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For Nature and Sustainability

Forests connect the soil to the sky. Trees are not only composed of their visible parts: trunk, branches, flowers and leaves, but they also have a root system that is complex and full of life. After the fires in Monchique, we decided to start a new botanical garden on a plot of 1.5 hectares that we had just purchased and which burned in the fire. Now we challenge the reader. You can participate, passively or actively, in this ECO123 project, choosing to plant a tree, or asking to have one planted in your name, in the new botanical garden. Become a subscriber to this magazine and support this and other ideas in this way. Assiduous ECO123 readers thus contribute to a sustainable future with a subscription of € 20 per year.

What will you receive in exchange for 20 euros? A publication does not have to be restricted to the collection, choice, structuring and dissemination of information. You can also take concrete action if necessary. As an editor, I notice the existence of this need, when much of society, including the ruling political class, ignores it. This is what happens with the natural environment, the basis of our subsistence, over which there hangs the danger of irreversible destruction by fires and monocultures of eucalyptus and avocado among others. We will buy or rent more land so we can create islands of sustainable forest. The new botanical garden of Esgravatadouro will also have its own nursery, to propagate a great diversity of indigenous trees by seed or with cuttings. They will be the basis of a life of diversity, in the future.

This living biotope in the Esgravatadouro valley near Caldas de Monchique is intended to be a productive and sustainable agroforestry model, based on an understanding of the functioning of the ecosystem, but counting on the creative and functional potential of humans. The specific plan behind this idea is to plant and protect a new botanical garden at this location. It should, in the future, have at least 500 different species, totalling 1,000 trees and shrubs and forming a sustainable environment on the site. Each tree and shrub will be represented at least twice, so they can multiply. Normally in forests small and large trees, young and old, grow abundantly alongside each other. Creating this environment takes time. When we speak of time, in this case, friends of Nature think of two generations, or even more.

But the journey to get there has to start with a first step. In Esgravatadouro, a natural heritage will be created. Diversity is always something impressive. As impressive as the grove of cork-oaks in Corte Grande, eight kilometres away, where hikers can admire splendid and monumental cork-oaks. At their base, the trunks are ten metres in diameter. This forest burned on Sunday 5 August. Now, in the winter of the same year, new leaves are slowly emerging on these thousand-year-old cork-oaks. Each of these trees could tell us the history of the last 2,000 years. There are still small patches of forest of this type in the Algarve, in Monchique and Benafim, and in other regions of Portugal, in Lousã. We want to preserve this natural heritage.

You need to let yourself be inspired by the diversity of trees when you walk in a forest. In virgin forests, trees don’t grow in an orderly way, they have different sizes and ages. In the forests of Monchique, it was the pine that prevailed. In the valleys and on the hills, beeches predominated, a place where you could also find oaks, elms, ash, lime trees, maples and carob trees. The forest was full of smells. The smell of mushrooms, dried leaves, soil, decomposition and wood. Many animals lived there. A forest is a complex system, mainly dependent on trees, with their roots, moss, fungi and mushrooms. In virgin forests, the trees live in symbiosis with mushrooms, fungi and mosses, which provide them with mineral salts and water.

In Esgravatadouro, there is a spring, which becomes a stream, also fed by a water mine, which will be important for the water balance of the botanical garden. Trees, receiving enough nutrients through mushrooms, fungi and mosses, reciprocate with nitrogen and phosphorus. Mushrooms, fungi and mosses thus contribute to the health of forests. It’s a constant balance between giving and receiving, in which resources are not only consumed, but transformed and reused in a cyclical system. In Nature, and in the healthy forest, we have much to learn, and this can be the inspiration for more natural practices that are also applicable to the economy. We learn from the forest for life and by orientating ourselves towards ecology we can achieve healthier economic procedures. This is what the authors of ECO123 write about. And, with the new botanical garden, we will put our ideas about biological diversity into practice.

Trees exchange information with each other through smells and visual and electrical stimuli. The forest soil is soft and deep. The soil stores huge amounts of carbon (CO₂), sometimes more than the living biomass at the surface. It also stores water. Through the network of the roots and mycelium, messages are transmitted, as if it were broadcasting the news, or even warnings. ECO123 intends to support the diversity of flora and fauna practically. The non-profit association of ECO123 employees will actively follow the new botanical garden project over the next few years.

What is your ecological footprint?

To the subscribers of ECO123 (or those who join us until 31.12.2018), we offer the chance to participate in a project on climate change that is closely linked to the new botanical garden. Over the past three years, ECO123 has been preparing and programming the KYOTO (ii) game, which will be launched in early 2019. This game is intended to demonstrate that it is now possible to live consciously in relation to climate issues in Portugal. At up to 100 registrations (individuals or nuclear families) will be accepted, provided they are also subscribers to ECO123.

Your subscription will allow you to access KYOTO. After confirming your participation, you could try to embrace the challenge of reducing your ecological footprint by up to 40% during 2019. Why?

According to the European Directive, the aim is to reduce the environmental footprint of each citizen by 40% by 2030. Only by burning fewer fossil fuels, such as petrol, gas and coal will it be possible to avoid the global warming of our atmosphere. The goal is to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius, or, if possible, below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

• ECO123 creates a laboratory for the interactive climate, KYOTO, where it is already possible, in today’s living and market conditions, to have a more climate-friendly life, emitting less than the seven tons of CO₂ that correspond to the average per inhabitant in Portugal. KYOTO counts the emissions of each individual participant.

• ECO123 aims to find out how and in what way the citizen and their nuclear family can successfully avoid emissions, in what areas and with what strategies. Participants will be supported through KYOTO’s weekly feedback on their CO₂ emissions. They will receive tips and advice and have the possibility to take part in participatory workshops and exchange information.

• ECO123 intends equally to understand what are the greatest difficulties encountered in order to have a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle. We want to understand where the barriers are: financial, professional, organisational or structural. Participants will be able to express themselves spontaneously on the KYOTO blog, or be in contact with the ECO123 moderators. We are also interested in your views on climate and we would like to share and discuss them publicly in the next four editions of 2019.

• KYOTO is the ecological platform of the first 100 volunteers for a climate-friendly day-to-day life. Therefore, each participant will have to discover how and where it is possible to transition to more climate friendly attitudes, always with the support of companies and organisations that offer ecological products and services.

• KYOTO is a game in which each participant starts, in early 2019, with a balance of 3,000 kg / CO₂. A balance that, for most participants, will probably not last until the end of the year. The CO₂ balance will decrease, as if it were a bank balance. We will be proposing additional credits, grants and tasks to be able to boost the KYOTO account when CO₂ spending is too high. We can already say in advance that those who plant an indigenous tree in the botanical garden of ECO123 during the year of 2019 will have a bonus of an extra 10 Kg of CO₂. And so, in this way, the cycle is closed.

If you are already a subscriber, please register at: and consider the possibility of participating.
If you wish to join and do not yet have a subscription, sign up for ECO123 for only €20/year (individual) or € 100/year (commercial) at
The KYOTO game is available at After you register, the game will be activated on 1 January,, 2019.Then just enter your username and passwordto start playing the most challenging game of your life.

About the author

Uwe Heitkamp, 53 years old, started working after university in daily newspapers and from 1984 on in public tv broadcasting companies such as WDR (Collogne), NDR (Hamburg), SDR (Stuttgart/Baden-Baden) in the ARD (first programme), wrote several books and directed the cinema movie about the anti nuclear movement in Germany in 1986 (Wackersdorf). After emigration in 1990 he founded 1995 the trilingual weekly printed newspaper “Algarve123” and later the online edition Heitkamp lives for 25 year in Monchique, Portugal. He loves mountain hiking and swimming in streams and lakes, writes and tells stories of success from people and their sustainable relationship between ecology and economy. His actual film “Revolutionary Roads” tells the 60 minute story of a long walk crossing Portugal. 10 rural people paint a picture of their lives in the hills of the serra and the hinterland. The film captures profound impressions of natural beauty and human life. Along which path is the future of Portugal to be found? (subscribe to ECO123 und watch the documentary in the Mediatec)

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