We go Berlin-adjacent in our latest environment blog post in which a self-confessed city snob happens upon some green, local innovations in Brandenburg.
Sometimes when you live in a capital city like Berlin, you become incredulous that anyone would want to leave even for a few hours, never mind actually moving somewhere else. Yes, it's kind of arrogant but when you have everything on your doorstep from bars to theatres to parks and lakes, it's hard not to give into your lesser big city snob.
Then one day, you hop on a train to the countryside and are pleasantly surprised by all the nice things on offer. And then you realize that you're a jerk because why wouldn't there be. That's exactly what happened to me recently on a trip to Lübbenau, a pretty town in Brandenburg, the state that surrounds Berlin.
I went there to check out some penguins residing in a spa in the town (you can read more about that here). But on my walk there, I spotted something unexpected, although, perhaps not as unexpected as spa-dwelling penguins. Beside a modern housing estate, rose two "wind pillars" out of the ground.
The pillars generate energy from wind for nearby buildings but are different to turbines as their vertical blades are made to deal with breezy gusts and changes in wind direction. The happy discovery reminded me that some of the central and most innovative drivers of Germany's Energiewende - the switch to renewable energy - are citizens, co-ops and small municipalities.
Many trace the Energiewende back to Angela Merkel's surprise decision to phase out nuclear power after the disaster at Fukushima, Japan, in 2011. But it began long before that, at a grass roots level embedded in Germany's ecological movement.
For instance, in 1998 the people of Wildpoldsried, a Bavarian village with 2,500 inhabitants, started a series of green energy projects and now produces far more electricity than it needs. There are many more examples of citizens taking green action around Germany. The original law funding green energy in the country came into force in April 2000.
Perhaps venturing outside the city to take stock, isn't such a bad idea after all.