Umweltbundesamt Berlin

Interviewee: Dr. Angelika Gellrich | 
Organization: Umweltbundesamt Berlin
Expertise: Environmental Consciousness & Protection, Sustainable Lifestyle and Consumption


My name is Angelika Gellrich, I am a researcher for the Umweltbundesamt (UBA), working in the field of economic and social environmental questions and sustainable consumption. UBA is a point of contact for all questions around environmental protection.

Why is it for you important that an intercultural approach is used within environmental education?

On the one hand, Germany is a country effected by migration and people with a migration background are a central part of our society. 19%, that’s roughly a fifth, of people in Germany have a migration background. This is important to take into consideration simply because a large proportion of society has these kinds of intercultural connections, and if you want to address people in a more tailored, specific way, and you have to do that to reach people, then it is important to take their backgrounds into consideration.

On the other hand, many recently arrived migrants and refugees have different approaches to the environment, which they find difficult to integrate into life here. But if we open a conversation with them, and talk about the environment, how were the environmental conditions for them in their previous homeland, how did they deal with, for example, the challenges of storing food. When we come into exchange with one another, whereby we can experience how other people deal with specific environmental challenges.

And I believe that german society can learn a lot from its migrants. Finally, appreciation, mutual respect, listening to each other, allowing ourselves to understand each other, are very important fundamental conditions for coming into contact with one another in a positive way.

Which challenges lay ahead in the future for environmental education?

One challenge within environmental education is that the current younger generation is interested partly only selectively in environmental issues and problems, and that although they are partly ready to engage with the topic, this is only in reduced numbers compared to the past large, broad environmental movements, in which many people fundamentally worked towards. Young people tend to take part selectively, on a short-term basis, in terms of projects. We have to develop other formats and offers, other possibilities to bring them into the field, to invite their interest. We have to look at ways of developing event-based interventions, at ways of combining activities with fun and group experiences, and finally perhaps we don’t need to stamp these activities so clearly with the word “environment”.

There are many good examples of activities that are fun, where you can try something new, interact with other people, meet new people, like a clothing exchange party, or a Schnippeldisko [a party, in which ugly vegetables are prepared and eaten]. Particularly for established environmental organizations in particular are faced with the challenge of adapting to the needs and challenges of the current time, also with a view to increasing digitization.