Climate change is perhaps the biggest emergency of our era. Unfortunately, only since the last few decades it started to receive the attention that it deserves. The first awareness about global warming came from the experts. In 1965, in a report called "Restoring the Quality of Our Environment", a group of American scientists warned the institutions about the risks of the greenhouse effects. However, their warning was largely neglected by the US government. Later, on April 22nd of 1970, the first Earth Day took place in the States: about 20 million of people were on the streets protesting against environmental destruction. But it was only from the 80s onwards that a large-scale public awareness about climate change started to rise, thanks to the commitment of climate advocates. Today, environmental activism is a mass movement, and demonstrations on global warming are regular events – the biggest climate movement is Fridays for Future, whose strikes take place every week. Furthermore, a lot of countries all over the world have a Green Party today – in all the 27 members of the European Union there is at least one Green Party, even though some of them have few or zero parliamentary representation.
Among joining the Climate Movement or the Green Party, there are other ways to make a difference for the environment. As a response to our globalized and consumistic society, some people and group of people decided to embrace an eco-sustainable way of living. For this purposes, different structures were founded – eco-villages, bio-farms, rural communes, etc. Such structures promote sustainable agriculture and farming practices. On the one hand, their system of production requires more human labour, because planting and harvesting is often done by hand, and the livestock that graze freely need so much care compared to those that spend all their lives inside a cage. However, if farmers worldwide adopted sustainable farming and agriculture methods, the atmosphere would be a lot cleaner – according to some scientists, methane produced by cows is more damaging to our climate than the carbon dioxide produced by cars.
When I decided to apply for an ESC program, I started looking for a project concerning climate action and environmental protection. In fact, adopting eco-friendly individual habits such as recycling, having a vegetarian diet, walking or cycling was not enough for me. I wanted to do something more, like committing myself into sustainable agriculture in order to find out how it is possible to have an eco-sustainable lifestyle. Therefore, the CJD Ökohaus Markkleeberg sounded perfect to me, because working there would have meant a direct contact with nature.
The CJD Ökohaus Markkleeberg is a small structure in the heart of the Agra-Park in Markkleeberg, Saxony. It was built between 2008 and 2009 with local wood, straw and clay. In the Ökohaus, nothing is wasted: the roof is made by solar panels, and the energy from the sun is then recycled for the heating system. Moreover, rainwater is channelled into big containers, and re-used to water the plants all around. Finally, all the organic waste is put together in the compost area and transformed into new soil.
Workers and volunteers of the Ökohaus take care of the small garden, where some vegetables - potatoes, peas, onions, tomatoes, radishes, lettuce, parsley, cucumber, and fruit – grapes, strawberry, and raspberry, are planted. Furthermore, in the area surrounding the building there are some birdhouses, a beehive, and an insect hotel. Inside, a small laboratory with microscopes and other learning and recreational material is available to children.
In fact, beside daily gardening work, the Ökohaus organizes extracurricular educational activities for kids and youngsters. Among the different offers, it is possible to find activities in cooperation with schools or youth clubs, birthday parties, and holiday programs. For instance, the Sommerferien Program 2021 includes activities related to different topics: the importance of bees for our planet, water pollution, home-made bio products (body care as well as food), and Naturwerkstatt – a German word that can be translated as “nature workshop”, i.e. a laboratory for the construction of something using natural material.
The main goal of such initiatives is to raise awareness on the younger generations about the environmental issues, and to make them sensitive and respectful towards the nature. The motto of the Ökohaus is indeed “Natur erleben, verstehen, schützen”, namely, “experience, understand, and protect the nature”.
As a volunteer at the CJD Ökohaus Markkleeberg, I am collecting precious experiences that make me see things differently. For instance, I am learning (at last partially) how is the process of food production. It requires a lot of patience and effort. Now I know that behind a package of fruit or vegetables that one can find at the supermarket, and that might come from the other side of the earth, there is always human labour. Mass production often implies exploitation of people and resources. That’s the dark side of globalization, and a good reason to grow your own food or, whenever this is not possible, to support local farmers.
Finally, I am realizing how important is to engage young generations on environmental issues, and to provide them a nature-oriented education. Indeed, kids today mostly grow up in an urban environment and often is it difficult for them to recognize how apparently harmless human actions (such as eating animal-based from intensive farming or using plastic objects) is slowly destroying our planet. Therefore, a contact with nature since their childhood can raise awareness on the current emergency and make them act in a respectful and responsible way.