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Global Ideas

Berlin environment blog: Bowie and blossom

There may be no obvious connection between cherry blossom and David Bowie's Five Years. But to me they both sing of spring, and serve as a bitter-sweet reminder that our world is not a given.

I don't remember excactly when I started listening to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars on a loop, but I do remember it was around this time of year. In this city. The opening bars of the opening track transport me back to those heady days when the Berlin winter finally succumbs to its sprightly successor, outwitted by the giver of longer days, leaves, new grass and early arboreal blooms.

Though it can't hope to keep pace with Japan in matters of cherry blossom, the German capital has several lanes of trees that capture the imagination of its residents.

In the past couple of weeks, I've seen countless people pose among the trees, many of them armed with handfuls of petals gathered from the ground and thrown into the air hoping they'll fall just as the shutter closes.

In this, the age of photographic self-indulgence, there is something of a cliché to these most fleeting of installations, but every time I see someone scoop up another load of nature's original confetti, it makes me smile. Simply because… well, because it is a simple pleasure. And that's where David Bowie's Five Years comes in.

"Pushing through the market square, so many mothers sighing,
News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in,
News guy wept and told us, earth was really dying,
Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying."

Written in the early 1970s, when climate change was still a distant nightmare, the reference was to something different - a dream, some claim - but even so, his words ring apt. For me at least. Because they are, and forever will be, intrinsically linked to those fragile pink petals infused with the gentle scent of spring, and the message that none of it should be taken for granted.