Live from the Eco-mile in Berlin

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Berliners today could live out the fantasy of a fossil-fuel free lifestyle. Sponsored by the German Bicycle Club (ADFC), the streets and highways of Berlin were closed to cars so that bicycles could converge along 17 paths from the suburbs to the center of the city. Billed as the World's largest bicycle demonstration, over 250,000 joined the "Sternfahrt" (Star Ride) in 2004, but with periodic downpours punctuating today's bike parade, the numbers in 2005 will probably top out somewhere over 100,000. Of course, unique and unusual people-powered vehicles could be spotted, including the Hase Pino, a variety of recumbent bikes and even an audio-bike-and-speaker-trailer fitted out to encourage the crowd by blasting energetic tunes. Riders converged on the "Great Star" monument where good food, interesting displays and eco-shopping awaited, sheltered under tents with varying degrees of success.

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In addition to vegan, vegatarian and organic caterers advertising their services, a number of regional organic farms were represented, offering sustenance guaranteed fresh, local and sustainably grown or raised. At 3€ for a bratwurst, the price of the fantasy was evident, but this did not dampen the mood as the crowd clustered to the eating tents for shelter from the storm as well as to assuage their hunger. And the food was certainly a key attraction: one American family wandering through the crowd admitted to happening on the eco-mile quite by accident, but reported that the display which most interested them was the curry-wurst, a typical Berlin snack; of course, the curried wursts were BIO certified.

ecomile_3.jpgIn addition to food, though, the eco-mile was rich with opportunites for TH-style shopping and green lifestyle information gathering. Locally and/or naturally crafted fashions and bags added color between the information stands of environmental organizations ranging from majors such as WWF to local clubs. Naturally, dozens of displays of unusual bicycles and bicycle gear were doing brisk business. Alternate energy displays included the small electric vehicle and 5L/day solar water distillation units pictured here as well as solar cookers, heat pumps, and windpower to fit all types of demands, including the "blo-kart" sailing go-cart.

It was a pleasure to see the famous stretch between the Golden Elsa and the Brandenburger Tor turned into an Eco-mile for one dreamy car-free day. Congratulations to the Berliners and visitors whose solidarity in spite of the weather celebrated World Environment Day 2005 with a true Berlin flair. And happy WED to the rest of you!

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