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The roots of green activism

world Updated: Jun 08, 2007 16:08 IST

Hindustan Times
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Moving in Berlin, with plenty of city forests sandwiched between modern high-rises and 19th century architectural elegance, and smelling the clean air, it is difficult to believe that climate change and global warming are taking up the attention of the world's most powerful leaders meeting not so far away at Heiligendamm, the Baltic resort famously patronised by Europe's elite of yore.

Morning walkers here can hope to stumble on rabbits and wild boars, say eyewitnesses and tourist guides. But that perhaps also explains why German Chancellor Angela Merkel is keen to reduce greenhouse gases. She is, after all, a part of the culture that knows how to mix the modern good life with green concerns.

Onward protesters, wayward sailors

Anti-globalisation protesters, thousands of them, clashed with glass-shield-bearing police today near Rostock, the place which has become the rallying point of protests against G-8 leaders. Rostock has an organised camp for campaigners against globalisation, industrialisation and poverty who are targeting the leaders to stop them on their tracks or change their minds. Picking up the pieces from protesters who paralyzed a World Trade Organizaton meeting in 1999 at Seattle, and then in other places, including the World Economic Forum in Davos, these protesters have become part of global jamborees as counter-points to the rich and the powerful.

A friend writes in to say that Rostock has its Indian connection, of the dubious variety, dating back to the Cold War days. It seems in the 1970s, there were a lot of Indian sailors around Rostock. "Women in Rostock and Wismar really wanted to get out of East Germany and getting on with Indian seafarers was one route to that," he says. The result, we are told, could be found in brown-coloured babies and abandoned mothers.

Cold War and Starbucks

It really feels like Cold War days again in some ways. We are in Berlin, close to the demolished wall that symbolised the divide between the Soviet bloc and the West.

Russian president Vladimir Putin stirred up the G8 ahead of the summit by protesting against a US plan to deploy missiles in the Czech republic and Poland. Call it Cold War nostalgia or Russian nationalism, Putin rang out words that seemed to remind the world that the end of ideological clashes do not guarantee western peace. The two leaders have not yet met at the G8 summit at the time of writing. However, Bush moved in to cool Russian tempers, given that global concerns have shifted focus from red to green issues.

While at that, the red-hued McDonald's logo may have been replaced by green-hued Starbucks as the new icon of American capitalism and globalisation. A chalk piece drawing of a human being adorns a downtown Berlin street in front of a Starbucks outlet, and inside the sketch, graffiti says: "Killed by free trade!"