Berlin the Beautiful
2008 marked the inaugural year of Seacology Germany, our first affiliate in Europe. The creation of this chapter of Seacology was spearheaded by board director, Peter Pistor. Peter grew up in West Berlin and his profession led him to the USA, where he settled in Los Angeles. He returns to Berlin each year for business during the summer with his lovely American wife, Zina, and their two very active young sons.
Peter has been on Seacology's board of directors since 2003 and has a real passion for Seacology. He knew it would resonate with the German psyche because of their love for traveling to faraway lands (wanderlust!), natural affection for animals and keen awareness of and interest in the environment. As a nation, they even have a Green Party which is, amazingly, already 28 years old.
One of the benefits of speaking other languages is that you are sometimes given unique opportunities. Because I speak German and am acquainted with the culture, I've been asked to serve on the board of Seacology Germany, a task I relish. The fledgling operation is made up of a handful of dedicated Germans headquartered in Berlin who feel compelled to make a difference in solving environmental challenges worldwide.
My trip to Berlin for our board meeting was a revelation. Having traveled all over Germany at different times in my life, somehow I had never been to Berlin. I'm glad I saved the experience, unintentionally, to savor at this time. Peter and Zina were super tour guides and kind enough to introduce me to friends and favorite places, which brought the city to life. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, so the metropolis has had a few years to steady itself economically and politically. Always world class because of its art and architectural riches, Berlin currently stands in the middle of a renaissance of spirit and creativity, and it shows. They mix the past with the present and future in the most wonderful way.
Just a day after my arrival, Peter and I made a visit to Brandenburg. He wanted me to meet someone very special to Seacology Germany, Philipp Dressel, managing director of the General German Automobile Association driving safety center. Taking a course in driving safety is mandatory for Germans in order to keep their driver's licenses current, so schools are located throughout the country. The Linthe driving safety center near Berlin attracts 50,000 drivers per year. Just one week before I arrived, Peter and Philipp signed a contract with Linthe to offset the carbon emissions that occur during these required driving tests.
For each completed training session, Linthe donates 1.60 Euro to Seacology's environmental fund. This year the donation will fund development of a solar plant in the Philippine fishing village of Manamoc, where three schools will be able to replace cost-intensive and environmentally harmful Diesel generators. In exchange for the gift of solar power, the community has committed to set aside a marine-protected area of 267 acres and ban all dynamite fishing. The result is a win-win for the environment: reduction in carbon emissions from the Diesel generators and protection of threatened marine habitats and species.
We gathered in the offices of high tech firm MatFlow for Seacology Germany's first board meeting. Nestled in the Ku'damm, a bustling commercial district of former West Berlin, the offices are generously donated by board members Jörg Krumrei, Andreas Pranschke and Andreas Steffen. Additionally joining us were board member Susanna Jamieson, office manager Antje Zimmerman and media consultant, Andrea Schnoor. We hammered out many details for a few hours and concluded the meeting by officially adding board member Philipp Dressel. Philipp is dedicated to diminishing the carbon footprint produced by the driving center through his support of Seacology Germany.
We commemorated our important debut by gathering for dinner at a zany, ultra-arty restaurant in a converted warehouse on Berlin's Spree River. Our newly-formed group enjoyed delicious food from around the world gathered together on giant floor mattresses, enveloped in curtains of diaphanous fabric. After a year of working very hard to launch Seacology Germany, the whole experience ended on a celebratory note. This was perfect for Seacology's win-win mission. As with all those involved at a grassroots level with our important work, Seacology Germany is just a group of ordinary people with extraordinary vision translated into action.