50 years of the RTA
Congratulations. One of the most beautiful regions of Portugal has prematurely aged. They did it! The Algarve is covered in scars, with a face which can’t mask all of the
massacres it has suffered. There is no longer any makeup or botox that can help. A long, hard look in the mirror will reveal many memories from years of this decline.
RTA paved the way for the destruction of one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. The growth of real estate speculation has made skyscrapers sprout on the beach. Today, by the coast, we have concrete and tarmac, endless lines of cars, and trucks bringing food from afar to shopping centres which only exist for the tourist trade. Tourism is the largest employer and the biggest emitter of CO2, responsible for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Without tourism, Ryanair would not exist. Tourism is responsible for a huge amount of wasted water, and for the piles of rubbish that have accumulated over the past 50 years. Year on year, planes bring thousands and thousands of tourists to the region, and the ETARs become overwhelmed. And what do the tourists do? They rent a car or catch a bus to go from A to B, from Albufeira to Burgau, driving back and forth. And what for? To get to know the country? I doubt it. So what do they do during their holidays? Watch dolphins trapped in tanks or swim up and down a pool, just to pass the time? Make no mistake – tourism is a business just like any other: a carnival, or an amusement park.
Here and there, a palm tree adorns an investment of millions. Everything the Algarve offers up for consumption, to rent or to buy, has the sole goal of generating revenue: from “rent a car” businesses to real estate, boating excursions, surfing and even so-called “nature tourism”. The very concept of “nature tourism” is misleading, as nature and tourism are mutually exclusive. It’s just a question of charging money. All of the theatre that the tourism sector and its related industries have to offer us is based solely on advertising and the marketing of beauty. But beauty no longer exists south of the EN125. After 50 years, there is still an overriding interest in profit above all else. We could say that it’s a type of prostitution. During the low season, there is little time to rest and take a deep breath before the next summer invasion. 50 years like this, and now what? Anyone who sees the “behind the scenes” of this show will immediately notice that tourism is a cold business, meaningless and unethical.
The only purpose of having a “pretty face” is to increase sales. And what is being sold is a dream that may turn into a nightmare, because the Algarve is a region incapable of feeding itself, especially when things go wrong. And we are not so far away from finding ourselves in this situation.
Just imagine that, over the next decade, fewer aircraft pass through Faro Airport due to emissions taxes and plane tickets becoming increasingly expensive. An aircraft fuel tax is also being discussed – these resources come at a price, and then what will happen? Is the dream over? Will this “theatre” of tourism be forced to change course? And will the concrete towers, which are currently only 55% occupied, remain empty?
Do we really believe that the ease with which we can fly all over the world will continue forever? What if this situation changes? The consequences for some tourists – those who have booked their all-inclusive holidays and now await the arrival of a bankrupt tour operator’s plane – were written in very small letters, and they are only examined when everything ends badly. But the beginning of the story also has to be told. It starts, for example, in Lagoa dos Salgados, the only protected area for birds still left in the region, a 359-hectare biotope between Armação de Pera and Albufeira. In this “theatre” of tourism, rehearsals for the final act have now begun. Do they want to build more real estate? Is this in the national interest? It’s just a matter of time and money – we’ll soon see if this “play” ends happily or not. Over the past 50 years, there have been many such tragedies in the Algarve.
As no other publications in Portugal are either willing or able to do so, ECO123 will challenge this tourist “amusement park” in its Winter edition. It is our obligation as journalists not to be tied to commercial interests. RTA will be 50 years old. This will attract a lot of publicity. So, have a pleasant trip!
Insecurity for all
This country is divided. The division is inland, far from the coast and the cities, and it separates not only the rich from the poor but people who are from the city and people who are from the countryside. It strikes me that people living in cities know nothing about life and work in small villages and towns. And do those living the countryside have the same attitude towards what happens in the city? ECO123 spoke to a resident of the countryside about why he had never once flown by plane, and why he feels so at peace in his village – better than many people do during their holidays or in the city. During this conversation, we learned that he has only once been on a bus, to visit his fellow countrymen in Fatima.
You might think that houses in the countryside are insured against earthquakes, floods, burglaries and fire – as in Portuguese cities and across the rest of Europe – but that is not always the case. Lots of houses in Monchique (and in Pedrogão Grande, among other places) are not insured. Of the 71 houses damaged in 2018’s wildfires, only three were insured. Good fortune for the insurance companies – terrible luck for the owners and residents who lost their homes and all of their possessions! And now, what can we do next? Should home insurance be mandatory, just as it is for anyone who buys a car?
Many firefighters who came to Monchique were from Lisbon and Porto, without the faintest clue about the area’s geography or the types of fires that they would have to put out. It wasn’t a good experience. Are firefighters from the city less effective than firefighters from the countryside, who are more familiar with the forests? The Commander of the Monchique Fire Brigade talked to us about what work involving familiarity with the land is all about.
Everything that we’ve talked about could have come about by itself, but the actual reasons for these problems are far more complex. Now, this story becomes interesting due to one unavoidable question: why? Why did Civil Protection commanders in Faro and Lisbon let Monchique burn, ensuring that destruction will endure for many years to come? Why didn’t these houses have insurance? When – in life and following this sort of catastrophe – negligence is evident, then important issues are raised: what care and attention should be given to the problem? How much CO2 is released during a wildfire? This is a question that we wanted to ask António Costa, now that he would like to be re-elected. But he is still afraid of an uncomfortable interview. I’ll ask again: does it make sense to save insurance money in the knowledge that, from time to time, vast areas of the countryside will burn? And this situation will not improve while The Navigator Company, listed on the PSI20, continues to encourage the dominance of the eucalyptus in actions reminiscent of Salazar’s dictatorship. Can we call out this attitude as negligent and greedy?
Another issue concerns the construction of the houses that burned down. Rather than adhering to the recommended building rules for a fire-prone region, these houses had wooden roof constructions, were surrounded by trees and by inadequately cleared land. This is in addition to the desertification of the area, which allows eucalyptus trees to spread everywhere. People who live in these villages are left without any way of facing the fires – architects must be aware that houses here have to be resistant to this problem.
And finally, to kick off this edition, we will consider those responsible for these wildfires in the countryside. Have a read of this interesting report on the following pages.
A climate-neutral life is possible at any time.
2011 was a decisive year. As the publisher, I might have opted to buy a new car, but that was not my choice. Instead, I invested about 40,000 euros in two solar grid systems, which have 40 panels that follow the sun’s movement, as well as investing in two installations with solar thermal panels. Thus, between February 2011 and August 2018, our publishing company has produced more than 100,000 kWh of electricity, one part for its own consumption, another for resale.
I have just taken stock of this investment. Each year, our office, with three computers, etc. consumes about 2,500 kWh. For the apartment, I need approximately 4,000 kWh. When we invested in a new electric car with a five-year warranty in 2015, we could instantly remain mobile with environmentally-produced electricity instead of fossil fuels (petrol/diesel): and that electricity is produced by our own panels. For the 20,000 km that we travelled with the electric car during a year, we needed 2,000 kWh. Total consumption amounts to approximately 9,500 kWh per year. There are no CO2 emissions.
In the years of greatest production, this can amount to 18,000 kWh; in less productive years, it is about 14,000 kWh. There are, therefore, 16,000 kWh on average, of which we sell 6,500 kWh, generating a profit. In other words, the trips we make in the electric car, for research, business and distribution purposes, do not generate any emissions or energy costs, as the solar installations are already carbon-compensated. And the examples of our success in sustainability do not stop here. For nutrition, we have started producing organic food. Fortunately, by chance, the solar installations escaped the terrible catastrophe of the recent forest fires, reliably continuing to generate climate-neutral electricity.
So, have you already thought about your own environmental balance?
There are reasons why temperatures rise to 40 degrees Celsius in the summer, why we have droughts and face losses of billions of euros in agriculture, catastrophic fires and then floods in the winter. Things do not happen by chance. Can I suggest that you make your own climate assessment and think of ideas to make it even more efficient than mine? You see, with “green investment”, you can even make money. Come and discuss the FUTURE with us at our local climate summit on Saturday 27 October in Monchique-Alferce.
However… if we do act now, we will still be able to repair the damage wreaked by the global warming caused by humanity before the costs begin to exceed our income. It will not make sense to plant trees, just to see them burn in the next fire. It will not make sense to rebuild cities after they have been flooded, for one day they will be submerged. It is useless behaving like a hamster on a wheel, without trying to escape from the situation. If we don’t want to become exiled by the climate, then we must have the courage to ACT NOW, and get off this wheel that leads nowhere. Every day that passes is a day lost. Let’s win.
The development of green initiatives can become a real source of SATISFACTION and make us feel good. Let’s face the reality. In this issue, ECO123 focuses on the element Air, interviewing the Norwegian economist and psychologist Dr Per Espen Stoknes. We also spoke with a lot of young people during the participatory meeting “Monchique 2030 – Zero Carbon Emissions – What Future?” It is not just about the climate, it is about conserving our atmosphere and achieving the environmental goals of the Paris agreement. Why wait for the decisions of backward-looking politicians with outdated ideas? We can all contribute with concrete measures to achieve these goals. Read how, in this issue…
Creating healthy land is everything, because nothing is anything without healthy land. An old saying has it that healthy land means healthy plants and trees, and hence healthy animals and people. We have to recognise that we are also part of nature and do not exist separately from it. But many people have grown up believing just that. The Bible itself demanded that humans subdue nature, while science views nature from a purely rational point of view. Both are wrong, and see things too simply. Because like that we forget that we humans are ourselves part of nature, both inwardly and outwardly. We should concern ourselves with the health of our land, otherwise we jeopardise the productivity of the earth, and lose our relationship to woods and fields.
One example. A simple mixture of clover and grass grows surprisingly well, with no artificial fertiliser. Why? Because clover, which we cultivate in the fields, collects nitrogen from the air and fixes it in small nodule colonies on its roots, and thereby brings it into the ground. That is part of the phase of making the soil more fertile. It occurs in a completely natural cycle. That’s how our ancestors cultivated foodstuffs: without any artificial fertilisers, without chemical pesticides or herbicides, without genetic engineering. Anyone who has had this experience turns their back on so-called modern agriculture and its monocultures, while also adopting greater diversity in terms of organic food production and permaculture.
If we use the manure from our hens, cows and domestic pigs, or simply compost our kitchen waste – which people in the cities also understand – if we turn the compost over and get the air inside, we create something very valuable, much more valuable than a standard soil nutrient analysis can show. It is also a question of patience, perseverance and the passing on of knowledge and experience. If this passing on of experiences between the generations is interrupted, we not only lose our connection with the earth and thereby the ground from under our feet, but also the correct orientation.
For that reason, we are once again having a close look at law No. 10/2018 relating to the prevention of forest fires. Unfortunately, it shows that our politicians and officials still have no idea what our forests really need. Were we to follow this law to the letter, Portugal would turn into a desert within a generation. The clearing of the forests would cause irreparable damage to nature. The law came into being under the influence of fear; a fear that the forest fires and their destructiveness will be repeated, something that will inevitably happen. The natural forests that have been destroyed by greed and depopulation over 50 years cannot be put right in the space of just one year!
The first step in the right direction starts with respect for indigenous trees. This won’t work without our demonstrating due attentiveness. The only way to achieve this leads us back to the countryside and to nature. What is required, therefore, is the careful upkeep of the existing forests and the planting of mixed forests, and their upkeep in the future. Those who want to curb climate change need to engage in forestry and agriculture with diversity. Incentives for living in the hinterland are needed so that it becomes habitable again. We are devoting this edition to the element EARTH: the land and our nutrition, the trees and natural seeds. We also ask where and how the traditional craft of the farmer and forester can be learnt. On your behalf, ECO123 has had a look at the few healthy fields and the most beautiful forests in the country.
Water, a resource in short supply.
Unrelenting population and economic growth is throwing the climate off balance. The burning of oil, gas and coal creates greenhouse gases that are heating that thin protective layer we call our atmosphere as never before. A short-sighted and false philosophy is creating weather chaos and threatening everyone’s livelihood. For several winter months, it hardly rains at all, but then heavy rain lands on parched, fertile soil and washes it away in floods.Storms and tornados afflict the country. The question arises as to whether the diminishing water reserves will be enough for another hot summer. In this edition, ECO123 considers the wonderful substance of water from different points of view.
Last summer, water was already in short supply in the Algarve. The reservoirs were emptying visibly. Thirty percent full is seventy percent empty. In the southernmost mountains in Europe, in the Serra de Monchique, which is talked about as a green lung and as being rich in water resources, the environmental sins of recent decades are already taking revenge. Eucalyptus, wood for the paper industry, is drawing off water from the natural surroundings. In August 2017, the cisterns in the parish of Marmelete (Monchique) were almost dry. People turning on their taps noticed the lack of pressure. Three times a day until mid-February, the civil defence organisation had to drive a municipal tanker carrying 50,000 litres of spring water from Caldas to Marmelete, and fill the parish tank. A short time later, the parish of Alferce also succumbed to drought. Wherever the industrial forestry business with its monocultures extracts water from the ground, there is little water left for the rest of the people during a drought, or for flora and fauna. Tourism, industrial agriculture and industry all work by the same rules. They extract scarce water from the ground.
The limits to growth are becoming more and more visible. Environmental damage, caused by industrial interests and the pursuit of profit by a minority, is being increasingly compensated for by the involvement of the state and its institutions, using tax revenue. While the paper industry brings in large profits through the exploitation of nature, the parishes have to bear the costs: forest fires and no water to put them out? When will those who are really responsible be asked to pay up? And when will there be a political change of direction towards a sustainable, careful and circular type of economy?
Summer is around the corner. Day Zero, when the municipal water supply could collapse, is a key issue. On every hot, dry day – owing both to wasteful consumption by many millions of tourists, the over-exploitation of water resources by the monocultures in agriculture and the forestry business and an industry that simply channels its poisonous waste water into the rivers – real reserves of drinking water are becoming scarcer and scarcer. What is to be done? ECO123 journalists have researched what sustainable solutions for humanity’s most precious asset, water, could look like.
Nothing more to achieve in life?
Why does the head of the Civil Protection Service falsify his university degree? Why does the municipal president always sign his name with Dr. in front of it, although he has never written a dissertation? Why does a prime minister who has been voted out of office call himself an engineer, even though he was never awarded this title?
This edition focuses on the subject of education and lifelong learning. According to one estimate, between three and five percent of all people claiming to hold titles use their titles inappropriately. But what do you do with cheats and posers, who prefer to conceal their true selves? You could start a list on Wikipedia and update it according to the situation.
Our political leaders somehow seem to have forgotten to update our State school education and bring it into line with the 21st century. Teachers from the 20th century are teaching young people from the 21st century using methods from the 19th century. The same applies to the contents being taught. Because what are our children learning at home and in schools about nature and ecology? What sort of knowledge could our children learn to apply practically and constructively in their everyday lives in order to stop climate change, to contain forest fires, in order to solve current environmental problems at their root? What do students learn at the faculties of economics about the relationships between economicsand ecology?
What percentage of what we learn in our first twenty-five years can we put to practical use in the next twenty-five, when conflict resolution and the avoidance of violence in family communities are what really matter? Seven out of ten married couples get divorced within seven years. What sort of love is that and what do we do with the victims of this love, the children? A look at the statistics on this subject is deeply shocking and shows that we should not expect to see any fundamental solutions from the world of politics at present, just cosmetic and palliative measures.
But there is a different way. This is shown by a different kind of reality. This time too, ECO123 is once again researching into and writing about success stories. Looking behind the scenes, showing the links between things, and investing sufficient time. Being able to listen. As a journalist and as a teacher, you have to want to look for solutions and to be able to see further than the end of your own nose. Then perspectives start to open up and you can see a new picture – one in which there are not always fires, or storms or other catastrophes and accidents.
Would you like to join with us in doing this? Instead of acquiring a false doctorate at some stage, you could now get a regular subscription to ECO123. Give someone issue no. 20 of our magazine and three further issues (nos. 21 to 23) in 2018 as a Christmas present for €20 with free delivery. On that note, please keep fit in body and cheerful in mind…
Shall we bet?
Everyone’s talking about saving energy; on this occasion, I won’t. Anyone who starts by investing their own resources will know, within a short time, what I mean by sustainable investing and return on investment. Let’s look at this somewhat more closely, taking transport as an example, and let’s ignore the tools of our modern era. For once, let’s not travel from A to B by plane, by car, or any other kind of vehicle; rather, let’s use our own energy and set off on our own two feet and under our own steam. Yes, you’re reading this correctly: let’s travel on our own two feet.
If we talk about the fact (and actually put it into practice) that we must get away from the internal combustion engine, that does not mean at the same time that we should install an electric motor in some other kind of metal or plastic vehicle and carry on as before, as if nothing had happened for 150 years. While transport researchers rave about the idea of putting driverless cars on the roads and networking transportation offerings, I am talking about just getting around on foot, moving from A to B using one’s own energy. Think simply, act simply, take a deep breath, and set off. As far as I’m concerned, we could also include bicycles. But for once I’m thinking from first principles. This way of thinking starts with making use of our own physical resources, and our tools, our legs and feet, muscles and sinews and our steering mechanism, our brains.
People who want to have something transported in the future will be able to hire or borrow a means of transport. But how are we going to plan our journey to work, to school, to university, on holiday, to a concert, to the theatre; how will we go shopping for food, clothes and other essential consumer goods?
There will be taxis in the future, and I am not calling trains and buses into question. What I am calling into question is the so-called freedom of the individual to cause lasting damage to everyone’s living space. I see cars dying out as an individual means of transport, along with planes as a way of travelling on business and on holiday. People who are still earning their living from the Volkswagen cheats would be well advised to start looking for a new job before long. The company that is still the world’s biggest car manufacturer at present will disappear in the foreseeable future. I bet they won’t survive till 2022 in their current formt. Kodak and Olivetti didn’t succeed either. And Ryanair is the next candidate on my list. I predict that Ryanair will go bust sooner or later. Those who trample on employees’ rights to such an extent and ignore the social insurance that exists in Europe, hardly pay any tax, and sow nothing but stinginess, will also reap the same. Shall we bet on it?
Can you imagine a world without Volkswagen and Ryanair? What would it be like? Would such a world be more pleasant, calmer? Would something be lacking, such as the vast quantities of exhaust fumes in the air we breathe, which would be eliminated in future? I see Travelling on Foot as an offer, an offer to think and act.
How do we want to live?
EDITORIAL Nr. 18
A rift is appearing in our country and our lives: not only rich and poor, and old and young, people from the city and the hinterland are also becoming increasingly foreign to each other. Those who live in towns and cities inhabit a different milieu; life in the countryside is foreign to them. But people who sow maize and potatoes, who harvest fruit and vegetables themselves, who have their own chickens and goats, for example, also have a direct connection to their food. Country folk generally lead more environmentally friendly lives than city folk, who, to get their food, first have to travel to the supermarket, and open a packet which they then throw in the rubbish. There is no shortage of places to live in the countryside. There are empty properties here. The cities are dominated by noise, bad air and stress, the villages by social control…
Where does our future lie, as human beings? In the hinterland, there is an unwritten rule that people give each other things from their gardens. That gives a friendship its very special worth, and people show in this way that they value each other in their mutual commitment. People know each other and show concern for their neighbours, share food and moments of joy, especially the things that are not of material value. People mourn together those who have passed away, celebrate on birthdays and other occasions, distil medronho and go mushroom collecting together. People delight in love and in the younger generation.
This magazine, which is produced in a village and in the provinces and is read just as much in Lisbon and Porto as in Portalegre or Guarda, and which only appears four times a year, works with time and not against it. That is a unique chance for everyone who wants to take time for themselves, to pause and read, in the cities too. Because there, as we know, hardly anyone has any real time. But we need time to think and feel about the way we wish to live.
In the city, most people leave their flat to drive to work, and back again in the evening. But those who live in a village have their accommodation, place of work and school all nearby. A major ecological, and a major economic advantage too. For that reason also, we will witness a flight from the cities in the coming years. We will come across people who do not know how to use their hands to produce their own food. There will be much to do in the field of ecological education…
My friend Carlos, who was a university lecturer for many years, adores going into his garden almost every day to do a bit of work there. There is always something to do there. What is commonly known as work fills him with joy. It gives him a good feeling. The winter saplings have been planted out, the garden has been tilled. This ensures direct contact with Mother Earth, who gives us something in return for our work. That is something we should never forget.
Why do I mention Carlos? Because he has just sent me, his friend, a punnet of strawberries. I’m now standing at my kitchen sink washing the fruit, placing each one in turn in a bowl for today’s dessert. This is how my day begins. I have just had breakfast and am washing up, thinking about what I could cook today and what this edition should be like. I imagine what it would be like if we were to re-use everything that we touch with our hands. After all, there’s no place for rubbish in nature itself.
This edition provides nine quite different people with the chance to talk about themselves and to tell you how they wish to live …
Is Portugal an Island?
Editorial Nr. 17
Electoral success that is attributable to frustration and the fear of even greater social decline can confidently be designated a Pyrrhic victory. Stoking up division and fear and triggering conflicts represent the contemporary model of populist politics that looks back longingly and ecstatically on the glorious past of the plundering of our planet. However, such politics are able neither to recognise the pressing problems of the present, nor to offer a sustainable vision of a better tomorrow.
It is the politics of short-sightedness, which reaches no further than the tip of people’s noses and represents their own limited view. This political outlook is too restricted, and highly dangerous because it destroys social consensus, plays with fire and time and again leads to war. Short-sightedness does not look for sustainable solutions. It seeks only to find fault in others, excludes minorities, stirs up xenophobia, and increases social and economic inequality. Short-sightedness destroys our biotope, the Earth.
Solutions for our manifold global problems can never be found simply in black-and-white models; rather, they require acute farsightedness that goes beyond the tip of one’s own nose. Bringing people together, reducing fears, looking for solutions together: these are the only ways in which politics can defuse conflicts. Composure makes an important contribution to the solving of problems. This takes time and patience, involves discussion and decision-making, including trial and error. But the basis is an intact planet, and inhabitants who look after and cherish it. Do we do this?
Although Portugal is a small country, one of our readers told us that we have everything we need for a good life. Peace. Free sun and wind, which provide our country with environmentally-friendly electricity. Enough mother earth and clean water to get a sustainable form of agriculture up and running that could provide us with good, balanced nutrition. We have, she continued, wide-ranging expertise to manufacture environmentally-friendly products to clothe us, keep us healthy and mobile, and make us independent of senseless imports.
Another reader writes, however, that he sometimes has the impression that ECO123 is 20 or 30 years ahead of its time. Thank you! We smile, but we also start to think. If we found sustainable social and ecological solutions today that were so far ahead of their time, we would be on the right track to secure our future. If we found a just, consensus-based solution for alleviating poverty and existential fear, Portugal would be an island of peace.
From 25 to 27 September, the 17th BIEN World Congress on the Unconditional Basic Income will be taking place at the Assembleia da República in Lisbon with representatives from many countries on the planet. In this edition, ECO123 discusses this topic of the future with you.
h1 style=”text-align: justify;”>What fuel drives us onwards?
Editorial Nr. 16
Most of are in the process of learning that less can be more: Working less means having more time: for oneself, and for one’s nearest and dearest. Accumulating less property also mean… being less burdened with responsibility, less plundering of resources or waste. Living in close harmony with our earth is becoming an increasingly important issue. What motivates us to do so? What are we investing in the future of our children, in the future of coming generations? Bringing soul, mind and body into balance is the ideal basis for a harmonious life. But what does that mean in concrete terms? We ask a doctor, who doesn’t fight illness but promotes good health.
I recently received an invitation to an event that was to begin quite differently from what had been planned. The Minister of the Environment was supposed to give a welcoming address. He arrived in his predecessor’s big black limousine and was welcomed by protesting fishermen. “Je suis Ilhéu” (I am an Islander), they had written on their t-shirts. They were protesting about the fact that the government is soon to cause their houses to be demolished. The Minister gave his fellow citizens half an hour of his time. How did he use it? He listened to them. Did he find a solution to their problems?
In our modern world, the Ministry for the Environment is doubtless a ministry that is still much too unimportant, one of many in this situation. The Minister and his colleagues have little power, little time, and hardly any influence on policy. They can make speeches, and, as long as they do not dictate how the economy is to function, the Minister may carry out his duties unobtrusively. Why is a Minister of the Environment actually so powerless, and how can this be changed? That is what we wanted to find out ourselves from the Minister. And then we also wanted to find out how to make a nice home out of ruins. That’s when we thought of the Energy-Plus House.
Curious? Right, let’s get to it…
On the value of self-restraint
Editorial Nr. 15
I recently received a nice invitation to this year’s Greenfest in Estoril.Before I accept invitations,I always have a look at the programme and the list of sponsors first. I read that this is a three-day event for the whole family.The idea is for companies, local authorities and citizens to get to know each other in order to increase people’s awareness about matters relating to sustainability. Good idea.
The first sponsor I come across is Volkswagen. They deliberately and fraudulently manipulated the exhaust values in eleven million diesel cars worldwide.Has VW got anything to contribute to this event? The second sponsor I stumble upon is the multinational paper manufacturer Portucel/Soporcel,whose billions of investment in industrial eucalyptus is partly to blame for the disastrous forest fires. Next are the paint manufacturer Barbot,the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, whose wealth is based on the plundering of oil and gas from our planet,andUnilever too.On the basis of this information,I decided to steer clear of the event. ECO123 only invests in event organisers who make good on their promises. Something else that would interest me, however, is how muchcash a company has to hand over to be able to participate in the Greenwashing?
Let’s turn to solutions. In this issue, we’re going to attempt an experiment in journalism. We are publishing nine interviews with normal people who pass on some important ideas from their lives. Lourdes, a Portuguese TV journalist in Germany; Marcelino, the rural hermit in Barbelote; Vânia, the successful blogger for more than 100,000 vegans;Vedanta, the British yoga teacher living on her island; Madan, the (still) illegal Nepalese immigrant in Lisbon; Zé Pedro,the Portuguese shoemaking apprentice in Austria; Käthe,the German pensioner learning Portuguese in the Alentejo; Carlos, the green mayor of Torres Vedras; and Leo Lobo, the clown and son of Portuguese emigrants.
I hope you enjoy reading this issue.
Everything used to be worse?
Editorial No. 14
In most of the media, I miss serious background reporting. For example, journalists report about a bridge that collapses, and about the people and the bus that fall into the water and vanish. Hardly any journalists nowadays take the trouble to research their story in such a way that all aspects are looked at closely on the ground. Why did the bridge collapse? Could it have been prevented and how? Numbers are taken out of context and distort the picture. But journalists have nothing to say about the bridge that is in the process of being restored so that precisely such a collapse is avoided. But, through ECO123, you can find out what happens when good news is a continuous part of your diet over the years. Because with us it’s always about success stories.
If you read nothing but bad news, you really end up believing that everything is bad. Sensationalist journalism creates a spiral of mental paralysis, passivity and depression. Good things, which happen everywhere, are no longer noticed. Research supports this. Several studies have come to the conclusion that negative stories make the public more anxious, passive and ill-humoured. This can be seen in two texts about environmental problems. One focuses on the destruction caused by forest fires, while the other describes the interrelationships between human-made climate change and the possibilities of reducing CO2 emissions. In other words, it also describes how forest fires can be prevented. After reading the solution-oriented text, the readers reported that they were now more self-motivated and were able to act in a more environmentally friendly manner. In this edition, ECO123 reports on agriculture that works in a solution-oriented manner and its foodstuffs.
Constructive journalism gives you a new lease of life; it strengthens and motivates. We are not alone on this planet: www.positive.news in Britain pursues constructive journalism, as do the Swiss Tages Anzeiger and the Washington Post in its section “The Optimist”. Even a German television magazine programme has been broadcasting pieces since the start of the year that show, for example, that the number of refugees from Syria has fallen, or that health care has improved. The programme is called “Everything used to be worse”…
Editorial No. 13
No. But anyone who thinks that everything can simply keep going like this is on the wrong track. Many people do not yet know where the journey will lead. But whether the structural transformation of an economy based on over-exploitation into one that is climate friendly and CO2 free can be carried out by 2050 will largely depend on whether the virtues of our democracies in Europe will hold sway in the long term.
Do current and future governments have the self-belief, the strength and the negotiating skills to take, and implement, clear decisions that are also unpopular? Will they impose values such as brotherly love, patience and tolerance among the people? Every path towards sustainability will not appear to many people to be simple because our civilisation that is based mainly on unlimited consumption has not (yet) learnt and not (yet) understood how everything could be better if done sustainably. So what do people need to be happy? These are the questions that ECO123 asks in this edition.
Wars over resources such as water and over values such as freedom of thought, famines and migration will bring Europe a hundred million refugees from the crisis countries threatened by climate change. But how will we deal responsibly with this new exodus?
If we can discover the grand scheme behind what is still unknown, develop a plan for that which is guided by humanity and sustainable economic management, we will be able to preserve our earthly paradise. Here, it is not just about the good in people and for the planet. It always starts with a bit of self-belief and a life without fear. We will live more slowly and be guided by this benchmark. An unconditional basic income will come in, as will a sustainable and socially more just way of managing the economy.
If an investor today has the choice of investing in a coal-fired power station or in a large solar power station, it is quite obvious what the investor will do. Climate protection must take place at all levels.
Looking for the ENVIRONMENTAL PIG of 2016.
Editorial No. 12
Are you good at maths? Then work this one out: in 2014, 457 buses travelled around 43,000,000 km, emitting 87,000,000 kg CO2 into the air. How much CO2 did each bus emit per kilometre per year? Now it gets a bit more difficult: for these 457 buses, 27,000,000 tickets were issued, each for one journey. Question: how many grams of CO2 were emitted into the atmosphere of our planet per passenger and per kilometre of bus travel?
That is one of the typical questions that have been occupying us in the last two years. During this time, we have prepared an experiment for you. Let’s call it Kyoto. That is a city in Japan. A world climate summit took place there in 1997, like another that has just been held. At that UN World Conference, it was established that, from 1997 onwards, we Europeans could only emit 3,000 kg of CO2 per year into the atmosphere: including electricity consumption, heating, air-conditioning, leisure activities, shopping, travel, driving, flights, bus travel etc. The objective was to limit the warming of our planet’s atmosphere to a maximum of two degrees. In other words: our timetable for survival.
Twenty years later, in 2016, we have prepared an experiment for you, to which subscribers get exclusive advance access at www.eco123.info/kyoto. It reflects everyday life in a game. We are looking for the environmental pig of 2016. I open my personal ECO online bank account and receive a credit of 3,000 points. That allows me to play Kyoto for a year. Will you join in? Whoever uses up their 3,000 points first becomes the ENVIRONMENTAL PIG of 2016.
Anyone who is good at maths and can do arithmetic, and still has a few of their points left at the end of the year, will be one of the winners of the game. Nice prizes await them: solar kits, free bus and train tickets, ECO holidays, and much more. Everyone can win, even those who have already used up their 3,000 points after three or four months, because we will give them tips and support about how they can top up their account again. Interested?
I would like to thank everyone, especially our hard-working editorial, production, advertising and distribution staff, and ask you all to keep supporting ECO123 in 2016 too.
Life is short
Editorial No. 11
When I launched a tree-planting campaign in Monchique after the forest fires in 2003, and planted many trees with my friends and colleagues over the following years, one Saturday I was asked why I was involved in such nonsense. The next forest fire was unstoppable and all the newly planted trees would be burnt again anyway. So I found myself standing there explaining to a farmer why I was planting a tree. I answered that I enjoyed it, at least much more than taking part in a car rally or going boozing. It gave my life meaning. That was something I felt very strongly at that moment.
People do not have to behave selfishly, they can also be altruistic. Quite simply, living altruistically makes everyone happier. With selfishness, at least one person falls by the wayside. We can all cooperate instead of competing. More and more often, I notice that yesterday’s concepts will be of no help to us tomorrow. Climate change can only be solved globally, for example. I truly hope that the forthcoming climate summit in Paris finally produces concrete results and we can quickly put them into practice. Emitting less CO2 includes removing fewer fossil fuels from the earth, burning less petrol and oil, less coal and gas. Instead, we will use renewable energies and thus produce less waste. Producing electricity with the sun, wind and water, giving preference to mobility by train and bus. Less is more.
For this, we must elect new deputies and a new government on 4th October, who are serious about Portugal’s future viability. Politicians need the gift of long-term, holistic thinking. We all need positive ways of thinking that enable us to live with mindfulness, non-violence, composure, tolerance, care and compassion: towards other people, animals and plants. It is with this in mind that we will write, but also go out into the forests again and plants trees after the first autumn rains. Will you join us?
We reap what we sow
Editorial No. 10
One of the most important conditions of life is our fundamental philosophy. If all we aim for is to own more than our neighbour, if we only think of ourselves whenever we do business – and – if the only important thing about growth is profit, we should not be surprised when many million people are nowadays becoming homeless and global losers. If they survive their voyage over the seas, they will come knocking at our doors. How sad are the images and stories that haunt us daily?
The pursuit of more and more makes people insensitive, and only ever creates stress, violence, and suffering. Who wants to just keep looking on, while a throw-away society of seven billion people exploits and poisons the land, air, rivers and seas and makes the earth uninhabitable? The solution to all problems lies in ourselves.
Lasting happiness does not come about through the accumulation of more and more goods and sensational stories. A daily time-out would offer a better basis for a reorientation. Serious reflection could show everyone the path towards ethically motivated action: at home, in one’s work, in every investment. This would need courage, mindfulness and a love of peace. Shouldn’t everyone take more time every day for themselves? That would be a basis for sowing something good in oneself – and in others.
We can only sow joie de vivre and peace in harmony with nature. People who are looking for inner peace and true happiness in their lives always have the possibility to reflect. Why not jointly and unselfishly plant a seed in the ground and contribute to a plant growing from a seed, or a bush or tree from a seedling on which many fruit can grow? However, we will only reduce hunger and poverty if we also divide up the harvest fairly. I call it organic agriculture with traditional seeds, fair trade and a regional economy with short transport routes.
Our journalistic philosophy is about telling stories of this world in a different way. Many small successes acquire wings, and learn how to fly. We tell you today about utopias and sustainable projects that will not really succeed until tomorrow.
Editorial No. 09
The reality of the future is today’s utopia. Just imagine that you had 500 euros per month transferred into your bank account until the end of your life. What aspects of your life would change?
First topic, first question: DOES MONEY MAKE US LAZY? Is it correct to say that people who have enough money to live off forget about work? Or does the motivation for self-fulfilment awake instead? What would you no longer do if you didn’t have to work, and what would you do instead?
Advocates of an unconditional basic income feel that it would remove people’s fear about how they will continue to exist and they would then behave in a more environmentally friendly manner. True or false?*¹ The advocates’ essential belief is that people can work and want to work because they have the freedom to do so and because they love what they do. Underlying this is often their own experience that they are just not happy when not working (or when doing nothing). Other social benefits such as unemployment benefit, child allowance, or pensions would go. Would our state need a different tax system to finance this?
I have no doubt that we would need a completely different, and a much fairer tax system. A government that levies a tax on petrol and diesel fuel for cars but not for aeroplanes (why not?) has little interest in environmentally friendly policy. That’s why electric cars – and the railways – enjoy little popularity with our governments. (Why) Do we need a government, or can we manage to put the FIRST PORTUGUESE ELECTRIC CAR on the road with private investment? The VEECO from the small municipality of Entroncamento is in the starting blocks and is ready to go. Fifty drivers now have a unique opportunity to invest in the first, reasonably priced e-car in the world (range 400 km), and to make a profit in the process.
Another opportunity for investing in a gentle revolution is knocking at your door. It’s called AQUAPONICS, providing yourself with fish and vegetables. ECO123 reports exclusively about the first course at the University of Lisbon.
More private initiatives, less state involvement: if we built more BIOMASS power stations, our electricity would be much cheaper, we would have fewer forest fires and many an indoor pool could reduce its heating costs by 75%. Free admission? Nature offers us a lot. Invest now.
And one more thing: what are you doing about the FLIGHT FROM THE LAND? Are you still buying Chinese shoes? How do Portugal’s SHOEMAKERS survive? Support regional crafts, local farmers and Portuguese producers. Portugal needs you.
This edition has more content. I would like to thank all crowdfunders and PPL.
Send your views to me at email@example.com
Fear and Courage.
Editorial No. 08
Last night I dreamt that, at the start of the following day, the country had paid off all its debts. Incredible, I said to myself, impossible, how could that have come about? The person I met on the corner next to my local advised me to listen to the ordinary people and to watch the politicians closely. You’re a journalist after all, he told me, kindly do your job. Research, think, have a bit of imagination and courage, because nothing will work without these two attributes. Talk to all the people you meet and above all think and act positively. Write in your newspaper that your country has saved itself. Make efficient use of your paper. People don’t want to know about what won’t work because they know their problems only too well, they want solutions. Do you understand? Solutions. With this well-intended advice, he left me standing there and vanished.
So there I was left standing. In my dream, I visited a politician and explained to him that our democracy had to be strong and lively. I encouraged him and explained the word imagination to him. Dream? Dream! New ideas are what the country needs. Let us dream about this together and find the best way to get out of the crisis. Because there was a way, at least one. I told him that he had three wishes. Then he began to confide in me and told me that his first wish was that people should put an end to their mutual enmity. For him, that should start in parliament and between the parties represented there, because it was only through working together that solutions could be found for the country. That’s impossible, I said, how would that work? With five parties and at least ten different opinions, a consensus could never be reached. So how could our country reach a stage of being able to pay off all its debts in one go and, starting in 2015 and in every subsequent year, to always have enough money in reserve to be able to take control of its ecological and economic problems?
It’s simple, he said, we turn our backs on our personal interests and from now only think only of the common good. For this, we would need a completely new tax system, a revolutionary one, just like at the time of the revolution. Do away with the old system and work towards achieving our dreams. Just think what would happen if we no longer levied taxes on profits, turnover and salaries – i.e. on money, but rather on CO2 emissions! We would take the upper limit, the 3,000kg of carbon dioxide per citizen per year, as defined by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, and implement this upper limit without compromise. There would be no exceptions, every person would pay one euro tax for every kilo of carbon dioxide they were responsible for through the burning of fossil fuels every year. Anyone emitting more than 3,000 kg would pay five euros for each extra kilo, and people emitting less would get a tax credit of two euros per unit.
And with this idea I woke up and a new year began. Find out more about this dream in the online game www.eco123.info/kyoto.
Trial and Error.
Editorial No. 07
I love the paths in the shady pine and oak forest. An old olive and carob tree grove also gives a walk that special something. It’s like walking on moss. The paths are soft, and make walkers feel as if they are floating. You get the impression that the Earth is losing its gravitational pull and that people are becoming light.
Once I got lost on a walk. At a crossroads, I had turned left where I should have continued straight on. At some point the path came to an end. Instead of turning back, I tried to find my way through the undergrowth. I simply had to reach my lodging on the old pilgrims’ path before it got dark. After quite a while – during which I made slow progress and my trousers got torn by lots of thorns – I discovered that the path had led me to a tarred road where cars were driving to and fro. I had definitely taken the wrong turning.
What was I to do? Go back and realise that all the effort had been in vain? Turn on to the tarred road and keep going? I continued walking along the roadside, disturbed by the noise of the cars and the smell of the exhaust fumes. Late in the afternoon I reached the village and my lodging.
The following year, I did the walk a second time. I reached the same crossroads and faced a choice. This time I continued straight on. The path led me to the course of a stream, where birds were nesting in the beech trees, nightingales were singing, rare, wild orchids were growing, and my path was shady. I walked up the stream against the current, and found a place to rest. And I fell asleep.
I dreamt of a life where it was possible to retrace one’s steps and make good all the mistakes that had occurred in the course of a long life. At least it became clear to me in the dream that I had to return to the point where I had gone wrong in order to follow the correct path from now on.
Editorial No. 06
What can we use our hands for? For much more than just sending a text message, using a computer keyboard, or filling up at the next petrol station. We could also use our hands to garden, build, sow and harvest. And we would improve our manual skills in the process.
Even learning to think, training oneself in practical knowledge and action, always begins at a local level, mostly at home with your family or with friends. People to whom we have a connection, and things that we start with a sense of pleasure and take in hand are often those that we bring to a successful conclusion. Acting with due seriousness, establishing a bed of vegetables, or planting a tree, and taking oneself seriously in the process.
People who define positive values and goals for their daily actions make it clear what they will do for money, and what they won’t. Rules that will help us to live and work meaningfully. If we learned to act in an authentic manner at schools, universities and workplaces, and if we integrated nature into this, we could change our world for the better, if we were more prepared to stand up for what we believe in.
Things cannot work if seven billion people always just want more, and everyone just strives to enrich themselves as fast as possible at the expense of others. People who care about the Earth and about their fellow human beings, and who share the fruits of their labour justly, live happier lives.
This time, ECO123’s writers are telling stories about healthy eating and about the transformation of an oil-based society into a regenerative Portugal at a local level. These include an interview with Rob Hopkins, the founder of the Transition movement, and a strange meeting with the Minister of the Economy, Dr. António Pires de Lima, in Lisbon.
The Earth is Beautiful.
Editorial No. 05
We all find ourselves on a long journey through the infiniteness of space and time: seven billion passengers on the blue planet. Our spaceship is without question the most beautiful star in the universe. It gets its energy from the light of the sun and the winds of the atmosphere. This blueness appears when the sunlight hits the mantle of air around our planet, when heaven and earth are joined to each other. The blue planet is wrapped in slowly swirling veils. Against the background of the universe, our spherical home orbits the sun at a speed of 29.78 kilometres per second, while it rotates slowly on its own axis. The contrast between the blue of the earth and the black void of space with its infinite depth is complete. Moving in its unique way, our blue planet floats through space, with its cold splendour of stars. Our life here on earth, with its mountains, valleys and woods, with villages and cities, seas and rivers, its atmosphere, clouds and light, is fragile, tender and vulnerable. It is only when we take the time to examine our biotope more carefully that we notice that our earth offers us a wonderful home.
When I look closely at this home, it is clear to me that the atmosphere, the land masses and oceans form a wonderfully unique living space, a biosphere that allows me to breathe and live. I recognise that all the systems are connected to one another. Only a sustainable life in harmony with our earth guarantees a future life in peace. With a sense of wonder, humility and reverence, I observe the beauty of our spaceship before my working day begins. I am faced with a fundamental decision. Do I want to continue being part of the problem, or to become part of the solution?
There’s an opportunity hiding behind every problem.*
Editorial No. 04
The business of exploiting nature is booming. Whether it’s coal, oil, gold, silver or other precious metals, everything is dug out of the earth, including forests, trees and wood. Whole forests are planted in Portugal just in order to be cut down again, to turn them into money. What does a tree cost? A ten-year-old eucalyptus tree trunk is currently being traded for €5. That is what a forest owner is paid by the paper factory, when the truck drives up in Setúbal or Aveiro and unloads: €40 per tonne, around €1,000 per load, mais ou menos. Last year, Portucel/Soporcel produced around 1.6 million tonnes of paper, and 1.4 million tonnes of cellulose, and had a turnover of nearly two billion euros.
What do these figures tell us, actually? In a business’s account, the costs of air and water pollution, climate change and damage from forest fires etc. are not (yet) included. This boomerang will come back to us.
That eucalyptus is (ir)responsible for most of the country’s forest fires is indisputable. In this edition, ECO123 is concerning itself with how we can avoid forest fires. We asked more than a dozen of those affected for their answers to our questions. Because, if you look for solutions, you will also find some.
Become ECO. What we remove from the earth and put back into it – and here I do not mean the rubbish on the tips – will concern us increasingly in the future. But it is especially our CO2 emissions that will preoccupy us. www.eco123.info offers you now, at the beginning of the New Year, the exclusive possibility of gaining unique self-awareness. Play CiO2 (Kyoto) and open your bank account with ECO123. Interested? Well then… enjoy your read…
* Galileo Galilei
Set to rights
Editorial No. 03
Each of us can make a contribution to protecting the ecosystem in which we live. For this reason, the top priority for me must go to preserving the basis of existence. How urgent the situation is can be seen from the periods of drought and disastrous floods of the past two years, the heat waves and the forest fires and the resulting economic and ecological damage. But despite overwhelming evidence, most people currently do not seem prepared to reduce their negative impact on the ecosystem by looking for acceptable ways of managing our planet’s resources. Almost all of us organise our lives as if the planet’s resources were infinite. That is why mobility is one of this edition’s themes.
We must change our habits and ECO123 presents some solutions. But beyond that, I would like to introduce an about-turn for our magazine and everyone who contributes to it. In every piece of journalism (news items, interviews, reports etc.) that we research, the positive influence on the ecosystem must be discernible. In concrete terms, this means that, in our work, we put the avoidance of harmful emissions in first place: avoidance of flights, avoidance of individual mobility which is accompanied by the burning of fossil fuels. If you have further suggestions, please place them at the heart of our discussions.
It is not enough to write and to urge greater awareness on one’s readers if we as journalists set precisely the opposite example. We must all be aware that each of us can and must do something concrete. I am aware that the future demands a rejection of consumption and waste from us. And so, from now on, at the end of each article, we will be publishing an infobox giving information about how much CO2 has been emitted while researching and producing the article. In addition, I would like to adopt a transparent approach whereby each of us makes his or her own energy performance public from 2014. The goal is to meet the demands of the Kyoto protocol within our editorial team: i.e. to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide to a maximum of 3,000 kg per person per year.
There must be a match between what we claim and what we do. If you, dear reader, wish to follow the same path with us, please sign up online at www.eco123.info .
The Power of Words
Editorial No. 02
Thank you very much for reading ECO123. We are well aware that good writing and the exercise of one’s critical powers are no longer enough on their own. People who are prepared to put their hands up today for the sake of tomorrow have to offer more. We need improvements, alternatives and solutions that, especially in bad times, in stormy weather, stand firm and are not simply blown away. Here, I’m talking expressly about us journalists. We must be aware of the effect of our words, with every one that we put to paper.
It is not only Portugal that is stuck deep in a crisis. This is continually mentioned in the same breath as debt, tax rises and social cut-backs. But that is only half the truth. Because the reality is that it is much more than money that we are short of. We are also lacking an ecologically sustainable concept of the future for a system that is worn out and bankrupt. A banking system which knows nothing but greed and profit will find that it is these very things that cause its demise. A useless bureaucracy, which produces nothing but senseless laws and regulations, gets in the way of any efficiency in the economy. Agriculture run on industrial lines cannot have people’s health at its goal …
But because in Portugal it is only ever a matter of more money and most journalists are involved in useless news production, most discussions end up in a cul-de-sac. We must all talk about ethics, about transparency, about the deeper sense of financial transactions. Together, we must also think about ways in which bureaucracy can be reduced in size and reformed for the benefit of the community. And Portugal needs a type of agriculture in which industrial livestock farming and monocultures are forbidden, and respect and dignity for animals and nature are guaranteed.
ECO123 makes time for sustainable journalistic work. We talk to people, check our facts and think things through. On the following pages, you will be able to read about the ways out of the crisis that lead to trust, prosperity and sustainable values.
Editorial No. 01
When times are bad, the word “trust” takes on a quite special meaning. People pull together more and reflect on their very own human virtues.
When times are bad, telling good stories is an art. If the politicians trusted us and we them, it wouldn’t be difficult for them to tell us what we get back in return for the many taxes and deductions we pay, would it? The creation of a meaningful job, which preserves the natural world and its resources, which takes each individual’s gifts into account … this would make a nice story. Wouldn’t it be possible for everyone to create a meaningful job by working less? Does it make economic and ecological sense, and is it socially fair, to pay benefits to millions of jobless every month, while others have to work hard for little reward? Imagine you wake up in the morning and have a bright idea and want to put it into practice. Don’t start thinking straight away about the cash you would need … think your idea right through, turn it into something really good. In the following pages, ECO123 will be telling you a story about how, even when times are bad, your dreams could come true at the end of the day.
Let us begin by taking control of our own lives now. Let’s define concepts like “prosperity” and “growth” anew. We want a nice place to live, healthy nutrition, less work for all, fair trade and business, green fashion, clean energy and mobility, sustainable agriculture and much, much more. ECO123 tells success stories and is only interested in solutions. You can get ECO123 on 21st March, 21st June, 21st September and 21st December from your newsagent – and ONLINE at www.eco123.info and as ECO-TV. Embark with us on the search for a new lifestyle.