Oct 6, 2010

Ava's Transatlantic Green Salon

On 7 October 2010, Ava's Green Salon, a blog-based Berlin-American initiative for sustainability, will open its doors for the first time. American political scientist Steven Hill and Hans-Josef Fell, energy spokesperson of the German green party, will kick off a series of events bringing together experts, activists, and artists to discuss their ideas. Topic of the launch night is "Europe Energized?". Follow the jump below for a brief interview with Isabel Cole, the mastermind behind the project.

This sounds like a great idea, how did you come up with it?
Photo: Karen Axelrad
I've been active with a progressive American political group in Berlin (www.avaberlin.org) since 2003, which has evolved into a forum for political discussion with Germans as well. I initiated this project as a spinoff from, and with the support of, the group. I've wanted to get more involved in environmental/ sustainability issues for some time, and have been thinking about what contribution I could make. Many Americans seem to be looking toward Europe for models of sustainable living - the more progressive media constantly publish articles about European green architecture projects, alternative energies. I wanted to do something that would contribute to the transatlantic exchange of ideas. It turned out we had some interesting connections to people working in the field, so the first event with Steven Hill and Hans-Josef Fell crystallized. We have very limited resources (and no budget whatsoever), but people have been incredibly forthcoming and supportive, from our guests to our host, the Free University. I hope it will continue to work out this way in future, with new connections and events emerging fairly spontaneously, through networking and cooperation. I'm happy to keep things small and focus on the human connections that arise. I've had positive experiences in the field of cultural/literary dialogue with my project www.no-mans-land.org, so I'm excited to see what will develop here.

Why did you choose the blog format for your project?
Early on we toyed with the idea of a more complex website where a wide range of American and German sustainability projects could present themselves and enter into dialogue... but for the time being we needed something simple and low-maintenance, and the blog format seemed to fit the bill. The idea is mainly to inform readers about articles/events/controversies/projects they might not otherwise be aware of. The English-German bilingual and translation aspect is important. The blog will also have an archive with materials on all past salon discussions.

Any female-run blogs on the issue you can recommend? 
Embarrassingly, nothing comes to mind... but then my knowledge is really very limited! I'm very new to the blogosphere and am just working my way in bit by bit. My impression is that most of the blogs and blog-like sites I've found on the topic so far, and linked to, are more male-dominated, but I hadn't really been thinking in gender terms. I'd be grateful for any recommendations of good blogs on sustainability issues, whether by men or by women!


  1. "Europe energized" a fitting double-entendre for a party-politik sponsored event.

    It's an interesting point that "Many Americans seem to be looking toward Europe for models of sustainable living ". This is a bit bizarre, Europe benefits from high densities. Apply our measures in the USA might be a waste of time. Americans could look to their own initiatives. California is miles ahead with respect to solar electrical developments, most of which don't apply in Europe due to our latitude....

  2. ...In which case we Europeans could learn from the Californians... Also with regards to saving water, I hear...?

  3. I don't know much abut water conservation in Cali...

    Although, our Hungarian friends surely aren't leading the way at the moment, I know thta much!

  4. Hi Phil,

    Just briefly (busy getting ready for tonight's event...): I just wanted to make it very clear that the event is not "sponsored" by any party (or anyone, for that matter) and we have no kind of official affiliation with the Greens, though they are obvious and welcome discussion partners, as in this case. Promoting anyone's Parteipolitik is the last thing we're interested in - we want people to put their different standpoints (party- or otherwise) up for critical discussion. Also, I don't mean to suggest that the dialogue only goes one way (enlightened Europeans versus benighted Americans), or that there is some kind of general "European approach" that Americans need to know about. Just the contrary. Sustainability seems like a field where very specific, local solutions are called for (as Elinor Ostrom points out), but this is exactly why it's important for international dialogue so that people can learn about what other people are doing elsewhere and whether or not these solutions might be applicable in their situation. Maybe we can talk about this more later... Anyway, it's interesting to have your input!

  5. Apologies for misunderstanding the event sponsorship.

    I was just trying to present myself as somehow itellectually superior by pointing out a subtle "ruse" of my own invention. It turns out the facts have, once again, got in the way of some self-aggrandisment.

    Shame I can't be there actually. My firm would rather send me to stupid "carbon zero" trade shows... ughhhh, horrible.