I love Eugene. Although very few people in Germany know about Eugene, I always like to visit this place. This is my fifth time in Eugene (1993, 2000, 2004, 2009 and 2010) and this visit of almost six months, will be the longest I have ever stayed. If you ask why I love Eugene, I will give you many different answers. I’ll begin by naming a few.

First, I really like the people of ELAW — they are helpful and, with an open mind, strive to connect people everywhere. They are the pinnacle of what it means to be an environmentalist.

My family and our guide on the Mckenzie River

When I came to Eugene in 1993, ELAW was just beginning. I was a young environmentalist from the former East Germany interested in public participation on environmental matters. I had no experiences with western countries abroad. During my travels, I visited a lot of organisations around the U.S. Every day, my head ached from all the new information I was receiving.  I don’t remember all of the different organisations that I visited during my four weeks in the U.S., but I am really grateful to the German Marshall Fund, who organized and financed my internship, to send me to ELAW in the small town called “Eugene.”

I remember David Atkin, an environmental lawyer and the husband of Lori Maddox, the Associate Director of ELAW. When welcoming me, David surprised me by remarking that my English was very good. Even today, I know my grammar and pronunciation is horrible, but at that moment, at the Greyhound bus station, David made me feel comfortable. I thought: When the relatives are so friendly and kind, what will all the rest of the ELAW staff be like?

My expectations did not disappoint me.  Over the years, I have met a lot of committed and friendly people from ELAW. And this is, of course, one reason I have chosen to travel to Eugene so many times.


Our son Julian, myself, my wife Birgit, and our daughter Cora at Crater Lake, just a few weeks ago

Another reason I like to be in Eugene is to see how the transition to a more environmentally-friendly world is reflected. I know I could research from home all the progress and even all the disadvantages in this wonderful town of Eugene — a city with a big scene of environmentally-friendly people. Of course, I could also see a similar transition in Berlin, where in the district that my family and I live in Berlin, more than 40 % of the inhabitants elect the green party.

But the human spirit sometimes needs to travel the distance to see what is going on up close.

On this stay, I am happy to be with my family. With my next blog post, my family and I will tell you more about why we like Eugene.

Guest blogger Michael Zschiesche
ELAW Partner since 1995
Independent Institute for Environmental Concerns (Issues), UfU
Germany (Berlin)