My last few weeks in Berlin were pretty nondescript – I spent most of my time working on my Sustainability project, studying for finals, and being with my new-found friends as often as possible. We spent lots of time in Friedrichshain hanging out and just enjoying our last few days in Berlin. None of us wanted to leave, but being the last one to leave was even harder than leaving itself. My mother visited for the last week I was there, which did well to keep me occupied, but visiting all the sights I first visited with my friends was difficult at times.
I learned many things from my time in Berlin, but I think the most pertinent lessons involved how I think about sustainability: it’s not about driving hybrid vehicles or buying shirts made from soda bottles or how highly LEED-certified our buildings are; it’s about how we live day-to-day. Berliners hardly drive, they support local shop owners, they’ve built their densely-packed homes to do without air conditioning, and their laid-back culture supports arts, culture, and new ideas. Germany as a whole isn’t taking any chances with evangelized nuclear power – Chancellor Angela Merkel has set a deadline of 2014 to shut down all of Germany’s nuclear power plants.
All in all, it seems that Berlin, if not Germany overall, has internalized and promoted many of the ideas and values we environmental students consider common sense, but still “alternative”. Germany has seen the future and is leaving nothing to chance or to greed; she is determined to provide her people with every necessity and continue to do so for centuries to come.