tor, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, Holocaust Memorial and so on.

impressions from "climate Change and Political Education"
I was interviewing three Belgian travelers who surpised us. They were one of the few people who has actually thought the environmental impact on traveling.

The task was to ask tourists in the street, what kind of transportation they used coming there, how many days their trip is and if they had thought of environmental aspects of traveling. It was nice to include a task which allowed us all to see the sightseeing, since most of us were in Berlin for the first time. The results of the survey were obviously not scientifically correct but still they revealed that the majority of people don’t think of the environmental impact on their traveling.

The purpose was not to moralize people but to reveal why we need political education for adults. Though people know at the 21st century a lot more things, since we have open access to almost every data in the world – it does not mean that the knowledge reflects their into our actions.

A peaceful activist oasis inside Berlin

The lectures, meals and accommodation were located in Weißensee area not far away from the Berlin city center. We stayed in building called Kubiz, which is actually a former school building but nowadays a home for many social projects and non-profit organizations. In the yard of of the Kubiz-building there is also an urban gardening project. The guest house we lived in was really comfy with big dorm rooms, where one could at times go for a nap or have a skype call to their families.

The food we were offered three times a day was all organic and vegan. For some people the lack of meat was exotic and also shocking, but at least the host organization took the challenges of climate change seriously, since vegan food is the most ecological alternative there is. Practice what you preach.

Excursions kept us curious

Impressions "Climate Change and Political Education"
Professor Friedrich-Wilhelm Gerstengarbe introduced us the Potsdam weather station

We also took a few excursions during the training into nearby cities. Including the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and variety of energy plants in Cottbus. In Potsdam we were shown one of the worlds oldest and still running weather station and the world famous Climate Institute. We were shown calculations and scenarios of climate change progression and the methods of research were discussed on sight with the professors and researchers of the institute.

We also visited several organizations inside Berlin, doing political and educational work.

Energy makes the world go round

Excursion to Cottbus was an eye-opener. On advance in Berlin we had a lecture of energy politics all over the world and especially in Germany. Germany has made really revolutionary decisions on energy politics in the world scale: Germany is going to stop the use of lignite until the year 2020 and the nuclear plants should be closed until the year 2032. This gives a reason to shift into renewable energy faster. But is it possible?

Cottbus, located in Brandenburg, Germany, is famous for producing energy. Even their football team is named FC Energie Cottbus. The area is one of the largest lignite mining areas in Germany and the Vattenfall power plants shape the landscape of the area. But the pipes of power plants are far from the landscapes absurd wide fields of open coal mines. Over 130 villages are already evicted and destroyed in order to construct huge gaping coal mines. And the end seems not to be near for the devastation even tough the politics of Germany are trying to run down the coal industry.

Lignite mining in Cottbus
Lignite mining site in Cottbus.

We visited for lunch a village which was soon to be evicted by Vattenfall. The old lignite mines are starting to peter out so new ones must be built in order to keep the kettles of power plants running 24/7. The lives of the people in this really idyllic countryside village are destroyed since they can’t do anything for the situation. In place of their homes will be a massive gaping hole in a few years.

But we were also offered some hope. In Cottbus, there is also one of the Germanys largest solar plants where we visited. The whole forest area was mined heavily during the world war. It was decided to construct a huge solar plant in order to use the forest area and somehow get the funding for the disarming the mines. It was the world largest solar plant by the time it was built. We also went to see a bio gas plant, which used the feces of a piglet as fuel. In the same field there was a wind turbine doing energy for the farmers. These methods are nowadays considered as alternative energy production methods, but at least we had some hope that the whole world won’t be a gaping mining hole in the future.

Political education is an art form

We had several lectures by many professionals in several fields of society. The whole training still consisted of two parts. The last days involved intense methods and educational tools, which could be used back in our home countries in order to educate or spread knowledge to people amongst us. (jaa kahteen osaan) My field of studies or future plans didn’t exactly include education until I realized that our everyday life is actually politics and education. Everybody wants to make the world a better place – we all have our own point of views and by sharing them, we are actually educating ourselves and people around us.

Impressions from the training Climate Change an Political Education
In one of the educational methods two teams were formed and we had an imaginary trial on environmental issues.

The training course included many evaluation meetings in which we tried to understand each others perspectives by talking and sharing ideas. Discussion is not widely used educational method in Finland. But the environment of different cultures needs conversation in order to be functional. Cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings so discussion was a well-grounded method on education.

The last night of the course we had a barbeque in the garden of Kubiz. We’ve had many intense conversations during the last ten days so in the final barbeque we were tired of talking. Now it was time for relaxation and for having fun.

All in all the whole course was an amazing chance for everybody to understand the political and cultural differences inside Europe. The course gave a lot of insight to the fact, why it has been so hard to form a consensus on climate change as a political issue. This is why we need education both for the youth and the adults in order to get the people behind effective political decisions.

Text and pictures: Miikka Kauppinen

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