How did you get to Glasgow and for how long were you there at the event?
Isabell Lange: In exemplary fashion, by train of course! We arrived in Glasgow on the evening of 3 November and then had the opportunity to inform ourselves about COP26 and present our own project from 4 to 6 November. We were then back in Weimar on the morning of 8 November. By we, I mean Nele Mangels, our two team partners Dominik Heigener (Umweltingenieurwissenschaften student) and Kaspar Brandt (Architektur student) and myself. Our fellow student Sisu Satrawaha from Thailand was originally also supposed to join us. Unfortunately, her visa wasn't ready in time - hence, we were ultimately a team of four in Glasgow.
When and in what context were you able to present your project?
IL: There were two zones at the conference - the »blue zone« and the »green zone«. We spent most of our time in the blue zone. There were various presentations in this area, but also question and answer sessions as well as open discussions. On the first day, we actually needed some time to orientate ourselves in the conference area. There were so many impressions, it was a bit of a »sensory overload«. We then had our first presentation on 5 November, in the UN Climate Change Pavilion in front of an expectant audience. A day later, we had our second presentation, in which we also played our video. The event took place in the »Action Hub« - a larger screened area in the »Action Zone« - in front of an even larger audience than the day before. Some students from Bonn showed special interest afterwards and gave us positive feedback which led to us exchanging ideas.
What was it like for you to be a participant at the UN Climate Change Conference? Were you able to gather new inspirations or insights?
Nele Magels: I was initially overwhelmed by all the new impressions at the Climate Change Conference. We attended super exciting lectures and discussions, which have left me feeling a bit more optimistic about the future. I found it especially interesting to exchange ideas about climate justice with people from many different specialist fields and in the international context of COP26, and to learn about their conceptions and projects. In almost every conversation, it became clear how motivated people are to take action and how important international exchange is.
IL: I can only agree with that. I met so many clever and highly motivated people at COP26 who want to make a change in the world. These people - often young women - had so much to say and so many brilliant opinions that it really gave me a renewed sense of hope for us. I’ve frequently had the experience that people don’t care what happens to the climate or how things are in other parts of the world. But the people we heard are committed to more climate justice globally and also have the political expertise to really make a difference. I was particularly impressed by Jane Goodall, who was digitally connected to a youth discussion. She commented that every individual has an influence on the world and that every being has value. That really gave me goosebumps. That notion has become lost on some people.
Let’s talk again about your project, which was developed as part of the interdisciplinary Bauhaus.Module »Climate Action: Permaculture and local economy in urban space«. Could you explain in more detail what is meant by permaculture?
IL: The term »permaculture« means »permanent agriculture«. It’s roughly based on the three principles of »fair share«, »people care« and »nature care«. In other words, it’s about getting something from nature, but also giving something back to nature so it can continually regenerate and benefit from human use. It is especially important to use the existing circumstances in such a way that optimal results are achieved in harvesting and spatial design. The earthworm comes to mind as an example. It nourishes itself on biowaste and produces humus, which in turn can be used as fertiliser to increase yields. Humans should also integrate themselves in a such a manner.
Permaculture currently only exists in rural areas. In your student project, you wanted to show that permaculture could also have potential in an urban context. As an object of investigation in the urban space, you used the southern campus of the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. How exactly did you approach the whole process?
NM: I became involved in the Bauhaus.Module because I was excited by the idea of making our immediate surroundings - the southern campus of our uni - more oriented towards climate justice. Since I hadn’t really dealt with the topic of climate justice and permaculture from an environmental engineering perspective before, it was interesting to gain a more »technical« insight into the topic and thus develop new problem-solving approaches to establishing a climate-friendly campus.
IL: As Nele just mentioned, we approached the subject largely with an engineering mindset. In the circular economy, we consider waste as a resource that can be recycled, or from which energy can be generated, even if only for heating purposes at the very least. In our project, we determined the energy consumption for heating and providing electricity to the buildings on the southern campus. In order to make this as climate-neutral as possible, we explored regenerative energy production options in the form of solar and wind. This means that all surfaces, including roofs and façades, were included in the calculation, since solar systems and wind turbines can be installed there. We also installed »VertiKKA panels« on the façades of our model campus. These are façade elements that are fed with greywater, i.e. water from showers and sinks. Plants are then attached to the panels and the water is used to nourish the plants. In addition, we calculated a seepage reservoir that contributes to controlling water seepage during heavy rainfall, meaning green areas won’t be flooded - something that often happens when large areas of land are built upon. A biogas facility was also included to generate energy from the excrement of staff and students, in order to compensate for the thermal energy consumption of the university buildings on the southern campus.
NM: The great thing about the project was that, at first, a specific realisation wasn’t actually in the foreground, but we had the opportunity to give our ideas free rein and to consider what is theoretically possible. Only in this way were we able to explore the full potential of the idea of permaculture.
How well did the interdisciplinary cooperation with your fellow students from other disciplines actually work, and what were you able to learn?
IL: It was precisely because we had the chance to cooperate with other faculties that I decided to participate in the project. This change of perspective - away from the pure engineering point of view - was important to me, although actually, it was simultaneously the most beautiful and the most difficult aspect. We approached the topic in ways that were different from my own experiences, and this allowed me to gain an impression of how others would perceive and implement the topics that I see every day in my degree programme. It was only through this approach that I became aware of how many creative and feasible approaches to creating a more sustainable world already exist.
NM: It was also a super interesting experience for me to work in an interdisciplinary team and become familiar with new perspectives and approaches to work. I also found it really exciting during the creation of the video to interpret our calculated results creatively and to present them in video form, for example through the performance sequences.
Have you set yourself any new goals after your participation in the Bauhaus.Module or thanks to the experiences you gained at COP26? Where do you go from here in terms of climate research?
IL: I’ve decided to sign up with an organisation dedicated to human rights or climate protection and help out there as much as I can.
NM: Same here. The Bauhaus.Module and especially the experiences gained at COP26 have strongly motivated me - all of us - to take an even more intensive approach to climate justice. Now it’s up to all of us, and especially the politicians, to ensure that the resolutions and goals can actually be implemented.