Bike excursion adventure vol. 5 – Free time also requires collective action


Collective action in rafting (©Camey)

Our master students participated in a bike excursion on July 1st – 6th 2019 as part of the module “Organization and Management Systems”. Along a track of about 220 km by the Neiße river at the border between Germany and Poland, various forests and forest organizations were visited. The blog post series, written by the students, reflect the impression and lessons learned.

On the third day of the excursion, after a long day of biking, learning, and slightly getting lost, we were more than ready to relax on the rafting expedition along the Neiße. Little did we know that it involved a little more than just relaxing and refreshing. As soon as the rafts became waterborne, we lost it, literally.

The place is located in the middle of Kulturinsel (Zentendorf), which is a magical place full of art, creativity, handwork and community. From Kulturinsel we paddled to Rothenburg. At the beginning, rather than a relaxing ride downstream the Neiße, most teams were moving in circles, hitting the river bank, and struggling to paddle downstream. Some teams figured it out after switching paddlers and others by using a military-like format to coordinate paddling among team members.

We definitely enjoyed the adventure of gaining control over the raft! While chatting on the boats, we thought of possible analogies between rafting and forestry. The first analogy was rather obvious. After hearing the term “collective action” throughout the lectures, we finally experienced its unfolding. Significant team work and collective action was needed in the teams to be able to avoid snags, ride over the river and row over the dam. Like rafting down the Neiße, to steer the ‘forestry raft’ in the right direction collective action between all stakeholders is necessary. Foresters cannot be deemed as the ultimate custodians of a forest’s well-being; input from the public and private economic, social, environmental sector is necessary.

Neiße River_Camey

Neiße River (©Camey)

The term “forestry” often invokes an image of trees, chainsaws and sawmills. Essential to their wellbeing is the need of forests to be recognized as a multiple use ecosystem. Beyond lignin and carbon stocks, a forest has cultural, regulating and supporting services which are essential for human wellbeing. The protection of the Neiße’s head waters permits the generation of electricity and allows downstream communities to have water security. Past economic interests, the Neiße is an important recreation hub for locals and visiting families. Not to mention the scenic riparian forests enjoyable by biking.


Idyllic Martinshof (©Toledo)

Finally, after 45 km of cycling and 2 hours of rafting, our final destination was the Martinshof Diakoniewerk, where we stayed for two days. Martinshof is located in Görlitz at the northeast Saxony on the German-Polish border. In the soundings is possible to find fields of barley and connection roads with some trees in the side that share some fresh shadows to the bike riders.


It was a nice surprise to find that the place was run by the Diakonie St. Martin for more than 120 years ago. Martinshof main activity is supporting people that need a special attention. Which friendly receive us; for some of us we have haven’t felt that warm welcome on a long time. Some thought of the visit: not only collective action, but inclusiveness is also in our human nature.

We were delighted to have delicious international menu for the two days: We shared Mexican breakfast the first day and Ethiopian coffee with Ethiopian firfir the next morning. For the first evening we share a Suriname bean soup and for the last night we had a delicious barbecue plus Korean buffet to celebrate our classmate’s (Morena from Suriname) birthday. Such international cuisines would not have been possible unless we worked together: collective action!

By Salvador Mesh, Norma Pedroza and Lucia Toledo

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