Class Field Trip

By Tim Nichols

We rolled out of beds and into our seats as the bus pulled away, hours before the sun thought about coming out. Our destination a mere 14 hours away, we cozied up with our neighbor and hunkered down for the Scandinavian sightseeing window tour. 18 hours later, we u-turned our coach into our parking spot and unloaded into Brussels. As if in some sort of time warp, the seventy-five travelers exited the wormhole from a side door and dropped our bags in our hostel rooms. We had arrived early enough to take a couple of hours to explore the essentials of Brussels; the architecture, the chocolate and the beer.

In the morning, the crew gathered and paraded across the city to our first stop, the European Parliament. Well-known Swedish Member of European Parliament and friend of the MSLS programme, Anders Wijkman, took time out of a busy schedule to give us an introduction to the challenges of integrating environmental considerations into EU policy.

Later in the morning, we eaves-dropped on the Parliament’s temporary committee on climate change as they discussed future policy options for the European Union. After lunch we proceeded to the European Commission where we received two interesting presentations, the first on the history of the EU and the second on the work within the EU Directorate-General for the Environment.

Next stop, a sleepy German village where we could rest our heads. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, the group found ways of entertaining ourselves well into the night and we left the next morning more cohesive than ever before, bound for the pinnacle of the excursion.

The bus pulled into a Luxembourgish industrial complex shortly after noon. ALL WE NEED, stenciled in large block letters on the side of the run-down former steel refinery, welcomed us. The large open facility echoed our amazement as we wound our way through a conceptualized exploration of fundamental human needs.

Based on the work of Chilean economist and Right Livelihood Award laureate Manfred Max-Neef, the exhibit was comprised of ten rooms: Relax (Idleness); Survive (Subsistence); Choose (Freedom); Love (Affection); Help (Protection); Belong (Identity); Understand (Understanding); Create (Creativity); Dream (Transcendence); and Stand Up (Participation). By the end of our 3 hour journey through the exhibit, our synapses flooded with beautiful sad reality, we found ourselves deeply moved, saddened, awoken, shocked and motivated. We shared our emotions and reflections on the experience in a class workshop onsite, then clambered back into our vessel and drifted on to the last destination of our trip.

In Amsterdam, we had our schedule loosed and we were free to expand our minds by exploring the city. The next day we split into two groups to meet with like-minded groups working for social change. The Kaos Pilots, a school aiming to 'train change agents and creative entrepreneurs', welcomed us and some exciting ‘Kaos’ ensued. Later, a personal contact within the group alerted us to an exciting venture unfolding just up the street and a spontaneous meeting took place at The Hub - a collaborative space intended for social, sustainable innovation. Meanwhile a fruitful meeting with the Fairfood Initiative allowed MSLS students to offer some sustainability techniques that could be incorporated into their cause. And with that the seeds of future collaboration were sown.

That evening, back on the bus, we retreated into our nests and prepared for the long bus ride home. The whirlwind tour of the European lowlands (4 countries in 6 days) left us back in the place where we started. Our minds both enlightened and exhausted, we settled on the bus with our thoughts and reflected on the experience.

 

This page featured in the Fall 2007 issue of our newsletter. To download the full newsletter click here.

 

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