Kategorie-Archiv: ENGLISH ARTICLES

A greener future for Kazakhstan?

By Monika Griefahn

Kazakhstan hasn’t been a major focus of attention for many people across Europe. Can the EXPO that took place in Astana recently change that?

Yes, Europeans may have heard about Kazakhstan’s long-time leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, as well as the country’s political centralism. But have people across the continent also been paying attention to the EXPO 2017 that took place recently in Astana, the newly built capital in the middle of nowhere? (A city, incidentally, that doesn’t seem very environmentally friendly with its many motorways and its concrete high-rises equipped with air conditioners instead of windows.)

And in any case: what do we know about the people of Kazakhstan, apart from the fact that they have a lot of precious resources that all the world is interested in? Yet the country has a lot of interesting facets: its president, for instance, is attempting to position himself in a somewhat „neutral“ position between Russia and the other Asian powers. Young people grow up learning three different languages: Kazakh, Russian and English. The president attaches a lot of importance to the education of the country’s youth and staunchly supports the co-operation with the European Erasmus program. It provides young Kazakhs with the opportunity of attending a European university for a semester. Moreover, many people in Kazakhstan, even the younger ones, are a little worried about what might come after Nazarbayev, a man who, after all, has been in power for 26 years and is well into his 70s.

Now the country is staking new claims by hosting the EXPO 2017 Future Energy Forum, which is all about „green“ themes: the Kazakh pavilion showcased an exhibition of all forms of renewable energy, from wind, water and solar to geothermal power and biomass. (Interestingly, nuclear power is absent although it is also considered a form of renewable energy in Kazakhstan). Among the countless other pavilions there was also one featuring „best practices worldwide“ as well as an interactive German one that has been very well frequented. A lively cultural program completed the show and attracted visitors to the EXPO campus. It includes the popular DJ David Guetta, who brought out many young families with his trademark mix of electronic beats and pop music.

In addition the EXPO organisers had initiated a series of twelve conferences featuring international experts to look at topics including „energy for all“, „renewable energies and quality of life“, „technologies for de-carbonisation“ or even „international business and environmental policies“.

Those topics are no coincidence. After all, Kazakhstan has pledged to meet half of its energy demand from renewables by the year 2050. This in the face of unusual challenges – for example, it is hard to imagine that electric cars will become very popular in a region with temperatures ranging from minus 40 degrees centigrade in the wintertime to plus 40 degrees in the summer. Just think of how quickly batteries deplete in extreme temperature conditions.

I was invited to speak at one of the conferences. The idea that turned out to be the most popular – and that was even taken on by Kazakhstan’s biggest construction company for further investigation – was the concept of renting solar panels instead of buying them.

So far the solar revolution seems to stagnate because the necessary systems are too pricey for most people. With an average monthly income of the middle class – teachers, doctors and engineers – of roughly 500 US dollars the initial investment necessary for a solar energy plant is prohibitively expensive. The idea that an investor builds the systems and then rents them out is of course based on the Cradle to Cradle world of ideas and is intended to ensure that

–    the best materials are used
–    the systems do indeed last as long as the manufacturers promise
–    the raw materials can be re-purposed

After all, if the panels are returned to the manufacturers after the lease has ended, they themselves have a vested interest in using only the best materials.

A further discussion panel focused on the role that NGOs play in attempting to change politics and society. There are a number of NGOs active in Kazakhstan, and some of them have been very successful. One of the best-known groups is probably Nevada-Semipalatinsk, which brought an end to nuclear weapons testing in Semipalatinsk. However, the discussion was rendered a little theoretical by the fact that no NGOs were in attendance at the conference.

What I personally took away from my trip was the realisation that Kazakh people, and especially Kazakh women, are very inquisitive, open-minded, well educated and friendly and that they have a genuine interest in positively shaping the future. I am curious to see how the political situation will develop. Already the president’s daughter has called for the transformation of the presidential democracy into a parliamentary one.

Private or public – how should international aid be organised?

By Monika Griefahn / Picture: Mercy Ships

The Africa Mercy as the sun sets over the port of Cotonou, Benin 2017.

The main headlines about the G20 summit in the German city of Hamburg in June were about the heavy and destructive violence that was perpetrated by protesters. The fact that actual political agreements were made under the protection of a substantial security operation largely fell by the wayside. All the more reason to focus on what was actually achieved.

One example is Africa: in order to reduce social inequalities and differences in standards of living around the world the G20 member states founded an Africa partnership with the aim of enabling „sustainable and inclusive economic growth“ on the continent. The initiative is especially keen on creating humane income opportunities for women and young people. At the same time the group wants to combat poverty and inequality as the main causes behind migration. The final communiqué made reference to a „partnership at eye level“ as well as the private sector, improved opportunities for investments, sustainable infrastructure and even support in the educational sector.

So the discussion is focusing more or less on economic topics – and if one believes that investments and support for private enterprises does indeed contribute to wealth creation, that may be understandable. However, experience teaches that too often only few people benefit. The hope remains that the „sustainable economic growth“ mentioned in the final communiqué actually does refer to a form of growth that’s ecologically sound while at the same time respecting social issues such as fair wages, humane working hours and employee participation.

One issue that the final document does not mention at all is healthcare. In many African countries the provision of medical services to the population is generally of a comparably low standard – apparently the G20 intends to leave this aspect to NGOs, charities and volunteers. We can bemoan that fact, or we can act ourselves.

One project that I find remarkable in this context is Mercy Ships, an NGO that aims to improve access to basic medical care in developing countries. The Africa Mercy is a non-military hospital ship. The entire crew of over 400 people consists of volunteers. Doctors and dentists aboard the ship are able to help in emergency situations. They are also able to perform surgical procedures that aren’t available locally in the country where the ship is moored. An additional important aspect is the fact that the crew takes on volunteers with other qualifications – recently, a nautical engineer from the Costa cruise group joined up. The NGO also co-operates with government agencies in order to improve local medical systems. All this work depends on donations.

What both kinds of development aid – private as well as public – should feature in practice is the approach at eye’s level. I suppose that many developmental measures have failed in the past because they didn’t take into account local cultures, special traditions or specific behaviours. If there’s one thing we should have learned during decades of international development aid it should be to not repeat those mistakes. Every culture requires its own individual approach.

More Information about Mercy Ships

Final communiqué of the G20 summit

Study: can conservation and the energy transition co-exist?

By Petra Reinken

Windräder an der Nordseeküste
Here’s the good news: yes, we can! Christina von Haaren of the Institute of Environmental Planning at the University of Hanover and her team are currently preparing a study for the Federal Ministry of the Environment in Germany to find out whether Germany can achieve its energy transition by 2050 in a fashion that is environmentally sound. The key question is whether the goals of the electricity revolution in Germany and the principles of environmental protection can be streamlined. And indeed: shortly before the completion of the research scientists say that yes, it is possible.

However, Fritz Brickwedde from the German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE), sitting next to von Haaren during the recent presentation of the study’s preliminary results in Berlin, shook his head. Germany had long lost its status as a trailblazer in the field of renewable energies, the former secretary general of the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) said. „We are missing our goals every day because we have the wrong tax incentives.“ As an example Brickwedde cited a tax incentive the Federal government has created for oil-fired heating systems, saying: „When it comes to the energy transition, we are acting counterproductively and inconsistently.“

The general reaction from the podium to Brickwedde’s arguments was that the regulatory framework could after all be changed. Christina von Haaren for one wasn’t ready to have her optimism taken away from her. Her study features three scenarios under which Germany’s electricity needs can be fully covered through renewable energy sources by the year 2050 without any harm to the environment. What’s remarkable: all three scenarios in the study are based on the assumption that solar energy will make up significantly more than half of Germany’s future electricity mix and that all eligible roofs in residential areas will feature photovoltaic cells. Land-based wind energy would become the other main pillar of the energy transition – depending on the scenario it would cover between 19 and 32 per cent of Germany’s electricity needs. However, von Haaren does acknowledge that “political frameworks and a social awakening are necessary in order to make the energy transition sustainable and achievable by 2050.”

The largest portion of the discussion between the five panellists focused on the topic of wind energy, and specifically on the availability of eligible space and distance rules. The important issue of “power to gas”, which relates to the storing of excess wind energy was not addressed even though the technology could make the construction of further long distance electricity links obsolete.

Another issue that wasn’t mentioned was the question of why high energy savings are being factored into many projections regardless of the fact that in the past expected savings have almost always been neutralised by rebound effects and the introduction of new energy intensive equipment. Furthermore, nobody challenged the twice-mentioned sentiment that the energy transition in the automotive world was almost entirely unconnected to environmental issues. In reality, an electric car requires just as much traffic space as a conventional car does – every bridge and every bypass road has a negative impact on nature.

But maybe in the end it’s simply about this clear statement: yes, we can! If that is the case then what are we waiting for?

An abriged version of the preliminary study results in German is available here.

Emotion Award – A Prize for women who inspire

By Monika Griefahn  (photographs: Franziska Krug/Getty Images for Emotion.award)

Dr. Alexandra Widmer? Heike Langguth? Annette Pascoe? None of them are names necessarily known to everyone. And yet all of these women have recently received the Emotion Award in Germany. It’s an award that recognised women who inspire others. For instance, the category „Women in Leadership“ is given to women who „promote a special corporate culture and redefine employee development as well as to women who managed to made a name for themselves in a male domain, thereby paving the way for other women.“ In general, any female company director is eligible, and it is for this reason that I am especially happy for the lesser known laureates. For the award means that they are being creative and achieve a lot in their respective areas of responsibility without being the subject of much publicity.

However, the special award was given to a woman whose name has been known for decades in German politics: Rita Süssmuth. I worked with her for years in the Interparliamentary Union and therefore I know that she has always lobbied for equality. In her party, the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU), she fought for a women’s quota, which for the longest time must have been a rather frustrating debate within the party. In the 1980s she was the Federal Minister for Family Affairs and the President of the Bundestag for ten years. Now she is 80 years old and she is as committed as ever.

And there is another beautiful aspect to the award: while it’s all about women it’s not a purely female event. Around one fifth of the audience consisted of men, and men also were part of the jury deciding whom to honour with the awards. The presenters of the awards included GErman television personalies Johannes B. Kerner and Jörg Thadeusz. It’s great because it illustrates that more and more men are ready to honour the lifetime achievements of women and that individual and strong women’s biographies are becoming more and more mainstream. The fact that the magazine „emotion“ is keeping women’s issues at the forefront of the public debate, even though it currently may not be in very great demand, is very important.

Apart from the „Women in Leadership“ category – which, among others, was given to Heike Langguth, director of the riot police of the federal state of Thuringia – the Emotion Award is also awarded in the categories „Social Values“, „Special Team Award Hand in Hand“, „Entrepreneurs/Founders“, „Woman of the Hour“ and „Lifetime Achievement“ (Rita Süssmuth). It’s a worthwhile endeavour to read up on the 19 laureates, which anyone can do on the Emotion Award’s web site (in German).

Utopian ideas and clear outlines against political disillusionment

By Monika Griefahn


Already, the campaign for this year’s parliamentary elections in Germany is looming. In order to inspire citizens, and especially young people, to get involved with politics (again) the Friedrich Ebert foundation and our local Member of Parliament, Svenja Stadler from the Social Democratic Party (SPD), decided to organize an alternative talk show. The subject: “Talking to each other instead of complaining about one another – an alternative talk show on political disillusionment.“

Both the headline and the question of what exactly would be alternative about the event made me curious, so I decided to attend. The concept, as it turned out, was similar to that of the popular German television chat show “Hard But Fair”. The discussion, in the northern German town of Buchholz, was streamed live to the Internet, with viewers being able to contribute to the debate. However, the interconnection between the actual live debate and the online chat didn’t work out very well – the high number of verbal contributions on stage almost drowned out the live chat, all but turning the two into separate events.

Nevertheless, the discussion itself proved informative: Dr Matthias Micus of the Göttingen Institute for Democracy Research took the disillusionment of many citizens with politics, parties or politicians seriously. The dynamic, he said, had hollowed out the political parties as the most important pillar of the political system in Germany. As a result fewer and fewer eligible voters decided to lend their electoral support to the major people’s parties.

“Participation”, Micus said, “depends on interest, which in turn depends on the perceived effectiveness of one’s own actions.” Whenever people lost the belief that they could change or influence things, he added, participation waned. Although the overall level of voluntary engagement was on the rise, those who had already been sidelined could no longer be reached, even through new and unconventional instruments of participation. The resulting gap, Micus warned, was widening. On those occasions where people did end their personal passivity and were politically reactivated, they tended to do so in a pessimistic and distrustful manner. Micus then formulated a demand: “The established forces must better defend the political parties because they are filters against populism.”

In order to inspire people to become invested in politics again, Micus believes, political parties have to reach out to them and initially kindle their interest with non-political offerings and without any self-interest, thereby lowering psychological barriers. This, he said, could eventually pave the way towards more political engagement. At the same time Micus called on the major people’s parties to offer more utopias and visions: “Mobilisation is a result of clear political profiles and distinctiveness.”

So, how disillusioned is the population with regard to politics? The youngest member of the panel, Sophie Röhse from Buchholz youth council, said: “I do believe that there’s an interest in politics. But although it is very relevant to young people, they don’t tend to feel represented.” Even if this is the case, it means that there must be young people who actively get involved – otherwise, who will represent young people?

Indeed some participants of the discussion were not perceived as much as they could have been and also didn’t take part much in the debate – which, after all, is exactly what we don’t want. Young Sophie Röhse for example was hardly included in the conversation, and local politician Martin Gerdau also didn’t get the opportunity to contribute much. As mentioned above, the online chat also didn’t figure very prominently, and didn’t remain accessible for later reference.

The idea of an alternative chat show is a good one, and the concept may indeed become highly participative. However, the actual realisation is something that requires some more work.

Trees don’t listen to McKinsey

By Petra Reinken


The Austrian Erwin Thoma is in his mid-fifties and a forester as well as an economist by trade. He owns a company that builds homes from solid wood – without any screws or glue. Thoma is also an author, and he has the following message: be like the spruce tree!

“The spruce is the least skilled tree there is”, Erwin Thoma said during an entertaining talk in Hollenstedt, which the local carpentry firm Holzbau Mojen had organised at the Weinkonzept winery in the town’s commercial district. Several hundred listeners came to learn more about the wonderful worlds of trees and solid wood construction. They also found out a little something about how they themselves could become a bit more like the spruce, the unskilled tree. “Spruce wood is flexible”, Thoma said. “The tree is rather narrow and its shallow roots leave room in the ground for others.” Still, the spruce has managed to assert itself virtually everywhere. “How is that possible?”

The answer to this question Thoma then went on to provide himself: “Everybody likes a spruce tree in the neighbourhood. It doesn’t hurt anyone, it is willing to share and it is tolerated by all. And that’s how it gets further than the competition.” It’s this willingness to cooperate that has become the creed for Thoma’s own life. Publishing his knowledge about forests, trees and solid wood construction in books, and thereby sharing it with others, has paid off in the form of many commissions, some from as far afield as Japan. „Trees don’t listen to McKinsey“, Thoma summarises – a dig at all the management consultants who propagate an elbow mentality.

In his poignant talk Thoma let his listeners experience parts of his family history, and especially the fact that he started his business together with his grandfather who always said: „You must use wood when it’s at its best – harvest it during a waning moon only.“ Thoma was sceptical – he had to be convinced to heed his grandfather’s advice. Today however, he says in his thick Austrian twang: „It’s crazy, the kind of stuff grandpa knew!“ His „moon trees“ have proven to be much more resilient against fungi and insects than trees that weren’t harvested during a waning moon. They also do not require chemical treatment, which transforms wood from a natural resource into hazardous waste.

Wood is also at its best when it is solid. Thoma has developed a method for solid wood construction that mortises individual layers and doesn’t require any screws or bolts made of metal. At the same time the material retains its outstanding properties regarding insulation, fire resistance and temperature consistency. During his career as a businessman Thoma has had to prove all these characteristics time and again in order to secure building permits. In cooperation with the medical professional Maximilian Moser he also proved that living in homes made of wood has many benefits for human health. It strengthens the immune and the nervous systems and ensures deeper sleep. The heartbeat slows down. Thoma himself seems perfect proof: At 55 years of age he is a man with boundless energy. His lecture continues to have an effect long after the evening itself has passed. It only really leaves one question unanswered: what to do with the brick house in which one lives?

And the award (quite literally) goes to…

By Monika Griefahn

The winner of the most recent Right Livelihood Award („Alternative Nobel Prize“) was announced back in November 2016. However, as the laureate, Mozn Hassan, was not allowed to travel outside of her native Egypt she wasn’t able to participate in the awards ceremony in Stockholm. But now the award has come to her. A delegation from our foundation, accompanied by members of  the German, Swedish and European parliaments, visited Cairo at the end of March in order to honour the work of the women’s right activist, Mozn Hassan, and her group, Nazra, and to present her with the award in person.

In doing so we are hoping to be able to amplify Mozn’s voice and to give strength to her and her fellow activists. For their situation is difficult. Because of its commitment to the equality of men and women the organisation is under constant threat of being shut down. Its accounts have already been frozen so that wages and rents can no longer be paid. With the help of a new law concerning NGOs the new Egyptian government is attempting to silence everyone in the country who doesn’t share its opinions. The law also makes it illegal to accept foreign funding for civil society work in Egypt. Even during the award presentation fear was a constant companion. But Mozn Hassan remained courageous and unthreatened. She joins our award’s long list of laureates who address the most pressing issues of our time – even if it poses a threat to their very lives.

For our delegation the trip to Egypt was an opportunity to experience first-hand the fragile situation in the country. At first it wasn’t clear at all whether we’d even be allowed to enter the country, or whether we’d really be able to use the room we’d rented for the ceremony. There were other, similar uncertainties. In the end everything worked out well and many committed individuals from Egypt’s civil society attended the evening’s celebration. Many felt encouraged simply by the fact that the Right Livelihood Foundation notices and honours them.

Unfortunately we cannot know how long the ostensible calm will last. The day after we visited Nazra’s offices the secret police showed up. How long the organisation will be able to continue its operations under such difficult conditions is unclear.

The following is the press release distributed by our foundation on the occasion of the awards presentation.

Egyptian women rights defender Mozn Hassan, who is barred from international travel and is facing a possible 25-year jail sentence, received her Right Livelihood Award at a private ceremony in Cairo earlier today.

Mozn Hassan shared the 2016 Swedish prize, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel’, with her organisation Nazra for Feminist Studies “for asserting the equality and rights of women in circumstances where they are subject to ongoing violence, abuse and discrimination”.

Hassan could not attend the award ceremony in Stockholm last November due to a travel ban imposed on her and other prominent activists by Egyptian authorities. Her and Nazra’s assets are frozen as part of an ongoing investigation targeting several Egyptian NGOs that received foreign funding.

In her acceptance speech, Hassan stated: “The decision of the Right Livelihood Award to hold this ceremony in Cairo is truly significant as it means that appreciation and solidarity can reach you despite travel bans. Today, we feel that the work of Egyptian feminists, especially after 2011, is seen and valued by different actors around the world.”

The event, held aboard Le Pacha, was attended by some 150 guests, including leaders of Egyptian civil society, European and Egyptian parliamentarians, fellow laureates, diplomats and other dignitaries.

Presenting the prize, Monika Griefahn, Chair of the Board of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, said: “Mozn Hassan and Nazra for Feminist Studies embody the latest in a long line of leaders in the Egyptian feminist movement who have played an incredibly important role in shaping the nation’s progress towards gender equality.”

“The current sanctions against Mozn Hassan and Nazra are not only unjust, but they also make it more difficult for them to accomplish their important mission of empowering women in Egypt and the wider Middle East region,” Griefahn added, calling for all charges against Mozn Hassan to be dropped.

Also speaking at the ceremony, Lynn Boylan, Member of the European Parliament representing Sinn Féin, said “Across the world those who feel threatened by strong vocal women often try to dismiss them, to insult them. Feminism can never be defeated; each generation will continue to produce strong brave women until full gender equality is achieved.”

Cecilia Magnusson, a Member of the Swedish parliament, said: “There is work still to be done in Sweden regarding equality but it´s important that we who have accomplished a lot stand up for those who fight in countries where there is still much to do.”

Bärbel Höhn, Member of the German Bundestag, said: “In Germany, we have also had to fight hard for our rights. It needed a change in society, a change in the men’s minds, who were unwilling to give up their power. But it is a fact: a society that does not use the abilities of half of its citizens, the women, such a society cannot achieve the best results and is wasting opportunities.”

Mozn Hassan and Nazra are the third Right Livelihood Award Laureate from Egypt, after Hassan Fathy, known as ‘architect for the poor’, who received the inaugural prize in 1980, and development initiative SEKEM and its founder Ibrahim Abouleish, recognised in 2003.

Environmental activists from around the world debate Cradle to Cradle

By Monika Griefahn

At this year’s meeting of environmental award winners from all over the world in the southern German city of Freiburg, participants from Brazil, China, India and other countries showed a lot of interest in the Cradle to Cradle design concept. After the introductory talk on the subject a lively and fruitful discussion took place.

The meeting of international environmental award winners is organised every year by the European Environment Foundation. Participants get a chance to meet each other and, ideally, to initiate co-operations across national borders. Around 100 activists take part every year. Life isn’t always easy for them in their home countries – the annual meeting gives like-minded people an opportunity to gather strength for the challenges associated with their daily activities. The fact that life as an environmentalist can be very dangerous has been gravely underlined by the case of Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in her own home in Honduras in 2016 because she fought against illegal construction projects. With this firmly in mind the award winners formulated a final declaration at the conference urging an end of the suppression of environmental activists (see pdf file at the end of this article).

The participants of my workshop about Cradle to Cradle outbid each other with questions and contributions to the discussion. Two topics that arose during the debate were of particular interest to me: One was the question of whether C2C production necessarily had to be more costly than conventional means of manufacturing. My answer was no – oftentimes the transformation of a product into one that conforms to C2C specifications comes with a reduction of components. While the decoding of the old formula and the development of a new one may be more costly the new product itself can however be less expensive than the old one.

Participants also argued that C2C products should come with a dedicated label in order to advertise their inherent value. Of course Cradle to Cradle already does offer a possibility to undergo a process of certification. In gradual steps from basic to platinum it shows how much a manufacturer has already analysed his product: how well does he know its components, has he replaced problematic components, has he developed and deployed a functioning returns system? In the end however, it’s all about transparency, which ideally should be attainable without a label. Certification processes make products more expensive after all. However, as labels seem to increase credibility, certainly in an international context, each and every enterprise must consider for itself whether certification makes sense. Participants at the workshop tended to feel that a label was important to provide a degree of orientation.

I am glad to have been able to make Cradle to Cradle better known internationally. Now I hope the attendees will spread the idea around in their respective home countries by telling colleagues at NGOs, companies and in their communities. For one thing is clear: Sufficient stimulation to do so certainly wasn’t lacking at the meeting.

Environmental laureates‘ call to end repression against environmental defenders

Video of Cradle to Cradle masterclass

 

„Inside Fukushima“

By Monika Griefahn (Photo: Andreas Conradt)


It’s very important that we all remind ourselves of the following: on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima power plant in Japan the literature festival “Reading without Nuclear Power” took up a topic that’s all but forgotten – the plight of “disposable workers” at nuclear power plants. The discussion panel in Hamburg, which I chaired, featured a number of high-profile participants: the Japanese journalist Tomohiko Suzuki presented his book “Inside Fukushima”, which had been published in German only a few days earlier. For his research he worked covertly in the damaged power plant so it was an obvious choice to also invite the German investigative journalist and author Günter Wallraff onto the podium. In the 1980s he also went undercover to expose the recruitment structures for power plants within the nuclear industry. The actress Anna Thalbach read from “Inside Fukushima” to stunning effect while Sebastian Pflugbeil, an expert on the nuclear lobby and the President of the German Society for Radiation Protection (GSS) revealed a wealth of detailed information from national and international regulation authorities. If the topic wasn’t so depressing and the experiences of the undercover researchers so terrible – and terribly similar – the 500 members of the audience, as well as myself, could have returned home with a spring in our steps.

However, what we heard was truly sobering: Suzuki described his colleagues from his time undercover as ordinary people who need money. Recruitment, he said, was the responsibility of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia, whose members were recognised people well-grounded in society.

Günter Wallraff recounted similar findings from 1980s Germany. He said those responsible for the recruitment of staff for especially dangerous tasks in nuclear power stations had been well-connected “human traffickers” who were acknowledged by local political actors. He added that even homeless persons had been recruited because the maximum radiation dose for workers at the time was reached very quickly and therefore many people were needed. It’s not for nothing that critics call these people “disposable workers”.

Indeed, nuclear expert and critic Sebastian Pflugbeil supports these claims on the basis of publicly available data. According to a 2011 answer by the federal government in response to a parliamentary query by the Left party in 2009 roughly 6,000 regular employees worked and were being monitored for radiation exposure in 17 nuclear power plants across Germany. In contrast, more than 24,000 subcontract staff also worked there and were being monitored. “Specialists on permanent contracts are too expensive to be exposed to high dosages of radiation because it makes them unusable too quickly”, Pflugbeil summarized matter-of-factly.

He rates as strange the way Japan treats nuclear power. In spite of the experiences the country made at the end of the Second World War, when nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese liked to repress the topic, he said. He added that institutions of higher education were afraid to deal with the issue and that projects that made the danger more visible were redacted.

Suzuki confirmed this. He said the aftermath of the Fukushima tsunami had not been as dramatic as had initially been feared, which had led many to believe that the accident didn’t compromise everyday life and that the nuclear energy issue could somehow be brought under control. Nevertheless, Suzuki is convinced that one day there will be no more nuclear power plants on the planet. Maybe his book will play a small part in reaching this goal.

Information about the book

Festival „Reading without Nuclear Power“

Nothing is lost! Cradle to Cradle pioneers from the garment sector debate

By Cradle to Cradle e.V. – slightly amended, slightly shortened and with many thanks!


After having served its intended purpose for several years a well-loved denim jacket is laid to rest as compost, thereby remaining in the natural cycle in the form of nutrients. The metallic buttons meanwhile are repurposed as a new raw material in the technical cycle – nothing is lost!

This is what the future of our clothes could look like under the Cradle to Cradle concept. Successes that the concept can already take credit for in the garment sector, innovative ideas that only wait for their realisation and stumbling blocks that still remain – those were the topics at the expert forum #2 „textiles – cycles – procurement – supply chains“ at the Sarah Wiener Restaurant in Berlin. It was one of a series of industry-specific events that aim to bring together practitioners from society, business as well as politics.

Experts from fields including the garment industry, fashion design, politics, consulting and research debated topics such as healthy textiles, material cycles and transparent supply chains. The challenges surrounding homogenous separation of natural and artificial materials as well as their return to the natural and the technical cycles were on the agenda, as was the basic application of healthy materials. Opening the meeting, Monika Griefahn stressed the significance of the garment sector as it is a daily part of everyone’s lives. Cradle to Cradle, she said, stood for health, quality and especially for cycles.

Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary at Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, said the textile industry was one of the industries with the highest turnovers and outlined the German government’s political objectives: by the year 2020 half of all textiles procured for the public sector must adhere to sustainability standards. She emphasised the public sector’s special function as a role model in this regard.

Designer Friederike von Wedel-Parlow described the poignant experiences she made at the Paris Fashion Week, which inspired her to come up with new concepts for create clothes. Once she came upon the Cradle to Cradle idea, she began realising it in creative ways with her master students in her role as professor for a course in „Sustainable Design Strategies“ at the ESMOD Berlin International Academy of Fashion. In the autumn of 2016 she founded the „Beneficial Design Institute“ where together with different companies she’s been working to achieve market maturity for different Cradle to Cradle products. She said it was the responsibility of future consumers to learn how to pass the garments on to the appropriate recipients.

Albin Kälin, founder and director of EPEA Switzerland GmbH, brought several practical examples from his work for different companies from the garment industry. For instance he used a bra to demonstrate the necessity of rethinking textiles because, he said, „with its different components a bra is a cocktail of chemicals.“ He added that it was a challenge to find healthy alternatives to the materials used previously and to feed them back into their respective cycles homogenously. He said the Wolford products for 2018 that had recently been unveiled in Paris were a step in the right direction.

Volker Steidel, executive partner at Lauffenmühle, a manufacturer of yarns and fabrics, used the story of his product infinito to show how much creative effort can go into developing materials that represent real solutions. Already Infinito, a polymer fibre that is biologically recyclable, could be used to make great products that would adhere to Cradle to Cradle standards. Steidel also stressed the importance of transparency „from the fibre to the final product“. He said the work clothes used in his own company were produced under Cradle to Cradle criteria and were especially suitable for being recycled.

After the debate the guests engaged in another important activity – enjoy dinner and continue the discussion in direct conversation. Company representatives met individual attendees including staff from the Federal Ministry for Development and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, designers, representatives of several different C2C enterprises as well as decision-makers from various institutions and companies.

A third expert forum is already being planned, which, on a forthcoming date in the summer, will likely focus on the topic of packaging.