Olaf Lies freely admitted that he didn’t have the easiest of jobs. Monika Griefahn’s “successor-successor-successor”, as the current environment minister of the German federal state of Lower Saxony smirkingly described himself, said: “You can’t list all of Monika Griefahn’s merits – you can only mention the highlights.”
Lies was speaking during a ceremony to mark the awarding of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany to Monika Griefahn, an event that was attended by many of her longstanding companions. The honoree had never ceased to be an activist, beginning with her earliest days at Greenpeace, Lies said. In addition Griefahn was never one to tolerate things being labelled impossible. “Thinking for oneself can be fun, and she always wants to show that.”
Giefahn’s commitment to youth relations between Germany and France was important to her. In 2002 she received the order of the French Legion of Honor. During her time with Greenpeace she was not only an expert in provocations but also adept in the preparation of campaigns. Later she was the first female member of the International Board of the organisation. It was the Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, (and later German Chancellor) Gerhard Schröder, who subsequently brought her to Hanover where she served as environment minister. One of her maxims that Olaf Lies remembers best is the idea that “the best garbage is that, which does not come into being in the first place”. “That was the first step towards the Cycle Waste Management Act (KrWG).”
MOVE INTO POLITICS
After eight years in Hannover, Griefahn spent the next ten years as a Member of Parliament in Berlin, where, to the surprise of many, she devoted herself to very different topics: culture and media. As the Director of Environment and Society at AIDA Cruises, her mission today is to make the cruise industry more environmentally friendly. Another important aspect of Griefahn’s work is the Alternative Nobel Prize. She has been a member of the committee that selects the laureates since 1986, and she has been chairing the Right Livelihood Award foundation for two years. “She approaches people in a spirit of openness”, Olaf Lies said in his speech.
AN INSPIRATION FOR OTHERS
Time and again during the celebration, companions of Monika Griefahn characterised her as somebody who is able to inspire others. They portrayed her as a superwoman who works consistently, no matter what she does. Professor Dr Maximilian Gege, Managing Director of B.A.U.M. e.V., is the one who nominated Monika Griefahn for the Federal Cross of Merit. “You need visions that you want to completely implement”, he said. “It takes a lot of time, as is exemplified by Germany’s nuclear exit, which Monika Griefahn has always supported. She has an incredible passion for topics and brings together expertise and commitment.”
On behalf of the Federal President the District Administrator of the county of Harburg, Rainer Rempe, had the task of presenting Monika Griefahn with the Cross of Merit on the Ribbon of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, or the Federal Cross of Merit for short. He recalled that in 2001, the honoree together with a large group of supporters started the working group “Show your face against the Right” in his district, a campaign for tolerance and against xenophobia. She also took part in a similar project for students called “School with Courage”. “That was important then and remains so today”, Rempe said.
The administrator also referred to Griefahn’s other engagements in the district, including her work for the Friends of the Open Air Museum Kiekeberg, where the celebration took place. Griefahn also organised a fundraiser for the creation of a dormitory for the disabled in Wennerstorf. “Monika Griefahn shows great civic engagement in many areas. She lives up to her responsibilities and is a great example for many other people”, said District Administrator Rempe.