Berlin Mai Fest, the Good, the Green and the Ugly

Here is a good test for whether green has really gone mainstream: just how green is Germany's famous May Day party? If you know anything about the international worker's holiday in Germany, the first color that pops into your head won't be green, but red. Green will sooner bring to mind the color of the police cars fleeing from the onslaught of rioting citizens than environmental causes. But sights like the band 12V arriving to perform in their three-man-bike-band rig, which operates on the eponymous voltage, leave hope that green is creeping in everywhere, even to a party better known for dancing in the streets until the riots start. Some reflections of green during the red holiday in Berlin, and more on 12V, can be seen overleaf.

Before the party really starts, people wander the tented tables touting various causes. Red political banners and balloons far outnumbered the green; nonetheless, the Green Party made a good showing. Children everywhere can be seen with "Green-Berlin" balloons.

In spite of pledges by local businessmen not to sell drinks in glass bottles, the streets look like an endless beer garage sale as residents take advantage of the opportunity to make some money from thirsty partyers. The green glass splintering in the streets wastes not only resouces but will play hell with bike tires for weeks to come. The best green alternatives: bring your own cup so the vendors can pour the beer and put the bottle back in the case for refund, or better yet: bring your cup to the guys on the corner tapping kegs.

A team of volunteers tried mightily to keep up with the bottles proliferating in the streets. Half a dozen volunteers could hardly make a dent against the drinkers...


Image credit: Die Welt

...and all their work was for vain in some cases, as rioters overturned the recycling igloos.

Wandering the streets of Kreuzberg, a wonderful feeling arises from the subliminal realization that the people have taken back the streets. Car-free. Oh, what horizons green city planning could offer to better the quality of life for workers everywhere! Unfortunately, the pedestrian-free zone does not reflect a green motivation: any cars left in the streets during May Day demonstrations usually end up consumed in red flames, so auto owners have assiduously cleared every parking place.

Just as hope fades of finding a truly green angle to the May Day festivities, the band 12V rounds the corner. Heads turn as the crowd attempts to understand the strange parade consisting of three men on bicycles, towing trailers which resemble a drum kit in one case, an amplifier in others. Indeed, 12V claims that the sound levels they produce cause one to suspect hidden nuclear technology. In fact, the band works at the edge of the technologically feasible. 12V has built their bike trailers to incorporate the equipment needed to produce their great sound. Green optimism is restored.

Tags: Berlin | Car-Free | Energy Efficiency