Getting a Break

Today was our free day – planned to give everyone the chance to catch a breath, re-orient to our time in St. Peter, and get ready for our last few days in Germany.

Houses on a hill with fields in the background

St. Peter from Bertoldsplatz

First, though, we had a breakfast meeting with two local community leaders, responsible for spearheading the wood pellet heating plant we visited yesterday, and other green initiatives in St. Peter.  Coco, today’s guest commentator, notes that “the major incentive to join the program was an economic one. We’ve talked a lot in the past few days about how economics are an important incentive to get people to jump on the bandwagon. Even in a small village where everyone knows everyone, you would think people would be influenced by personal relationships, but the economic incentives are still the thing that gets them to join up.” Werner Rombach, who also owns the hotel where we’re staying, highlighted the involvement of key players, like the monastery, the school, and hotels, who were all early signers-on and whose standing in the community lent credibility to the project.

Coco has also been struck by the particular situations we have encountered in the Freiburg area, and in St. Peter. “After looking at the whole industry of green projects, it feels like each project has its own unique features and it’s only possible in that exact place, time, and with that group of people… we think it’s the technology we want to learn from [as students] but the techniques and conversations are much more important.” When I mentioned this to Professor Hager this afternoon, though, she was quick to emphasize that every community has a particular situation which can be shaped to the advantage of green-minded activists.

In reflecting on her experiences thus far, Coco said, “the whole trip carries the feature of ‘living the good life,’ which in this sense is living an environmentally friendly life – walking places, taking public transportation.” From take out boxes actually the size of the leftovers they contained (very small) to the consistency with which she’s seen people using the public recycling collection bins to the number of baby carrier bike attachments she’s encountered, Coco has found lots of places to train her eco-lensed mind, and she is excited by the pride she sees people taking in these efforts.

Square with central fountain and traditional German buildings

Bertoldsplatz, St. Peter (Wang)

After our conversation at the Burgerstuble, the students (and faculty) scattered to a variety of local activities – a folk music festival in the next town over, clock shopping in Freiburg, hiking in Waldkirche, visiting a village on the Rhine (and waving at the French border), a Monteverdi concert in the monastery of St. Peter, and probably quite a few naps. We will reconvene tomorrow for more meetings with local leaders, a few farm tours, and a book party for Professor Carol Hager’s new publication, “NIMBY is Beautiful.”

About our student commentator:
Coco Wang is a senior Philosophy and Political Science double major at Bryn Mawr College. Right around the time applications for this 360 were available, she came across Under the Dome (the documentary on air pollution), which got her thinking about how people live in their environments, damage them, and don’t do anything about it. As an international student from China, often considered the largest polluter in the world, she wanted to tie the policy to the science of climate change, to better understand the actual problems being discussed. She was also excited to get to travel with both of her major department chairs, and her Senior Class Co-President (Chanel). Yesterday brought the most excitement she’s had all semester though, because it actually snowed.