25 years FÖJ in Hessen


Black Forest
Black Forest. Image: Simon Straetker

Last week we celebrated 25 years FÖJ in Hessen. Amongst the inspiring speeches from the state secretaries who were present, the event glistened with artistic gems of music, poetry, theatre and film. A highlight for me was Dirk Hennig’s impulse. The chairman for the Friends’ Association for Ecological Voluntary Services and political spokesperson for the FÖJ sponsors began his career as a forester before moving to environmental education and politics upon realising that “saving the forest doesn’t happen in the woods but in people’s minds”.

The evening was drawing to a close when nature filmmaker Simon Straetker transported us back to his childhood. At 14 years old, just a few years younger than most FÖJlers, he read an article in which the adventurist Mike Horn was recruiting a small team of young explorers to embark on an expedition around the world. His goal was for these youngsters to fall in love with nature so that they may dedicate their lives to its protection.

For the first time since arriving, the guests ceased to fan themselves with the event programs in the 30 + C. room and watched attentively as the young artist presented some of his footage from around the world that depicts both its beauty and devastation. One of the most heart-wrenching clips was of the soon-to-be-gone rainforest in which square miles upon square miles of deforested land makes way for soy cultivation, which is largely used in (our) livestock feed. The “bad guy”, on first appearance, seems to be the logger cutting down the trees, but who’s importing that produce?

As I watched colours, creatures and skies dashing and gliding across the wall in front of me, I felt a fernweh, a real longing to be in one of these far away places. Many of us want to explore the world and that can be done respectfully and carbon-footprint-free and exploration belongs to environmental education but Straetker’s message was clear: you don’t need to go to the other side of the world for adventure. The last clip we were shown was shot on our doorstep here in Germany’s Black Forest.

The Black Forest Collective is a group of filmmakers who, through their love for the environment and exploration, produce films and documentaries such as the UNESCO World Heritage “Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” and “On the edges of the world”. For the latter, the team accompanied Greenpeace photographer Markus Mauthe for three years to some of the most remote places on earth. In a pay-it-forward kind of way, the Black Forest Collective accompanied the project Global Changemaker. Every year, young change makers worldwide are invited to the Global Youth Summit for a week of training sessions, networking and workshops, which teach the participants how they can have a positive impact on their environment.

More information about Straetker and his work can be found at: http://www.simonstraetker.com/

Black Forest 1
Black Forest. Image: Simon Straetker



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