A Rest From Riding – Sunday

Last night after the demo broke up we made our way to the Global Greens drinks and networking event in a pleasantly crowded small bar with some good beers on offer and a vegan buffet. Since it was the first food since breakfast we were very grateful for it whatever it was.

On the way there Euan and I were buttonholed by a camera crew for an interview which you can see on facebook (you might possibly be able to see it without having to log in). Many folk had come and asked us about the Climate Vision hiviz we were wearing during the day.

Many interesting conversations at the Global Greens event, I remember talking to a young Brazilian working on a program to engage young people specifically in a similar way to Climate Vision footsteps and turn them from apathists to activists. Stupidly I have mislaid the web details he gave me, if I find them they’ll be posted here.

After a while the need to get out of our cycling gear and get to the digs before we had too much beer to navigate tore us away. We are staying in a third floor attic apartment in an old building above a pedestrianised shopping street right in the centre of Bonn. A bit like every grotty spartan student flat you lived in in your youth. The shower is in the kitchen which is tiny, the loo is outside the main door on the other side of the stairwell with a sloping ceiling giving room to stand if you are less than 6ft tall, and if you sit your knees prevent you from closing the door. The floors of painted bare rough boards and stairs all creak mightily when you walk on them, some power sockets are burnt out. But it is warm and tolerably comfortable, and very good location. There is even a nice dungeon for the donkeys.

Anyway after changing we headed out as it seemed a little early for bed. A nearby bar next to the Beethoven museum provided a base, and eventually we managed to work out how to order after sitting at the bar being ignored for some time. Choosing from the beer menu and not wanting a wheat beer I decided to try something called a Radler. Turns out this is the german for lemonade shandy – doh 🙄. Apparently it is also known as a cyclist, so at least that was appropriate.

Being still slightly peckish Euan and I each ordered a soup, which was delivered as a loaf of soup:

Actually it was delicious and just what was needed. I finished it and then found myself falling asleep on the table, so time to split and make it back to the pad where we promptly crashed out and didn’t stir till 10:00 the next day. I guess we were a bit knackered after the week’s exertions…

So I’m afraid I didn’t get up in time to get to the station for 7am to join the Ende Gelande action to shut down a giant open cast coal mine about an hour train ride away. It was very successful with several thousand people breaking in to the mine site and stopping operations for a day. They were led by the Pacific Climate Warriors from island states most directly threatened by rising sea levels. Fiji is the host nation for the COP23 – it is held here as the logistics and carbon cost of getting several thousands of scientists and bureaucrats to the middle of the Pacific are nightmarish. Any we had refused to Pedalo the Pacific, so it had to be in Europe.

The Market Square in Bonn in front of the Rathaus (town hall) was filled with stalls selling street food from around the world and information stalls about various green initiatives in the city. There was a small stage and we arrived in time to see the Fijian dancers and chorus perform – the warriors were away at the End Coal action.

Our donkeys lined up in front of stage as Ulrich prepares to speak to a crowd sheltering in the gazebos around the square

We lunched on street food then in the afternoon the rain started again (it had rained in the night) just before Ulrich was due to introduce us from the stage. After a delay until the rain subsided he said some kind words about our trip (and others) and gave a callout to ClimateVision and the footsteps program.

We put the donkeys back in the dungeon, and Ewan went off to collect his NGO pass for the main conference. In the early evening we were back together in a bar where Ewan had bumped in to Silas Birtwistle a sculptor from Bruton, Ewan’s home, who was here delivering an extraordinary kinetic sculpture he had been commissioned to produce for COP23 by UN IFAD (international fund for agriculture development; helping small farmers from undeveloped countries tap in to organic markets – a mission statement that begs a lot of questions).

Suddenly two men in bright yellow tops emblazoned with words like “velo, tanden, Grenoble, Bonn, COP23” wandered in. Olivier and Thierry had literally just arrived having ridden their tandem from Grenoble through the Swiss Alps, some 900+ km horizontally and several thousand vertically in 8 days. Respect! We are outclassed. They had also ridden to Paris in 2015 and much franglais comparing of notes ensued. The more beer the better we each understood what we ourselves were saying, even if perhaps the less of what the other one said. Olivier also runs marathons in between…

Throughout the day various casual conversations, enquiries and photos. I’m getting an impression here of two things moving on from Paris. One is greater interest and engagement by people in general with climate issues. The system may be in denial, but people are moving on. Soon they will get angry and then true revolutionary potential develops.

Secondly I have the feeling that a new generation is finally awakening to pick up the torch of ecological concern. In Paris the meetings and gatherings I attended were often dominated by people my age. Now the old farts are finally being displaced by a new generation of younger activists. They will do things their own way, but at least they are now becoming more evident.