Johannes Ebert am 24. Mai 2019
Sustainability Summit in Chicago

Welcome Adress at the Sustainability Summit „Arbeiten.Lernen.Teilen.Verändern” at Loyola University, Chicago


Participants, teachers, and experts, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 2019 Sustainability Summit in Chicago. Herzlich willkommen.

“I want to act as if our house is on fire - because it is.”

This quote is from 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who in the meantime has become the leader of a movement. Around the world, young people are taking to the streets to argue for better climate protection and improved sustainability. This movement also includes many young Americans who are advocating for dramatic change in environmental policies.

The topic of this three-day Sustainability Summit is „Arbeiten.Lernen.Teilen.Verändern“ – which translates to Work.Learn.Share.Change. This topic could not be more relevant for the world we live in today.

Gathered here for this summit, we have students from each of the 21 United States and their dedicated teachers. Joining you for workshop sessions on climate change is a group of internationally recognized experts.

As you discuss all that is at stake and navigate your way toward collaborative solutions, you all will become part of this international movement to protect our environment. You are taking action to address one of the most critical issues of our time. Too many cars, too much packaging, and too much trash – it all takes its toll on our collective wellness and our options for the future. Environmental protection is relevant for each and every person: no matter their age, their income, or their nationality – our future depends on the action that your generation takes. When it comes to climate change, there are no borders anywhere on the planet.

We are grateful to the Goethe-Institut Chicago and to teachers who have dedicated their work to the topic of environmental protection. Thank you for your tireless commitment to this cause, for the energy you have poured into your projects, and for the incredible best practices you have shown on how to teach about sustainability.

The question of sustainability and how to jointly deal with this huge challenge is one of the thematic threads of the initiative “Wunderbar Together”. Working with over 200 partners, the year of German-American friendship called “Wunderbar Together” is showcasing the close bond between America and Germany with over 1,000 events in all 50 states.  We are painting a picture of everything German-American relations stand for, including science, the arts, culture, language, business, and sports.

The Sustainability Summit is also part of the yearlong initiative that will be going on until the end of 2019. We want to create an exchange of ideas with all Americans, not only in New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, but also in the heart of the country. Strenghtening the dialogue about we can the shape the future together, is at the core of “Wunderbar Together”.

The issue of climate change cannot be solved by any one country, but instead must be something that we address together as an international community. Each person must take action, doing all they can do to make a difference.

I am thrilled to open this Summit and to have each of you join us as we engage in the critical work of this international movement. To enhance your experience, we have arranged some special cultural events, including a visit to the WanderbUS that has been on a spectacular road trip through the US, a concert by the group “Land in Sicht” and a ceremony recognizing the recipient(s) of the Award of Excellence.

From the perspective of the Goethe-Institut, it is never too early to find your way into a global learning community. As you embark on your collaborations, you will use your knowledge of languages, hone your intercultural competencies, and you will gain confidence to take an active role in this work. Most importantly, we hope that your curiosity will grow and that you will feel inspired to stay involved in this international world of science and culture. It was with these goals in mind that the Goethe-Institut developed the Digital Kinderuniversity.

We invite you to explore fascinating topics about the environment, nature, and technology, and to learn some German while you’re at it. May these thought-provoking lessons lure you in and spark your imagination to help create innovative approaches to sustainability.

On that note, we want to be clear that this Sustainability Summit is just one aspect of the Goethe-Institut’s commitment to creating positive, lasting change for the environment. Another initiative is a new competition called “Schools for Sustainability.” When you return to school after your summer break, you and your classmates can begin to consider what you research you can undertake locally to improve conditions in your area. The students who submit the most compelling project will be invited to present their work at an international environment conference in Berlin. Student teams from across North America and all over Europe will exchange ideas and form a broad network of collaboration.   

May this Sustainability Summit be enriching for you and inspire you to take your own place as a leader in this movement.

Thank you.

Es gilt das gesprochene Wort.