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Crossing the Transatlantic Climate Bridge

November 13, 2015

You probably cross a bridge every day. Maybe you commute over one for work, or make an important decision, or determine to ‘cross that bridge when we come to it.’ Bridges are everywhere: iconic landmarks and humble planks tied together; ones soaring above and ones underneath our feet; ones that take you away and ones that bring you home. There are even bridges to nowhere. But perhaps the best kind of bridge is the one that doesn’t just transition you from one space to another, but the one that brings the two spaces closer together.

 

 

That power to connect - to build community networks and share innovative solutions - has been both the inspiration and the goal of the Human Impact Institute’s two-year long Climate Salon series. A Human Impacts Salon is a welcoming space that invites the public to hold dialogue, learn of local and global initiatives, and see performance all inspired by climate change but approaching it from varying perspectives. Beginning in 2013, HII has held Climate Salon events in cities across the United States, including Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, New York City, Washington D.C., Houston, Boston and San Francisco, and on November 5th, 2015, celebrated its final event in this series before the climate negotiations in Paris in December by “Crossing the Transatlantic Climate Bridge” to Berlin (See our photos here and the Storify here)

 

 

 

Jointly organized and sponsored by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), and the Human Impacts Institute, the Salon focused on the similarities, differences, and areas of potential collaboration in climate action between the U.S. and Germany. Or, attendee Phoebe Louise at @ClimbClimate noted: “how do we make climate change an accessible topic for everyone?”

 

Taking place in the historic Kalkscheune building, it brought together speakers and performers and their unique perspectives:

 

After a brief introduction by Vera Rodenhoff, Head of Division of the International Environment and Energy and Urban Development for the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, as well as George Noll, Counselor for Global Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, local video and performance artist, Liz Rosenfeld blinded the audience to start the night. Quite literally - each attendee received a blindfold, and, in the dark, listened to the sounds of nature and meditated on possible climate futures.  

 

 

After regaining sight, the first panel - Carel Carlowitz Mohn, Ursula Fuentez Hutfilter, Emma Zinmeister, and Brigitte Knopf, asked the audience to ask themselves: is climate change an urgent problem? While most of attendees (and readers of this blog) would likely answer ‘yes,’ - Tara DePorte highlighted this sobering statistic:

 

  • Only 40% of U.S. residents believe global climate change is a major threat to their country.

  • And in Germany only 56% believe that it is a major threat.

 

If Germany, so often lauded as the leader in sustainable energy, still struggles to communicate the significance of climate change to its public - what should we do? Ursula Fuentez Hutfilter noted that “leadership is crucial to take away people’s fear of change.” But what kinds of leadership, and on what levels?  The panelists put that question to the audience, which submitted suggestions on concrete ideas for addressing climate change, be it local greenspace or international airspace.

 

 

Spoken word artist Black Cracker continued the theme of audience engagement by speaking directly to them and asking: are you willing to change your behavior to create positive climate change?

 

The second panel - Camilla Bausch, Antje von Broock, and Malte Schneider, dug deeper into the questions of what and how: what do we need to do? How do we do it, if what we’re doing now isn’t working? What role does climate policy have? And how can we ensure that we can drive the upcoming COP21 in Paris together in the right direction? Panelist Antje van Broock from the Ecologic Institute said that, from her perspective, working with and across large existing associations - including trade unions and religious organizations - can help increase the odds of success.

 

And Malte Schnieder noted that “one part of the solutions is innovation and entrepreneurial...that is what excites me.” And Camila Bausch stressed the need for the “education multiplier” - that we need to start from the start, in classrooms, with young children, and explore new creative ways to deliver information.

 

The Salon ended with a performance (or rather, an immersive multi sensory experience) from artist Mad Kate, and two challenges to our panel and audience, (1) “How can we get more people involved in climate action?” and (2) “What climate collaboration can we create today?”  Together, as is the case with all Climate Salons, we socialized this over tasty snacks and drinks. Because the best exchanges and innovative ideas can sometimes come after one or two beverages of your choice.

 

 

 

While this November 5th Salon marked the end of our first round of Climate Salons series, they are part of our ongoing Human Impacts Salons program.  In addition to the great networking time at the end of this event, participants also saw our “Bridging the Divide” series of our Human Impact Stories project, a multimedia exhibit exploring stories of social good and inspiration, as well as the people, places, and events that have moved you to take positive action in your world. (Check out our playlists here, and stay tuned for podcasts from our Berlin speakers!).

 

 

Bridges are everywhere, but we need to build more - and build them faster - to connect our different cultures, perspectives, innovations, and stories on climate change. We hope you will join us in that challenge in Paris later this month at the COP21 climate conference - just find us at the Place to B and stay tuned for exciting announcements about what we’ll be up to!

 

Last, but certainly not least, a major thank you again to everyone who helped put this amazing event together, who participated, who made our exhibits and performed, who tweeted, called, questioned, and inspired.

 

 

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