Culture and Climate Change – Architecture and Urbanism

Pecha Kucha at the “Klimaherbst” in Munich – On Your Spades, Get Set, Go!

Urbane Landwirtschaft: Die Guerilla Gartenzwerge begrünen die Stadt; © Green City e. V.: The “Guerrilla Garden Dwarves“ turn the city green; © Green City e. V.From “Guerilla Gardening” to renewable energies – the program of action at the 4th Munich “Klimaherbst” meeting on climate focused on global strategies and local projects on climate protection and sustainability. The “Pecha Kucha Night” saw twelve ideas being aired in their own short presentation – each presentation limited to 20 images, each image lasting 20 seconds.

Their weapons are spades and rakes, they plant daffodils, ornamental grass and Yucca palms in dismal corners of the town or they ride around on their bicycles hurling seed-bombs onto central reservations or onto the verges at the side of the road. The “Guerrilla Garden Dwarves” from Munich want to turn concrete jungle and neglected green areas into flourishing flower beds – in an effort to re-conquer public space. During her presentation, “Guerrilla Gardner” Silvia Gonzalez projects brightly coloured images onto the wall: the female founders of the band of gardeners sporting big, bushy, artificial beards and watering cans, activists covered in dirt on one of their planting sprees and neighbours who are thrilled with the new flowers that have been planted on their doorstep.

20 images, each one 20 seconds long – with the aid of the Pecha Kucha presentation guidelines that were invented by a group of young designers in Tokyo in 2003, Gonzalez is able to explain the mission of the “Guerrilla Garden Dwarves” in exactly six minutes and 40 seconds. “On your spades, get set, go,” she tells the audience at the end of her presentation, inciting them to undertake activities of their own. “Taking part in a city campaign is much easier than you think.”

Guerrilla gardening, saving energy or being a strategic consumer – twelve different ideas to help the individual contribute towards improved sustainability and climate protection were presented at the “Pecha Kucha Night” at the 4th Munich Klimaherbst Meeting on Climate. The month of October was their month for action and it saw experts, activists and local people discussing global strategies and local projects on climate protection and sustainability under the slogan “Less is Worth More”.

Calling the glacier

The “Pecha Kucha Night” - Silvia Gonzalez explains how “Guerrilla Gardening” works; © Sonja Peteranderl“Tidings of gloom and doom do not convince people, we have to seduce them,” was the message from Izai Amorim, director of Certified Coolness, as he raced through his short presentation. “We have to get the issues of climate and environmental protection out of the muesli niche and make it cooler.” Certified Coolness advocates environmental protection through strategic consumption. Anybody can get involved in financing CO2 offset projects in threshold countries via United Nations CER (certified emissions reductions) certificates and ordering the 250, 500 or 1000 kilo CO2 offset packages at prices between ten and 40 euros. Apart from giving the buyer a good conscience every purchase is also rewarded with art, photographs, stories, sketches or videos, not to mention the information one receives about how to avoid and reduce CO2 emissions.

Serafine Lindemann from artcircolo also spoke about the link between climate and art. In the series of interdisciplinary projects called “Overtures” a group of scientists, politicians, business experts and artists discusses how scientific findings connected with climatic processes can be communicated and made tangible for everybody. The performance artist, Kalle Laar, recorded the sounds emanating from a melting glacier and integrated them into his project “Calling the Glacier” – if you call the artist’s hotline you will hear the drip-drop of the glacier caused by global warming. A raft was built out of garbage found in Munich’s river Isar and set afloat on the river Danube. Photographs of masses of discarded mobile phones or the two million plastic bottles that end up on American garbage heaps every day have much more impact than merely quoting statistics.

Working together for climate protection

Physical exertion at the “Physical exertion at the “Pecha Kucha” lectures; © Sonja PeteranderlWhen it comes to citizens’ appraisals, the people themselves become active in developing concepts for climate protection in the city. Wolfgang Scheffler from the Gesellschaft für Bürgergutachten (Society for Citizens’ Appraisals) used mostly hand-written outlines to help him explain what it takes to draw up a complete citizens’ appraisal. A random selection of 200 citizens are chosen and divided up into four groups, then supervised by a special host each discussion group looks for solutions that would meet with everybody’s approval. “A cross-section of Munich society is having a say here, “ says Scheffler. There are however a few experts who hold a keynote speech to bring in the necessary specialist knowledge.

Then there is a plenary session in which all the groups exchange their ideas, the best proposals are summarised and published. The decisions in a citizens’ appraisal are made according to the discussions, according to external input,” says Scheffler. “Totally different from what we are used to from the politicians.” The costs for such an appraisal involving 200 people are around 200 euros. If every citizen of Munich would donate a few cents, then the financing of the project would be secure – Scheffler then went on to ask all the people attending the “Pecha Kucha Night” to donate something.

Hans Geißelhofer, who advises Misereor partner organisations in Africa, injected an international element into the Klimaherbst lecture series. As accompaniment to his series of photos of Burkina Faso this university-trained engineer for regional and urban planning reported on sustainable land-use planning with the aid of aerial and satellite photography as well as GPS surveying. He said that Burkina Faso was right in the throes of climate change and would have to be urgently re-forested – the land however in Burkina Faso is cultivated according to common law, often with several families using the land at the same time and the boundaries seemingly unclear – that is why nobody has an overall picture of the situation.

With the help of a simple GPS receiver all the areas can be recorded and the infrastructure, erosion damage, irrigation areas or herding trails can be entered on maps. Satellite images available online can also be used to develop an overview of the situation and then, in cooperation with the locals, decisions can be taken on land use in the future and measures to be taken against soil erosion.

Just how vital networking is for getting people to participate in political processes was clearly shown by Michael Schmidt from Echo, an internet platform that enables participants to debate and to set up networks for communal activities such as e-petitions, referendums or demonstrations. Even after the “Pecha Kucha Night” was over, discussions still continued on all the new ideas on the enhancement of climate protection that had been presented in the mini-lectures that lasted just a few minutes – after the presentations the lecturers moved among the audience wearing badges in the form of a pepperoni so that they would be recognised.

Sonja Peteranderl
studied social and business communication, is a free-lance journalist with her main focuses on climate politics and sustainability.

Translation: Paul McCarthy
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
November 2010

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