Archiv der Kategorie: Umweltschutz

Umweltschutz

Bundesrat verabschiedet Bericht zu klimafreundlichem Finanzmarkt

Bern, 17.11.2021 – Das Parlament hat den Bundesrat beauftragt, in einem Bericht Massnahmen aufzuzeigen, wie die Schweiz ihre Finanzmittelflüsse klimaverträglich ausrichten kann. An seiner Sitzung vom 17. November 2021 hat er diesen Bericht gutgeheissen. Besonders klimawirksam sind Massnahmen, welche die klimaverträgliche Ausrichtung der Investitionen explizit beinhalten, wie Branchenvereinbarungen zwischen Finanzbranchen und dem Bund. Weiter kann mehr Transparenz bezüglich klimaschädigenden und -freundlichen Investitionen indirekt eine positive Klimawirkung erzielen, da sie zu besser informierten Investitionsentscheiden führt.

Die Schweiz hat sich mit der Ratifikation des Übereinkommens von Paris zum Ziel bekannt, die Finanzflüsse klimaverträglich auszurichten. Sie will gemäss Bundesrat ein führender Standort für nachhaltige Finanzdienstleistungen werden. Der Bericht in Erfüllung des Postulats der Kommission für Umwelt, Raumplanung und Energie des Ständerates (19.3966) liefert einen systematischen Überblick möglicher Massnahmen, um die Investitionen des Schweizer Finanzmarkts auf das Klimaziel auszurichten. Die Massnahmen werden daran gemessen, wie gut sie eine Lenkung weg von klimaschädlichen Investitionen – z.B. in die Kohle- und Erdölförderung – hin zu klimafreundlichen Alternativen bewirken können.

Massnahmen mit direktem Klimaziel wirken

Die meisten untersuchten Massnahmen wirken lediglich indirekt darauf hin, die Finanzflüsse in eine klimaverträgliche Richtung zu lenken. Weil Branchenvereinbarungen zwischen dem Bund und den wichtigsten Finanzbranchen dieses Ziel explizit anstreben, haben sie grosses Potenzial. Sie könnten zudem den unterschiedlichen Ausgangslagen und Möglichkeiten der verschiedenen Finanzinstitute Rechnung tragen. Wichtig dabei ist eine regelmässige, vergleichbare Fortschrittsmessung, wie die bereits etablierten PACTA-Klimatests (siehe Kasten). Im Rahmen der aktuellen Vorhaben zum Vermeiden von Greenwashing bekräftigt der Bundesrat, auf Branchenvereinbarungen mit den Finanzmarktakteuren hinzuwirken.

Transparenz hilft bei Investitionsentscheiden

Eine höhere Transparenz kann ebenfalls indirekt zu klimaverträglichen Investitionen beitragen. Wenn Finanzinstitute die negativen oder positiven Auswirkungen von Investitionen auf das Klima sichtbar machen, führt dies zu besser informierten Investitionsentscheiden der Kundinnen und Kunden sowie von anderen Finanzinstituten. Um klimawirksam zu sein, sollten solche Transparenzmassnahmen möglichst vergleichbare Aussagen zulassen, in die Zukunft gerichtet und auf das zu erreichende Klimaziel abgestimmt sein. Die aktuellen Bestrebungen des Bundesrats zielen ebenfalls in diese Richtung.

Der Bundesrat hat an seiner Sitzung vom 17. November 2021 beschlossen, Transparenzmassnahmen zur Vermeidung von Greenwashing weiterzuverfolgen und den Abschluss von Branchenvereinbarungen mit den Finanzmarktakteuren gemäss dem Beschluss des Bundesrats vom 26. Juni 2019 anzustreben.

Kasten: Regelmässiger Klimatest für den Schweizer Finanzmarkt

Eine wichtige Grundlage des Berichts bildet der freiwillige PACTA-Klimatest für Finanzinstitute. PACTA steht für «Paris Agreement Capital Transition Assessment», das ist ein international abgestimmtes Testmodell. Zuletzt hat sich 2020 der gesamte Schweizer Finanzmarkt auf Initiative des Bundesamts für Umwelt BAFU und in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Staatssekretariat für internationale Finanzfragen SIF auf Klimaverträglichkeit testen lassen. Der Klimatest hat gezeigt, dass es noch mehr konkreter Massnahmen der Finanzbranche bedarf, damit der Finanzplatz seinen Beitrag zur Erreichung der Klimaziele leistet. Der nächste freiwillige PACTA-Klimatest wird im Frühjahr 2022 lanciert.

Einer Million Menschen droht wegen Klimakrise die Hungersnot

The Market in Mitsamiouli on Grande Comores Island, where the birth child death rate is very high and most people are living in poverty like in Madagascar

Madagaskar leidet unter einer der schlimmsten Dürreperioden in der Geschichte des Landes – eine Folge der globalen Klimaerwärmung. Besonders stark betroffen ist der Süden des Landes. Dort steht eine Million Menschen kurz vor der Hungersnot. Amnesty International fordert die internationale Gemeinschaft auf, sich an der Klimakonferenz in Glasgow (COP26) zu ehrgeizigen Zielen zu verpflichten, um solche humanitären Katastrophen zu verhindern.

In dem neu veröffentlichten Bericht «It will be too late to help us once we are dead» dokumentiert Amnesty International die Auswirkungen der Dürre auf die Menschenrechte im Süden Madagaskars, wo 91 Prozent der Bevölkerung unterhalb der Armutsgrenze leben. Die Dürre stellt eine unmittelbare Bedrohung für das Recht auf Leben sowie für andere Rechte wie die Rechte auf Gesundheit, Wasser, sanitäre Einrichtungen und Nahrung dar.

Viele Menschen haben keine andere Wahl, als auf der Suche nach Nahrung in andere Gegenden auszuwandern. Kinder werden ihrer Zukunft beraubt, da der Hunger viele dazu zwingt, die Schule abzubrechen, um Arbeit zu suchen und ihre Familien zu unterstützen. Die Krise belastet Frauen und von Frauen geführte Haushalte, die häufig von der Landwirtschaft leben, besonders stark. Viele Menschen haben keine andere Wahl, als auf der Suche nach Nahrung in andere Gegenden auszuwandern.

Amnesty fordert die internationale Gemeinschaft auf, unverzüglich Massnahmen zur Bewältigung der Klimakrise zu ergreifen, und Menschen in Ländern wie Madagaskar, die durch die Auswirkungen des Klimawandels besonders gefährdet sind, zu schützen.

«Die aktuellen Prognosen zum Klimawandel deuten darauf hin, dass Dürren immer heftiger werden und dass Menschen in Entwicklungsländern unverhältnismässig stark davon betroffen sein werden», sagt Agnès Callamard, Generalsekretärin von Amnesty International. Die Dürre in Madagaskar sei ein Weckruf im Vorfeld der 26. Uno-Klimakonferenz (COP26), welche am 31. Oktober in Glasgow startet. Guy Parmelin, Simonetta Sommaruga und Ueli Maurer werden die Schweiz an der Konferenz vertreten.

«PolitikerInnen aus aller Welt müssen endlich aufwachen und die Klimakrise ernst nehmen», sagte Agnès Callamard. «Die internationale Gemeinschaft muss den Menschen in Madagaskar unverzüglich zusätzliche humanitäre Hilfe und weitere finanzielle Mittel für die erlittenen Verluste und Schäden zur Verfügung stellen. Die Länder, die am stärksten zum Klimawandel beigetragen haben und die über die meisten Ressourcen verfügen, müssen in Zukunft zusätzliche finanzielle und technische Unterstützung bieten, damit die Menschen in Madagaskar sich besser an die Auswirkungen des Klimawandels anpassen können.»

Mehrere Todesfälle aufgrund der Dürre

Madagaskar gehört zu den Ländern, die am stärksten vom Klimawandel betroffen sind. Wissenschaftliche Erkenntnisse zeigen, dass der Klimawandel im semiariden Süden des Landes wahrscheinlich für die höheren Temperaturen und die zunehmend unregelmässigen Niederschläge verantwortlich ist. Laut den Vereinten Nationen steht Madagaskar kurz vor der weltweit ersten klimabedingten Hungersnot.Laut den Vereinten Nationen steht Madagaskar kurz vor der weltweit ersten klimabedingten Hungersnot.

Das Welternährungsprogramm und die Ernährungs- und Landwirtschaftsorganisation (FAO) der Vereinten Nationen teilten im Mai mit, dass rund 1,14 Millionen Menschen im Süden des Landes von akuter Ernährungsunsicherheit betroffen sind und dass sich fast 14‘000 Menschen in einer Hungersnot befinden – die höchste Stufe der Ernährungsunsicherheit auf der IPC-Skala. Die IPC-Methode (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification) ist eine fünfstufige Skala der FAO, mit der Ernährungsunsicherheit weltweit einheitlich eingestuft werden kann. Seit ihrer Einführung in Madagaskar im Jahr 2016 kam es noch nie vor, dass Menschen in der höchsten Stufe klassifiziert wurden.

Nach Angaben der FAO sind 95 Prozent der von akuter Ernährungsunsicherheit betroffenen Menschen im Süden Madagaskars auf Ackerbau, Viehzucht und Fischfang angewiesen. Da es in den Regenzeiten der letzten Jahre jedoch aussergewöhnlich wenig geregnet hatte, kam es zu einem starken Rückgang in der Produktion von Grundnahrungsmitteln wie Reis und Maniok. Ausserdem gingen die Viehbestände zurück und der Zustand der verbliebenen Tiere verschlechterte sich. So schwinden die Lebensgrundlagen der Menschen immer weiter.

Zu Todesfällen im Zusammenhang mit der Dürre, die im November 2020 begann, gibt es keine offiziellen Statistiken. Amnesty International hat jedoch mit vielen Menschen aus dem Süden Madagaskars gesprochen, die über Todesfälle aufgrund von Hunger in ihren Gemeinschaften berichteten. Einer davon war Votsora, ein etwa fünfzigjähriger Kleinbauer. Er sagte im März gegenüber Amnesty International, dass einen Monat zuvor zehn Menschen in seinem Dorf gestorben waren. Fünf Personen aus einem einzigen Haushalt seien alle am selben Tag verhungert.

Eine Frau, die ebenfalls im März mit Amnesty sprach, hatte zwei Kinder verloren. «Sie litten an Hunger… und sie starben daran. Wir essen kaum etwas», sagte sie.Ein anderer Mann verlor ebenfalls zwei Kleinkinder: «Das eine war ein Jahr und zwei Monate alt, das andere acht Monate. Sie sind vor einem Jahr gestorben… Weil wir nichts zu essen hatten.»

Forderung nach ehrgeizigen Klimazielen

«Wir können nicht länger hinnehmen, dass die ärmsten und am stärksten ausgegrenzten Gruppen der Gesellschaft den höchsten Preis für die Handlungen und das Versagen der grössten Kohlendioxid-Emittenten der Welt zahlen müssen», sagte Agnès Callamard.

«Es wird erwartet, dass die Dürren in Madagaskar immer heftiger werden, was eine weitere Aushöhlung des Menschenrechtsschutzes bedeuten kann.» Agnès Callamard, Generalsekretärin von Amnesty International «Es wird erwartet, dass die Dürren in Madagaskar immer heftiger werden, was eine weitere Aushöhlung des Menschenrechtsschutzes bedeuten kann. Die internationale Gemeinschaft muss sich dafür einsetzen, dass alle Menschen ihr Recht auf eine saubere, gesunde und nachhaltige Umwelt wahrnehmen können, denn das ist für die Ausübung vieler anderer Rechte unerlässlich.»

Die Forderungen:

  • Sich zu ehrgeizigen und Menschenrechts-konformen Emissionsreduktionszielen zu verpflichten, um den globalen Temperaturanstieg auf 1,5°C zu begrenzen.
  • Ehrgeizige und konkrete Massnahmen zu ergreifen, um gemeinsam die CO2-Emissionen bis 2030 um mindestens 45 Prozent gegenüber dem Stand von 2010 zu reduzieren und sie bis spätestens 2050 auf Null zu senken.
  • Sich zum raschen Ausstieg aus fossilen Brennstoffen zu verpflichten anstatt sich auf C02-Kompensationsmassnahmen zu verlassen, die den Klimaschutz verzögern und sich negativ auf die Menschenrechte auswirken können.
  • Einen globalen Mechanismus zur Unterstützung von Menschen einzurichten, deren Rechte durch den Klimawandel verletzt wurden. Die wohlhabenden Staaten müssen für die Kosten aufkommen und hierfür neue, nicht rückzahlungspflichtige Finanzmittel zur Verfügung stellen.
  • Das Recht auf Information und Beteiligung an klimarelevanten Entscheidungen für die betroffenen Menschen auf allen Ebenen zu garantieren.

Darüber hinaus fordert Amnesty International die wohlhabenderen Länder auf, ihre finanziellen Beiträge für menschenrechtskonforme Emissionsminderungs- und Klimaanpassungsmassnahmen in weniger wohlhabenden Ländern deutlich zu erhöhen.

8. Chapter: Australia and evolutionary pacific pearls

Australien: Ein Kukulanji Aborigines bläst ins Diggeridoo im Tjapukai Cultural Village nahe Cairns. A Kukulaji-Aborigines men plays the diggeridoo in the Tjapukai Village near Cairns.
Australien: Ein Kukulanji Aborigines bläst ins Diggeridoo im Tjapukai Cultural Village nahe Cairns. A Kukulaji-Aborigines men plays the diggeridoo in the Tjapukai Village near Cairns.

On the largest sand island in the world, tropical forested dunes rise up on the banks of crystal clear freshwater lakes in the midst of emerald green rainforests. Whales and dolphins frolic off the coast of Fraser Island. But the island biotope is not only a refuge for rare plant species and animals, but also homo ecotourism is increasingly nesting here. Up to 240 meters high sand dunes, 120 kilometers of beach and a sheltered bay, Hervey Bay is where whales cavort between August and October and they are the charm of the island’s microcosm.

Not only for geologists, botanists, nature, animal and bird lovers, but also for sailors, surfers and those looking for relaxation, Fraser Island offered paradisiacal conditions 20 years ago. In 2020, on the other hand, there were devastating forest fires and the ecosystem is a bit out of control, as in the entire Great Barrier Reef. The entire archipelago is suffering from global warming and oil and plastic pollution from tourists. Fraser Island is ancient, 123 kilometers long, 14 to 22 kilometers wide and has an eternity of over 220 million years of evolutionary history under its belt. Sand has been washed up and piled up on the island for two million years.

This landscape was formed in the Ice Age and has existed in its current form for about 6000 years. With the warming of the climate 140,000 years ago, the first traces of the Aborigines appeared there, but it is assumed that the «Butschulla» natives only settled on «KGari» Iceland 20 million years ago. For the western world, Fraser Island was discovered by James Cook in 1770. The gigantic fresh water reservoirs hold a total of ten to twenty million mega liters of fresh water. The crystal clear drinking water of Lake McKenzie, lined with bright white sandy beaches, is ideal for a swim. Dingoes can also be seen on the bank. But they don’t come to the watering place, but because of the tourists‘ bulging food bags. Many a nice bite for the wild dogs falls off. Even in the run-up to my trip to Australia, I campaigned for the “whaling ban” and reported on it in various newspapers, including the Sunday newspaper under the title “Better to cannibalize tourism than to slaughter”! Now I wanted to fulfill my dream and take part in a whale watch.

Hervey Bay is just one of a dozen places in the Great Barrier Reef where the whales frolic. Around 100 people jostle their way to the railing on the “Kingfisher” catamaran and search the horizon for fountains or a towering tail fin. “There they are,” shouts one and the crowd cheers! A colossus weighing perhaps 30 tons with a body over 16 meters long shoots up into the air like a silvery arrow, performs a pirouette and then plunges headlong into the water again. What a sublime sight! Fortunately, they are protected here. „Whale-watching“ has blossomed into a tourism branch worth 600 to 700 million in the 1990s. Whale watchers travel to Baja California, the coast of Brazil, Patagonia or South Africa to see the swimming mammals.

As early as 1994, Australia made over 50 million dollars a year from whale watching. No wonder, the giants of the seas are fascinating in every way! Their tones from the depths of the ocean sound like encrypted messages (today they are probably lamentations), similar to sonar, the echo sounder system of shipping, they determine their course with radar signals. They send out exact transmission intervals and with their sensitive instinct are able to pick up the signals of the sound waves again and to analyze and locate them precisely so that they can orientate themselves over thousands of kilometers. The chants, which last up to thirty minutes, are used to communicate with other members of the same species. From the turquoise shores of the Great Barrier Reef to a completely different area, which is in contrast to the maritime life, but also fights for survival.

The Northern Territories are the region to discover the culture of the indigenous people

The Northern Territories are the region to discover the culture of Australia’s indigenous people, a world of many contrasts between the green, tropical north and the red glowing heart of Australia, the Outback. Arnhem Land in particular is Aboriginal land and it borders Kakadu National Park to the east. More than 40 Aboriginal dialects are spoken here. Alice Springs is the second largest city and Darwin the seaside capital of the Northern Territories. The treasure trove of the aborigines, however, lies in Kakadu National Park, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Also famous are the hot thermal springs of Mataranka south of Katherine in Elsey National Park, where 30 million liters of water gush from the depths every day. Kings Canyon is Australia’s largest gorge and up to 300 meters deep. This grandiose microcosm, which ranges from rainforest to desert and from dreamlike beaches to the world’s most beautiful diving grounds, breaks all boundaries.

No wonder some people get infected by the Australia virus. Shortly before the „millennium“ I made another Australia trip of a special kind. For a lifestyle reportage, the best hotels, spa lodges and restaurants were on the menu. This led to the flagship of the Australian hotel industry „Hayman“ Island in the White Sunday Islands, then to the then newly opened „Palazzo Versace“ Hotel and then to the two luxury outback feeling „Peppers Lodge“ and „Spicers Peak Lodge“. On the way to this my off-road vehicle got on the wet nature and splinter road by an evasion maneuver due to jumping out kangaroos into the skid and into a barbed wire fence, which scraped over the whole hood, windshield and the roof, so that the brand new vehicle looked totally scratched and ready for the scrap but still drove. Only the totally scratched windshield clouded the driving fun. But it could have ended much worse.

But Australia has a big climate problem and that is the dependence on the coal industry. In the state of Queensland alone, there are over 50 of them and now, shortly before the 21st environmental summit in Glasgow, even one of the world’s largest mines, the Adani mine, is under construction but not yet in operation. Australia is the second largest exporter of coal and doesn’t give a damn about the targeted climate goals. Coal emissions account for 30 percent of CO2 emissions worldwide. This leads to long periods of drought, devastating bushfires, exceptional periods of heat, the earth glowing and boiling with rage at the fossil overexploitation and the harmlessness in exploiting the planet. The bushfires resulted in over a billion dead animals. Over half of the Great Barrier Reef is bleached and a giant coral graveyard.

Species extinctions & pandemics: Will we survive or are we the next endangered species?

FOREWORD

The author, Gerd Michael Müller, born in Zürich in 1962, traveled as a photo-journalist to more than 50 nations and lived in seven countries, including in the underground in South Africa during apartheid. In the 80 years he was a political activist at the youth riots in Zürich. Then he was involved in pioneering Wildlife & eco projects in Southern Africa and humanitarian projects elsewhere in the world. As early as 1993, Müller reported on the global climate change and in 1999 he founded the «Tourism & Environment Forum Switzerland». Through his humanitarian missions he got to know Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and other figures of light. His book is an exciting mixture of political thriller, crazy social stories and travel reports – the highlights of his adventurous, wild nomadic life for reportage photography .

(please note that translation corrections are still in progress and images will follow soon)

Australia, Queensland, Daintree Eco-Lodge & Spa, Award Winner, Gourmet-Restaurant Australien, Queensland, Daintree Eco-Lodge & Spa, eine der weltbesten Lodges Aborigines, Ureinwohner, Regenwald,Gourmet-Restaurant, Yoga, Wellness

The Earth is suffering from three diseases: Species extinction, climate change and pandemics! This is as if the patient had liver cirrhosis, heart failure and kidney insufficiency at the same time. Consequently, there will be many complications: Even more wars, diseases, conflicts, natural disasters and civil wars if we do not get the population growth under control. Food shortages, distribution struggles and migration flows can already be seen as a consequence. If we do not change our behavior, it is very likely that the end of humanity is near and our population will largely collapse. This will not be the end of evolution, but certainly the end of an era as we know and love it! And it is also not excluded that with the big species extinction also our species will be wiped out to a large extent and the human being will become the planetary history.

The human being has raged on the planet earth and will ruin it soon completely. First we have wiped out the Pleistocene fauna in North America and in South America, then in Australia the large giant marsupials and birds, and when man populated Polynesia, the large megafauna elements disappeared all the way to New Zealand. When these are missing, it also has an impact on the entire fauna and flora. For example, in the last 10,000 years we have destroyed about half of the earth’s natural forest cover and altered the biosphere to the point that entire animal populations have been wiped out. Whereby the Red Lists show only a fraction, barely ten percent, of the species described, let alone of all species living on Earth. In other words, the 800 species that have been shown to have become extinct in the past 500 years do not represent the number of animals and species that have disappeared or are currently disappearing. We are losing many species in the last remaining primary forests long before we even discovered and scientifically described them.

Today we know that 78 percent of flying insects have declined in 40 years. In the near future, we will lose about one million species. First we changed vegetation and wildlife with agriculture and resource extraction, then we poisoned into the geosphere, first with CFCs, now with greenhouse gases. What do we need to do to stop the destruction of our planet? Well we would have to take a whole series of drastic measures. The pandemic gives us a foretaste of what awaits us, or rather, at the end of 2020, Switzerland should have taken stock of where it stands with regard to the protection of its biodiversity, to review the objectives achieved both in the Swiss biodiversity strategy and the global biodiversity convention: it says: „The conservation status of populations of National Priority Species will be improved by 2020 and extinction prevented as far as possible.“ But among birds alone, partridge, snipe, curlew, red-headed shrike and ortolan are extinct or present in tiny numbers as breeding birds by the end of the decade. Switzerland is on track for only one target of the biodiversity strategy, and that is forest biodiversity. For one third of the targets, the result is lower, for one third no progress can be seen, and for the last third, developments are going in the opposite direction. The picture is also almost congruent with the national strategy for the „Aichi“ biodiversity targets, which were agreed in 2010 as part of the Biodiversity Convention: Switzerland is on track for only one-fifth. For 35 percent of the targets, however, there is no progress at all.

The Swiss flora was one of the richest and most diverse in Europe. However, more than 700 plant species are considered to be threatened with extinction. Researchers from the „University of Bern“ and the Data and Information Center of the Swiss Flora have analyzed the results with the help of 400 volunteer botanists and visited and verified over 8000 old known sites of the 713 rarest and most endangered plant species in Switzerland between 2010 and 2016. This unique treasure trove of data has now been analyzed by the „University of Bern and the results published in the scientific journal „Conservation Letters“. In their „treasure hunt“, the botanists often came up empty-handed – 27% of the 8024 populations could not be recovered.

Species, which are classified by experts as most endangered, even lost 40% of their populations in comparison to the findings from the last 10 – 50 years. These figures are alarming and impressively document the decline of many endangered species in Switzerland. Particularly affected are plants from so-called ruderal sites – areas that are under constant human influence. The affected plant species include the marginal vegetation of agriculturally used or populated areas. These populations showed losses more than twice as large as species from forests or alpine meadows. The intensification of agriculture with a large use of fertilizers and herbicides, but also the loss of small structures such as rock piles and field margins are particularly affecting this species group. Plant species of water bodies, banks and bogs are similarly affected. Here, too, the causes are home-made, according to the researchers: water quality losses due to micropollutants and fertilizer pollution from agriculture, the loss of natural river dynamics due to river straightening, the use of rivers as a source of electricity, or the draining of moorland.

In Germany, 80,000 measurements were carried out by interdisciplinary working groups from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands as part of the „Jena“ experiment. They had sown different numbers of plant species on more than 500 experimental plots, ranging from monocultures to mixtures of 60 species. In addition to plants, all organisms occurring in the ecosystem were studied – in the soil and above it. In addition, the material cycles of carbon, nitrogen and nitrate and also the water cycle over the entire period of 15 years. In this way, the scientists were able to demonstrate how species diversity affects the capacity of the soil to absorb, store or release water. The Jena experiment showed for the first time how much the nitrogen cycle of a soil depends on many factors such as species diversity, microbiological organisms, the water cycle and plant interaction.

Species-rich meadows had higher productivity than species-poor meadows over the entire period of the „Jena Experiment“. Increased management intensity through additional fertilization and more frequent mowing achieved the same effect: if a farmer promotes and fertilizes certain species, he is on average consequently no more successful than nature. The biomass energy (bioenergy content) of species-rich meadows was significantly higher than that of species-poor meadows, but at the same time similar to many of today’s heavily subsidized species, such as Chinese reed. Species-rich areas had better carbon storage. The number of insects and other species was significantly higher. Interactions between species such as pollination occurred more frequently. Species-rich meadows transported surface water into the soil better. Species-rich ecosystems were more stable to disturbances, such as droughts or floods, than species-poor ecosystems.

In France, 80 percent of insects have been lost in the last 30 years. In Switzerland, the figure is about 60 percent, and in Germany, species loss is also dramatically high. In view of the rapid loss of biodiversity and the desolation of the cities, I have been asking myself for a long time why all the useless lawns in front of all rental and apartment buildings are not converted into gardens for inclined hobby gardeners and self-supporters among the residents, and especially the poorer people and those with a migration background and agricultural know-how could grow their food partly in front of the house. This would also counteract poverty a little and guarantee the survival of many families as well as be meaningful. Why should we all import food from Africa, China and Latin America when we could beautify our cities, increase biodiversity and counteract climate change with local cultivation. As soon as a blade of grass makes itself felt, the lawn robot is already there. Useless thuya hedges as far as the eye can see. Most people don’t know what to do with nature anymore. We should think about what our communities actually do with their communal areas. They create large cultivation structures instead of promoting small-scale, local cultivation.

The core problem we all face is that 80 million people are added to the population every year, and those just born now theoretically have a longer life expectancy, even in the developing world. By the end of the century, there will be eleven billion of us, so we will need even more living space and even more agriculture for food production. By totally transforming the earth’s surface for agriculture and feeding future generations, we are destroying the treasure troves of biodiversity for all eternity. It cannot be that we destroy alone with the cattle economy for the meat production whole species existence and important ecological systems irretrievably. A vegan diet is therefore becoming the supreme credo for the growing world population. And what about an even more important resource, drinking water? Through the use of pesticides, we are poisoning our drinking water, the rivers and the lakes – also in Switzerland. There is only one solution: to abandon pesticide-intensive cultivation and return to mixed crops, which have proven their worth over centuries and promoted biodiversity.

The palm oil industry has cut down more than half of the rainforest (the size of Germany) in the Indonesian provinces of Kalimantan and Sumatra in the last 30 years and is now starting to destroy the virgin forest on a grand scale in Papua New Guinea as well. The timber industry is happy about this, as are the oligarchy and the military. In the process, small farmers are inevitably expropriated, which is quite legal in Indonesia. The Indonesian parliament also recently passed a law that radically curtails national environmental, labor and social standards and provides for zero environmental impact assessments. Therefore, the progressively worded agreement is another illusory paper tiger that will lead to the worrying destruction of huge rainforest areas in Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea. With the free trade agreement with Indonesia, Switzerland would legitimize this state of affairs and once again declare the completely insufficient eco-labels as standard.

A radical societal paradigm shift is necessary         

The Global climate change will dried out many regions around the globe and leave them with dramatic water-shortage

FOREWORD

The author, Gerd Michael Müller, born in Zürich in 1962, traveled as a photo-journalist to more than 50 nations and lived in seven countries, including in the underground in South Africa during apartheid. In the 80 years he was a political activist at the youth riots in Zürich. Then he was involved in pioneering Wildlife & eco projects in Southern Africa and humanitarian projects elsewhere in the world. As early as 1993, Müller reported on the global climate change and in 1999 he founded the «Tourism & Environment Forum Switzerland». Through his humanitarian missions he got to know Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and other figures of light. His book is an exciting mixture of political thriller, crazy social stories and travel reports – the highlights of his adventurous, wild nomadic life for reportage photography .

(please note that translation corrections are still in progress and images will follow soon)

According to „Copernicus“, the decade from 2011 to 2020 was globally the hottest year since measurements began. In Europe, too, but especially in the Arctic, record values of up to six degrees above average were recorded in the period from 1981 to 2010. In 2020, the high temperatures are particularly extreme, as they occurred without an El Niño effect in the previous year. 2021 should see another temperature increase as a result of the La Nina effect, and this is despite the fact that we have now had a Covid-19 year of very limited air travel. CO2 increases are also certain to continue. The Arctic will continue to melt and if it comes to the „worst case“ scenario and the Atlantic roll stops moving as it has been, we are looking at dark times.

In view of the unfortunate fact that after more than 30 years of dithering and hesitating, denying and refusing, watching the destruction and looking the overwhelming facts almost inactively in the eye, living in the consciousness and with the bad conscience of doing even more overexploitation than ever before, each of us must now take the reins into our own hands and make substantial contributions. „Reduce to the max“ is the motto. In other words, reduce resource consumption at all levels. We are all in the same boat. Covid has impressively demonstrated this to us. There is no more time to lose. Therefore, it is only right that the climate movement and climate youth overtake or outflank the Greens on the left and demand a much faster and more consistent approach. Covid-19 is costing us trillions. Add a few trillion to transform the economy and we would have gained enormously.

We desperately need to avoid more pandemics, so any investment would be worth it. It is up to each of us to contribute to this, but it can no longer be done without drastic steps on an unprecedented scale. Long-established lifestyles will have to change dramatically. For example, in consumer behavior: less meat consumption, less packaging, less transportation and work, use ecological means of transport and promote bio-diversified, local cultivation everywhere, etc. In agriculture, drastically reduce pesticides and herbicides and create incentives for organic farming and consistently apply water protection. All subsidies for fossil energy production must be discontinued, and in air travel a high fuel tax must be introduced across the board, thus significantly reducing air travel. In the business world, introduce carbon footprint accounting in companies everywhere, promote sustainable building technology in construction, and take charge of the greening of cities. Meadows instead of green spaces, avoid soil sealing and in forestry, cultivate mixed-age and mixed-species forests.

Although 2020 saw a revival of the „Paris Coalition of High Ambition“ at the first virtual United Nations climate change summit, where 75 nations committed to the goal of „net zero“ emissions. Most nations are aiming for the goal by 2050. So far, however, only 75 of 197 nations have submitted new or increased climate targets. But only the UK and the EU have substantially increased their targets. For all other states, the ambitions are low. Far too low for the goals of the Paris climate agreement ever to be achieved. As a result, the „Coalition for Carbon Neutrality“ proclaimed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutierrez has a good 65 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions at its disposal, which could still rise if the financial pledges for the green climate fund of 100 billion Swiss francs per year are advanced. The key instrument is the carbon price, which is also recognized by the EU and is to rise steadily until 2030. In 2015, Nobel economics laureate William Nordhaus proposed the creation of a climate club that would draw mutual benefit from the sharing of climate protection and exclude free riders, as this is the only way to get out of the „prisoner’s dilemma.“

The coalition of the willing should concede the greatest possible benefits and advantages for its members. In this way, it would be possible to counteract the problem of benefits without making efforts and contributions of one’s own. The capital market would also be well advised to invest in sustainable and green products and resources and to rapidly phase out coal.  For UN Secretary General Guttierez, this is an important step forward, but it is still not enough. We must not forget that the world is still on track for a global temperature rise of more than three degrees, which would be tantamount to a catastrophe, he said. In other words. We are still traveling at 180 kmh in terms of fossil fuel consumption.

A reduction in speed is needed. The Corona pandemic in particular has shown what is possible and can be mobilized in extraordinary situations. Patient Earth is lying in the intensive care unit, gasping for breath. It is high time to act and to implement drastic measures. For the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current (AMOC) has also dramatically lost strength in recent decades. The ocean current is also known as the Gulf Stream and carries mild temperatures up to the Channel Islands, Ireland and Great Britain, further towards the Netherlands to western Germany and Scandinavia in the higher water levels even in winter. The Gulf Stream system moves almost 20 million cubic meters of water per second, about a hundred times the Amazon current,“ says Stefan Rahmstorf, a researcher from the „Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research“ on the importance of this climate system (PIK). is the initiator and co-author of a study published in spring 2021 in the journal „Nature Geoscience“.

Butterfly Effect: Hedge Funds, the Drivers of Wars and Climate Change

Let’s face it, financial markets are at the center of the economy, determining commodity and food prices around the world and dictating what happens around the globe. Hedge funds are the bane of food and water and commodity capitalism at its purest. Let’s take a closer look: In 2008, food and commodity prices rose sharply even though the world was in recession after the financial crisis. This shows that prices rose due to speculation and not due to increased demand. What started as the flap of a butterfly’s wings on Wall Street in 2010 went on to cause riots, wars and global refugee crises. The flapping of wings was triggered by then President Bill Clinton and National Bank President Alan Greenspan with the Commodity Modernization Act, i.e. the liberalization of markets that had been strictly regulated since the 1930s and limited the number of speculators. But from now on, anyone could speculate in commodities and food without limits.

As a result, the financial markets licked blood and Wall Street and hedge funds dictated events in the most vicious way. In the same year, Russia’s wheat crop was down more than 30 percent due to climate change and drought. Wall-street speculated on a shortage of supply and drove up the price of wheat by 50 percent, which led to the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt because Egypt imported nearly 80 percent of its wheat from Russia. A rapid increase in food prices and a small increase in oil prices inevitably leads to conflicts and armed conflicts, scientists and mathematicians also noted.

Thus, in 2011, wars degenerated in Libya after the fall of Gaddhafi as well as in the Iraq war, both leading oil exporting states, fueling further conflicts in the region and triggering a conflagration that swept the entire Orient. So, too, did the unending war in Syria. This was triggered in turn by hedge funds and speculators on Wall Street and in London. They drove up the oil price massively because they were speculating on export losses. The butterfly’s wings have fluttered here, too, and so the deregulated markets have become an engine of chaos.

This speculation and the developments in the oil states also had even more far-reaching consequences. Due to the enormous rise in the price of petrodollars, Russia and Saudi Arabia, but also Venezuela, came to immense wealth and increased their military budgets and police forces either to suppress revolts at home or for further offensives. Russia in Syria, in Ukraine, and most recently in Crimea. In the case of Saudi Arabia, war came to a head in Yemen and in many other regions in the conflict between Shiites and Sunnis, meanwhile Iran, infiltrated the Middle East in its own way and pumped it full of its crude ideologies, weapons and fighters. The rise in oil prices was also the beginning of doom for Venezuela, which perished from the resource curse. Here, too, the speculators were ultimately the trigger and responsible for the streams of refugees from Latin America to the USA and from Africa and the Orient to Europe.

Climate change: How do we meet the epochal challenge?

Airshot of Hardy Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Brisbane, Queensland

FOREWORD

The author, Gerd Michael Müller, born in Zürich in 1962, traveled as a photo-journalist to more than 50 nations and lived in seven countries, including in the underground in South Africa during apartheid. In the 80 years he was a political activist at the youth riots in Zürich. Then he was involved in pioneering Wildlife & eco projects in Southern Africa and humanitarian projects elsewhere in the world. As early as 1993, Müller reported on the global climate change and in 1999 he founded the «Tourism & Environment Forum Switzerland». Through his humanitarian missions he got to know Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and other figures of light. His book is an exciting mixture of political thriller, crazy social stories and travel reports – the highlights of his adventurous, wild nomadic life for reportage photography.

(please note that translation corrections are still in progress and images will follow soon)

Policy failures: „Chronology of good intentions“ and decades of failure         

2021 showed again, the Corona Pandemic is Pipifax in comparison, what rolls on mankind and in the soon 50 year old knowledge about the harmful CO2 emissions for our planet, is merrily continued, more and more thoughtlessly consumed, resources wasted, fauna and flora and the habitat of millions of people destroyed. Already President Nixon warned in the 70s of the dramatic consequences (one of his few rays of hope) and the first „IPPC“ report of 1990 warned of the consequences of our unbridled overexploitation. There is no need to be a crazy doomsday prophet anymore, today’s scientific findings and the knowledge of how lamely we react to the threat allow no other conclusion than that our species has reached the end age. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there are two horror scenarios: One is a two-meter rise in sea level by the end of the century, depending on how fast the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt. Another is the collapse of the Atlantic Overcurrent Current (AMOC), which has already weakened. It distributes cold and warm water in the Atlantic and influences, for example, the monsoon in Africa and Asia, which is important for billions of people. The collapse of the Gulf Stream would also have a serious impact on Europe. If emissions remain the same until 2050, the temperature at the end of this century would be 2.1 to 3.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. If CO2 emissions were to double by mid-century, the temperature could rise by up to 5.7 degrees. And unfortunately, this is how things will continue. After all, the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) calculated in 2019 that CO2 emissions will rise from around 36 billion metric tons a year today to more than 42 billion metric tons by 2050 as a result of the industrialization of many countries, which is only just beginning. China produces the most greenhouse gas, about a quarter of the total, ahead of the U.S. at 18 percent and the EU at 17 percent. The proportion of CO2 emissions that are absorbed in sinks such as forests or oceans and do not remain in the atmosphere is about 44 percent, according to the report.

In 1997 the third report of the „IPPC“-climate council came out and what was outlined and proved there, exceeded all the horror scenarios and the extent of destruction by far that I had already noticed since 1993! The report should change also my activity lastingly. From then on, I refrained from the many air and long-distance trips and concentrated more on local destinations that could be reached by train. In 1999, I founded the „Tourism & Environment Forum Switzerland“ in Samedan together with Gisela Femppel, an editor of the „Südostschweiz“ and with my professional colleague Heinz Schmid, which was also supported by the famous tourism director of St. Moritz, Hansruedi Danuser. The NGO was domiciled at Samedan Airport, because at that time I was living up there in the fantastic Upper Engadin, during the winter of the century and the following two years, because I had moved from Zurich to the Engadin with my girlfriend Eve, an enthusiastic snowboarder, after the separation from the mother of my daughters. In the Engadin high valley I could regularly roam on horseback through the snow-covered forests of the alpine slopes and for the first time in my life also ride through the drifting snow and the untouched white splendor.

For the „Tourismus & Umwelt Forum Schweiz“ (Swiss Tourism & Environment Forum) I created a web portal that linked scientific facts, environmentally relevant NGO projects, responsible authorities such as the „Bundesamt für Umwelt“ (BUWAL), international organizations and critical media reports with sustainable travel offers and tips for environmentally conscious travelers. For three years I served as managing director and president for this environmental organization and set some accents in Graubünden with traveling exhibitions on the topic of „Climate Change in the Alps“ with a „Rail-Expo“ traveling exhibition of the Rhaetian Railway, three rail cars that were stationed in Davos, St. Moritz, Samedan, Pontresina and six other alpine locations in Graubünden and sent out the first warning signals. Members of the „Tourism & Environment Forum“ at that time were the „BUWAL/FLS“, the Swiss National Park, the „Biosphere Reserve Entlebuch“, the „Research Institute for Leisure and Tourism“ of the University of Bern and the „Europa-Institut“ in Basel, but also the newly launched car rental company „Mobility“ and „Toyota“ with the first hybrid vehicle, the „Prius“, along with some transport associations, hotels and media. Three train wagons were stationed at the train stations in six Graubünden locations for 14 days each. In addition, we organized a live concert to kick off each exhibition. The „Tourism & Environment Forum“ was also present at the annual vacation fairs in Zurich and Berne with presentations and exhibitions. Travel more consciously, experience more, destroy less, was the motto for travelers, in order to bring about the necessary CO2 reduction measures and an energy transition at home as well, was the goal.

„This was the first long-term institutional „Corporate Social Responsibility“ commitment of my own press agency in this country! After all, I had already been privately and journalistically involved in a number of wildlife projects and humanitarian missions abroad. At that time, I published numerous environmentally critical publications and commentaries, such as „A Requiem for the Coral Reef“ in the „Mittelland-Zeitung“ or „In the diver’s paradise Maldives, a time bomb is ticking“. In the commentary I wrote the following: „It is not El-Nino who is to blame. It is the human being who progresses too far. Alarm bells are ringing around the globe. Central America has been devastated and set back decades. The coral world in the equatorial belt is threatened or already largely destroyed, the oceans polluted, the animal world wiped out here and there, the Alps built up and spoiled“. In 1997, in response to the IPPC climate report, I wrote in „Südostschweiz“ about climate change in the Alps under the title „Keiner kommt ungeschoren davon – Alpen von der Klimaerwärmung besonders hart betroffen“.

In the magazine „Touring“ and in the „Brückenbauer“, both media with million reader public appeared further critical reports of me, which resounded far beyond Switzerland, since I interviewed the „UNEP“ director Klaus Töpfer, the head of the UN environmental organization as well as with Michael Iwand, at that time director environmental management with „TUI“ (tourism union international) and Iwand Widerpart of the „German environmental assistance“ and the nature protection federation and at the ITB the largest tourism trade fair in Berlin intervened to take the topic on the agenda. Prof. Hansruedi Müller of the „Research Institute for Leisure and Tourism“ (FIF) also pleaded for „more heart-liners than hard-liners“. From this and the following experiences and examples, one can confidently say that the „Corporate Responsibility Initiative“ accepted by the people and the popular majority rejected by the cantons will now also lead to much more paper without effect and will remain toothless. Once again, Switzerland and the corporations that dominate it have failed to live up to their global responsibilities. To our shame and against our belief in progress, we have not come one step further in the last 30 years. On the contrary. The footprint has become larger and we have made it to 4th place of the environmental offenders.

So I addressed this urgent climate appeal to the Swiss politicians and population more than 30 years ago and to the „world public“ at the „ITB“ in Berlin and already stated at that time: „The drastic trail of devastation left by industrialized man and the (un)civilized tourist is mostly carried out on the hump of the 3rd world nations and is becoming more and more dramatic. But we here in the Alps are also particularly affected by climate change. The temperature rise is expected to be much higher than the world average and the glaciers are melting just like the biodiversity. We can no longer stand idly by and watch this happen, I said to myself, and from then on I also gave up a car or a motorcycle and committed myself to the expansion of the rail infrastructure and bicycle paths. Also in my function as president of the Swiss Tourism & Environment Forum. I gave critical speeches about my own travel industry, which was urged to do more for the environment and against the enormous damage caused by air traffic and excessive mass tourism, which won me more enemies than friends. Tourism propagandists were not happy to see the global impact of their business model increasingly criticized. I emphatically challenged the travel agency association to do more than just pay the usual lip service. But what happened was that, in the words of Greta von Thunberg, „When there’s a fire, people often rub up against the fire alarm instead of putting out the fire.“ I too felt like saying „I want you to panic“ inside.

Authorities everywhere were then, as now, in a state of enforcement emergency. Whether it is compliance with the Clean Air Ordinance, noise levels to protect the public, international agreements to reduce CO2 emissions, or the fulfillment of declarations of intent and objectives such as „Agenda 21“, the „Charta of Lanzarote“, or the „Declaration of Crete“, wherever we look, we find that none of the objectives have come close to being met. „The crux is that while the need for environmentally and socially responsible tourism is undisputed, still not much is happening,“ which I criticized harshly in the presentations and reports at the time as president of the „Tourism & Environment Forum.“ The tour operators, above all the three big ones „Kuoni Reisen“, „Hotelplan“ and „Tui Reisen“ hardly cared about water and energy supply and waste management on site, which led to devastating pollution of beaches and seas especially on the Maldives and other islands. An investigation by the „Higher School of Tourism“ (HFT) concluded at the time that the „Declaration of Crete remained a dead paper tiger“! And the greenwashing continued unchanged but inflationary from then on. We have already reached certain climate tipping points in some places around the world, some scientists agree. The precious, vital treasures of our earth are disappearing at the speed of light. Every four seconds, forests the size of a soccer field are cut down around the world – including or primarily for soy or palm oil plantations. The destruction of rainforests by slash-and-burn in the Amazon, Congo, and Indonesia

account for eleven percent of global CO2 emissions! Biodiversity is declining rapidly, with up to 150 plant and animal species disappearing from the earth every day. The more natural habitats shrink, the greater the risk of viruses spreading from animals to humans. Corona is the most recent example. Ebola, dengue, Mers, Sars, Zika, all these viruses have also been proven to be due to climate change and dwindling biodiversity. That’s why we need to be much more determined to protect natural habitats and crack down on wildlife trafficking and wildlife markets.

Brazil/Salvador de Bahia: In the Cauldron of Magical Slave Energy

Brasilien: Candomblé Ritual, Salvador de Bahia | Candomblé spiritual ritual
Brasilien: Candomblé Ritual, Salvador de Bahia | Candomblé spiritual ritual

FOREWORD

The author, Gerd Michael Müller, born in Zürich in 1962, traveled as a photo-journalist to more than 50 nations and lived in seven countries, including in the underground in South Africa during apartheid. In the 80 years he was a political activist at the youth riots in Zürich. Then he was involved in pioneering Wildlife & eco projects in Southern Africa and humanitarian projects elsewhere in the world. As early as 1993, Müller reported on the global climate change and in 1999 he founded the «Tourism & Environment Forum Switzerland». Through his humanitarian missions he got to know Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and other figures of light. His book is an exciting mixture of political thriller, crazy social stories and travel reports – the highlights of his adventurous, wild nomadic life for reportage photography .

(please note that translation corrections are still in progress and images will follow soon)

During one of the first of a total of five trips to Brazil, after the Iguacu Falls, Rio de Janeiro, I also discovered Salvador de Bahia, the landing place of the Europeans and the first capital of Brazil. If you want to get to know the exotic facets of Bahian life, get ready for hot come-ons, cool rejections and delicious consolations, at least during Carnival. If you dive into the mystical world of the candoble and let yourself be overwhelmed by the overwhelming spirituality, you will leave the local world and fall into a trance to the point of ecstasy. A trip to Salvador de Bahia is like a departure to new shores. First of all, it is admirable how exhilarated the Baihanos go through life.

Remarkable how they express their joy and sorrow. The mystical world of gods and spiritual source of the Bahanos is reflected in the Candomble, which gave reason for the Christian mission, especially since Bahia was the starting point of the Western explorers and conquerors. The roots of the slave tower are deeply rooted in the local culture. Especially the candomble spirituality, lived out in secret, bears witness to this. When hundreds of gospel singers resound with fervor, not only does the earth tremble, but the air in the far periphery also vibrates, as with an approaching hurricane. The psalm-singing Catholic boys‘ choir next door in the Sao Fransico monastery in the baroque old town district of Pelourinho really sounds rather pitiful.

Rarely does one discover such a playful people that has produced an incredible number of dance and musically gifted people. In Salvador de Bahia, the cradle of carnival and samba, there is no standing still or being stiff as a board. Everything is in flux, everyone is constantly on the move, more or less gracefully. Another Bahian specialty is capoeira, the martial art disguised as dance. Here, too, the graceful flowing movements are recognizable, flowing through the whole life and triggering impulses. But not only in expressing feelings also the body cult is on top of the agenda. In this the Bahianos hardly differ from the Cariocas. There is hardly an Adonis who does not present his athletically steeled body in his skimpy briefs. There is no woman who does not proudly walk around the beach in her Fio dental (tooth thread) bikini, flirting with her grace and freedom of movement. No wonder the church has sent more friars here than anywhere else in the world. In Salvador de Bahia alone, 165 houses of worship have been built.

In 2003, I was stationed in Fortalezza in northeastern Brazil for three months as a resident manager for a Swiss travel company and had a hell of a good time. Few guests, so no stress, a hotel room right on the Beira Mar (that’s like the Copacabana in Rio) and a good vehicle with which I could drive all the way to Jericoacoara to the fantastic sand dunes or south to Moro Branco. I was very attracted to the Brazilian lifestyle, music, language and cultures on previous trips, so I also learned a little Portuguese. Since I spoke Spanish well, it was easy for me to get started and the I like the Brazilian dialects better than the harsh Spanish accents. I am also enchanted by the music of many Latin American sounds: from the tango in Argentina to the bossa nova of a Gilberto Gil in Brazil or the folk dance forro, as in Fortaleza, from the salsa and son in Cuba to the merengue in the Dominican Republic, all these musical styles and dance forms appeal to me very much.

In Fortaleza I lived during these three months as a Station Manager at Beira Mar, ideally located also for daily trips to the beautiful city beach Praia do futuro and at night to Iracema at the end of Beira Mar, where the tourist entertainment district with all the nightclubs was located, which was very convenient for the local tourist service. At the end of the three months I was shipped off to Sinai, but after the six month assignment in Sharm el Sheikh, returned to Fortaleza unemployed because the tsunami had hit Asia and as a result all the tour companies needed fewer Station Managers and Tour Guides.

On my return to Fortaleza, I lived for two months in the Serviluz favela with a friend who had a small brick house near Praia do Futuro and felt quite at home there. Soon I knew a lot of people via Heldon and his friend Joaquin, and the neighbors in the favela also knew me, so I could move around freely there day and night. It was a comfortable time, because I had made good foreign exchange deals with the tourists in Sinai and before in Brazil. This was always a tolerable source of side income in this job. In Poland, I almost became a zloty millionaire. Then a friend from Switzerland visited me and we rented a „Highlux“, i.e. an off-roader, to drive up along the Brazilian coast from Fortaleza in the state of Céara via the states of Maranhão and Piaui to Manaus and to complete the return journey inland.

That’s a good 6000 kilometers we planned to cover in 11 days. The off-road driving was more comfortable than driving on the asphalt road, which was completely littered with holes, up to half a meter deep. The asphalt looked like it had been bombed over a wide area! Therefore, I often drove on the scree strip to the right of the roadway. There one comes basically faster ahead and whirled up strongly dust, which is to be seen already from a distance and prevents the accident danger. The journey went via Jericoacoara, with its fantastic dune landscape, which was surpassed in beauty by the crystal clear lakes in the sand dune landscapes in the next state of Maranhao. An extremely fascinating region! The deep blue Atlantic with lonely dream beaches to the left, a gigantic sand dune strip along the coast and inland the esmerad green jungle. The national parks of Jericoacoara and Lençóis Maranhenses on the Atlantic coast are unique biotopes.

I like deserts better than primeval forests. You can get around better. At least in a 4×4. But even here, I would have been stranded without the help of the local fishermen, because on this trip we had to cross numerous rivers. Except for one time it went quite well, but then we came to a river, which was shallow on our side first about 30 meters, then there was a small sand island in front of the place, where the river flowed through a narrow, tearing mouth, like in a funnel. You could just make that out from 40 meters away, and it was probably the most dangerous part. „If I couldn’t cross the last ten meters after the tiny river island at full throttle,“ it would look bad, I thought.

And that’s exactly what happened. So I drove with a lot of speed through the 30 meters wide, shallow river towards the island, but got stuck there due to the slope and had too little momentum to cross the current channel with the ripping flow. and came to an abrupt stop with the engine hood stuck in the water at a 45 degree angle to three quarters. After a few hours, a couple of fishermen approached. Only thanks to a boat in the current channel that lifted the car a little and a car that pulled us back from behind with the wire rope over the shallow part of the river, we managed to get out of the river.

Another time, just as I was walking alone in the sweltering midday heat, I got stuck in deep quicksand. It took four hours, many drops of sweat and endless jerks for a few meters further. The sand was scorching hot, I shoveled like a madman for hours and didn’t think I would make it. But finally it worked out. And so the journey continued to Ilha de Maranhão, one of the largest alluvial areas in the world at the foothills of the Amazon. 800,000 buffalo populate the island, which belongs to only a few large landowners who hardly employ any workers. Where the animals pass in the dry season, a river course emerges in the rainy season. Thus, the fragile ecosystem and the thin layer of humus is destroyed in just a few years. Year after year, huge areas of virgin forest are being appropriated first for cattle breeding and then for intensive agriculture such as soy plantations. In the past 30 years, almost a quarter of the Amazon Delta has been destroyed. Yet the biodiversity here is unparalleled. In the Amazon alone there are over 2000 different fish. For comparison: In the whole of Europe there are just 150 species of fish. The same is true for all animal species, most of which are endemic.

The adventurous journey continued through the state of Piaui and from there we drove on to Manaus. Then again a good 3000 kilometers inland back to Fortaleza, where we visited the Gruta de Ubajara, Brazil’s largest caves with nine chambers and a depth of a good kilometer, at the Ubajara National Park, about 300 km west of Fortaleza. Now we come to the last and most special Brazil trip.

1997: Hell Trip to the Drug Cartels of Colombia

FOREWORD

The author, Gerd Michael Müller, born in Zürich in 1962, traveled as a photo-journalist to more than 50 nations and lived in seven countries, including in the underground in South Africa during apartheid. In the 80 years he was a political activist at the youth riots in Zürich. Then he was involved in pioneering Wildlife & eco projects in Southern Africa and humanitarian projects elsewhere in the world. As early as 1993, Müller reported on the global climate change and in 1999 he founded the «Tourism & Environment Forum Switzerland». Through his humanitarian missions he got to know Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and other figures of light. His book is an exciting mixture of political thriller, crazy social stories and travel reports – the highlights of his adventurous, wild nomadic life for reportage photography .

(please note that translation corrections are still in progress and images will follow soon)

Few countries are as rich in scenic diversity and natural wonders as the fourth largest country in Latin America. The immense generosity of this paradisiacal gene bank of fauna and flora, which spreads between the Andes and the Amazon basin, is overwhelming. When one hears or speaks of Colombia, one usually hears of drugs, murder and corruption. The guerrilla war of the „Farc“ (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), one of the longest and bloodiest civil wars apart from the Marxist Shining Path, the „Sender Luminoso“ in Peru, has officially ended but the fundamental problems of the country and the widespread cultivation of cocaine are far from being solved. There is no longer an all-powerful Pablo Escobar either, but all the more rival drug cartels that make life difficult for the farmers and the population. But for now, let’s take a look at the fascinating and, for most people, unknown, beautiful sides of Colombia.

Rarely do the sunny sides of Colombian life and the beauties of the Andes and the jungle state come to light. Anyone who fearlessly confronts the terra incognita in South America’s Garden of Eden, despite poverty and violence, will be magically drawn to Colombia’s magic and the fiery temperament of its people. The north of Colombia is dominated by the eastern, western and central cordilleras. Three massive Andean strands rising to 5000 meters with snow-capped peaks, are the topographic panopticon of the country. They contain fertile valleys with volcanic ash soils on which coffee plantations, vegetable and grain fields and fruit trees flourish, fragrant flowers and spice plants bloom. Mining brings to light the most beautiful emeralds as well as gold, platinum, silver and also abundant coal and petroleum deposits. Unfortunately, here too, few benefit from the wealth, which is based on a few profiteers and specialists in the exploitation of natural and human resources.

In Amazonia, it is as if time has stood still. Fitzgeraldo’s adventures revive on the mental horizon – thousands of dangers still lurk in the tropical rainforest. The Yaguas Indians are no threat, although they still blow deadly poisoned arrows from their blowpipes when hunting animals and birds. Crocodiles and pirahas prevent a swim in the cool Amazon. Along the Andean foothills, endless savannahs with cattle pastures spread to the north, turning into desert-like areas like the Guajira Peninsula to the east. White sandy beaches line the coasts of the Caribbean islands of San Andres and Providencia off Nicaragua’s coast. More than 40 nature reserves and national parks covering a total of 10 million hectares, which represent a kind of genetic treasure chest and information bank on the development of our planet, bear witness to Colombia’s immense fauna and flora wealth. The harbingers of the jungle begin less than 100 kilometers from Bogota.

But to get there, you have to overcome the grueling pass road of the Sierra Oriental at an altitude of 3700 meters above sea level and then master and survive the winding descent along abyssal canyons down to a hundred meters above sea level. The sun is just sinking on the blood-red horizon above the steaming jungle, where the tropical thunderstorm is violently raining down on the esmerald green jungle just before dawn and on the silver fuselage of the DC-6, with which we are flying through the lashing rain with a loud propeller howl. The pilot’s forehead is also covered with thick beads of water as it looks like difficult landing conditions. Droning, the propeller engines fight against the dense cloud swaths of clouds rushing by quickly. The view from the small round windows sweeps over the green jungle sea in the Amazon basin, the meandering river courses and island dots and set for landing whereupon we immediately with the old rattletrap over the bumpy jungle runway.

Cartagena is one of the most beautiful colonial relics in all of Latin America and the highest of emotions for historians, architects and the culturally ambitious. Once the continent’s most important port city for the slave trade and seat of the then dreaded Inquisition tribunal, a place of tragedy and heroes, adventurers and legends, it is rich in castles, monasteries, and museums, all of which are World Heritage Sites. The primeval sites, the colonial metropolises of Colombia, the villages of the Yagua Indians near Leticia in the border triangle, the Caribbean flair of the vacation island of San Andres off the coast of Nicaragua and the dwellings of the peasants in the grandiose natural spaces come together to form a grandiose microcosm.

Overlooked by the Andes, embraced by the jungle and swayed by the Caribbean and Pacific symphony of the oceans, the life of the Colombians bubbles between happiness and despair, anger and powerlessness, oscillating from exuberant joie de vivre, carried by cheerful dance music like the cumbia, to the deepest sadness about the victims of poverty, drug barons, corrupt politicians and tyrants. Colombians live, love and suffer life to the fullest. One is carried away, dives in, perhaps also under and with a little luck more well-protected again – almost foot and leaves the country again, peppered with unforgettable experiences. In Amazonia, it is as if time has stood still. Fitzgeraldo’s adventures revive on the mental horizon – still a thousand dangers lurk in the tropical rainforest. But the Yagua Indians are no longer a threat to civilization. They never were, on the contrary they are the protectors of the jungle and defended it against the unwanted and destructive invaders. Unfortunately in vain. True, they still blow their silent, deadly arrows out of their blowpipes when hunting birds or wild animals. Visitors, after painting their faces with the green color of the Urucu tree, are mostly greeted in a friendly manner because they are promising prey thanks to souvenir purchases.

Danger lurks much more in the water and in the air than on the ground. Crocodiles and pirhanas prevent a cooling bath in the Amazon, parasites and malaria mosquitoes can quickly make your life miserable, poisonous spiders and insects can even make it hell, and then there is always a full concert here. Macaw parrots, howler monkeys, vultures, cormorants and ibises are always to be heard, an anaconda, a boa or a jaguar however one gets to see rarely. I was lucky enough to encounter two lazy jaguars that had made themselves comfortable under a shrub in the shade of the sultry heat. Those who set out with Capax under the expert guidance of the „Tarzan of Leticia“ were able to experience a lot and usually returned from the jungle expedition to civilization unscathed.

In Bogota I met my professional colleague and aviation journalist and military pilot Hans-Jörg Egger. Together we flew from the capital in all directions in one week. First to Letica in the border triangle of Brazil, Colombia and Peru in the south of the country in the middle of the Amazon jungle, then to Cartagena in the colonial pearl, with the magnificent colonial style buildings similar to Havana. We continued on to Cali, at that time the drug stronghold of Pablo Escobar, the next destination was Villa Vicencio, also a well-known drug transshipment point, and finally we flew up to the Caribbean island of San Andres, which lies off the coast of Nicaragua. A quite ambitious program in one week and that was only possible because we arrived at the airport 15 minutes before the departure of the plane and could just board it. This worked out fine until the last flight to Ecuador, which was again a foreign flight.

We had not thought about that and that the procedure would take much longer. When we arrived at the counter and learned that boarding was already completed, I pointed to the check-in counter employees two business cards and said: „Stop the airplaine, now immediately“! And simply ran through the gate past the surprised securities out onto the airfield, Hans-Jörg panting beside me, after all we both had a lot of camera luggage around and in tow. Without being shot at, we ran towards the plane, which had closed all doors and was taxiing to the runway. At the same time we saw a stair car racing towards the plane and the jet stopped. After a few dozen meters we made it and were allowed to hurry up the stairs, the boarding door was opened and we were able to board. „Wow, what awesome action!“ Why did the plane stop, you ask? One business card was that of Colombia’s Minister of Aviation and the other, Bogota’s airport director. We had interviewed both people beforehand. And so it happened that for us two Swiss journalists in Colombia, a commercial airliner on an international flight was stopped on the taxiway for departure.

You should try that in Zurich, Frankfurt or London. Since our boarding was already quite spectacular, we were also allowed to take turns in the third pilot’s seat in the cockpit of this plane and experience the flight to Quito like the pilots. There I became visibly aware for the first time of how fast it goes when two commercial airliners race toward each other at 700 kilometers per hour each.

I was able to witness this during the spectacular landing approach in Quito, when a plane that had taken off from there flew quite close and very fast past our cockpit. At first you only saw a tiny dot, which quickly grew larger and whizzed past you very fast. Even more blatant was the flight with the military planes over the Andes, during which I was quite dazed due to the acceleration. I was not as fit as a military pilot! Back to the problems of this fascinating Latin American country. Although the tough peace negotiations have led to the disarmament of the Farc and cessation of their attacks on the military and the civilian population, the amnesty has not led to any atonement, no admission of guilt and no coming to terms with the atrocities committed by the Farc guerrillas with regard to the numerous victim families, and on the other hand, the farmers have been denied the necessary support for the infrastructure (roads, electricity, water) in inaccessible regions, so that in many jungle regions they have no choice but to grow cocaine.

In addition, the Colombian government is now clearing more and more virgin forest, not for an agrarian reform that would help the farmers, but solely for the exploitation of the timber industry, which is clogging up the narrow waterways, the only transport routes accessible by boat, with logs, making it impossible to transport other goods such as bananas, vegetables or fruit. Since there are no roads, no electricity and no administration, the farmers are helplessly at the mercy of the drug cartels. Very few have an alternative to coca cultivation.

Borneo 96: Stalking through the jungle with handicapped Orang Utang

Malysia/Borneo: A handicaped young orang utan at the reha station in Sepilok, Sarawak

FOREWORD

The author, Gerd Michael Müller, born in Zürich in 1962, traveled as a photo-journalist to more than 50 nations and lived in seven countries, including in the underground in South Africa during apartheid. In the 80 years he was a political activist at the youth riots in Zürich. Then he was involved in pioneering Wildlife & eco projects in Southern Africa and humanitarian projects elsewhere in the world. As early as 1993, Müller reported on the global climate change and in 1999 he founded the «Tourism & Environment Forum Switzerland». Through his humanitarian missions he got to know Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and other figures of light. His book is an exciting mixture of political thriller, crazy social stories and travel reports – the highlights of his adventurous, wild nomadic life for reportage photography .

(please note that translation corrections are still in progress and images will follow soon)

In 1996 I made a trip to Malaysia to celebrate 50 years of independence from the British Crown and after the state celebration with all the Asian heads of state I first traveled around Malaysia by car for ten days and visited Taman Negara National Park in the rainforest before flying to Borneo and landing in Sarawak. The goal was to explore the situation of deforestation for palm oil production and the situation of the Orang Utan, whose habitat has been destroyed. At Lake Batang Ai I started the expedition into the rainforest and hired a guide with a dugout canoe to lead me to the Iban Headhunters living here. After two days of traveling from Lake Batang Ai by canoe upstream through the sea of deforested tropical tribes flowing downstream, I ended up in one such longhouse village. These longhouses are built on stilts, up to 100 meters long and have a continuous wide corridor leading to the longitudinal veranda. In the longhouse, one apartment is lined up next to the other. So that everyone knows what the other of the clan is doing. Unfortunately it was very awkward to have conversations with the headhunters about their traditions and way of life, because nobody understood English. So everything went only by observation and a „low-level“ communication. In addition, I came down with malaria, which completely laid me up. Although I had swallowed some „Lariam“ tablets, I still felt very bad. Shaken by fever cramps and checkmate, I lay around like a dead fly in the „longhouse“ of the headhunters for three days before I could go back by dugout canoe to a jungle camp that had a radio station. There I tried to make contact with my family in Switzerland via the radio link and the telephone handset held elsewhere on the radio. When at home in Switzerland the tape recorder instead of a connection came, because it was there in the middle of the night, I said only briefly that I wanted to say goodbye, because I would probably not survive the night. After that I lay down outside under the starry night sky, shaken by further bouts of fever. I wanted to die at least in the open air and not in the tiny, stuffy wooden hut in which I had been accommodated.

What happened now was unique and drove me fundamentally. Whether it was only halucinations or whether I was actually brought back from the Ascension is not clear to this day. In any case I saw purely optically already the stars with comet-like rapid speed coming towards me and felt weightlessly pulled up into the orbit and glided, so to speak, like the spaceship „Enterprise“, which jetted with light speed through the orbit, towards the starry sky. But since the stars can’t come towards me, I realized that either I had taken off like an angel and was now racing towards the sparkling firmament at the speed of light or my fevered brain was doing its antics with my astral body and the journey to the stars was only a hallunzigone vision, ulta exciting and truly enlightening. Then a scream and screech rang in my ears and I heard my daughter and her mother howling in horrified tones, but did not understand a word. „What the hell do they want up here,“ I thought for a moment, and then my little daughter’s voice occupied my mind so much that my light-speed flight to the stars abruptly lost momentum and I completed a loop back to Earth, telling myself that the time to depart had not yet come, since there were two people who needed me. So I swallowed three more „Lariam“ tablets and had now reached the dose for an elephant, as a tropical doctor told me a few days later. But after that it slowly went uphill again.

With the help of the jungle camp residents I got back on my feet, traveled on to Kota Kinabalu to the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Station in Sepilok and arrived just at the right time, because at 11:00 a.m. the feeding of the Orang Utan was taking place from a platform about two kilometers further in the forest interior. Two groups of tourists had already started walking before me on the wooden walkway that led a good two meters above the ground into the rainforest to the large visitor platform and the two feeding places in the trees behind it. As I slowly approached the scene with my telephoto lens and recognized the young orangutans on the feeding areas, as well as the adult orangutan hanging from the wire rope that was stretched between the two feeding areas, I also heard the shouts of individual visitors who wanted to persuade the large orangutan to turn around, since he was only sticking his butt out at all of us. The isolated calls were in vain. As a photographer I was also interested that the fat guy u

After that, I stayed for a while, watching the babies get their food and gobble it down and then abruptly disappear into the trees again. But I wanted to be back in the rehab station before the others after feeding and made my way back a little earlier on the walkway. As I tried to sneak past a young handicapped orangutan, with a chopped off but already healed arm, lying backwards on the jetty and blocking the passage, he grabbed me by the lower leg. What was I supposed to do? When I wanted to gently release his hand that was clutching my leg, he simply took me by the hand, that is, by the wrist, whereupon we both, the young orangutan and the still feverish and sweaty photographer walked hand in hand all the way to the station. That was a wonderful feeling. The orang utan could have taken me right up into the treetops to meet his buddies. That didn’t work, but I had a damn good approach in the rehabilitation ward, when we still arrived there hand in hand like good friends to talk to the ward manager. The report about the „endangered“ apes was well received in the Swiss media and besides the seven daily newspapers that printed the report, the „Brückenbauer“ also published the story at that time with an appeal for donations, whereupon several tens of thousands of francs were collected and donated to the Orang Utan Rehab Station in Sepilok.

The orang utan, the „forest man“ in Malay, has been threatened with extinction since the mid-1960s. Despite international species protection agreements, at that time still extremely restrictive trade agreements and the two rehabilitation stations on Semengho in Sarawak and Sepilok in Sabah on the Malaysian island of Borneo, the close relatives of Homo Sapiens are acutely endangered. Greed for tropical timber and palm oil is destroying their habitat, the primary forest. Due to the destruction of their refuges, they are now isolated in small groups. The apes have become known through the Swiss environmental and human rights activist Bruno Manser, who vehemently campaigned for the indigenous people of the rainforest, the former headhunters, and then disappeared without a trace and was possibly murdered by the „timber mafia“, to whom he was a thorn in the flesh.

Bruno Manser from Appenzell lived in Borneo from 1984 to 1990, made records of the fauna and flora of the tropical rainforest and got to know the language and culture of the Penan, a nomadic ethnic group in Borneo, and lived with them. In 1990 he had to flee to Switzerland after he was expelled by the Malaysian government and declared an „undesirable person“. A bounty of 50000 dollars was also placed on his head. In 1993, Manser participated in a fasting action and. a hunger strike in front of the Federal Parliament in Bern to protest against the import of tropical timber. In 2000, despite an entry ban and a bounty on his head, he traveled from the Indonesian part of Borneo (Kalimantan) across the green border into the Malaysian Sarawak to the Penan and was never seen again. Since then, Bruno Manser has been considered missing and was officially declared dead in 2005.

Borneo: Dramatic deforestation and species extinction accepted

What is the situation today? The habitat of the great apes has been drastically reduced and their population has not increased but has been further decimated. Genomicists at the University of Zurich have recently discovered a new species on Sumatra, the Tapanuli orangutan, whose refuge lies in the rugged mountains of the Batang Toru region in Indonesia. A shot orang utan in Raja was examined more closely and classified as a new species by scientists. However, it will also be the species that will disappear the fastest. As in Borneo, the estimated 800 primates are affected by palm oil plantations, forest clearing, urban sprawl and a dam project. And they’re not the only ones silently going extinct. Many other species are also going extinct. One million species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. That’s the devastating conclusion of the 2019 „World Biodiversity Council“ (IPBES). Reptiles and birds are having a hard time, but more and more mammals are also becoming extinct. 540 land vertebrate species were wiped out in the 20th century. Most of them in the Asian region. Switzerland has just concluded a controversial economic agreement with Indonesia and relies in the agreement on „RSPO“ standards, which had been developed in cooperation with companies, environmental organizations and aid agencies. According to the draft regulation, certifications would be assessed against four standards. In addition to the „Round table on sustainable Palm Oil“ (RSPO), the „Standard ISCC Plus“ (International Sustainability and Carbon Certification) and the so-called „POIG“ (Palm Oil Innovation Group). But this will not stop deforestation or dam projects, and the habitat of the orang utan and many other species is doomed. An agreement with sustainability goals is a step forward, but unfortunately it does not change the fact that overexploitation continues and there are too few protected areas. The demand for palm oil has increased extremely. Accordingly, the area under cultivation grew, which was only achieved by clearing primary forest. Since 2008, the area under palm oil cultivation has increased by 0.7 million hectares per year, an area four times the size of the canton of Zurich. And the demand is expected to double by 2050. On the island of Borneo, 50 percent of deforestation is due to palm oil cultivation. In Indonesia, which is much larger, the figure is already 20 percent. While there are also positive signs of RSPO certification, the majority of farms operate on the principle of economy of scale (70 percent) and only a third are cultivated through smallholders and cooperatives. Thus, the further potential for destruction remains eminently high.

Six percent of all animal species are found on the island of Borneo. For over 4000 years, the rainforests of Borneo have been populated by indigenous peoples. Over the last 50 years, nearly half of the rainforest in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, has been cleared. There are thousands of land conflicts of indigenous communities with large logging companies. Although there has been a convention to protect the rainforests for 30 years, it has never been ratified and implemented by the Indonesian parliament. Furthermore, it can be observed that almost all politicians are either former or still incumbent timber industrialists in Jakarta, as Norman Jiwan from the NGO „TuK“ reports. And only less than 30 of the richest Indonesian families profit from the palm oil industry. Since the rights of the indigenous peoples and their land, which has been used ecologically for centuries, are not recognized, the timber industry can do as it pleases, with the necessary papers from the government. The customers of the timber companies are also the owners of the palm oil industry, who thus earn double from the overexploitation, because only five years after the clearing of the rainforest, the first profits from the palm oil business can already be booked. The kleptocracy in Indonesia knows no borders. The rights of the indigenous peoples are mercilessly undermined, and their land is expropriated with little or no compensation. Once the forest is cleared, the government can easily declare it as inferior forest or agricultural land and lease it to the palm oil companies through licenses, and the local communities lose the rights to their land forever. The international profiteers besides the Indonesian companies are global players like „Nestle“, „Cargill“, „Unilever“, „Procter & Gamble“ and so on.

The port city of Samarinda at the mouth of the Mahakam River, is ideally located to ship the greenbe Gld overseas. The local sawmill in Samarinda and the logging company are „FSC“ certified. Many seek and receive the „FSC“ certifications even though they are ruthlessly expanding their business with land grabs on indigenous lands. Therefore, the certifications cannot be believed. It is pure eyewash to trust them. Because the controllers of so-called certification labels are private companies that want to secure the next orders by certifying as much as possible and without hesitation, says the Austrian „Greenpeace spokeswoman“ Ursula Bittner. „One of the biggest problems with the controls is the players in the business. The more lax the controls are, the more orders flow to the controllers.“ This leads to few and insufficient controls, to intransparency, which hardly allow a real origin traceability, „Greenpeace“ complains. The decisions are oriented towards the industry and corrupt politics. Lukas Straumann of the Bruno Manser Fund in Basel also confirms that corruption is widespread in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Tropical rainforest plywood also made its way to the Tokyo Olympics and was used in the stadiums to form the concrete foundations via „Sumitomo Forestry“, one of the main timber suppliers for the Olympics, according to Hanna Heineken, a financial expert with Rainforest Action Network. The Japanese government subsequently had to admit that tropical rainforest timber was used in all Olympic stadiums, coming from shady sources and companies involved in land conflicts, human rights abuses, tax fraud, licensing fraud and many other economic crimes. Well, and where is the headquarters of the Olympic community?

In Switzerland, in Lausanne. One wonders how far the responsibility of the Olympic Committee extends? Obviously nowhere! The „Olympic Committee“ obviously didn’t give a damn about sustainable games and should be held accountable from now on. Unfortunately, it is also the case that the Swiss government has concluded an agreement with the Indonesian government that is praised as sustainable and, like so many paper tigers, is not worth a cent. It only serves to calm down overly believing consumers, the justification by the exploiters and profiteers in banking and economic circles, but never for the protection of the rainforest or the actual observance of indigenous human rights. This is also the case in the Malaysian part of Borneo. The Sarawak Taib Mahmud family has interests in over 400 companies and has moved its assets to dozens of countries. According to „Interpol“, 150 million US dollars were laundered annually by the Taib Mahmud family through an international banking network. The „Deutsche Bank“ was very involved in this. Malay Prime Minister Najib Rasak was also proven in the „1MbD Scandal“ to have received $681 million from a Singaporean bank that forked out in connection with the immense money laundering in the „1MbD Fund.“

Maldives 93: First signs of climate change become visible

Maledives: The beach of Ihuru island in the Ari Atoll and Indian Ocean

FOREWORD

The author, Gerd Michael Müller, born in Zürich in 1962, traveled as a photo-journalist to more than 50 nations and lived in seven countries, including in the underground in South Africa during apartheid. In the 80 years he was a political activist at the youth riots in Zürich. Then he was involved in pioneering Wildlife & eco projects in Southern Africa and humanitarian projects elsewhere in the world. As early as 1993, Müller reported on the global climate change and in 1999 he founded the «Tourism & Environment Forum Switzerland». Through his humanitarian missions he got to know Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and other figures of light. His book is an exciting mixture of political thriller, crazy social stories and travel reports – the highlights of his adventurous, wild nomadic life for reportage photography .

(please note that translation corrections are still in progress and images will follow soon)

Via Sri Lanka, which I got to know for ten days on a cultural round trip and garnished with numerous visits to Ayurveda clinics to learn more about the 3000 year old health knowledge, I arrived in the Maldives. Thanks to the great distance to the continent as well as the gigantic insular distances of 764 km length and 128 km width, the island kingdom could escape the grasp of the colonial powers. The territory of the island kingdom covers 90,000 square kilometers and is home to over 1300 islands. The Arabs exerted the greatest influence on the Dhivehi Islanders. Islamization began as early as 1153, when the Buddhist king Kalamaninja converted to Islam. The Kalamaninja dynasty lasted 148 years and ruled with 15 sultans. Another 78 sultans followed in the over 800 year history of the Maldives.

The almost 1800 coral atolls stand out from the deep blue Indian Ocean like a shining white pearl necklace. A mosaic of light and color surrounds the chain of islands scattered from north to south across seven degrees of latitude. Each of these islets, covered in smaragd green vegetation and fringed with turquoise blue lagoons and ring-shaped reefs, which rise from the depths of the seabed and turn its opulent underwater splendor upward, looks slightly different. The outer reefs shield the atoll, which often rises only a few centimeters above the water surface, from the surf.

Colorful coral gardens housed an immense variety of species. A picture book idyll of sea, sun and palm beach and secluded island romance as well as an Eldorado for divers as well as water sports enthusiasts awaited me on the first tourist island of Ihuru. The downside: A fragile ecosystem endangered especially by tourism. An island kingdom that is visibly threatened in its existence by global warming and rising sea levels as early as the early 1990s and is probably irrevocably doomed. The mountains of garbage left behind by tourists on the islands and on nearby Male are testimony to the growing pollution and destruction of fragile ecosystems.

Since tourism has replaced fishing as the main source of income, a flood of garbage has poured over the tourist islands and coral gardens along with the tourist boom. Apart from fish, coconuts and bananas, all other consumer goods have to be imported. The fuel consumption for the transport of the goods to the tourist islands already swallowed up a lot of fuel at that time and was reflected in second place in the import statistics.

On Ihuru, I saw local fishermen bringing in shiploads of sandbags and piling up ramparts on the beach to prevent erosion. This brought home to me, almost 30 years ago, that there was climate change, which was still being downplayed as the „El Nino“ effect. But as I became increasingly aware of the global glacier melt and that this would cause sea levels to rise and the climate-critical Atlantic Ocean to abruptly break off, I published several reports and commentaries in Swiss daily newspapers. At that time, global warming was already on the horizon, and four years later, the first „IPPC“ report presented it in a detailed and scientifically well-founded way.

The „El nino“ effect dramatically destroyed the submarine coral world of the Maldives in 1993. It bleached out and largely died. Fortunately I experienced the incredible colorfulness of the iridescent soft coral gardens during my first dives on Ihuru and Rihiveli as well as on the sister islands „Dighofinolu „and „Veliganda Hura„. Four years later I traveled to the Ari Atoll to the island of Makafushi and took part in a freighter sinking to create an artificial coral reef again. But these are all drops in the ocean, and in less than 50 years the Maldives will once again be submerged in the tides and remembered as a sunken island atoll.

In 1992, at the Rio Conference on Sustainable Development, tourism was not yet an issue. But that changed rapidly thereafter due to global air travel growth. In 1994, the „World Travel and Tourism Council“ (WTTC) and the „World Tourism Organization“ (WTO), together with the „Earth Council“, published the „Agenda 21“ for the travel and tourism industry and appealed to the United Nations to better anchor the „Agenda 21“. But it was not until April 1999 that the Commission presented its first four-year program on „Tourism and Sustainable Development.“ In the meantime, a flood of eco-labels and eco-certifications emerged, as well as CO2 compensation schemes such as „My Climate“ when flying, all issuing a kind of ecological certificate of harmlessness, which reel considered