The climate conference “endlich” in Augsburg two weeks ago was – on many levels – a true blessing for me. It was emotional, connecting and affirmative, inspiring and empowering at the same time. Very socially sustainable indeed! The human connections made and inspirations released still reverberate today. Here are my highlights and thoughts to content, play and connection.
“endlich” in Augsburg
As the summer temperature hits Germany and the pandemic slows down, cultural events pick up and people meet in person again. Do you feel this excitement of sitting in the same room – in workshops or theatre plays – too? Something which I intuitively felt in the era of Zoom has proven to be true: a digital encounter cannot replace personal one! But more to that later.
The climate conference “endlich” took part in the beautiful city of Augsburg in Southern Germany. Organized by Save the World e.V. in cooperation with the Staatstheater Augsburg and Performing for Future offered the exchange of ideas and knowledge besides plenty of networking. But not only that, of course we got to see theatre and a musical performance, too.
Four days full of input about, you guessed it, how to advance the transformation of the cultural sector into a sustainable and future-proof one. And as our State Minister of Culture, Claudia Roth, said:
“Sustainability is not only an important topic, it is also a matter of survival”.
The only way needs two ways
Cultural practitioners, politicians and experts in the field of sustainability came together and emphasised, on the one hand, the power of innovation and emotionality of the theatre as producers of meaning and insights. However, on the other hand, they also looked into the fact that the theatre does waste resources, too. They congratulated the many initiatives and theatres that “hold high the flag of sustainability” but also admit that there still is a lot to do. We have only just begun.
The theatre is a place where both the crisis can be negotiated and where joy can be developed.André Bücker – Artistic Director at Staatstheater Augsburg
These are exactly the two ways that the theatre or any cultural institution can contribute to mitigate the climate crisis, says Claudia Roth in her opening speech. One is the artistic and aesthetic way through bringing the topic onto the stage. It will raise the audience’s awareness to conflicts but also to solutions. And it might mobilise society to act.
However, we are and must be aware that we cannot meet the challenges of the crisis by theatre plays alone. The environmental impact of running a theatre and its climate-related costs must be calculated and they must be reduced, says Claudia Roth. This number-based language concerning operational processes is the indispensable part of a sustainable theatre of the future.
In front of the stage, on the stage, behind the stage, around the stage – something like this could describe the holistic view we need in order to make the theatre more sustainable.Claudia Roth – Minister of State for Culture and the Media in Germany
Good practice: Circular economy in Dresden
At the workshop about circular economy, we learned from the experiences of a pilot project in Dresden. On stage, the Theater Junge Generation (tjg) were to discuss the morals of eating animals. Behind the stage, they were to experiment with a sustainable production method. The goal was to apply circular economy, find new ways of recycling and of working together, too. They wanted to “do things differently than usual”.
They implemented a new production process using the concept of “methodical engineering”. It is a technique for finding solutions using methods of conversation, brainstorming and structuring schemes. Concerning the material, they checked first what was available at Dresden’s material initiative. What needed to be bought was made sure to be able to be resold afterwards. What had to be produced was built as a modular system so that it could be disassembled and reused again.
Moreover, instead of one set rehearsal they implemented two – both times with all involved parties of dramaturge, designers and technicians. And lastly, they held weekly evaluation meetings where a “safe space” was created where everyone could openly share doubts or fears or re-evaluate the process. Check out the project in the following video (only in German):
Good practices like this motivate us and others to do take the time and try out something new. This does not only push ecological but also social sustainability at every institution. And it shows us that there really are alternatives to the “normal”. The most important resource for it is time. Time for coming together, brainstorming and to give new ideas a try.
At the reading by Maja Göpel, musically accompanied by Dota Kehr and the Augsburg Philharmonic Orchestra, and the theatre play “Fridays before the Future” by Matthias Naumann, we got to remember first-hand how powerful words, language and music are. They touch us! You do not necessarily need to agree: even if and actually especially when it disturbs or upsets you, it brings about reflection and questioning.
Maja Göpel read sections from her new book “Wir können auch anders” where she pointed out very clearly the context and the complexity of the climate crisis. But she also outlined that there have always been transformation processes in the history of mankind.
She told us that there is already so much good going on; we only need to keep going. To continue our efforts. Because: the positive social tipping point may be just around the corner! That is reaching a critical mass to make a pro-environmental behaviour popular which will turn into a new normal.
You wonder what falls into that scope? Basically everything! From mobility to energy use, construction and production methods, agriculture as well as all the consumption choices that we make every single day. Mind you, the latter makes up to 40% of our yearly CO2 footprint.
What is required is not only the one who makes a start, but above all the first one who follows. Because that is when a new idea can turn into a big social movement.
Fridays before the Future
Matthias Naumann’s theatre play reminds us how socially, politically and economically interwoven the crisis is and paints the future for Germany’s automobile sector. Away from the old, the capitalism and wealth of the few towards the new, the common good. To name a few: Less charging points for electric cars, more expansion of the rail network.
Questions and thoughts that stuck with me are: What’s holding us back? Are we really too much of a coward for the future? I don’t think so! And in the face of the climate crisis, isn’t actually the “inexpensive” – the air we breathe and water we drink – so precious that it is priceless? Shouldn’t a fully grown, living tree be more valuable than a dead one? Shouldn’t the natural world have rights? The latter works in New Zealand, South America and other parts of the world already.
I‘m not afraid of new ideas, I‘m afraid of the old ones.John Cage
What happens when you are in a room with likeminded people? People you might hardly know but who have the same drive and purpose as you? It is truly magic because every discussion turns into an joint inspiration and learning. The small talk goes deep! There is no time to loose.
The Performing for Future network had, after working together for over a year, its very first physical meeting in Augsburg. Working online does work totally well – just see what had emerged from it like the ManifÖST (only in German) or the Staffellauf aka relay run.
However, when you are in the same room the energy is different. You are more involved, the conversation and brainstorming is more dynamic. The human connection is stronger. And from it, ideas develop and collaborations are formed. Sorry, Zoom!
And most of all you knowingly feel that you are not alone on your path. This reinforces your dedication and propels you forward to keep going – against all odds.
When if not now, where if not here, who if not us and how if not with love..Rio Reiser
I want to end this article with the words of Maja Göpel: It is time that we – each of us individually, but also society as a whole – allow ourselves to think new, dream and ask ourselves a radical question: Who do we want to be?