After a hearty breakfast with saved bananas, we departed from the Umwelthaus in Münster. Cycling along the lake Aasee and the surrounding rural landscape of the Münsterland was very calming and offered room to contemplate, for massage lines and creative picture poses during our breaks.
Our destination for the day was Bochum, a city strongly connected to the past extraction of black coal in this area of Germany. Münster, a town historically characterized by trade and surrounded by agriculture thus stood in stark contrast to Bochum, also expressed through the change from a rural to an urban landscape.
Getting closer to Bochum I felt a light tension rising within me. Knowing that the cultural identity of the inhabitants of this area was still strongly connected to coal mining, I felt like a malign organism entering a space of confrontation. I was unsure how we would be perceived by the local population.
These thoughts were frequently interrupted by sudden rain showers and urgent bike repairs. These forced breaks always pose a challenge in our bike ride, as they can break a good cycling rhythm and shorten our time with the local hosts or the time we need ourselves. Nonetheless I feel these little accidents are an important and necessary lesson and a chance to grow as a group. In the same way, I feel that climate change will confront us with challenges we will might not be prepared for and when we have to collectively find a solution to move forward.
We braved the bike repairs and the rain and arrived happy at the social center in Bochum, where local activists welcomed us warmly with a wonderful dinner. We used the rest of the evening to put up the True Cost of Coal Banner and use it to spark an insightful conversation with our hosts and some visitors about the local culture and coal, politics and ways to go forward.
Today made me think about responsibility. After having picked up three new riders at Osnabrück train station, we were riding as a group of 10 people, the biggest group size we have had so far. When we were riding as a smaller group, many things required few organistion and we often could care for all the needs that individuals in our group have had. This was nice and the ride often felt like being on a holiday.
When we were riding in a group of 10 today, we had to pay much more attention on acting as one group. I remember one moment in the morning: I was riding in tha back of the group and my task was to make sure nobody was left behind. However, the trailer could not go very fast while a few people in the front were already far away. I got a bit angry: why did they not wait? They should take a look behing them from time to time and slow down if the group was falling apart! I stopped being angry when I realised that instead of finding someone to blame for the lack of cooperation and communication, I could change the situation: I could ride to the front and ask the others to slow down.
I am grateful for the opportunities to learn and to grow personally which open up to me in bigger groups. The opportunity to learn to reflect on my own needs and wishes having the whole group in mind: Do I need to do that now? Is it okay if the group has to wait for me then? Should I patien myself and wait for the next stop?
It feels so good to have taken care of others instead of acting egoistically. And it is such a nice experience to learn to trust the group, to become more relaxed concerning your own needs and more attentive concerning the needs of the others.
In the evening, we were received by the Fossil Free Group in Münster. Fossil Free invited us to join their mobilization event for Ende Gelände. We took a picture in the old harbour, with people swimming in the water while holding up a banner saying: “Uns steht das Wasser bis zum Hals – Ende Gelände!” The message was that we need to take action NOW and stop heating up our planet. Afterwards, we presented the banner “The true Cost of Coal” which was made by the Behive Collective. The banner tells many stories from the Appalach Mountains in the United States, explaining how coal mining has affected the region. It connects the local and the global level and shows how the problems of environmental destruction and climate change are caused by more than only coal mining: they are produced by the industrial machinery of a consumerist society that feeds itself from natural and human resources. This soiety is destroying the resources and turning them into trash. However, the banner also tells stories where diggers are stopped and nature is used in a sustainable way. It tells us that in order to make a change, we need both: resistance and regeneration. Ende Gelände is an act of resistance, while the climate camp is a place where people can learn how to create sustainable practices and structures. Our ride, too, has elements of both: we are against the use of fossil fuels while we practice and learn about alternatives.
The day started with a picture for and a brief discussion with the local newspaper in Vechta. Right after, we started cycling south. The morning went really smoothly; we crossed corn fields under the sunlight. After a refreshing swim at Dummersee, we had some lunch and continued the ride. The afternoon was a bit more challenging, with some hills and a short bit of unpaved road.
When we came to Osnabrück, we were warmly welcomed at the beautiful place where we are staying tonight. A community has grown up from what technically is a student accommodation. There are several houses where students live, surrounded by forests and even a little lake. The area is full of apple trees, hanging mats and cozy places to chill outside. They also have a garden with two small greenhouses where they grow vegetables. Here in Osnabrück, the first Cooperide already made a stop in 2015 and met some of the people that agreed to host us this time. They had prepared dinner and apple cake for us, and we ate together and had many interesting discussions. Some of them are also going to the Klimakamp and Ende Gelände and we are excited to meet them again.
Tomorrow we will continue our journey to Münster. After meeting the people in Osnabrück, we could feel that our final destination and Ende Gelände are getting closer.
Starting day 9, our most lovely hosts for the night had set up a breakfast that was well worth the epithet Great. With such a warm welcome it was with somewhat heavy hearts that we left the city of Bremen, but we felt at the same time very much bodily and mentally refreshed and ready to carry on!
In the morning we welcomed Hannah to the group. She quickly became part of Cooperide after the regular introductory ceremony.
At our first water break for the day, soon after leaving Bremen, we came across a facility with large plastic animals displayed in the front garden (see picture). Plastic triceratops, gorillas and penguins stared us down and reminded us that these very distinct set of species are in fact close to becoming part of the same category: extinct. It is important to realise that the changing of the climate due to anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases is linked to local struggles for survival of some of these species as habitats diminish or degrades with changing climatic conditions. It is also important to note that the emissions in turn are a by-product of a system that rapidly expands (grows) in space. This effectively diminishes the likelihood of undisturbed habitats for animals other than humans. In short, we think that climate justice should also be served to other species whom have (as many social groups) for so long been marginalised or outright maltreated. They too must be realised as parts of the ecological system that is life and as real and deserving actors in the continuation of the economy.
We managed to arrive at the Biolandhof in Goldenstedt in time before thunder struck (by which time we were happily snuggled up in our sleeping bags in one of the barns). Just before then we had had a very interesting conversation together with our host about ecological farming, biogas and more (see next blog post (probably)).
We started at a farm called Hermannshof at 9.15 drove along a track the river Wümme, through little villages and along fields.
We cycled as a smaller group of six people the atmosphere in the group was calm and harmonic.
We did quite a long distance (80km) but we didn´t feel like it was that long.
In Bremen we squatted the Bremer Stadtmusikanten
In the evening, we were hosted by Heike, Alexandra und Diana three members of the local transition town initiative, we had a very nice discussion and a good meal in the evening.
Now we can start a new day with full of power physically and new motivation.
The 7th day on the road took us from the vivid and busy streets of Hamburg to the calm and friendly Hermanshof farm (‘hof’ meaning ‘farm’) in the village of Wümme. Our friends Christian and Achim helped us finding the way through the old Elbe tunnel, the harbour region and out of the big city. Leaving Hamburg we were in a group of 9 people. This was a good amount of people but it also meant that it was harder to stay together when traffic lights frequently split the group.
We had a lunch break in Buchholz where we met engaged people from the BUND (Friends of the Earth) and the Round Table on Environment and Animal Protection. They set up a most spectacular welcome lunch and greeted us with open arms and big smiles. We enjoyed the food together, we told them about the Cooperide, heard about local topics and shared our visions on a sustainable future. The arrival of wolfs is hot topic to the area. Some are happy about the indication of healthy ecosystem while others point out the threat to livestock. Also the construction of a new coal power plant nearby(Moorburg) raises worries amongst our hosts.
When demanding the end of coal power we are often asked: what comes after fossil fuels? That is a big question and we do not have a complete answer. However, we think that it is important to realise that a reduction of consumption and energy use may make the use of coal unnecessary. Much of the energy we produce is used to fulfil artificial needs. Additionally, a phasing out of fossil fuels would, as we see it, go hand in hand with a larger systemic change: A change to a system where people satisfy their fundamental needs in collaboration, to a system where people exchange the notion of growth and competition for connection and sharing. Focusing on common needs rather than individualism, products and commerce would drastically reduce our use of resources and allow for a healthier earth. The connection we made with people in Buchholz is in fact an example of such a connection and collaborative spirit which we think that we must grow and nurture locally and internationally.
Tonight we put up our tents at a friendly biodynamic farm where we tasted French fries made from home grown potatoes. Tomorrow we will follow the river Wümme all the way to Bremen. The journey continues! We bike for System Change not Climate Change!