Blog #124: Let’s enjoy the Vienna Wasserfest
|June 15, 2023
|We all enjoy it - the wonderful water that comes from the tabs here in Vienna, clean and so very drinkable. But did we also know that it is good enough - all across Austria - for the country to celebrate National Trinkwassertag or Drinking Water Day? Arranged and hosted by water utilities all across the country, the third Friday of June is the day of days, tomorrow, June 16th. In many towns and villages, there are info events and activities inviting citizens - in particular but not limited to kids - to enjoy and have fun with but also to learn about drinking water, how precious it is, and what we can do to preserve it.
|Here in Vienna, celebrations take place as part of the Wiener Wasserfest, and lots of action is scheduled around the Wasserturm in Favoriten, from 9 am till 6pm. The Wasserturm is a beautiful and historic building, built in 1898 to provide the higher-up areas of the 10th and 12th district with drinking water until the Vienna Hochquellenleitung - bringing water from the mountains - took over that task. The Wasserfest offers the opportunity to not only visit the Wasserturm and get a (free) guided tour, but also to enjoy the Wasserspielplatz or Water Playground right in front of the tower, to take a quiz about drinking water, to learn from the Youth Firebrigade how to splash water in a useful way, and to meet the people who work on bringing drinking water to our homes, 24/7, safely and reliably.
Foto:Tomorrow, June 16, you can join in celebrating the Vienna Water Festival – behind the Vienna Wasserturm – and learn more about drinking water in Austria and what we can do to preserve it.
|If the Wasserfest got you curious, there are more options for you to learn about our drinking water in Austria and how it is kept safe also in the future. There is an excellent website - UnserTrinkwasser.at - that offers updated information on quantity and quality of water used, on safety and security, and on its origins. In Austria, unlike many other countries, 100% of drinking water comes from underground resources, commonly considered the safest and highest quality water. For further reading, I recommend the government’s Wasserschatz Study, published in 2021; a few months ago, it came out in English under the title Austria’s Water Treasure. It looks at groundwater availability through 2050 and finds that groundwater resources - due to climate change and other shifts - are likely to go down by around 23% in the next 30 years while water needs are likely to grow by about 10-15%, mainly due to population growth. The report also lays out measures that communities and cities need to take to address these developments - such as building reservoirs and becoming more efficient in the use of water. A nationwide discussion forum - the Wasser Plattform - has been established last year to involve everyone relevant in dialogue and planning. Worthwhile following this and seeing where we all can contribute.
|In the meantime, let’s enjoy the water we have, learn about where it comes from, and celebrate the Wiener Wassertag.
Blog #123: Imagining our Future - with and without Doom&Gloom
|June 8, 2023
|Sometimes, when reading the news or simply when looking around and noticing how behind we all are in safeguarding our environment, I do have moments of sadness. I wonder how our future - and the future or our children and their children will look like, I wonder about droughts and floods, I wonder about people and animals and how we all will live together on a planet that may well have to feed more than it has the capacity to sustain. I am not alone with these worries - visual expressions underpinned by scientific insight exist all around, including the Doomsday Clock, created by Atomic Scientists in 1947 and annually adjusted, and the World Overshoot Day, expected for 2023 on August 2nd, or the Stockholm University’s Planetary Boundary Diagram. The Environmental Movement does not like us to speak in terms of doom and gloom, mainly perhaps because research tells them that hearing too many of such narratives can lead to apathy. Christian environmental groups take it a step further, looking for hope in prayer, scripture and action, trusting that there will be a tomorrow, of some kind.
|If there were a tomorrow is in fact the title of an exhibition that I stepped into this week, offered by Vienna’s World Museum (Weltmuseum) through next January. Its theme is Science Fiction - a genre in literature that we typically associate with imagined yet non-existing technology and its impact; we tend to think about space ships or fantasy dragons, and some of us may be aware of the writings of futurists or utopians such as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, or Hugo Gernsback.
Foto:What ideas about the future do people hold who have experienced environmental traumas and colonization? The exhibition gives voice to indigenous artists who offer views of alternative pathways ahead.
|This exhibition is rather different to what we tend to think Science Fiction is about. Firstly, it takes a broad view of the means that people use to imagine the future, well beyond visionary works of literature and poetry, showing us an eclectic mix of, yes, books and graphic novels such as superman or star wars, as well as paintings, films, sculptures, and installations. Secondly, and perhaps most touchingly, the theme of Science Fiction is explored well beyond the well known writers and film producers but instead gives voice to artists hailing from groups who had their environment and as a result their future stolen by industrialisation and colonization. In fact, looking at some of the exhibits - for example those building on 500 years of the indigenous experience of destruction in the Amazon - I was struck by how much healing and hope there seemed to be in imagining, describing and building an alternative future, perhaps more even than in the technology-focused science fiction of western authors of the last century..
|An exhibition worth going to? Definitely! It has its own website that tells you something about the different artists featured, grouped under topics such as Space Mosque, After the Apocalypse, or Brave New Worlds. But personally, I find the website a bit confusing, just clicking through things conveys information but not the sentiment that one experiences when actually being in the room with statutes, paintings or with the voices of artists recorded as they tell their own personal view of the future. Will it give you consolation that yes, there will be a tomorrow? Probably not. But it will connect you with more and different perspectives of people who all must feel or have felt the kind of worry or sadness that comes with wondering whether there will be a tomorrow.
|A visit at the World Museum does not come cheap - a ticket will set you back 16 Euros - but of course you can take a moment and explore all the other sections. And if you go there before the early July, you can even check out Fruits of Labor, a tiny little exhibition running through July 9 that finds a way to use art to document nature’s destruction in China. Most amazing to me were pictures of pollinators - actual people who do hand pollination, flower by flower, in a particular valley - simply because insects, most notably bees, have been destroyed there. The pictures are amazing documents of what a massive ecological imbalance of nature can lead to - a future that if only as a beekeeper I definitely have no intention to imagine.
Blog #122: This Weekend - Make Time for World Environment Day
|June 1, 2023
|World Environment Day is coming up, on June 5th, next Monday - and it’s a day that is marked around the world by activities, events, and even celebrations, many of which already started on the weekend, June3rd or 4th. Also here in Vienna, there is a variety of things going on that may be worth your time and attention - offering opportunities to learn about, participate in and contribute to ways to protect nature. World Environment Day has been celebrated annually now since 1973 - for 50 years - and it has grown from a little noticed moment for activists to a worldwide platform to promote awareness and encourage action for the protection of the environment.
|One fun thing may be to combine a visit at Strandbar Herrmann with checking out a Mural called #Pixel Can - made from hundreds of empty cans - that the Recycling Initiative Every Can Counts (Jede Dose Zählt) has put up. Only seven out of ten cans used for drinks are properly recycled in Austria - and the Mural should serve as a reminder for all of us to make sure that cans go into the recycling bins. If you are interested: The Recylcing Iniitiative Every Can Counts works in 16 countries and 18 cities - in Austria in Vienna and in Graz.
Foto:This year's motto for World Environment Day is #BeatPlasticPollution. Having said that - the topics of activities associated with World Environment Day over the weekend and on Monday go well beyond this topic.
|If you want to dive a little deeper into Austrian discussions about environmental topics - and if your German is up to the challenge - do check out an information session offered by the Naturfreunde Wien about environmentally friendly vacations. Is ecologically light vacationing even possible? What are the advantages of using public transport - beyond the environmental footprint? And which areas are easy to reach - and which are not? Where to get help? Anyone interested to spend free time in nature and looking for answers to these questions is welcome on Monday, June 5, at 18:00, at the offices of the Naturfreunde Wien, Raffaelgasse 11 (room 101) in 1200 Wien. Simultaneously, also on June 5 at 18:00 - and also available only in German - is the public viewing of the new documentary “Two Way Street - aus den Augen aus dem Sinn” that describes the environmental challenges that the river Danube and its fauna and flora has to confront. The even is hosted by the Technical University Vienna (TU) who is also organizing an interesting panel discussion with researchers working on micro-plastics, nanoparticles, toxicology and environmental management.
|The Austrian Government is taking the opportunity of World Environment Day to also celebrate Eco-Label Day (Umweltzeichen-Tag) - an annual event during which enterprises and organizations marked with the prestigious Umweltzeichen (Ecolabel) are invited to undertake specific activities to make their commitment more visible. Here you can find a long list of shops and items worthwhile paying attention to throughout this weekend - ranging from reduced prices for environmentally produced notebooks at LIBRO, to a special brunch offer available on June 5 at the Henriette Stadthotel where you can taste mushroom sausages from Hut&Stiel, through to special events and menu options at many other hotels. Most practical perhaps for our English speaking community: The Haydn Cinema offers - at the occasion of Eco-Label Day - all tickets for the price of a junior ticket if you mention the word Umweltzeichen-Tag.
|#BeatPlasticPollution is this year’s motto of World Environment Day - and if you have no time to participate in or check out public events, or if you are looking for something you can do without speaking German, you can always celebrate the day yourself by reducing, refusing, re-using, or recycling the plastics that you might otherwise purchase or use on that day - and beyond. Dig around a little on the Worldenvrionmentday.glogal website - you’ll find interesting information as well as ideas and suggestions on what to do yourself.
Blog #121: My Little Yellow Bag
|May 25, 2023
|Many moons ago, on a (birth-)day, it had appeared on my doorsteps: My Little Yellow Bag. Bright as the sun and visible in night-traffic, made from seemingly invincible materials that would withstand any degree of physical abuse, this bag the best of all husbands had figured would be perfect for me. And so it was. More of a purse or a clutch, My Little Yellow Bag was somewhat like Hermione’s sackerl; you may remember the Harry Potter sequel when Hermione placed an Undetectable Extension Charm on her bag, allowing her to store insane numbers of things therein that really did not seem to be able to fit. Until they did. Well, that was exactly how My Little Yellow Bag performed. And now it’s gone. Left behind and forgotten in a pub when I was in a rush, it is now in the possession of some other lucky person. And I have to go and find a new one.
|There was something else that was special about My Little Yellow Bag: It had been an upcycled bag. Freitag bags are made from discarded truck tarps, left-behind seat belts and airbags. The only new materials they use are zippers, buckles, and so on. The idea to upcycle something is as old as there are materials - something breaks or cannot be used for its original purpose, and we fiddle with it and turn it into something else. A famous example was Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind who took the old velvet curtains from a plantation home and created a stunning ball gown for herself. Thirty years ago, Freitag was one of the first firms to make a business model out of Upcycling: Originally a tiny start-up, endowed with the ingenuity and energy of two students with great ideas and a little bit of money, Freitag has by now evolved into one of the leaders in the market for upcycled bags, backpacks, accessories and apparel.
Foto: My Little Yellow Bag had been with me on many journeys over the last years - a fabulous product of the newly emerging Upcycle industry, made from discarded truck tarps and left-behind seat belts. Now looking for a replacement, I checked out a number of Vienna's Upcycle Stores, all of them well worth a visit, notably Kellerwerk and Garbarage. Check them out!
|Having begun researching for a replacement for My Little Yellow Bag, I am somewhat overwhelmed by what’s on offer these days. A quick google search on Upcycled Bags gives me over 6 million hits; many many firms around the world offer bags and other wearables made from upcycled materials. Looking to focus, I decided to stay away from online options and go shopping in person. Vienna has at least five shops that focus on upcycled products - some of them upcycled by their own team, in other cases upcycled by others. Amongst them, I checked out two: Kellerwerk in the Gumpendorfer Strasse offers beautiful and quite extraordinary pieces of furniture while Garbarage in Schleifmühlgassetakes takes on a broader set of items, covering both super-cool looking furniture and decorative pieces as well as wearables. Located in the fourth district, its absolutely worth a visit - with the added bonus that Bobby’’s, the British food store, is right around the corner. Even if you don’t walk out with a fun and happy-looking upcycled item, you will leave inspired about what one can do with everyday items.
|Where is this leaving me with my search for a replacement for My Little Yellow Bag? There is a Freitag Store in Neubaugasse 26 I where I could get a nearly-exact replica - noting, of course, that upcycled products always are unique, simply because they are upcycled. I am also contemplating something else: There is someone in Germany who is producing and selling bags made from materials used by Fire Brigades - discarded fire hoses and firemen’s uniforms - looking not only cool but also incredibly sturdy. So it might well be that My Little Yellow Bag will be reborn as a bright red FeuerWear bag. And while I am contemplating, I’ll keep exploring the fascinating world of upcycled products - a journey well worth perhaps also for you to go on, not just because you are doing your bit for Mother Nature (by lessening the waste we create), but also because you will discover many unique and beautiful things.