Our time in Germany was amazing. From the bustling city of Berlin to the beautiful seaside towns of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany's northernmost state, we have experienced an abundance of wonderful culture. Yesterday, we flew from Hamburg to London on a quick and easy flight. We then took the Tube, London's underground transit, to the youth hostel that we're staying at. The group was able to disperse and enjoy the night in London, and we even connected with a couple of the other traveling J-Term groups at Piccadilly Circus! Today, everyone has made the most of the rainy weather. Many of us walked to see Big Ben and Buckingham Palace while several group members visited other famous locations, such as Abbey Road and Kings Cross. I want to take some time now to update readers on how much of what we have learned and discussed in Germany has impacted myself and others on the trip.
As mentioned in an earlier post, the Energiewende in Germany is the name for their energy transition. Germany has made great progress with increasing energy efficiency and improving the amount of renewable energy they produce and rely on. 93% of Germans support continuing investments in renewable energy. After sitting through presentations from incredibly knowledgable and official individuals, I was always left wondering why the United States has struggled with embracing something as beneficial as the Energiewende. Embracing change is never easy, and every country has to come about creating change differently. Even so, the world as a whole can not afford for a large and powerful nation like the United States to be a laggard when it comes to sustainable improvements. Germany has found success in creating obtainable goals that have decreased energy consumption while increasing their GDP. They still have their own challenges, such as combating the negative impacts resulting from a continued dependence on coal, but they are taking big steps in the right direction. While it may be hard for the United States to execute a plan such as the Energiewende, I feel that it is absolutely necessary to find ways to move forward. Regression is the last thing our country needs at this time.
It was incredible to be in a place that would not have existed had humans not willed the land to be there. The construction of dikes hundreds of years ago allows the northern state of Schlesweig-Holstein to be a settlement for many small, resilient towns. The director of the Schleswig-Holstein State Agency for Coastal Defence, National Park, and Marine Conservation described, with complete confidence, how the dikes will hold for at least a hundred more years. Technology is constantly improving and his confidence trumped my skepticism, but the land we were traveling on could be entirely different as the climate continues to change over the coming decades. The stunning island of Sylt, too, might be nearly washed away in the next hundred years as it is currently being predominantly saved from destruction due to human intervention. I was greatly inspired by being in these places. The actions we have today will have a significant impact on what happens tomorrow. The beauty of Germany and the passion of their people gives me hope that countries around the world can find their own ways to make progress in saving the world we all share.
In our free time, we got to paint! Dr. Steding had his mother join us in Dagebüll, a town surrounded by wind turbines and protected by a dike, to lead us in painting whatever we could imagine after a week in Germany. This course challenges us in many ways, and the blank canvases looked as daunting as a research paper for many of us. In the end, each of us created something great, and many were surprised by their own artistic abilities!
While adventuring around Germany, we opened our minds to a new culture full of new ideas. I am sure that each member on this trip has gained much from our time in Germany, and I know that the next ten days in England will provide us with more memories and opportunities to expand our perspectives on the world.