Germany for the World Student Environmental Summit

A few months back a mass email went out to the students from our registrar indicating that Masdar would be sending two students to the  3rd annual World Student Environmental Summit (WSES,

http://2010wses.org/) being held in Tubingen, Germany.  Who would pass up a chance to go to Germany for a week  to discuss environmental policy with a bunch of students from all over the world? It was a great opportunity.  Not only that, but I mentioned it to my friend Greg who studies at NYU Stern (for his MBA) and is also interested in renewable energy and environmental policy and he was also admitted into the Summit.  Coincidentally, and luckily, the Summit began just a few days after the famed Oktoberfest in Munich, so Greg and I made sure we left early enough to attend this  event (for purely cultural reasons, of course).  I actually arrived before Greg and was picked up at the airport by my friend from Masdar’s sister and brother (who live outside of Munich in Augsburg).  His family treated me to a great traditional Bavarian breakfast, weisswurst (white sausage) and pretzels (the only thing missing was a nice weissbier). Certainly the breakfast of champions. Though I will never forget again that you have to peel the skin off the weisswurst before you eat. Don’t ask why, you just do.

Weisswurst - And They Are Delicious (not fat free though)!

Really Cool City of Augsburg

It turned out that this year was also the 200th anniversary of this event, the king of all beer festivals. Though we didn’t have enough money to buy lederhosen (about 130 euro, without the shirt and shoes) we fit in well enough with the rest of the Germans and other tourists. It started out rough, we had no idea where to go, everyone was speaking German, drinking beers, lining up in front of the tents, and it was still only 9am.

The Beer Tents

Augustiner Tent - Where we eventually ended up

We somehow ended up on line at the Augustiner Tent (though we didn’t know it) and, after much hustle and bustle, pushing and failed attempts at speaking German, we were somehow ushered inside around 10am and, after about 20 minutes of frantically searching for seats at a table, found some space with a few British blokes. We were extremely lucky, and even more thankful to the well-mannered Brits.

Our Table at Oktoberfest

Then came the waiting. They don’t start serving beer until noon, so we had to essentially sit there, thirsty as anything, for two hours.  We weren’t smart enough to bring cards or anything else to do, though we made some good conversation. Just before noon, with much pomp and circumstance, in marches a band and soon thereafter they tap into the first keg and start delivering the foamy, delicious, and wonderful liters of beer, with the waitresses somehow exuding superhuman (or German) strength, carrying over a dozen liters of beer at a time to satiate the frenzied crowd.  For a mere 10 euro (including tip) we had a great wassail and tippled ourselves as much as we could stomach.

Panorama of the Augustiner Tent

Drinking my first Bier!

Riding the Rollercoaster at Oktoberfest (not entirely the best idea after drinking for 5 hours, but a good time nonetheless)

After recovering from the rollercoaster ride and abundance of beer we moved on to the Summit which took place in the rural area outside of Tubingen, a beautiful college town in southwestern Germany. We stayed at a place called Sonnenmatte, about 30 miles from anything remotely resembling civilization, with a feel much closer to summer camp than an academic summit, though perhaps appropriate for young environmentalists.

Our temporary Home at Sonnenmatte

Our Little Cabin

The Summit was quite enjoyable, especially because it was such a relief to be back in a temperate climate with greenery and out of the searing heat of the desert.  It was attended by 64 students from 36 universities representing 23 countries from Cameroon to China to Brazil. The Summit focused on the main issues that my generation is (and will be) facing, including Energy, Consumption, Education, and the Economy, all in the context of sustainability and environmental and social consciousness.  We attended numerous lectures and participated in workshops to help us start fleshing out ways we, as students, could influence decision makers both at our universities and in our local and regional governments to begin or maintain initiatives that encouraged more sustainable development. At the close of the Summit several of us stayed for an additional week in Tubingen to write-up an Outcomes Report of the Summit as well as a Policy Proposal that we subsequently delivered to the German Ministry of the Environment in Berlin (http://2010wses.org/results/reports/). The students were tasked with developing their own proposal for their respective university to influence their school’s administration to play a more active role in sustainable development and education.  Overall it was a great few weeks and I hope to be able to stay in touch with the leaders of the program to help out at next year’s WSES at the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden in mid-May 2011 (http://www.bth.se/eng soon to be 2011wses.org).

Some pictures of Tubingen below (definitely one of the most picturesque cities I’ve been to)…

Panorama of Tubingen from our Guest House

Busy in the Writer's Session Room at the University of Tubingen

Greg and I at the Bridge in Tubingen

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