Kategorie-Archiv: ENGLISH ARTICLES

Cigarette butts are garbage, too

By Monika Griefahn


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


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


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


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.


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


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!

This year’s ‘Alternative Nobels’ announced

Press Release Right Livelihood Award Foundation

A Pacific island state foreign minister who has challenged the world’s nuclear powers through unprecedented legal action; an indigenous leader who fights to protect the Arctic in the face of climate change; an Ugandan human rights activist working against the discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI ) communities in Africa; and an Italian doctor who has saved countless lives in war-torn countries are this year’s Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’

De Brum & Todd SternThe 2015 Right Livelihood Honorary Award goes to

Tony de Brum and the people of the Marshall Islands “in recognition of their vision and courage to take legal action against the nuclear powers for failing to honor their disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.” (Foto: public domain; Tony de Brum (l) with US Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern)

Sheila Watt-CloutierThree Laureates will share the cash award of SEK 3 million (ca. EUR 320 000):

The jury recognizes Sheila Watt-Cloutier (Canada) “for her lifelong work to protect the Inuit of the Arctic and defend their right to maintain their livelihoods and culture, which are acutely threatened by climate change.” (Foto: Stephen Lowe)

Kasha Jaqueline NabageseraThe Jury awards Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (Uganda) “for her courage and persistence, despite violence and intimidation, in working for the right of LGBTI people to a life free from prejudice and persecution.” (Foto: Christine Dierenbach)

The Jury recognises Gino Strada , co-founder of Emergency, (Italy) “for his great humanity and skill in providing outstanding medical and surgical services to the victims of conflict and injustice, while fearlessly addressing the causes of war.” (Foto: Emergency)

Gino StradaThe 2015 Right Livelihood Awards were recently announced in Stockholm at the Swedish Foreign Office International Press Centre by Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director, and Dr Monika Griefahn, Chair of the Board of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation. The Awards will be presented at a ceremony in Stockholm on 30 November2015, hosted by the Society for the Right Livelihood Award in the Swedish Parliament.

Ole von Uexkull said: “This year’s Right Livelihood Laureates stand up for our basic rights – be it the rights of indigenous peoples or LGBTI communities, or the right of all citizens to live in a world free from the scourges of war and climate chaos. With their tireless work, on the frontlines and in courts, the Laureates uphold the values that led to the creation of the United Nations seventy years ago. In this year of global humanitarian crises, they provide an inspiring response to the defining challenges of our time.”

Monika Griefahn extended her thanks not only to the winners of the Right Livelihood Award, but was also glad to hear that the National Dialog Quartet Tunisia received the Nobel Peace Prize 2015. She wishes the quartet all the best for their efforts to build up a pluralistic democracy.

For further information about the Right Livelihood Award please visit www.rightlivelihood.org

Please klick for the Swedish, Spanish, Italian or French version of the press release.

Please klick here for the German version.

Strong women and solar energy for daily life

By Monika Griefahn

Right Livelihood Laureates and observers at Asian Regional Confe

The commitment and assertiveness of our Laureates – the recipients of the Right Livelihood Award – surprises me again and again. It is overwhelming to experience their confidence and power. At the Regional Conference of Asia-Pacific Laureates, held at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, I had the opportunity to hear of their work and discuss urgent challenges of our time. The conference saw a blossoming of fruitful discussions and sharing of ideas throughout the week – both inside and outside formal sessions. Laureates initiated and signed petitions related to addressing pressing challenges in their work.

At the conference, Huang Ming from China presented his portable solar stove, and Shrikrishna Upadhyay from Nepal reported about the power that one million people can exert when they understand themselves as part of a community. In that way, they have the ability to change their living conditions for the better.

Just like several times in the past, it was the women who impressed me most. Sima Samar from Afghanistan, Medha Patkar and Ruth Manorama from India, supported by human rights activist Basil Fernando from Hong Kong/Sri Lanka, analyzed convincingly at the pubic panel discussion how important the education and the health care of women is for the further development of a society.

Madha Patkar fights for female migrant workers, who do not even have the opportunity to go to school, because they don’t have permanent residence. And members of the Dalit caste (the former “untouchable” caste in India, which has been abolished by law) are still being thrown out of shops (I have seen it with my own eyes) and have few possibilities to receive training or education necessary for a good job.

Ruth Manorama is a charismatic fighter. She already has achieved a lot for the poorest of the poor. But not everybody in society is conscious of the need to not leave the poor behind.

Sima Samar is an impressive person, too. Since she found no hospital, no school and no university, which had answers to women’s needs, she simply founded her own training institutions and hospitals – adequate for women also. When I listened to the intensive debate among those strong personalities, I thought about the things women fight for in Germany, which are – compared to the issues of women in other parts of the world – very small problems. The public panel discussion on “Creating an Enabling Environment for Civil Society in the Asia-Pacific” saw an intense debate on which issues and strategy civil society in the region should adopt and focus on.

The week of the Asian Regional Conference was exhausting, but instructive. It showed that everywhere in the world there are people who fight for the good – and make progress. It ended with the first conference of the seven existing universities hosting Right Livelihood Colleges (Mumbai in India, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Port Harcourt in Nigeria, Valdivia in Chile, Lund in Sweden Bonn in Germany and Santa Cruz in the USA). All campuses try to pass on the spirit of innovation and opportunities. This is meant in a human, not only in a technical way, as our host, Prof. Dr. Swati Banerjee of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, emphasised.

Appell der Umweltpreisträger!

Von Monika Griefahn

160 Gewinner von Umweltpreisen aus verschiedenen Ländern haben einen eindringlichen Appell an alle Stiftungen und Menschenfreunde der Welt gerichtet, mit ihrem Geld die Maßnahmen zu unterstützen, die zur Rettung der Zivilisation beitragen. Angesichts der Erderwärmung, angesichts der Gefahr, sich aufgrund von Umweltkatastrophen nicht mehr mit Nahrung versorgen zu können, angesichts des Eindrucks, dass Regierungen nicht ihre ganze Kraft gegen den Treibhauseffekt einsetzen, angesichts all dessen möchten die Umweltpreisträger ein Zeichen setzen und weitere Gelder für den Schutz des Klimas generieren. Der Appell wurde mit einer durch Crowd-Funding finanzierten Anzeige in der New York Times verbreitet und maßgeblich über die European Environment Foundation vorbereitet.

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Bangladesh on its way to a „solar nation“

By Moritz Petersmann

Dipal Barua
Listening to Dipal Chandra Barua might cause astonishment every time one hears him talk about his work and his vision: He wants Bangladesh to be the world’s first „solar nation“!
This might sound like daydreaming at first, but if you have a closer look at the work of Dipal Barua, laureate of the Right Livelihood Award („Alternative Nobel Prize“), there is reason to be optimistic. At the conference „Teaching Right Livelihood“ in Kassel in May, I had the privilege to meet him and could participate in a workshop in which he presented his work and afterwards discussed his actions and vision with the audience.

One notices quickly that Dipal Chandra Barua not only complains about worldwide problems and wrongdoing, but is active himself. He gets down to the root of a problem and offers long-term solutions. Dipal Chandra Barua has already visited thousands of villages in Bangladesh and has gotten an idea of the situation. Often people living in these rural areas of Bangladesh had to get along without any connection to the electricity grid (in 1996 this was so for about 85 percent of the population). That is why they spent the time after sunset in absolute darkness. Their light source mainly consisted of kerosene-fueled lamps.

After the non-profit organization Grameen Shakti was established in 1996 the situation changed quickly in those rural areas. That is due to Dipal Chandra Barua’s model for implementing sustainable light and energy – both of which provides a win-win situation: On the one hand the rural population of Bangladesh gets the chance to raise its standard of living by installing its own solar home systems (SHS), on the other hand and at the same time they support the expansion of renewable, climate-friendly energy sources. A financial mechanism helps to reduce the cost of the installation of an SHS to the monthly cost of kerosene. The model is successful: Up to now about 3 million solar home systems have been installed in rural areas of Bangladesh. It is also remarkable that Dipal Chandra Barua with his Green Technology Center (GTC) explicitly supports and encourages women to complete a technical training. He does so with great success! Many women work as „green entrepreneurs“ in the growing market of renewable energies. This causes, in addition to the environmental benefits, a change in the reputation of women in the Bangladeshi society, in which the majority of the people belongs to the Muslim religious community.

Dipal Barua demonstrates how the expansion of renewable energies in developing countries can become a success: it takes a decentralized supply with renewable energy and additional value for health, education, and productivity. Now it remains to be seen whether Dipal Chandra Barua’s vision comes true a 100 percent, which would mean that 75 million people in Bangladesh benefit from the use of renewable energy.