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Ecologies of Socialisms

Germany, Nature, and the Left in History, Politics, and Culture

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Edited By Sabine Mödersheim, Scott Moranda and Eli Rubin

This volume explores the complex webs of interaction between the environmental movement, socialism, and the «natural» environment in Germany, and beyond, in the twentieth century. There has long been a divide between the environmental, or «green,» movement and socialist movements in Germany, a divide that has expressed itself in scholarship and intellectual discourse. And yet, upon closer inspection, the split between «red» and «green» is not as clear as it might at first seem. Indeed, little about the interaction between socialism and environmentalism, or socialism and the environment, fits into a neat binary. In a way, the discourses, positions, and policies
that structure the interactions between environmentalism, nature, and socialism in German history and culture can be said to constitute a kind of ecology – a complex and interdependent web of relations, which can appear as antagonisms, but which can also contain deeper, less immediately visible, interdependencies. Ecologies of Socialisms attempts to combine the work of scholars from a wide range of disciplines (history, literature, German/Austrian studies, philosophy, geography) in order to contribute to a better and more nuanced understanding of how «green» and «red» have clashed and also merged in German history and culture.
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Counterworlds: The Pioneers of Nature Conservation and Life Reform in East Germany (Astrid Mignon Kirchhof)

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Astrid Mignon Kirchhof

Counterworlds: The Pioneers of Nature Conservation and Life Reform in East Germany

Introduction

Erna and Kurt Kretschmann can be considered the pioneers of nature conservation in East Germany and held various honorary positions in official nature conservation structures. However, after 1960 they largely removed themselves from involvement in official structures and built a nature center called Haus der Naturpflege [House of Nature Care] on a leased parcel of land in Bad Freienwalde (in the federal state Brandenburg, in the northeast of the country). Here they were able to lead lives of material self-sufficiency; in addition, they organized a public nature and cultural center. For several decades they hosted guests from all over Europe with whom they exchanged ideas about nature conservation and built up networks. With a philosophy of life that built on the ideals of the Lebensreform [Life Reform]1 movement of the nineteenth century, the Kretschmanns created a counterworld2←81 | 82→ that was in noticeable contrast to the lifestyle promoted by the Socialist Unity Party. This counterworldly sphere of activity, in which values and ideals could be negotiated and passed on to others, was based on a collective conviction that nature and environmental protection were vitally necessary and that a life in harmony with nature was both possible and essential. Erna and Kurt Kretschmann adhered to a Life Reform-inspired worldview centered on the individual and the individual’s freedoms. They believed that individual-led reform was more effective than state-led reform...

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