Dannenröder Forst- resistance against highway A49

We’re heading towards the forest on a muddy path. Four people, making their way through the quiet forest, carrying a wooden palette between us. Our destination is the marked-out route of the new highway A49. As we are walking, the dense forest suddenly opens up and a giant gap can be seen, where the clearing has already begun. As far as your eyes can see, there is nothing but cut down tree trunks, fallen leaves, branches and broken remains of the protests that have been fought there. We are walking away from the graveyard-like place towards the trees that are next on the route. One of us climbs up one of the trees using two loops around the tree which he strains alternately. As soon as a sufficient hight is reached he pulls up the wooden palette und ties it around the tree with some ropes to create a small platform. It’s around six o’clock in the morning as we are leaving the forest. Another group of activists passes us. They will now climb the trees and platforms such as the one we just hung up. They will wait for the police who will arrive between seven and eight o’clock and evacuate the activists from the trees. What’s the purpose of it all? To win time. Time for a forest that can only be cut down as long as there are no people occupying its trees. Time for a forest whose days are already counted.

The clearing of Dannenröder Forst started in October 2020. The forest needed to go since the space is needed for a giant car infrastructure project: the new highway A49. Ever since the decision was made many protestors got loud. Demonstrations and legal campaigns took place, but all that didn’t help to change the situation and people started to occupy the forest. They build tree houses, planned, and organized legal protest camps next to the forest and contributed their whole life to the project. But why are so many people giving up their lives and luxuries of their regular routine to move into a forest in the middle of winter?

Dannenröder Forst is a healthy mixed woodland, some of its trees being up to 300 years old. Nowadays this is not a common thing and together with the huge area it covers, it is very important for plants and animals. That is also why it is classified as a nature reserve. Through its massive size it is home to complex ecosystems, which will be destroyed if the forest is cut in half by a massive highway. Furthermore, the forest is located on a water protection area. The ground water beneath it provides thousands of people with clean drinking water. However, the water will get polluted when the forest is gone or through the building and even more so the usage of the new highway.

In the end the whole project shows us how we keep destroying natural habitats even in such dire times. It is no secret anymore that the climate crisis will become a huge problem even for western countries- and yet our government decided to sacrifice a forest that was able to store CO2, for an outdated piece of infrastructure, that produces further CO2.

The last tree of the main clearing in Dannenröder Forst fell on December 8th, 2020. Some people were aghast, some outraged, some were weeping. As the last tree house falls so do their hopes for a better future.

Author: Linda Ruchti

Quidditch in Real-life?

Augsburg Owls and the Bavarian League

Quidditch is a fast-paced and full-contact sport that combines elements of handball, rugby, dodgeball and flag football. A quidditch cadre can contain up to 21 players. 7 athletes per team are on the field at any one time. It is played in coed teams with nor more than three players of the same gender on the pitch during play.

In 2005, it made its way into the real world when students in Middlebury, USA, found a way to adapt the sport from the Harry Potter universe to a world without flying brooms then, both the sport itself and its community are growing tremendously.

Quidditch in Germany and Augsburg

In Germany, the sport has become increasingly popular as well, especially in recent years. There are over 40 teams registered with the German Quidditch Association (Deutscher Quidditch Bund) or in development. The local team in Augsburg is called Augsburg Owls. The team was founded in 2015 and remains Augsburg’s first and only Quidditch team to this day. Besides taking part in the annual Bavarian League, which is one of the six leagues throughout Germany, the greatest success of the team has been the qualification for the European Quidditch Cup 2020, which was postponed due to the Covid Pandemic and is expected to take place in Limerick, Ireland in 2022. Furthermore, the team managed to win the Bavarian Cup, which was first held last month.

© Anja Volkwein

How to participate

For interested and curious students, the Owls offer a starter course within the sports program of the University of Augsburg. Additionally, so-called “Newbie trainings” take place regularly at their home club FC Haunstetten. So, if you want to discover the sporting world of Harry Potter beyond the books and movies, check it out and have a try at handling quaffles, bludgers and brooms. Your real-life Quidditch experience is closer than you might think.

Author: Anja Volkwein

An abundance of food squandered

How individuals can fight food waste with Foodsharing

It happens to all of us. Whether we bought too much stuff and can’t eat it all before it goes bad or trying out that new dish that turns out to taste awful. We all throw out an unnecessarily high amount of food.

Some data upfront

Worldwide, a third of all edible food products ends up in the trash, around 1.3 billion tons every year(1). Here in Germany, it’s 18 million tons a year(2). A study estimated that, on average, around 527 kcal per capita are wasted each day (3), which translates to an additional 2 billion people that could be fed. I know what you’re thinking, how on earth are we even able to squander this much?

Reasons for wasting edible food

A huge chunk of crops doesn’t even make its way to the stores because it is sorted out for not living up to the strict standards that supermarkets have. That means, a ton of food is left to rot because the average Joe isn’t buying that apple with some brown spots on it. On their way onto the shelves, food products suffer from exposure to weather and delivery conditions. And since Joe wants the cheap apples from Spain and not the locally grown ones that cost more, they have to be brought all the way here, so some are bound to get damaged in the process. And finally, supermarkets must throw out products that are past their expiry date, therefore Beverages, dairy products, canned goods and stuff like rice and pasta that are perfectly fine to eat land in the trash container. It goes without saying that one individual cannot stop this deep-rooted problem and save us from this food waste mess – but what can you actually do to help, besides the obvious don’t throw away so much?

Foodsharing as an option to save edible food

There is this awesome internet platform called Foodsharing that set itself the goal to end food waste in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. 200,000 registered users contribute to the fight, and an estimated 7.8 million kilograms of food has been saved by the initiative already(4). So how does it work? Various supermarkets and bakeries that are part of the program give away edible goods to verified ‘Foodsavers’. To become one, you simply need to pass a test proving that you understand the dos and don’ts and you’re good to go. What’s making this whole thing even more attractive, especially to students or people in need, is that you save a lot of money in the process. You get to enjoy delicious food that you saved from landing in the trash and cut down your expenses on food, so that’s definitely a win-win in my book. I hope that I managed to generate some interest for this whole thing and maybe you will start saving food yourself. Together we can do something against this massive problem!

Author: Steven Degenkolbe

  • https://www.savefood.org/en/Projects/Studies/Global_food_losses_and_food_waste#:~:text=Roughly%20one%20third%20of%20the,Africa%20(230%20million%20tonnes).
  • https://www.wwf.de/themenprojekte/landwirtschaft/ernaehrungkonsum/lebensmittelverschwendung/dasgrossewegschmeissen#:~:text=Laut%20der%20WWF%20Studie%20%E2%80%9EDas,von%2054%2C5%20Millionen%20Tonnen.
  • https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/food-wine/twice-as-much-food-being-wasted-globally-as-thought-study-6272249/
  • https://foodsharing.de/ueber-uns

Who’s the cats that won’t cop out?

And who’s calling out cops over catcalls?

Augsburg’s kind of a small, quiet city – if you’re going to call it a city at all. Not the place you’d think globally received activism is happening. So when a local Instagram blog somewhere in the 500-like margin suddenly receives over 10,000 upvotes for a single post, is endorsed by a New York-based blog with almost 200,000 followers and reported on by the Süddeutsche, you know things are either going exceptionally well – or shit’s hit the fan.

Sorry, I live behind the moon. Come again?

We’re pretty sure you already have some basic idea of the issues we’re going to address in this article – and if you don’t, you might want to take a closer look at your social media habits. But let’s recap, shall we? Last Wednesday, December 09th 2020, a new post was uploaded to the Augsburg-based Instagram blog @catcallsofsaugsburg. As per usual, the photo showed a catcall, an unwanted sexual statement experienced by a woman. The perpetrator’s exact words had been written on the ground in chalk in the exact place where the catcall had happened – at a very central location, the Rathausplatz – by the activists behind @catcallsofaugsburg to raise awareness. They’ve been doing this for a while now, so what’s new? Well, as followers were informed in the caption, several police officers and fire fighters came up to the scene with a fire truck shortly after the writing had been created and flushed the whole thing away with a fire hose.

So what’s catcalling?

Catcalls entail sexually charged comments, loud whistles, or inappropriate touching, usually performed by men on passing women, (supposedly) gay men or trans people. They may be paired with discrimination of people with disabilities or – as was the case in our example – POC (People of Color), among other groups. The question why far too many men engage in this heavy-handed behavior comes up a lot. Now, there are a range of explanations: on the one hand, toxic masculinity still has a huge impact on our society and seems to lead men to all kinds of inappropriate behavior, even against better knowledge. On the other hand, women are still being sexually objectified to the point where catcalling is received as some sort of twisted compliment by some: “Don’t make such a fuss and be happy about it,” victims are often told. Er, no. Street harassment is everything but a compliment. A compliment is an expression of respect and affection.

Catcalling, on the other hand, is harassment that can instill fear. Some victims suffer long-lasting psychological wounds from it. It is a severe humiliation which imposes male dominance and superiority over women and minorities, often intended to make the victim feel powerless and out of control. Catcalling is a global problem; that’s why @catcallsofxyz blogs were created, a social feminist movement that originated in New York City and has spread from there to many cities around the world. By chalking up all the rude and inappropriate comments and incidents on the street these blogs provide a platform to those who are affected by street harassment – and initiate public debate.

Take this as the trigger warning of the century – it’s getting ugly!

There had been another, earlier post published on @catcallsofaugsburg two days before – i.e. on Monday, December 7th. It showed the fire truck in action and was followed by a few paragraphs of explanatory text in the description. Apparently, passers-by had called the police because the writing was irritating them. Now, it did include some very nasty words, was evidently sexist and even contained a racial slur. However, judging from the actual photo that was uploaded two days later, the purpose should have been more than obvious all along. The writing included an anti-racist hashtag, the name of the blog and a huge trigger warning at a very prominent position. The word fuck and the n-word were both censored, using asterisks. Evidently not the kind of lengths you’d go to if you were just a sexist Neo-Nazi trying to make people feel bad, right?

To some, it wasn’t that evident. According to @catcallsofaugsburg’s Instagram captions, a climate activist camping nearby had to inform the police about the purpose of the writing and the movement behind it. Still, they proceeded to call several colleagues and, since said activist refused to remove the writing (not sure why that should have been his job in the first place), the firefighters. So far, so exaggerated. Since this kind of media attention can be very uncomfortable even to an anonymous victim and create further trauma, @catcallsaugsburg got back to the person that had experienced the catcall and made sure they still wanted it published. Two days later, the actual photo was uploaded. As of now, both posts have been liked several thousand times. Seems fair to say a lot of people don’t agree with the procedure, including, for instance, the slightly more popular @catcallsofnyc. So where’s the problem?

Mistakes were made…

Now, there seem to be several dimensions to this event, and it’s probably safe to say that more than a few people were implicated in one way or another. First off, there’s the passers-by. Let’s take a walk in their shoes, shall we? You’re walking past some writing on the ground, now you’re stopping to read it, oh look! Profanity, sexist language, a racial slur… Irritating for sure, we’ll give you that. But you’d probably read the whole thing, wouldn’t you? At least if you’re going to call the police over it, right? Do that, and you’ll find out: there’s a trigger warning. Words have been censored. An anti-racist hashtag has been added. An Instagram blog has been tagged. There’s zero immediate danger to you, so why not get out your phone for a bare minimum of research first, if you’re still not getting it? Same goes for the involved police officers, who had been informed about the purpose of the whole thing. It’s very clearly feminist activism; that should be easy enough to understand.

Of course, that’s the nice way of reading it, assuming there was zero bad will, only lack of information and poor judgment. But there’s another, more uncomfortable reasoning: maybe some passers-by simply couldn’t stand being confronted with the discrimination that women and POC face daily and felt they couldn’t just ignore the whole thing and move on. Maybe they didn’t like the idea of victims speaking up. Maybe cracks were starting to form in their bubble, but they wouldn’t allow it to burst. Why get informed about discrimination and, crazy suggestion, learn something from it, when you could just shoot the messenger instead? Better call the police and have them remove all traces of the traumatic event you‘ve just had to endure, right? Luckily, they’re ready to help.

… followed by more mistakes…

And then, of course, what’s up with three police cars and a fire truck? If you’re just going to remove chalk – crazy suggestion: use a bucket of water, not a fire truck. Literal kids use these things on asphalt or concrete, and they’re gone with the first drop of rain. So are we talking about a waste of taxpayers’ money? Yeah, but there’s also the attention a fire truck in front of the town hall’s going to create – meaning there’s the danger of attracting additional bystanders, apart from the overly large number of officers and firefighters already involved in the whole affair. All of these people will end up spending an unnecessarily long time huddled together in a mask-only zone, while a pandemic’s going on. All of that, just to show some presence? Totally worth it. A victim goes through all the original trauma of an unwanted encounter, risks bringing it all up again by contacting anti-catcalling activists, tries to make a statement by sharing their story… and then, that statement’s literally going down the gutter, because some bystander who’s probably never had to endure any of this themselves is feeling uneasy. By removing the chalk, the perpetrators are not only protected; the victims are also actively deprived of their voices! What a slap in the face.

…. and they couldn’t leave it at that, either.

And here come slaps no. 2 & 3: a reply by the police and an official statement by Augsburg’s mayor Eva Weber that are visible on @catcallsofaugsburg. Now, it was to be expected a police statement would be supportive of the police, and it’s a fairly polite and informative message overall – which is precisely why the final paragraph sticks out like a sore thumb: “the incident quoted in the writing – should it actually have taken place as described – constitutes a criminal offense that we […] would like to follow up on.” What’s with the relativization? Is that some sort of police language, some (clumsy) way of avoiding a premature assignment of guilt to a suspect who’s not yet been proven guilty? As in calling someone a suspect instead culprit to make sure everybody gets a fair trial? But there’s no suspect anyway, and there’s nothing premature in saying a “quoted incident” constitutes a crime. Calling it a quoted incident already implies you’re working with what you’ve heard, really. Why be so upfront in saying there’s (major) doubts about the truthfulness of a report that was never even filed? Could that be a cover-up for the fact that hardly any catcaller is ever punished or even identified? And by the way, maybe victims would feel safer reporting offenses if you weren’t eliminating their public statements.

It’s also a crying shame that Eva Weber didn’t have in her to dissociate herself decisively and vigorously from the police’s behavior in her official statement. Instead, she only fed the press with a half-baked statement that’ll, ultimately, change nothing. She also didn’t drop a single remark about the racial slur being used, only referring to respect for women in very general terms. Unfortunately, this further proves how too many politicians and government institutions are losing their grip on our reality and the current, modern problems of our communities.

Did we mention mistakes?

What a double standard: We can protect our concrete from chalk but can’t protect victims from catcalling. We pay attention to the sensibilities of bystanders but not to victims when they speak out. What’s up with that? If we want to address this mismatch, we need social movements like catcallsofxyz! We need people to start taking the stories seriously as well as paying attention and listening to them. It goes without saying that the solution of this problem is not reinforcing public police presence or implementing short-sighted laws. The source of the problem is deeply rooted in society: the patriarchy – you knew it had to come up somewhere. We must disintegrate harmful structural and constitutional thinking patterns by developing media and public education initiatives to change attitudes and behaviors. We need to publicly demonstrate intolerance for sexual harassment of all kinds. And we shouldn’t have to waste time justifying our anger and our activism!

A huge thanks to the activists behind @catcallsofaugsburg. You really are the cats that won’t cop down. Keep up the amazing work (that we all wish you didn’t have to do)!

Authors: Niklas Schmidt & Mariana Silva Lindner

Language and Gender

How society changes language

Language plays an important role in our lives. It’s not just about communicating and interacting, but also about sending indirect messages through our chosen words. This can have challenging consequences in society regarding individual attitudes and lifestyles. In recent years there have been linguistic changes intended to make our language more inclusive. But why now?

The classic role allocation

Up to the 20th century there was a clear gender distinction in life. It was common that men provide for their families, go to work and manage the finances. Meanwhile the women stay at home to take care of the home and children. Back then, people didn’t think about changing common gendered expressions in the language they used. The words used just reflected the structure of society at the time. Terms like ‘manpower’ were clearly adequate to describe the workforce in that times, which consisted of male workers. But should we still stick to those expressions nowadays?

Language develops with culture

In modern society we’re more aware of these antiquated prejudices in general. Over the last century, awareness for equal rights of women and minorities has risen. Since our way of expression and communication reflects our mindsets and attitudes, it changes as our habits do. Why should we hold on to terms that exclude minorities, when we aim to include them in our society and fight for their equal rights? It wouldn’t make any sense to hold on to them because we don’t want to harm anybody’s feelings by using exclusive language. If we care about other people, we also have to choose our words wisely.

Cis men are still privileged

Regardless, there are still many situations where cis men are regarded as superior. The question is: does language change our society or does society change our language? We could say they influence each other. If people are not willing to adapt their attitudes towards modern movements, their language won’t either. But if we don’t become aware of the effect our way of speaking has on our habits, we won’t rethink how we’re living.

Make a change

We can see in political debates, that there are still problems and challenges in our efforts to be more inclusive. Raising awareness towards minorities and all the terms that could negatively affect others, seems very demanding and often difficult to realize. However, isn’t it better to try our hardest rather than to simply give up? Obviously, change doesn’t happen overnight, but if we keep trying we can improve our world one word at a time – for all of us.

Author: Leonie Kohl Xiques

Un’intervista con Tommaso Meozzi

To all the italians, italian students and those who are curious about this language: we’ve got a treat for you!

Do you remember eMag #34 with its main topic “language and identity”? If not, go ahead and check out the article “Le parole sono bombe”. This is the videointerview correlating to it.

KARA-UKE IS BACK!!!

Yes, you have read the headline correctly: The following isn´t about the classic karaoke, which in particular takes place in Irish Pubs after everyone had already had two Guinness. This event takes your bog-standard karaoke to the next level by adding Ukuleles into the mix and has already become the new secret tip in Augsburg: Kara-Uke.

What is Kara-Uke?

Replace the karaoke machine by motivated guests with their ukuleles, and you basically have the perfect setup for a fantastic Kara-Uke night. Join this with readable chords and lyrics projected to the wall with a projector as well as the the motivated and guitar-loving Benni, inventor and moderator of the whole, and I can promise you that you will have the perfect Kara-Uke night.

No ukulele? No problem! The more voices, the better.

The great Kara-Uke restart

At the beginning of this year, the crowd favorite Kara-Uke suffered from the Corona-lockdown just like all the other activities requiring the encounter of a group of people and had to take a compulsory break. But now that more people are finally allowed to meet again, it´s back – and it seems to not have lost its popularity at all. July is the month of the great Kara-Uke restart!

And let’s face it:  Now that you were sitting around all day, I´m sure that at least some of you have used their free time  to practice some of those instruments that have been long forgotten in the corners of your room. Put those skills to use in this event!

The number of people has to be kept limited, which is why the normally free-entry event had to “sell” tickets – and sold them out in less than 2 days. Fascinated by the success of this creative event, I got intrigued to know more about it and had to ask Benni about a few things that I was desperate to find out.

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR KARAUKE?

Benni: Actually, KaraUke wasn’t my idea. It’s an event that takes place all over the world in different countries and cities. Michael Dannhauer, Jakob Mader and I are just the guys that brought KaraUke to Augsburg.

When Michael was in Australia 6 months ago, he took part in a similar event in Brisbane, where people met in a cafe with their ukuleles. The organizers had a projector and a linen cloth set up, so people could see the songs with all the lyrics and the chords. Then everybody started to play along and sing together. It sounded so easy to me that I thought: Okay, let’s try this in Augsburg. Maybe the people here will like it as well. And they did.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT KARAUKE IS SO SUCCESSFUL AND WHAT DO THE PEOPLE VALUE ABOUT IT?

Benni: Everything about KaraUke is simple. The instrument – the ukulele – is tiny and cute, and everybody can learn it really fast. You don’t have to practice it as much as other instruments and very quickly you get a feeling of success. With 3 or 4 chords you can play almost any song throughout pop history. When people visit a KaraUke event for the first time and can’t hold up with the chord changes for example, they can also just sing along. They are happy when the C-Chord is coming over and over again and in between they pause, and have a good time singing with all the others.

It’s really exciting to see, that this little instruments brings so many different people together. No matter where you come from, how old you are, or if you have ever played music before, it doesn’t matter. KaraUke is an event for literally EVERYONE. And because it is for everyone it’s always for free. We collect donations where everybody can give as much as they want, but don’t have to.

WHAT IS PLANNED FOR THE 25.07. AND WHY SHOULD WE ALL TRY TO GET A TICKET? Benni: The next KaraUke on July 25th is the first KaraUke after the Corona-Lockdown. And it’s our first Open Air Event ever, so we are really excited about that. It takes place at the 11er Rosenau Biergarten which has a capacity of 100 people. Everybody had to get a (free) ticket because of the capacity limit. After two days we were sold out. But we are planning a few more Open Air KaraUke events this summer and even in autumn. Nobody knows how indoor events in the colder time of the year will work out, so we’re trying to get outside as much as we can. So follow us on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/KaraUkeAugsburg) , Instagram (@karauke_augsburg) or meetup and you will be updated about our upcoming events.

author: Una Kiesel