As Part of the Gallatin Global Fellowship in Urban Practice, I Spent the Summer in Berlin, Germany Researching the Intersectionality Between Religion, Environmentalism, and National Identiy

Examining environmentalism in Germany necessitates exploring identities at multiple levels. Dominant political, religious, and social views on German environmentalism align closely with each other, and are often juxtaposed against the ideology of minority citizens, those who live in Germany but have identities that fall outside of the principal characteristics of the nation. This dichotomy between the dogma of the native German and the cultural “other,” in this case Germany’s Turkish migrants, is, in many ways, imagined, but has real implications on the relationship between both groups. I am interested in understanding whether Germany’s environmental policy, which can appear to have only secular underpinnings because it is state-sponsored, can be traced to Christian tradition. My research suggests that it is. Further, I am interested in learning if this Christian-influenced environmental policy – by default – excludes other kinds of environmental practices, such as those practiced by German’s Turkish minority, which is mostly Muslim. My research suggests that it does. As a young person of color from the United States, I’m especially interested in understanding marginalization around the world. As an environmentalist, I wonder how to mobilize more communities to become more conscious of their impact on the earth. Despite not speaking German, and the fact that I left with more questions than answers, my summer in Berlin significantly enriched my understanding of the intersections between religion, environmentalism, and national identity.

My interest in studying how environmentalism, national identity, and religion intersected in Berlin came from a curiosity over what essential Germanity is, and who lives in Berlin. The average American millennial’s perception of Germany is wrought with notions of ethnic and religious persecution, but there is more to Berlin than these moments in history, no matter how significant. Better understanding the plight of Muslim Turks in Berlin has complicated my preconceived notions of assimilation, and inspired more thought on what it means to be an insider, or outsider, in a nation. This is especially salient with Germany in the midst of a refugee crisis; with over 1.1 Million immigrants from throughout the Middle East and North Africa, Merkel’s government now must incorporate its newly arrived folk into its existing citizenry. With anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim, sentiment growing month-by-month, will these refugees face the same barriers to integration as their Turkish predecessors?