40 Jahre Goethe-Institut Neuseeland
Dr Dave Lowe

We live in a difficult world with humans facing multiple existential threats among which are climate change, increasing inequality, failure of democracy and global pandemics like COVID-19. How do we as individuals cope with such serious issues; trying to survive COVID-19 and on top of that climate change and the frequent manipulation of western democracies?

In such a seemingly fragmented world, organisations like the Goethe-Institut fill me with hope and optimism. The Goethe-Insitut focuses on building bridges between countries, bridges that above all promote cultural and language understanding and an appreciation of the value of international cooperation. To face the existential crises facing humans coordinated multinational effort is required and the Goethe-Institut with its role in promoting education and helping with the understanding of national differences is part of that effort.

From 2012 to 2018 I acted as the New Zealand Germany Science and Innovation Coordinator. The role involved interaction at a diplomatic level with the German Embassy in New Zealand, the New Zealand Embassy in Berlin, German science funding agencies, most of which are based in Bonn, and scientific institutes and universities throughout both countries. For 40 years New Zealand has had a highly successful bilateral relationship with Germany involving thousands of high profile collaborative scientific projects including many in the area of climate change. I was chosen for the role because of my in-depth background with Germany, fluency in the language and experience working for a variety of scientific organisations in Germany, New Zealand and the USA.

During the term it was my privilege to interact with the New Zealand Goethe-Institut on multiple occasions in Wellington. Although my role focussed principally on science, I found it very useful meeting German language teachers, artists, authors, German diplomatic staff and many other people who encouraged me with my work. Promoting successful joint science projects between New Zealand and Germany requires an in-depth appreciation of German culture and education and meetings at the New Zealand Goethe-Insitut helped me with that.

Over the past 18 months I have been heavily involved with book and documentary film projects following my decades long journey with climate change research. A big part of that journey has been in Germany. To help me research the German part of my story, in early 2020, the New Zealand Goethe Institut awarded me partial support for a writer’s residency in Heidelberg, Jülich and Berlin. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 I was unable to take that up but I really appreciate the kind gesture.

In praise of the New Zealand Goethe-Institut – carry on building those cultural and language bridges – in todays world they are more important than ever.