Kategorie-Archiv: ENGLISH ARTICLES

War without rules: Syria’s White Helmets between recognition and bitter reality

By Monika Griefahn

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As a way of sending out a message against the war in Syria the Right Livelihood Award Foundation this year gave one of its four Right Livelihood Awards – also often referred to as the Alternative Nobel Prizes – to the Syrian White Helmets. What courageous people! In this war, which has been raging for several years and in which all rules seem to have been thrown overboard, the White Helmets rescue those who have been injured or buried alive from destroyed buildings and from the debris of their lives. Watching footage of their work gives me goose bumps. And then, only one day after the awards were announced, a large portion of their equipment was destroyed in the relentless bombing in Aleppo. I am helpless with rage.

The White Helmets, also known as the Syrian Civil Defence, are a group of around 3,000 volunteers who have been risking their lives since 2013 in order to save others. They’ve been able to save tens of thousands of people from the rubble of war, regardless of their religion or their political views. They also attempt to reconstruct damaged infrastructure and to educate people about safety measures so that they learn how to better protect themselves. The war turned tailors, teachers and merchants alike into fire fighters and emergency relief workers. Many of them have been killed in the most recent fighting. We mourn for them all!

It is good to know that even in times of such dramatic circumstances as we currently witness them in Syria humanity can persevere. It’s good that the barbarism of others won’t rub off on those who believe in the good. I hope that being honoured with an Alternative Nobel Prize will help the White Helmets in Syria to not lose their courage.

Ahmad al-Youssef is a member of the Syrian Civil Defence. He travelled to Stockholm for the awards ceremony and, at the end of November, also spoke before the newly founded parliamentary group „Alternative Nobel Prize“ in the German Bundestag. Afterwards, the MP Michael Brand read al-Youssef’s speech before the parliament. Many thanks for that.

Ahmad al-Youssef’s speech:

„My name is Ahmad al-Youssef. I am from Syria and I am here to represent the Syrian Civil Defence, also known as White Helmets, the only organisation dedicated to rescuing civilians who are victims of the daily bombings in Syria. We have approximately 3,000 volunteers spread across 120 bases who have decided to put their lives on the line in order to save human lives in one of the most dangerous places on earth where the morals of the world have disappeared in the face of barbarism and the organised crime that is being perpetrated against not only the Syrian people but against all of mankind. To be completely frank, I am at a complete loss – I am standing helplessly before you as well as before my relatives in Syria – and especially before those in the eastern region of Ghuta near Damascus as well as in Aleppo. Aleppo, where the world is watching today how people are being slaughtered, and where the world is watching how entire cities are being destroyed.

To be honest I hesitated before agreeing to come here. I remember my comrades, my 150 comrades of the Civil Defence, who, when performing their work attempting to save human lives, were killed themselves. I have spoken to many of them and I have left them behind. They are looking death in the eye and I don’t know what message I should take back to them.

We appreciate greatly the fact that you have decided to bestow this award upon us. We are thankful for all awards because they are messages of solidarity that give us hope. We are also thankful for the ambulances and fire engines that you send us and that help us rescue civilians before they’re bombed by Syrian and Russian planes. At the same time I feel embarrassed to accept these awards while our relatives in Syria are being killed on a daily basis.

At this very moment while I am speaking to you civilians in eastern Aleppo are being made homeless. They escape from catastrophe. They walk through rubble looking for shelter. Meanwhile the injured are bleeding to death in the face of the doctors‘ inability to offer them medications or treatment after Syrian and Russian planes have destroyed all hospitals and clinics. Image for once how dramatic this situation is. What’s happening in Syria is an indescribable and unbelievable horror, and the incapability of the world to initiate steps in order to end all this is just as unbelievable! What will come of all this, the tragedies, the pain and the hatred is also unbelievable.

We carry the message of life to our people and into the world. Where are our partners? Who is prepared to aid us in Syria in the face of death and to accompany us on the path of life? Stand by us, ladies and gentlemen! Stand by us! Stand by humanity!“

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Speech of Michael Brand in the German parliament.

More about the Syrian White Helmets.

To those under 40: Fight for your future!

Von Monika Griefahn

For the second time within the space of only a few weeks the young generation has given away a victory to those they would normally reject. First, many neglected to go to the polls when the people of Britain voted in the Brexit referendum over whether the country should remain a member of the European Union and then couldn’t believe their eyes when the result came out. Later, in the United States presidential elections, young voters could have brought about a different result – had they voted. Among the millennials – those who are between the ages of 21 and 42 – a majority voted for Hillary Clinton. However, only half of young people turned out to cast their vote. The electoral map would look completely different if only the young had voted (Source: Survey Monkey).

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It’s the second time that the „winner takes all“ electoral system in the US has given the victory to the Republican Party. In the 2000 presidential election the Democratic candidate, Al Gore, received a larger share of the popular vote than his Republican opponent, George W. Bush. However, he had less electoral votes than Bush and therefore lost an election that he should have won.

What does that tell us?

If people turn away from democracy and from the political institutions – or are simply too phlegmatic – we have to shout at them: fight for democracy! Fight for freedom, for freedom and a plurality of opinion, fight for future issues and don’t let those win who want to take us back to the 1950s! Because instead of freedom and democracy what we will have now are particularism, nationalism, more power for the arms lobby, more electricity from coal and an exit from the climate negotiations. Is that really in the interest of young people? Going out and demonstrating against climate change but not bothering to go out and vote won’t work. For decisions are made at the political level – it’s what the political institutions are there for.

It doesn’t make sense to attack those politicians who are making an effort, to weigh every word and to target shit storms at those who want to act. Instead, it’s important to get involved, to act and to try and solve things for one’s own future. It’s about not being opposed to everything but instead to be for certain things. That applies to every situation in life: work, school, institutions and also politics! And we need to show respect to those who get involved. Most of them do it because they want to change the world for the better and because they have goals for this planet.

When I see that the republicans are in the majority in the US House of Representatives as well as in the Senate, that Viktor Orban can govern unchecked, that Erdogan can advance his antidemocratic policies without any scruples, that the next French president may be Marine Le Pen or the next Dutch prime minister may be Geert Wilders I feel physically sick. Who is it that helps those people gain power? Yes, it is those who don’t get involved and only complain instead of actually doing something. It’s those who are phlegmatic and apolitical and those who cast their votes as a supposed form of protest without thinking.

So, dear readers: be interested. Be informed. Be involved. Take part in democratic processes. And think of your future. Accept the tedium of politics. Especially we Europeans have fought long and hard for democracy. We have been trying for centuries to improve the achievements enlightenment has given us. That is in great danger at the moment. Let’s not accept it.

About the US elections:
Find more information about the voting behaviour of the young generation here.
Find more information about non-voters here.
Find the graphic depiction of the election results of young voters here.

Obscure yet important: the United Nations’ civil and social treaties

By Monika Griefahn

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Two important United Nations covenants turn 50 years old this year: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Both treaties are of great significance for civil society organisations around the world, including trade unions, disabled federations and human rights groups. Unfortunately neither covenants is very well known.

The way in which the two treaties work in spite of the lack of public perception was at the centre of a recent conference held by the German Institute for Human Rights at the foreign ministry in Berlin. Among others, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Jordanian Zeid bin Ra’ad Al Hussein, attended the event in order to call for the necessary implementation of human rights.

Apart from the rights of women and children he also insisted that the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people – who still face legal prosecution in many countries – must be strengthened. It also still isn’t self-evident in all societies for people with disabilities to have the same rights as others.

In his speech, the German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, highlighted the situation of refugees around the world and emphasised the human right to asylum, which, as we can currently see very clearly, is being interpreted in very different ways in various countries.

So what exactly are the two UN covenants about?

The ICCPR is a treaty that governs civil and political right while the ICESCR concerns itself with economic, social and cultural rights. Both treaties were discussed by the international community for almost two decades before finally being passed by the UN General Assembly in 1966. One of the issues regulated in the „civil pact“ is the prohibition of torture and the right to life. The „social pact“ meanwhile postulates the right to social security and the right to work to name just two topics. All signatory countries have committed to contribute to the implementation of these as well as all other rights formulated in the treaties on their respective national levels. However, the contracts are not legally binding.

When they were signed in 1966 the two documents were treaties of a fundamental nature. Their relative obscurity today may partly be explained by the fact that numerous other, more monothematic human rights treaties have been signed in the years since, including the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1979 and the UN Convention against Torture in 1984. 50 years on, 168 countries are signatories to the civil covenant and 164 countries have signed the social covenant. However, among the significant non-signatory countries are the United States and China. In Germany, the constitution is seen as the legal framework that largely implements the treaties’ provisions. In other places around the world there are big deficits in terms of the implementation, especially in war-torn regions and in countries with a weak statehood.

But even if that is the case: the question remains what the world would look like without these objectives – and without the constant international discussion about human rights upon which they are based. The answer, I fear, is: much worse. That’s why I applaud the fact that the international community was able to agree on the treaties such a long time ago. They constitute a solid foundation on which to base the fight for all elements of the covenants to fully come into effect.

Towards a world without trash – the Cradle to Cradle congress 2016

Press release / Monika Griefahn

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Viable solutions for a true recycling economy – that’s what we hope to have been able to demonstrate during the third Cradle to Cradle congress in the northern German city of Lüneburg. The following is the official press release from C2C e.V.:

On the weekend of September 23/24 the third edition of the world’s biggest congress focusing on the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) principle took place at Leuphana University in Lüneburg. On both days over 700 participants debated a world in which rubbish can be utilized as a nutrient. The congress was organized with the support of 100 voluntary helpers from the non-profit organization Cradle to Cradle e.V.

The C2C idea refers to a real and sustainable recycling economy in which raw materials circulate in biological and technical loops. At a time when resources are becoming increasingly rare C2C offers an innovation oriented approach: products are completely redeveloped and designed in a way that they’re made only from materials that can be fed back into a loop – for example biodegradable t-shirts, edible food packaging or healthy single-origin plastics and metals. During the congress 32 actors from different backgrounds came together for discussions, demonstrating that the idea is not merely a utopian dream. Fittingly, the daily host, energy expert Dr. Franz Alt, reminded his audience that “the sun won’t send us an energy bill”. In fact, one of the basic requirements for viable recycling loops is renewable energy, which is why actors Ursula Sladek from the electric utility company in Schönau and Professor Timo Leukefeld, energy ambassador of the German federal government, talked about the slow progress of Germany’s energy transition.

Chairwoman Dr Monika Griefahn sees the congress as an important opportunity for networking: “There were many encounters and networking opportunities during the business meet-up and the expert exchanges as well as at the information booths and in the networking café.” Tim Janßen, managing director of C2C e.V., also drew a positive conclusion: “The congress was brought to life by its 700 participants as well as by actors such as Sarah Wiener, Wolfgang Grupp and Professor Dr Martin Stuchtey. It demonstrated how C2C affects all aspects of society.”

A concert by German pop star Bela B. and the band Danube’s Banks constituted the concluding highlight of this year’s congress. Nora Sophie Griefahn, managing director of C2C e.V., is looking forward to next year: “We have already started planning for the fourth edition of the Cradle to Cradle congress, which will be internationalized even further in the coming year. Once again we expect countless actors and supporters who will participate in making it happen.”

The 4th Cradle to Cradle congress will take place at Leuphana University Lüneburg on October 20 and 21, 2017.

Cigarette butts are garbage, too

By Monika Griefahn

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It’s amazing what you can find by the seaside simply by looking closely. During a recent garbage collection event on the beach of the river Elbe in Hamburg organized by the non-profit “AIDA – Friends of the Seas” the more peculiar finds included a pair of underpants, a wig, as well as a stun gun. More importantly though, our voluntary beach combers in Hamburg picked up precisely 3,595 cigarette butts – a lot, but not quite as many as a few days earlier, when, during a similar collection event on Markgrafenheide beach near Rostock, we came up with 3,723 butts.

I am happy that we found so many cigarette ends. For aren’t they garbage, too? Yes they are, and, generally speaking, it’s not good to leave them behind at the beach. Because usually all that remains of a cigarette after it’s been smoked is its filter, which decomposes very slowly and is full of toxins – for example, tar – which it has previously filtered out of the cigarette’s smoke. In short: cigarette ends shouldn’t be left behind in the sand – they’ll get eaten by sea birds or, worse, playing children will put them in their mouths.

The positive takeaway is that our organization was able to mobilize around 50 volunteers who helped us collect garbage. In addition to our own members, employees of AIDA Cruises, Carnival Maritime, Becker Marine Systems and Veolia as well as a number of other volunteers were sensitized to our issue: they now talk about it, actively support it and carry it further. Apart from that we actively removed trash from the environment, which otherwise would have posed a hazard to birds and other animals, and thereby ultimately to our own food chain, too.

That’s the reason our beach combers took special care to also look after the smaller bits and pieces: in addition to the cigarette butts they found glass shards, small plastic fragments including lollipop sticks and candy wrappers, Styrofoam, bottle caps and other debris. In Hamburg and Rostock they collected 7,318 cigarette butts, 935 scraps of plastic and over 850 glass shards in a total of two hours – that’s in addition to the aforementioned stun gun and other assorted curiosities. We will provide our figures to “Ocean Conservancy”, the organization behind the International Coastal Cleanup Day, which will add them to its global numbers.

“AIDA – Friends of the Ocean”, of which I am the chairwoman, has been concentrating on the battle against plastic waste in the oceans and on the beach and continues to organize events and campaigns in order to raise awareness for the issue. For instance, we educate the public about microplastics in cosmetics. Collection events are also a fixed date in our annual calendar.

We’ve been especially successful in relation to cigarette ends. In cooperation with several partners on the Baltic Sea we have developed the beach ashtray – a little container in which not only butts but also chewing gum, wrappers and other waste can be collected until the user next comes across a waste bin. During our garbage collection events we handed a set of these handy containers to local beach cafés, whom we asked to pass them on to their patrons. Because one thing became clear: by far the most trash accumulates in places where people linger and consume. Let’s hope that the number of cigarette ends on our next collection day in 2017 falls below the figure of 7,318. And let’s hope that there’ll be many volunteers willing to take part.

More information abour „AIDA Friends of the Ocean“
„AIDA Friends of the Ocean“ on Facebook

Footprint for Indoor Air Quality: Stop Laser Printers!

By Achim Stelting, nano-Control foundation

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In just 20 years the prevalence of allergies has doubled. One in three people now suffers from allergic reactions. Asthma is the most common chronic condition in children and youths. Four million people are diabetes patients. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cases of cancer will have increased by 20 per cent in 2025. Skin cancer cases have doubled in ten years. Sickness absenteeism from work is at a 20-year-high and one in four employees will be incapacitated before reaching retirement age. Those developments have underlying causes.

As early as 1995 the American environmental authority realized that polluted indoor air is one of the biggest risk factors to the national health, especially so because we spend 80 to 90 per cent of our time inside buildings. As room air is unfiltered breathing air it should be as worthy of protection as food. The USEPA statement came after an investigation into the emissions of copying machines. Today, around one billion laser printers and copiers around the world emit billions of mainly ultra-fine particles per page – unfiltered and with fatal consequences.

At the invitation of Professor Dr Michael Braungart, chairman of the Hamburg Environmental Institute, the Hamburg-based foundation nano-Control left behind a special kind of footprint in the form of an art performance in support of healthy room air at the Footprint Days of the 2016 Venice Biennial on August 20 and 21. The biennial, which runs until November 27, 2016, is often referred to as the Olympics of architecture.
For their performance the „Nanos“ took signs from the very convincing Sick-Building exhibition (from which garden gnomes – which are known as nanos in Greek – flee) as well as from the light and airy building that’s as useful as a tree, adorned them with warning messages similar to those on cigarette packs, and

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brought those messages into the fresh air.
The stroll through the world of architecture, which was accompanied by Monika Griefahn, was stopped quickly by security guards and police officers equipped with automatic pistols, but the message had already been sent: Printer Emitted Particles Can Ruin Your Health! Even the friendly policemen were interested.

In order to rescue the garden gnomes, nano-Control equipped two of them with fine particle masks upon their return to the Sick-Building.

Four days after the performance the German government warned for the first time against health risks associated with nano particles emitted by laser printers. If we’ve learned anything from nano particles it’s the fact that even the tiniest nanos can have huge consequences.

Hamburg’s new bridge technology: shore power supply at the Cruise Center Altona

By Monika Griefahn

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As is often the case when it comes to technological investments, they aren’t very visible from the outside. But with the introduction of the shore power supply for cruise ships in the Altona district of Hamburg both the city’s port and its shipping industries have taken a huge step towards a clean energy supply. The AIDAsol is the first cruise liner that’s gradually being equipped to be able to connect there since the end of May.

A clear indication for the significance of this step is the fact that Germany’s Federal Minister for the Environment, Barbara Hendricks, joined Hamburg’s Mayor, Olaf Scholz, for the inauguration ceremony of the power supply on June 3rd. Both politicians emphasised their hope that this example will catch on. The shore power system is able to supply ships with electricity independently of the tides and can provide any frequency performance required by international shipping. It’s the first installation of its kind in Europe and it’s an ideal prerequisite for the investment of roughly 10 million Euros made by the City of Hamburg, the European Union and the federal government to one day yield a return.

Now it’s up to ship owners and cruise operators to equip their vessels so that they’re able to connect to the power supply – just like AIDA has already done in the case of the AIDAsol. Time and again the chicken-and-egg question is being asked. In my opinion, the infrastructure needs to come first. Once the systems are in place, one can justifiably demand of the ship owners that they do everything in their power to operate their vessels as cleanly as possible. AIDA is leading this development in the cruise segment.

As soon as testing is complete – the technicians are hoping that they can calibrate everything within just four ship calls – AIDAsol will be able to completely shut down her diesel engines when docking in the port of Hamburg as she’ll be fully supplied by the shore power system. The shore supply exclusive feeds electricity from renewable sources to the cruise ships. After all it’s the only way a system like this makes sense.

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For me this shore supply system goes beyond simply providing green electricity to cruise ships. The project shows that all sensible ideas must get off the ground at some point. The energy transition is technically feasible – it’s not sorcery as Claudia Kemfert, an energy expert at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) has recently put it. However, it does require the bravery of regulators as well as businesses to get underway. And yes, it may be entirely possible to get a bloody nose in the process. In case that happens however, it will be done better the second time. In any case, hesitation won’t get us anywhere.

In relation to my work for AIDA I am continuously meeting a host of bold people. This includes Dirk Lehmann at Becker Marine Systems who’s responsible for developing the LNG Hybrid Barge for the Hafencity Cruise Terminal as well as those managers and technicians who actively made the choice to lead, be it in the shape of supporting Hummel (as the LNG Hybrid Barge is named), through their work on the shore power supply system or indeed in terms of preparing the huge investment in the direct supply with LNG. The latter will first be realised in the port of Hamburg next year for AIDAprima and her sister vessel and then later also at the Meyer Werft shipyard, where new cruise ships will be developed from 2018/2019 that will be powered exclusively by LNG! Those decision makers within the city council and the port of Hamburg who offered this kind of energy supply have also been courageous. I would therefore like to join Olaf Scholz and Barbara Hendricks in the hope that the shore power supply will set a positive precedent and find many imitators.

Raúl Montenegro leads eighth RLC Campus

By Monika Griefahn

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It’s a forum of exchange for scientists and activists campaigning for human rights, the environment and social justice: the Right Livelihood Award Foundation (“Alternative Nobel Prize”) has recently inaugurated the eighth instalment of the Right Livelihood College (RLC) on the campus of the National University of Cordoba, Argentina. Raúl Montenegro, recipient of the 2004 Alternative Nobel Prize for his commitment for the environment and for local indigenous communities, is leading the campus. Since 1985, he has been Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the National University of Cordoba’s department of psychology with its 10 000 students. Montenegro is as energetic and empathic as ever and radiates positive energy aimed at changing things for the better.

The opening of the RLC campus in Cordoba sadly took place under the fresh impression of the murder of Berta Cáceres from Honduras, an environmental activist who was shot dead by gunmen in her own house in early March. A Mexican environmentalist, Gustavo Castro Soto, was wounded in the incident. In reaction to the assassination, around 50 laureates of the Alternative Nobel Prize have authored a petition addressed to the president of Honduras as well as to the country’s speaker of the parliament and its supreme court. It’s calling on the government of Honduras to not remain silent in the face of the incident. The president and the justice system should investigate and solve the crime as well as protect the lives of the remaining members of Berta Cáceres’ Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH).

I addressed the assassination as part of my opening statement because I am shocked by the threats and insecurity faced by those who are simply trying to effect change for the better. Apart from Berta Cáceres, the Brasilian land reform activists Leomar Bhorbak and Vilmar Bordim were also shot dead in April. Many more people give up their lives for these elementary issues – a total of 88 campaigners for land and environmental rights died across Latin America in 2014. It’s a drastic illustration of how fierce the fight for natural resources has become these days. Berta Cáceres had been fighting against the construction of a dam.

Activists in and around Cordoba are also currently affected by events related to land rights. Many villages are in danger of being sprayed with the pesticide Glyphosate by Monsanto. Entire regions are being doused by airplane. The reason is that animal breeding in Argentina no longer makes financial sense. The new currency is soy for export as well as for the growing veggie community. The negative consequences include children who fall ill at a young age and contaminated ground water. The university and Raúl Montenegro support those who are affected – a wonderful example of how a university can be of service to humanity. It also serves to remind us here in Europe of the importance to continue the fight against the use of Glyphosate.

Dead activists or dangerous chemicals – it is paramount that we stand together, academics with activists, scientists with students, farmers with human rights campaigners. And that’s exactly what the Right Livelihood Colleges have been drawn up to do: to help everyone find ways and means to support each other’s work and to react as one whenever one of us is being threatened. We are hopeful that the embedding into universities will provide us with safe spaces to work in peace. With the help of Rául Montenegro we are determined to find ways in Cordoba to end the criminalization of peaceful humans and to create a powerful civil society on the continent as well as durable connections with Europe.

Cradle to Cradle at the Venice Biennial: Inspiration for architects

By Monika Griefahn

Cradle to Cradle mit Michael Braungart

 

From the end of May until November 27, 2016 the Venice Biennial once again offers architects from around the world the opportunity to present solutions for how to deal with present and future global challenges. Cradle to Cradle is excited to exhibit its concept for the building sector as part of the Biennial. It enables us to reach architects and building planners and to directly interact with those who have the potential to realise C2C in their daily work. Because that’s what it’s all about: we want to make the transition from talking to acting and demonstrate that C2C is applicable in the real world. The founder and director of the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA), Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart, has been invited by the director of the Biennial’s architecture sector, Alejandro Aravena, to present the design principle behind Cradle to Cradle.

The exhibition in Venice aims to inspire a way of building that’s useful and at the same time encourages positive thinking. Michael and his team want to shake up old habits in favour of positive design of a comprehensive quality, a design that boldly states: not only can we do less badly – we can actually do better. The approach encompasses all aspects of a building: its construction, energy, materials and utility as well as its value as a nutrient deposit and its ability to be fully recycled to a high standard.

The motto „cities like forests, houses like trees“ perfectly sums up the aims and aspirations of C2C’s approach to construction. Instead of attempting to reduce the ecological footprint of a building by increasing its energy efficiency C2C aims to make homes useful and healthy for both people and the environment: structures that serve as material banks and as cleansers for air and water while celebrating the diversity of culture and nature. In short: homes that leave behind a positive footprint.

We recommend that all architects, planners, building contractors, district developers and investors drop by the Cradle to Cradle booth and let themselves be inspired to realise our concept as part of their next project.

Make Nepal Green

By Monika Griefahn

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Because people are always stronger when they are united, several laureates of the Right Livelihood Award (RLA, „Alternative Nobel Prize“) recently gathered in Kathmandu (Nepal) for a two day seminar to support Shrikrishna Upadhyay of Sappros-Nepal and its partners. His new initiative is titled Make Nepal Green. Upadhyay received the award in 2010. Winners from China, Japan and India had come, or joined via Skype, to share their expertise with the activists from Nepal. For us, the RLA’s board, the week was instructive and, as so often, inspiring – to get to know the country and the people who are committed to creating a more sustainable world, even in the face of adversity.

The „Make Nepal Green“ initiative arose after the Regional Conference of RLA Laureates from Asia and the Pacific held at Mumbai in March 2015 and devastating earthquake in April and May 2015. The pressure for a renovation is great in Nepal: There is still much to do to rebuilt the country. Water shortage exists in many parts, and even historic temples are destroyed and need to be rebuilt. But in spite of all that we felt a great openness for renewable energy, organic farming and local participation in the decision making process. Having the international Laureates on site gave the initiative more attention, so that possibilities that their ideas and practical solutions will be incorporated into the reconstruction and in the future plan of Nepal, increase. At the same time everyone at the seminar benefited directly from the other’s expertise.

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Regarding the subject of renewable energy, it was fantastic to have Huang Ming from China, a solar visionary, at the seminar. Ming received the „Alternative Nobel Prize“ in 2011 for having made attractive high-tech solar systems for the masses. The entrepreneur explained his vision: “In the Paris Climate Conference, I declared that I have focused on China for the last 21 years, for the next 21 years, I want to focus on the world. I want to bring solar energy to the poorest areas in the world. I want to focus on the North of Nepal.” He also notes: “Solar technology is really practical. It’s Right Livelihood. It’s not just for the rich and middle class. It’s for the poor. It’s for everyone.”

Shrikrishna Upadhyay said he hopes to bring a “Make Nepal Green Fund” into existence. With the money, he would spread the ideas of the many small initiatives in the country already existing in the fields of renewable energy, organic farming or ecotourism and transmit technology and knowledge to the whole country. We have already made a lot of contacts with politicians, banks, diplomats and activists in our seminar and want to continue the dialogue. With the help of our wonderful award winners we want to show to the decision-makers in Nepal, what is possible, if one really wants to change things. It would be perfect if Nepal’s Prime Minister would visit the Huang Ming’s company in Solar City during his upcoming visit to China. The man convinced everyone about the potential of solar energy at the seminar. I am sure he could do the same with the Prime Minister!