Happy New Year! Enjoy the fireworks!? Let’s have fun collecting garbage!

On the morning after New Year’s Eve celebration, many of the headlines in the newspapers may be related to the following question: what will the next decade bring us? Maybe a quite common thought for the first morning of the year. Something almost impossible to know in such a complex time. Maybe it would be easier to think about dreams, desires and hopes.  

Leaving the news and the futuristic questions behind, that morning I decided to go for a walk. Why not? I thought it could be actually a special morning, basically because after listening the bangs of last night produced by more than half an hour of fireworks in Dresden, I expected to have a calm morning in which most of those who were partying the night before would be sleeping. The streets would be alone and quiet and moreover, from the window I saw the sky was clear and blue. 

View of Dresden from Schuttberg or Halde 1

Close to the Heller settlement in Dresden, one of the largest allotment garden colonies in Germany, there is a mountain called Schuttberg or Halde 1, actually Schuttberg is a German term for a mound made of rubble or out of a rubbish heap. The stockpile initially grew through the bomb debris of Dresden downtown, and a lot of rubbish and rubble was added later. From there is possible to have a panorama view of the iconic silhouette of the downtown and is also possible to see part of the Dresdner Heide and the sand mine, and the Elbe valley up to the Ore Mountains. The views of the city from there are quite amazing, so it is not surprising that it is chosen by many as a point to observe fireworks, but also to use them. 

On the way to the mountain, I could see the amount of remains of gunpowder on the streets, however when going up the mountain, I saw a pile of garbage that was being accumulated by some children. Vincent and Moritz, two 10-year-old friends who were walking through the area with a wheelbarrow full of the remains of the party of the previous night. Basically, hundreds of fireworks that exploded the night before (some of them were even unburned) and also several bottles of liquor. Yes, I was excited to see them, I thought that after the morning reflections, there was actually hope! I was so excited that I would have liked to have another wheelbarrow. However, my partner and I decided to join the work of collecting the remains of the previous night. Other people who were passing by and who saw the kids, congratulated them and told them that they were doing an incredible job, but none stopped to join the work.

Two friends during the first morning of 2020

Vincent and Moritz told us that it was not the first time they were doing this work, but the third time, and that in fact, they believed that the situation had improved. They said that the last time they did this activity it took them almost 2 days to collect the garbage from the new year´s eve, and this time, the perception was that there was less than previous years.

Me and my partner wondered that if all this waste was in a hill of Dresden, how would the rest of the city be. And indeed, even a week later of the New Year celebration some streets in Dresden were still covered by “fireworks garbage”. We did not spend the entire afternoon collecting the waste at the Schuttberg, but the feeling was satisfactory. Somehow the questions I was asking myself that morning about what awaits us this decade, had a positive response. After all, it was a good start to the year. So why not encourage this type of activity? If these children had the initiative, why not do it too?  If it was fun to see the fireworks and explode them, it should be also part of the activity to have fun collecting garbage! 

Wheelbarrow full of the rests from the New year celebration

By Gabriela Huidobro

Photos: Martin Fink

Trends in Ecology, Conservation and Climate Change: Agroforestry Systems

The presence of trees in agricultural lands contributes to the maintenance of production under a variable climate, and protect crops against climate extreme occurrences (Pramova et al. 2012). The agroforestry system – which combines trees with crops and/or livestock – is therefore, being increasingly recognised as an effective approach for minimising production risks under climate variability and change (Verchot et al. 2008). Moreover, in agroforestry systems only a small percentage of plant biomass is harvested, most of it remains on the ground. Thus, agroforestry systems can offer significant carbon benefits to landscape management.

From an ecological point of view, when compared to conventional forestry systems, agroforestry offers a different land use option. Since trees and crops complement each other, this setup is ideal and available resources are effectively used. Agroforestry has environmental benefits (e.g. soil and water protection), and has also a landscape benefit, thereby promoting food security and income generation for landholders. The agroforestry system constantly generates revenue for the farmer, enabling the diversification of farm activity and a better use of environmental resources. It may include existing native trees, but also forests established by farmers. It is a flexible concept, involving both small and large-sized land holdings.

The benefits of Agroforestry systems:

> Creation of regional markets for agroforestry products and processing

> Enrichment and aesthetic enhancement of the landscape with positive effects on tourism and quality of life

> Development of sustainable agricultural structures

> Strengthening rural regions by promoting regional material cycles and regional value creation

> Sustainable energy supply

> Improved groundwater quality

In Brazil, agroforestry systems are still not broadly adopted, largely because of their level of complexity compared with traditional systems, and also due to the lack of understanding by farmers regarding their benefits (de Almeida et al. 2013). Although the government has allocated financial resources in terms of credit for development and for technology transfer addressing agroforestry systems, farmers continue to have difficulties mostly related to technical assistance and bureaucracy in accessing the financial credit lines. Within this context, the Carbon Neutral Program, an initiative from IDESAM, plays an important role on the promotion of alternative measures for the sustainable use of natural resources.      

The main focus consists of connecting civil society with sustainability in the Amazon. In this program, carbon emissions are translated into how many trees are needed to compensate for such emission. The activities to be ‘carboneutralized’ are mostly related to electricity consumption, travelling, accommodation, and land and/or river transportation. In 2010, IDESAM launched the program for enabling people, companies and initiatives to take responsibility for the impacts they generate on the planet, by offsetting their carbon emissions. The compensation is made through the recovery of degraded areas in Conservation Units in the state of Amazonas. Originally, the residents from such protected areas prepared their land by deforesting to plant. Nowadays, the Carbon Neutral Program takes agroforestry as an alternative to deforestation, and more and more families are becoming interested in implementing the system given the results obtained with the program. By 2019, the program has already planted more than 40,000 trees, representing more than 330,000 m2 of recovered forests and a compensation of 6,700 tons of CO2.

Photo: Richter, K. 2013

You and all of us can directly contribute to the program by offsetting our carbon emissions! For more detailed information, send an email to: bvd@bluoverda.org

References:

Pramova, E., Locatelli, B. Djoudi, H. And Somorin, O. 2012 Forests and Trees for Social Adaptation to Climate Variability and Change. Adavanced Review, v. 03, John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

Verchot, L.V., Van Noordwijk, M., Kandji, S., Tomich, T., Ong, C., Albrecht, A., Mackensen, J., Bantilan, C., Anupama, K., Palm, C. 2008 Climate change: linking Adaptation and Mitigation through Agroforestry. Mitig Adapt Strat Glob Change, v. 12, pp. 901-918.

de Almeida, R., de Andrade, C., Paciullo, D., Fernandes, P., Cavalcante, A., Barbosa, R., and do Valle, C. 2013 Brazilian agroforestry systems for cattle and sheep. Tropical Grasslands – Forrajes Tropicales, v.01, 175 pp.

Who we are?

We are BluoVerda, a newly founded organization consisting of motivated and committed environmental experts. BluoVerda focuses on a wide range of topics related to ecosystems, biodiversity and livelihoods. Our projects and initiatives mainly involve six key areas: climate, forests & wildlife, mountain ecosystem, marine & freshwater, food & farming (agriculture and fisheries) and sustainable cities. By linking these areas in an integrated approach, we can better direct our resources to maintaining, enhancing and recovering vulnerable landscapes, species and people in Latin America.

Much more detailed information can be found on our official website.

So… what is this blog all about? We have different ideas in mind how we can use this platform to publish and share all kinds of valuable information with anybody interested. On the one hand, we will definitely report about the projects which have been realized by our organization, for the sake of transparency, of course, so that our members or donors can see what we are doing. In addition, we also intend to contribute to the transfer of knowledge. Consequently, there will be many exciting articles, filled with background knowledge about our topics.
You may be curious, we certainly are. So, stay tuned, subscribe to our blog and look forward to many exciting stories from South America’s rainforests and other ecosystems.

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