Living Eco-friendly in Europe: Germany Plans for the Future
Abstract: It’s a community effort to keep the environment as healthy as possible in Germany. Let’s take a look at the environmental issues Germans discuss and try to answer the question: Can the U.S. learn from Germany’s example and vice-versa?
Introduction: At my school in Birkenwerder, we just finished learning about climate change and doing your part for the environment. We had discussions about how we use too much fuel and throw away too much garbage. We brainstormed solutions to these problems. Normally, these topics are addressed in science class, but we were talking about global warming and pollution in English class as well. Imagine trying to learn and talk about environmental problems in Japanese, Italian, or another language you don’t know. It’s a difficult topic!
However, it’s very important that German students can discuss the environment in English. The environment is a worldwide issue, and international exchange is the key to solving any problems. If Germans can speak about this topic in English, they stay on the cutting edge of this scientific debate. .
This is one reason I’m so grateful to have come to Germany. Here, I can participate in a global debate about the environment and what we can all do to help the world prosper, not just our home countries. For example, we had a discussion in class about the origins of the food we buy . The students learned about the kiwi fruit and how it makes a very long journey from New Zealand, where it grows, to Germany, where it is consumed. The students then had to think about whether it was an environmentally wise choice to buy kiwis if they have to travel such a long distance to get to Germany (and therefore use a lot of fuel). Through this discussion, it occurred to me that small details have a big impact on how we live our lives and what effects we have on our world.
What makes this environment special or different?
Germany’s environment is mild and similar to that of the northern United States. There are forests, lakes and rivers surrounding and running through Berlin. What’s noticeable about Germany is that most of its fields and woodlands are in great condition. Occasionally, there is litter in the parks in Berlin and on the streets, but those venturing into the forest generally try to leave it better than they found it. Evidence of people being in the forest are often only footprints in the ground. Hunting is also forbidden and strictly regulated to keep wildlife and hikers safe. In our class discussions, I also found out that many students like to bike or travel by public transportation to do their part to keep the environment clean. Through discussions like these and my observations, I have the feeling that Germans understand the role that each and every one of us plays in helping the environment.
What parts of this environment help people to live here?
It’s easy to see why Germans want to keep their environment pristine. The natural beauty of the German landscape is everywhere in the country. From the rolling plains and woodlands of Brandenburg to the Alps in Bavaria, there is always a sight that will take your breath away. I think this attracts people the most, and gives them an incentive to preserve their country. Also, tourism is popular in the most beautiful areas, such as Freiburg in southwest Germany. This helps support the economy and also provides an incentive to live together with nature. In Freiburg, they even have a public carbon dioxide meter in the city to keep people aware of how much of a carbon footprint they’re producing!
What challenges do people face living in this environment?
Of course, there are times when a natural habitat has to be paved over to build apartments for people to live in or power plants to supply energy. Keeping this to a minimum is one of Germany’s main concerns. The population here is actually shrinking, so overpopulation is not a big worry, but energy resources like nuclear power are a topic of debate. Nuclear power in Germany is slowly being phased out after the disaster in Fukushima in Japan. When all the nuclear power plants are gone, there will have to be alternative energy sources ready to replace them.
How have people been adapting to this environment?
Strolling through Birkenwerder, I’ve seen many house rooftops covered in solar panels. Even though many people are installing these panels, Germany is typically not a very sunny country. Windmills dot the landscape as well, but many people complain about them ruining the view.
Questions about energy resources continue to keep scientists busy, but in the meantime there is no harm in trying new things! I think Germans have adapted well to the mentality of trying new things and changing one’s lifestyle if it will help out the world in the long run. Maybe you guys have some ideas too! Are there any movements to help the environment in your area?
Scientists from Germany and the U.S. often work together on projects to find new perspectives and ideas. With the Fulbright Scholarship, I have met other American students who have great ideas for the future who couldn’t have learned what they did without traveling abroad. What do you think? Do you have any ideas for helping the environment to exchange with German students?