Mixing Culture and Environmental Studies

Sarah Chadwick
May 24, 2017

            Taking “Sustainable Energy” abroad has been one of my favorite classes so far in college.  It allows us the opportunity to experience firsthand how German people view the environment.  Yesterday, we got to travel to three different farms and see how the farmers there are dealing with Germany’s transition to renewable energy.  Germany has been committed to phasing out nuclear and fossil fuels for a long time.

            The first farm we visited to was located in Frieamt.  The couple’s family had owned the land for over 300 years.  They used to raise cattle but had to stop when disease killed a lot of their livestock.  Instead of getting rid of their farm, they decided to create energy.  They installed a biomass power plant on their property.  They farm the crops that are used to power the plant, which sends energy across the village to use at the local stadium, the community center, and the school.  I thought it was really inspiring how a family saw an opportunity to help the environment and took it, even though it meant completely altering their business.

            Our second stop was another farm located in Frieamt.  This family has also lived on their land for a long time.  They also decided to enter the world of renewable energy when milk prices dropped too low for them to continue just being a dairy farm.  They decided to fill their roof with solar panels to generate power.  In addition, they allowed wind mills to be placed on their land.  The community members all own a portion of the windmill that is used to power the town.  The family even decided to give away 30% of the money they get from leasing their land to wind turbines to their neighbors, just so that everyone in the community would be on board with renewable energy.

            One of my favorite parts of the day was when we got to inside on the windmills.  Although they often look small up on hills in the distance, a windmill up close is unbelievably large.  Our entire bus could have fit into the base of the turbine.  When we walked inside, it felt like an endless upward tunnel.  It’s hard to imagine that workers climb that tower using climbing equipment just to do maintenance.  This has been a highlight of my education so far.

            Our last stop of the day was a third farm, one that employs solar power and hydropower.  The small water wheel powers a 300-year-old mill.  While they showed us the old fMarmhouse and explained how they remain sustainable, they served us a wonderfully fresh meal.  All of the food (cheeses, apple drinks, eggs, sausages, jams, and vegetables) were made right at the farm.  My favorite part was the homemade bread that was made with the mill.  When a process is 300-years-old, sometimes it’s best not to change it.

            The whole day was really eye-opening because it was the first time I had been inside the homes of German people.  We learn about their efforts to be sustainable in class, but it’s different to see them put into practice.  It was a perfect blend of environmental studies, as well seeing authentic German culture.

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Sarah Chadwick

<p>My name is Sarah and I am studying environmental studies and journalism. Although born and raised in upstate New York, I now go to college in Washington, DC. My perfect day involves eating lots of good food and getting lost on a hike.</p>

Home University:
George Washington University, The
Environmental Studies
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