September 21st, 2014 became one of the historical moments in the global action to raise awareness about climate change issue and mitigate it. On this very day the largest march on calling for climate change action in human history took place. More than 675 thousand people (around 0.01% of global population) marched on the streets of New York, Barcelona, Paris, London, Rome, Berlin, Istanbul, Jakarta, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Melbourne, Sydney… There were over 2800 climate-change-related events in 166 countries that day. This so-called People’s Climate March became the largest and loudest call for action to mitigate climate change and its negative consequences so far.

All that was organized to push the global leaders, who are gathering on September 23rd, 2014, at the UN Headquarters in New York City for the UN Climate Summit 2014 to discuss the state of climate change nowadays, what is currently being done, and what still needs to be done in order to reduce (as avoidance is already not feasible) the economically, socially and environmentally damaging consequences of global climate change caused by anthropogenic activities. The one-day programme of the Summit includes announcements of national action and ambitions from the participating countries, forum for private sector, and then announcements of multi-stakeholder initiatives agreed upon. All in all, it is expected to be a surprisingly short event with quick discussions on such a complex and crucial issue as global climate change.

As I am currently doing research at IÖW in Berlin, Germany, as one of the winners of the Green Talents competition, I managed to participate in the Climate March and Festival here. Approximately 10 000 Berlin residents marched in a Silent Climate Parade from the Neptune Fountain (Neptunbrunnen) towards the Brandenburg Gate, where the Parade transformed into a Festival with music, dances and climate-change-related exhibits. Different environmental organizations, both local and international, such as Avaaz and Greenpeace, put up their stands to inform people about the issue of climate change, what it leads to, and how can we mitigate it through common action.

Indeed, such event attracted much attention of pedestrians, visitors, local residents, and mass-media. Still, did it succeed in communicating the whole complexity of the issue and the urgent need for action? This is the question I keep asking myself since the participation in the Berlin Climate March.
Firstly, the general message was mostly about the problems related to climate change. Much less focus was on possible solutions for climate change mitigation. What can a person do to reduce his/her carbon footprint and at the same time maintain the same level of happiness and well-being (and perhaps increase it)? It would have been great to have more showcasing of solutions to climate change offered for the people by the people.

Secondly, although there were some solutions expressed, they were targeting dominantly the transport and energy sector. Indeed, these are the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting sectors (approximately 20% and 30% of the global emissions respectively), but they are not the only ones. Industrial processes (~15%), unsustainable agricultural practices (~10%), and commercial and residential activities (~10%) also contribute to the release of carbon dioxide, methane and other GHGs into the atmosphere. So, we also need to account for them in shaping up the global climate action. For instance, the Climate Festival in Berlin created quite a volume of paper and other waste that could have been avoided. Yes, much of it will probably be recycled. But that also means that energy will be used for the recycling process. And what have I pointed out about the energy sector above?

Thirdly, the way we communicate messages about climate change and environment protection should be improved. For instance, the Berlin Climate Festival ended up as an ordinary music festival with people around selling merchandise, dancing and getting drunk. Only those participants, who already knew about the importance of climate change, kept the interest and passion for climate action till the end.

Overall, the People’s Climate March became a significant historical moment within the global people’s movement to address and mitigate the climate change issue. People succeeded in coming together and raising their voice full of desire to reduce the negative effects of the issue now and in the future. Still, as the Berlin Climate Festival showed, the ways of communicating the climate-change-related messages need to be improved. Climate change is a multi-faceted issue that should be considered in all its complexity and from all its sides. Our call for climate action should reflect that. And I hope it will be so in the near future.

For now, we will see what outputs the UN Climate Summit 2014 produces and whether the People’s Climate March have had any effect on them. Then we should prepare for the next important event – the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP-20, that is going to happen in Lima, Peru, in the period of December 1st – 12th, 2014. It is there the global climate agreement is expected to be finally decided upon. And it is there that our loudest call for change in history is expected to be heard.



At the beginning of September 2014 I participated in the Degrowth 2014 conference that took place in Leipzig, Germany. This became possible due to the support from IÖW, a Berlin-based research institution, where I am currently doing research on the Maker Movement and its connection to sustainable development.
Degrowth is a global movement based on environmental economics and anti-consumption ideas that promote decoupling of human development, happiness, and sustainability from economic growth. Supporters of the degrowth concept argue that environmental issues can be resolved and social welfare can be achieved by downscaling production and consumption and shifting our behavior to non-consumptive means, such as collaboration, co-creation, sharing, creativity, art, music, etc. Of course, this concept meets certain criticism and disbelief in the “degrowth utopia”. And this is exactly what the Degrowth conference was all about.
The goal of my participation there was to find out about the latest developments on the Maker Movement scene in Germany, as well as determine its relation to the degrowth concept. And that goal was achieved. So, here are the most interesting outputs from Degrowth 2014 in relation to open-source eco-innovation and collaborative sustainable development:
#1. Nowadays the means of manufacturing become more and more accessible to individuals, meaning that one is potentially less dependent on consuming products from large capitalist companies. If you want a piece of hardware, you can just produce one at home (this approach is called DIY, Do-It-Yourself). And if you cannot do it alone, you can use the collaborative power of the community, both virtual and real, to co-create the thing you need (this is what is called DIT, Do-It-Together). There is an increasing number of co-working spaces and open workshops popping up all around. There you can use the tools and machines available to create individually or with peers the things you need. In this way you produce them locally, thus avoiding transportation of stuff and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with it. Besides, as you are the one, who created the thing, it is likely that you will put more value on it and therefore will keep and use it as long as possible, minimizing waste in this way.
#2. However, you may argue that more accessible manufacturing means can lead to more production and consumption, and thus more waste, GHG emissions, and other environmental damage. Indeed, this is a valid point to consider. And the conference provided part of the response for it. Certain open workshops with professional machines, so-called Fab Labs, have started to apply principles of circular / closed-loop flow of materials. This is how the concept of “Green Fab Lab”, an open workshop with complete resource sustainability and zero waste outputs, has been born. And there is technology allowing it to happen already. For instance, with an open-source device called FilaMaker you can shred plastic things and waste from your 3D printer into a new filament input for it. The device is still far from perfect, but you can imagine where this is going. Ideally we would be able to 3D print the things we need and then, at the end of their life cycle, recycle them into material for new things. Furthermore, you can expect no extra waste from this process, as the 3D printer software is already designed to calculate how to print an object with the least amount of material needed.
#3. Such accessibility of manufacturing means combined with the power of collaboration and sharing allow the appearance of “degrowth businesses” – companies that rely on community engagement, collaboration, and open source rather than closed innovation and profit maximization. An example presented at the Degrowth 2014 conference was Premium Cola. Its business model is based on an open sharing of all product developments and collaborative construction of its business. The company does little marketing, allowing the community members to decide on whether to purchase and promote the product or not. Such businesses are extremely difficult to launch and run, but, as shown by Premium Cola, it is possible. However, they still need to prove whether they really contribute to the “degrowth utopia”.
The concept of degrowth and its connection to sustainability and environment protection is still full of knowledge gaps, like Swiss cheese is full of holes. This has been proven by the outcomes of the Degrowth 2014 conference. Still, there is also more and more research in this field happening nowadays. It should help closing the gaps and support the decision-making regarding the concept of degrowth. And I am excited to contribute to this research with my own study of the Maker Movement in Berlin. So, you can expect more interesting posts and articles on this topic coming soon from my side.