The 5th TPM was aimed at adressing a local ecological and social issue that has been dominating the region for the past few years – forest dieback. This phenomena – caused by a forestry practice of monocultures, climate change and the related sinking resilience against the bark beetle – has left the region in a poor shape and also affects the social image of the region ‘Wester forest’, which bears this common good in its name. In the face of this struggle iniatives, civil-led structures and grass-root organizations have been formed to suppoirt, maintain or even restore this good.
On the first evening, ice-breaking methods were used to establish a better feeling for a group that beared some new faces, also leaving time to get to know both the group and the area a little better. This also meant that on the next day, the group could directly start with a presentation by one of our internal experts on forests and climate change. This theoretical knowledge laid the groundwork for the later visit to the nearby forest – a walk accompanied by two representatives of the local NABU Bad Marienberg, an association that nationwide takes action in climate and environmental protection. They showed us both the damages visible but also what their protective work over the past decades had been able to achieve. They survey, analize and support ecological processes of the area, while also providing environmental education for the locals and other interested parties, using their platform to influence municipal politics. In this, locals get a low-level entry chance in engaging, supporting or even initating and implementing projects. After that, Björn Flick, first chairman of ‘Wäller helfen’, showed us the first German ‘memory forest’ located near Holzbachschlucht. On 1ha a mixed forest is planted via tree parentships in rememberance for deceased relatives. With this ‘Wäller helfen’ (= ‘People from Westerforest are helping’) wants to both raise awareness while providing the chance to contribute in direct measurements. This organization, a civil movement, founded during covid and originally meant to be a neighbourhood support network, fastly spread and grew, now giving way to the implementation of many projects in the area – planting 100.000 trees until 2024 and therefore contributing in t0he reforestation being only one of them. In the end of this long day, back at the Europahaus the group reflected on their learnings, ecologocial and social endeavours faced in their own regions and checking-in on their expecations for this meeting. The results were very diverse and many interesting examples and insights could be shared.
The next day the group met other actors who also contributed to the renaturation of the region. First the association ‘Ebertseifen’ was visited in Niederfischbach, where a presentation and a later visit on one of their sites was given to explain how by buying land and renaturating it via imitating natural processes, safe living spaces and connective pads for wildlife can be made. A measurement that adresses the issue of increased urbanization also in rural areas that often lead to the decrease of wildlife habitats and therefore distances that now have become impossible fo animals to cover, showing also the locals that a different mindset can be implemented. For lunch the group visited the ‘Brechelbacher Hof’, which is one of the only Demeter- and Bioland-certified cattle farm in the area run by Hasenauer. With regenerative agriculture and educational visits for schools they are shaping the local perception of agriculture, restoring huge hectars of land while contributing to the local food supply. There the group got their only meal where meat was an option. In the afternoon a vocational school, the ‘BBS Westerburg’, was visited nearby, where after a tour on the compound, we heard from the Sofia Academy, represented by Dr. Petra Moog and Bastian Hirsch, about the social end ecological sustainability achieved by classroom architecture. The school being a role model in not only the region but the entire province, had interesting approaches of this already, where walls – both metaphorically and physically – had been torn down and the doors were always open. Connections to local wood suppliers and their leftover material found its way back into the school, where their woodworking students manufactured the school’s needs. After the tour and presentation small groups were formed, including present interested teachers, and were to discuss and present new ideas for the school compound. In the evening, after a small exchange on the learning, the Steering Group Commitee had its project monitoring meeting. The evaluation was realized a few days after, showing that the TPM had been reviewed both very informative and interesting. In the follow-up mails the organizations and associations have been linked and informed about their work in order for them to bundle their effort and being able to cooperate in future endeavors.