“Bits & Bäume” (German for “Bits & Trees”) is currently the leading movement for sustainable digitalisation in Germany. It consists of 13 NGOs from the fields of environmental and climate protection, digital policy, development policy and science, as well as a growing “B&B” community.
"Bits & Bäume" is currently the leading movement for sustainable digitalisation in Germany. It originates from the first "Bits & Bäume" conference in 2018, which Germanwatch organised alongside with nine other civil society organisations involved in network, environmental, and development policy.
Numerous organisations, activists, and speakers helped shape the programme and shared their insights regarding sustainable and future-proof digitalisation. The conference encompassed nearly 200 contributions and attracted around 2,000 participants. Video recordings of the contributions reached almost 18,000 views. This was the first time that civil society organisations involved in digitalisation and those involved in sustainability cooperated on such a large scale. Today, the "Bits & Bäume" movement also consists of a large online community and regional subgroups in eight major cities/regions which organise their own events, meet for round tables, and engage in a great variety of activities to promote sustainable digitalisation.
In association with twelve other NGOs, Germanwatch organised a second large-scale conference: "Bits & Bäume 2022" started with a kick-off event taking place on 30th of September 2022. During the following two days, more than 2500 people participated in a variety of discussions, workshops and other events at the Technische Universität Berlin.
The conference provided great networking opportunities for environmental and social justice activists, technology experts, and human rights advocates. This includes networking with representatives of small socio-ecologically responsible digital companies as well as with politicians in order to find tangible solutions for the most pressing issues of our time. The goal was to encourage economic and political actors to collaborate with civil society actors in shaping a sustainable digitalisation!
In the run-up to the conference, the 13 NGOs organising the "Bits & Bäume 2022" have published more than 60 political demands, addressing the German Government, the European Union and political decision-makers worldwide. These political demands point out concrete ways in which digitalisation can and must be put more at the service of society and socio-ecological change. The vision: a future in which digital technologies protect people and their rights, livelihoods and the environment.
At the conference, the 2.500 participants and experts discussed major political strategies and specific policy recommendations to enable a sustainable digitalisation. More than 200 workshops and lectures gave insights into fields like Open Data, the Repair movement or digital colonialism. In the „Bits & Bäume“ Forum, more than 30 initiatives and organisations that advocate sustainable digitalisation presented themselves. As part of the special format „Pitch & Thrive for Sustainability“, 14 start-ups and small enterprises presented their sustainable digital business models. 500 volunteers supported the realisation of the conference. People who were interested in the conference but did not have the possibility to be at the Technische Universität Berlin could follow the lectures and workshops through a livestream. The videos are still publicly available. .
The full programme of the conference is available here >>>
The more than 130 streamed events are avalaible here >>>
Can’t get enough of “Bits & Bäume”? Then join your regional “Bits & Bäume” group or start one yourself. More information can be found here >>>
The work of Germanwatch and the "Forum InformatikerInnen für Frieden und gesellschaftliche Verantwortung" (FIfF) in the context of the “Bits & Bäume “ Conference 2022 is mainly financially supported by Stiftung Mercator.
Stiftung Mercator is a private, independent foundation that acts on the basis of scientific expertise and practical project experience. Through its work, it strives for a society characterized by openness to the world, solidarity and equal opportunities. To achieve these objectives, it supports and develops projects that improve participation and cohesion in an increasingly diverse society. Stiftung Mercator wants to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in Europe, address the impact of digitization on democracy and society, and drive forward climate change mitigation. Stiftung Mercator pursues activities in Germany, Europe and worldwide. It has a particular affinity with the Ruhr area, the home of its founding family and of the foundation’s headquarters.
The "Bits & Bäume" Conference 2022 - What was it about? ▼ The “Bits & Bäume” Conference 2022 – What was it about? ▲
“The bits must not cost us the trees.”
This demand brought around 2,500 participants to the conference on digitalisation and sustainability in Berlin. The conference’s message: In times of climate, energy and governmental confidence crises, digital technologies must above all serve the socio-ecological transformation, and should not fuel the crises by exploding energy demand and resource consumption and increasing surveillance. Furthermore, the organizers of "Bits & Bäume 2022" call for greater involvement of environmental and network policy actors in developing a political framework for sustainable digitalisation.
The "Bits & Bäume" Conference 2022 took place from 30th of September to 2nd of October 2022 at the TU Berlin succeeding the successful first "Bits & Bäume" Conference in 2018. In more than 200 different workshops and lectures, the conference visitors discussed, conceptualised, dreamed and debated about utopias. Topics included climate-neutral digital infrastructures, open data, platform regulation, data trade and digital colonialism. In addition, representatives of the conference engaged with politicians and business leaders to discuss what steps are needed now to create a sustainable future for all.
The networking opportunities were diverse: More than 30 initiatives and organisations advocating for a sustainable digitalisation presented themselves in the "Bits & Bäume" forum. In the special format "Pitch & Thrive for Sustainability", start-ups and small enterprises were able to present their sustainable digital business models and ideas and develop them further in critical dialogue with a jury of experts.
In addition, there was free childcare, a donation-based lunch and dinner, and a colourful cultural evening and supporting programme with various DJs, a silent cinema, as well as theatre and live music performances.
Click here for the video recordings of the conference.
Click here for the liveblog of the conference.
„Bits & Bäume“ 2022 was cooperatively organised by the following organisations:
Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND), Brot für die Welt, Chaos Computer Club (CCC), Deutscher Naturschutzring (DNR), Einstein Centre Digital Future / Technische Universität Berlin, Forum InformatikerInnen für Frieden und gesellschaftliche Verantwortung e. V. (FIfF), Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), Germanwatch e.V., Institut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung (IÖW), Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie, Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland e. V. (OKF), Weizenbaum Institut e.V.
The conference was financially supported by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU) and co-financed by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV). The work of Germanwatch and the Forum InformatikerInnen für Frieden und gesellschaftliche Verantwortung (FIfF) in the context of the “Bits & Bäume “ Conference 2022 is mainly sponsored by Stiftung Mercator.
How was the "Bits & Bäume" Conference 2022 organised? ▼ What will the organisation of the "Bits & Bäume" Conference 2022 be like?▲
Open, participatory, voluntary!
In order to distribute specific tasks as efficiently as possible amongst the many involved parties, the panel of supporters (Trägerkreis, TK) of the conference has developed a specific organisational model (Orgamodell). It is based on a division of the operational work between different working groups and the coordination of this work by a conference office (KB).
Members of the TK, the KB and volunteers from the Bits & Bäume community participated in the working groups. Everyone involved in working groups or in the KB acted as the “Orgakreis” and met regularly in a plenum to keep each other up-to-date and make larger operational decisions together. The TK set the framework for the work of the Orgakreis by way of guidelines and assignments. To assist the organisation of the conference, the TK has met regularly with the KB.
This model made it possible for many volunteers (both from the organisations of the TK and other interested parties, for example from the growing Bits & Bäume community) to participate in organising the conference. The lessons learned from the implementation of the Orgamodell in the conference organisation are currently being evaluated.
How are we implementing sustainability in the organisation of the conference? ▼ How are we implementing sustainability in the organisation of the conference?▲
We like to live what we demand. That is why we have set ourselves the goal of implementing our conference in a sustainable way. In this sense, the implementation of the conference was also used to present already established approaches of sustainable conference organisation. These include, among other things:
- ecologically sustainable, vegan-vegetarian catering
- the distribution of reusable bottles and the provision of tap water dispensers
- consistent waste separation
- borrowing of digital technology instead of purchasing expensive new items
- the use of free and open software during the preparation of the conference
- avoiding air travel within Germany
- actively encouraging international guests to travel by train
- energy-efficient use of spaces
- ecologically certified printing materials
We were already able to test and document how to organise the technological aspects of the conference successfully during the first edition of “Bits and Bäume” in 2018. This included using communication tools such as emails from the provider Posteo, who pursues a sustainable business model, applications for collaborative work such as Nextcloud, and taking into account sustainable website development and hosting as well as publishing under commons licenses. The collected recommendations can be found here. The experiences from the 2022 conference organisation are currently being evaluated and will be published on the "Bits & Bäume" website in a timely manner.
What role does Germanwatch play in "Bits & Bäume"? ▼ What role does Germanwatch play in "Bits & Bäume"? ▲
It has long been clear to us at Germanwatch that unchecked digitalisation with its high consumption of resources and its impact on democracy, poses a threat to people and the environment. At the same time, some of our goals, such as the provision of 100% renewable energy, can only be achieved with the help of digital technologies. Therefore, the big issues of sustainability and digitalisation had to be conceptualised together.
Consequently, we have been working on the topic of „Future-proof Digitalisation“ since 2016. In 2018, Germanwatch launched the "Bits & Bäume" movement alongside with nine NGOs involved in sustainability and digitalisation topics. Germanwatch was also playing a key role in shaping the "Bits & Bäume 2022" conference.
However, we are involved in much more than just organising the conference: you can find an overview of our commitment to sustainable digitalisation here.
Stiftung Mercator is the main supporter of Germanwatch’s work in the context of the “Bits & Bäume 2022” conference.
What was the first „Bits & Bäume“ Conference 2018 about? ▼ What was the first „Bits & Bäume“ Conference 2018 about? ▲
Networking and discussing!
At the beginning of 2018, seven NGOs from the field of sustainability and three civil society organisations from the field of network policy came together to organise a large-scale conference called "Bits & Bäume". The main topics were the material basis of digitalisation, environmental and network policy, digital infrastructures, and fundamental issues, such as the functioning of democratic societies in the digital age.
The two-day conference, which took place at the Technical University (TU) Berlin on 17 and 18 November, attracted around 2,000 participants, encompassed nearly 200 contributions, and generated over 17,000 views of the video recordings. It offered events on five stages, eleven additional rooms, more than 120 international panels, hands-on workshops, and a philosophical parlour. In addition, there were artistic performances, meeting spaces, interactive exhibition formats, and an evening and framework programme with concerts and aperitifs.>
The conference created a common understanding of how digitalisation can be designed to contribute to the welfare of the community and peace, take data protection seriously, and promote social and ecological goals equally.
At the "Bits & Bäume" conference in 2018, the panel of supporters developed eleven political demands to push for necessary changes. The demands cover the following topics:
- Socio-ecological objectives for shaping digitalisation
- Data protection and control of monopolies
- Developmental and trade-related policy aspects
- IT security
- Longevity of software and hardware
The Book "Was Bits und Bäume verbindet"
As a follow-up to the conference, the book "Was Bits und Bäume verbindet" (“What connects Bits and Trees”) was published in 2019. The book collects debate contributions from the first "Bits & Bäume" conference and develops them further. In doing so, it compiles diverse perspectives on our digital future. Among others, the contributions highlight the effects of our digital consumption on the Global South, the sustainable use of data, and the risks and potentials of a digitalised economic system.
The focus is always on the pressing question: What kind of digitalisation do we strive for? The variety of answers to this question makes it clear that sustainable digitalisation must be oriented less towards the interests of individual economic stakeholders and more towards the common welfare. These issues are coherent with the eleven demands developed by the alliance of the ten organisations behind the "Bits & Bäume" conference in 2018. They include democracy, data protection, the right to repair, and fair trade, for example. You can download the book for free by accessing this link .
The „Bits & Bäume“ Conference 2018 was organised by:
Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND), Brot für die Welt, Chaos Computer Club (CCC), Deutscher Naturschutzring (DNR), Technische Universität Berlin, Forum InformatikerInnen für Frieden und gesellschaftliche Verantwortung e. V. (FIfF), Germanwatch e.V., Institut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung (IÖW), Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie, Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland e. V. (OKF)
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