Sustainability

Planet A – What must change now to guarantee a good life in the future as well?
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Current Articles

Gender Equity Creating Feminist Cities

Cities have the potential to improve women’s lives. But in reality, the planning of urban spaces often prioritises men’s routines and sidelines women’s needs and habits. What does a feminist city look like?

Photo (detail): Albert Gea © picture alliance / REUTERS A pedestrian walking on blue and yellow painted concrete

Gender Mainstreaming The Gender Aspect of Climate Change

The majority of the world’s poor are women, they rely heavily on natural resources to provide for their families and they have no access to decision-making processes in many areas of the world. Dr Shouraseni Sen Roy shows how women are significantly affected more by the consequences of climate change. 

Photo (detail): © Shouraseni Sen Roy A woman walks past partially destroyed houses and flooded fields.

Labtek Apung How Jakarta Teaches How to Read Rivers

Many rivers in Jakarta are heavily polluted, despite being dynamic spaces. A collective of architects, scientists, and activists, came together to turn a bamboo raft into a laboratory, joining citizen science with education and inviting people to listen to rivers. 

Photo (detail): © Labtek Apung Kids on a floating lab

Sustainable Economy in Palestine A Growing Seed

Who can access the international markets and how could they be made more socially and economically sustainable? Canaan Palestine Fair Trade wants to uproot the market – with olive oil.

Photo (detail): © Mohammad Zawahreh A Palestinian provider harvesting olives in Kufr Dan village close to Jenin city.

City and Countryside

Art from the Ashes How São Paulo Is Transforming Environmental Crimes into Art

In the last two years, Brazil has set a sad new record: 30 percent of the Pantanal ecosystem has been burned in just one year. An artist from São Paulo wants to draw attention to this.

Photo (detail): © André D’Elia A border between green rainforest and burnt down trees

Agroecological Practices A Way of Life

Atenco – a municipality whose history is tied to draining the bodies of water in the centre of Mexico – today, is a place where caring for water, cultivating land and life in all its dimensions are connected. This is a tour of some of this region’s agroecological practices in the company of the farmer's organisation “Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra”.

Photo (detail): © Brenda Anayatzin Ortiz Daniel, a member of the FPDT, prods the dirt on the dyke built during the workday.

Inspirador How Amsterdam Fights Climate Crisis Through Artivism

Over the past 20 years, the fossil fuel industry  has been responsible for three-fourths of human-caused carbon emissions on the planet. Part of the cultural sector also draws its funding from fossil fuels. The Fossil Free Culture initiative wants to tackle this.

Photo (detail): © Laura Ponchel An action of Fossil Free Culture in a concert hall

Inspirador How Helsinki Invites Its Citizen to Participate through Playing

It is already common for cities to have channels through which citizens can participate in municipal decisions. However, engaging a large number of people from different backgrounds is always a challenge. Helsinki's proposal? Create a card game!

Photo (detail): © Kirsi Verkka People playing Omastadi

Inspirador How Johannesburg Is Rethinking Its Water Sources

Johannesburg is one of the very few large cities in the world that wasn't built around bulky rivers or the sea. The Juksei is its only perennial river, and it is heavily polluted. But a group of people are coming together, merging the arts, science, and social practices to reverse this logic. 

Photo (detail): © Water fot the Future Romy Stander looks at a map

Car-Free Zones in Montreal Neighborhoods Are for People, Not for Cars

In 2009, the Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood in Montreal was ridden by heavy and dangerous traffic. The mayor of the borough had other ideas and pushed through a radical concept of appeasement against significant resistance.

Photo (detail): © Goethe-Institut Montreal Mont-Royal Avenue, one of the Plateau’s main commercial streets

Inspirador How Berlin Is Calling on Its Citizens to Water Trees

The summers are getting drier and drier, as well as the other seasons, that do not bring the amount of rain Germany is used to. Berlin's trees are struggling. How can a digital platform and an active neighbourhood offer a solution?  

Photo: © Florian Reimann A woman is watering trees

Inspirador How Lisbon Is Bringing Refurbished Bicycles Back to the Streets

During the pandemic, many citizens of Lisbon were left without transportation options that safely allowed physical distancing. The solution: repairing old bicycles to put them back on the streets, serving those who need them most.

Photo (detail): © Cicloficina dos Anjos A bike is parked infront of a store in Lisbon

Free Public Transport in Tallinn A Fairer Mobility

Car pollution is one of the major causes of climate change. Large citys around the world are struggling with the persistent problem of excessive motoring. Estonian Tallinn sets a leading example. 

Photo (detail): Holger Hollemann © picture alliance Public transport in Tallinn

Sustainability in the Favelas Bottom Up, Not Top Down

Forget poverty, filth and criminality – a project in Rio de Janeiro has created a network for various initiatives in the favelas that are attempting to make their neighbourhoods greener and more social.  

Foto (Detail): © CatComm Overlooking the favelas of Ipanema on one side, with Cantagalo and the lagoon on the other

Inspirador How São Paulo Provides Healthy Food for Those in Need

A solidarity network in São Paulo sets up a circular food production system that combines logistical support and food donations. It connects farmers with consumers and vulnerable communities. 

Photo (detail): Frente Agroecologia Urbana The organic market in the warehouse of Frente Agroecologia Urbana attracts many local residents.

Building Sustainably in Norway Wood instead of Concrete

Norway is responding to the growing pressure on its urban centres by using wood in innovative ways. This sustainable raw material is experiencing a veritable renaissance in view of climate change and depletion of resources. 

Photo (detail): © Per Oscar Skjellnan The Mjøstårnet timber skyscraper

Renaturation in New York Oysters as Ecosystem Engineers

Urban ports are not exactly known as sources of biodiversity. At least in New York this hasn’t always been the case. The Billion Oyster Project aims to turn the city harbour into a functional ecosystem again – with the help of oysters.

Photo (detail): Steve Dewitt © Billion Oyster Project Oyster basket

Inspirador How Montevideo Uses Art to Protect Its Historic Heritage

Every five years, coinciding with the municipal elections, artists, architects, and designers from the city of Montevideo join in an artistic-political campaign parallel to the elections. With a perspective rooted in the artistic field, the project calls for the participation of society to reimagine what life in the city can be like.

Photo: © Rodrigo Labella, Bruno Tortorella, and Anaïs Vaillant People interacting with the work "Somos Patrimonio, Plan Piloto barrio la Aguada" (“We are Heritage, urban plan for La Aguada neighborhood”), an augmented reality artwork by Rodrigo Labella, Bruno Tortorella, and Anaïs Vaillant for the 2020 Ghierra Intendente Exhibition.

Green Remodeling in Korea The Architecture of the Future

Many of the old, run-down buildings and houses in Korea consume too much energy. So, some of them are undergoing a "green remodeling" to improve their energy efficiency and the quality of the indoor environment. What does this architecture of the future look like?

Photo: © Geun-young Lee Friendly Duck House

Climate-friendly Building Less Is More

Sophisticated building technology and wall insulation have for some years been considered a panacea for reducing CO2 emissions in the building industry. But it doesn’t take much to construct houses with a good climate balance. Also in building the truth is: less is more.

Photo (detail): © Sebastian Schels / PK Odessa Brick, concrete and timber: architect Florian Nagler and his team experimented with the construction of energy-efficient housing using standard materials as a basis, with three model buildings in Bad Aibling.

Green Resistance in Mathare Where Planting Trees Is Radical

In Nairobi, a city highly segregated by class, trash ends up in – and becomes integrated into – informal settlements. Waste is not just part of the landscape; it comprises it. Dumped from other parts of the city, trash becomes embedded in the soil, burned into the air, piled up until it changes the topography. 

Photo: © Peter Kongo Mathare Green Movement Nairobi

Pollution

Triple Disaster in Japan About Healing, Telling Stories and Carrying on Living

The coastal region in the north-east of Japan is hit by strong tsunamis about every 40 years – most recently in March 2011. How do people manage their lives in harmony with nature despite the conditions, how do they pass on their culture to the next generations?

Photo (detail): Goethe-Institut Tokyo © Killi Killi Video View over the rampart to the sea (Kesennuma, Japan)

Sustainable Restoration Preserving Cultural Heritage

By studying the knowledge and traditional technologies of the native peoples of Mexico, a group of Mexican researchers found an alternative for conserving and intervening in cultural assets in a way that is ecologically and environmentally friendly.

Photo (detail): © Tectrad A greenhouse were needed plants are grown

The Ocean As an Art Object Art As a Translator

The art world can often be very superficial, criticizes the curator Anne-Marie Melster. Through her “Artport_making waves” collective she wants to take a more content-driven approach and illustrate that art, science and politics can complement one another in the area of climate change. 

Photo (detail): © Sam Keddie Anne-Marie Melster during a discussion at a workshop

Energy Transformation Civil Disobedience for the Climate

Germany has decided to phase out coal, but energy company RWE is still clearing forests and relocating villages in the coal mining areas in the Rhineland. There has been resistance and protest from many corners, including “Ende Gelände” and “Triole gegen Kohle”.
 

Photo (detail): © Jens Volle/Ende Gelände (CC BY-NC 2.0) End Coal Now: Ende Gelände protests at the Hambach open pit mine in fall 2018.

Ice Sheets and the Climate How Permanent Is the “Permanent Ice”?

Greenland is seeing rain, not snow, and the Alpine glaciers are diminishing all the time. How likely is it that there will no longer be any ice sheets at the Poles in the foreseeable future, and what would that mean for us? An interview with Dr Maria Hörhold, a glaciologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute.
 

Photo (detail): Gabriel Gersch © picture alliance / imageBROKER Aerial view of the ice sheet, Greenland, North America

Alternative Energies The Path Away from Oil

Because of global warming, the oil era is coming to an end. This is something that countries and even oil companies themselves have understood. The challenge for the global community now is to find alternatives to oil that do not release greenhouse gases. How can this be achieved?

Photo (detail): Hilda Weges © picture alliance / Zoonar An algae unit for algea production consisting of a row of pipes

Recycling in Mumbai The Megacity’s Busy Bees

They pick up, sort through and gather together recyclables. Without its 300,000 waste pickers, the city of Mumbai would probably drown in its own rubbish.

Photo (detail): Natalie Mayroth Meenal has been working as a waste picker in Mumbai for 20 years.

Recycling for Education An Environmentally Responsible Force in Nigeria

Climate change remains a global and existential problem. Humanity is slowly accepting that their actions on earth are a credible threat to the planet. To preserve the environment, organisations, like the African Cleanup Initiative in Lagos, Nigeria, are doing its quota to sensitize underserved communities, while helping to ensure their children stay in school.

Photo (Detail): © Taiwo Oshaniwa Alex from the African Cleanup Initiative

Recycling in South Korea Giving Waste a New Lease of Life!

How can we live more sustainable lives – in a world characterized by the coronavirus pandemic and growing mountains of waste? Two examples from South Korea illustrate how recycling and upcycling can be achieved in creative ways.

Photo: © Hyundong Ju (DIM Studio) The compressed waste from the machine

Emissions Trading System The Challenge of Environmental Integrity

Mexico is the first country in Latin America to create an emissions trading system to reduce greenhouse gases. What does this controversial instrument consist of and what are the primary challenges it faces?
 

Photo (detail): Rebecca Blackwell © picture alliance / AP Images Already in 2018 Activists from Greenpeace hold a sign reading in Spanish “The air in Mexico kills”.

Ecosystems Coral Reefs: Fortresses of Resistance

Coral reefs are ecosystems that boast very great biodiversity but are highly endangered. The “climate refugee” super corals could offer some unexpected help and possibly ensure the survival of the reefs.

Photo (detail): Daniela Dirscherl © picture alliance / WaterFrame A healthy part of a coral reef with many different kinds of fish.

Mexico City and the Pandemic An Urgent Transformation

The global pandemic is forcing heavily polluted Mexico City to face the fact that, if we are to breathe cleaner air again, we must bring about a serious change in the way we live and get around town, explains Eugenio Fernández Vázquez.

Photo (detail): Carlos Jasso © picture alliance/Reuter Overview of foggy Mexico City

Phasing Out Coal The Energy Revolution

Working towards sustainable energy for the future: Germany wants to completely abandon coal mining by 2038, an ambitious goal with quite a few obstacles still blocking the way.

Photo (detail): Andreas Franke © picture alliance Cheap to produce, but with catastrophic consequences for the environment: lignite mining.

Trust in the Sciences Of Uncertainties and a Tentative Shred of Hope

Are there any objective facts and do they help us to combat climate change? Two members of Scientists for Future talk about how society deals with scientists and why they are often reluctant to recommend specific actions.

Photo (detail): POP-EYE/Stefan Mueller © picture alliance Scientists for Future demonstrators hold up a banner.

Green Touring Culture Should Not Destroy the Climate

Artists and producers from the music scene are actively interested in environmental conservation. Some question whether preventing plastic waste at festivals and concerts is enough though when the travel involved in touring itself produces tons of CO2.

Photo (detail): © Adobe Dance party with a dark side: open-air music festivals emit huge amounts of CO2.

Climate Justice

Rising Sea Level A Future in Tuvalu

Rising sea levels pose a severe threat to islands such as Tuvalu. Already the island faces heavy floods, which could one day erase the island state from the map completely. 

Photo (detail): © Saving Tuvalu A few of the islands of the island country Tuvalu in the turquoise-coloured sea

Beings of Freedom Where the Humans Live

The concept of freedom has always referred among other things to a vision that extends into, affects and seeks to shape the future – as we will have to relearn in this era of ecological crisis. Eric Grabow explores the relationship between freedom and sustainability from a philosophical perspective. 

Photo (detail): Georgios Kefala © picture alliance/Keystone A pennant garland with the inscription "I want the future".

The Concept of Sustainability “Stop Devouring the World!”

The philosopher and Indigenous leader Ailton Krenak orders humankind to go on a ten-year diet.
 

Photo (detail): Isaac Risco © picture alliance / dpa The Krenak indigenous community, to which Ailton Krenak belongs, lost their livelihoods in the Mariana tragedy.

Beyond the SDGs Alternatives to Development Concepts

Many international institutions refer to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. But what do the SDGs really mean for work on the ground? That is what we talked about with Ashish Kothari, founder of the Indian NGO Kalpavriksh.

Photo (detail): Screenshot Bhimashankar documentary on women empowerment © Kalpavriksh Many women walk down a street together

Criticism of the SDGs Just a Fig Leaf?

Six years ago, the United Nations defined a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at tackling and overcoming ecological and social problems following a holistic approach. The political scientist Dr Aram Ziai believes that the SDGs have failed. In our interview he explains how he has arrived at this conclusion.   

Photo (detail): © Thomas Köhler Postcolonial criticism of the SDGs

Constructive Climate Communication A Discourse About the Future that Gives Rise to Hope

Positive visions of and narratives about the future are rare, yet these are precisely what we need if we are to move away from polarization and a sense of hopelessness and embrace a proactive approach. An appeal for constructive climate communication.
 

Photo (detail): © Reinventing Society How a sustainable Munich might look in the future.
Klimaaktivist*innen in a Chat Photos (detail): © Unsplash / Markus Spiske, privat | Montage: Goethe-Institut Photos (detail): © Unsplash / Markus Spiske, privat | Montage: Goethe-Institut

“Our mere existence is political resistance”

Debate now

COP26 Stronger than Fear

Every year, representatives of governments, media and non-governmental organisations meet to discuss climate change. 2021 there were a lot of expectations for the World Climate Summit. Could they be satisfied? Activists Annika from Germany and Arshak from Russia share their thoughts.
 

Photo (detail): Andrew Milligan © picture alliance|empics “The world is looking to you COP26” is written on a large poster, with people demonstrating below.

Sensitive Territories [In]flows – For New Ways of Existing

What power does art have when it comes to establishing a world that is fairer, both socially and ecologically? In this visual essay, Walmeri Ribeiro writes about unrestrained extractivism, exploitation and our bodies' relationship to nature.

Photo (detail): © Henry Goulart and Walmeri Ribeiro A tall mountain of tailings of coal.

Ecofeminism The Bond for Environmental and Social Justice

All over the world, nature is being exploited, plundered, polluted. But how is this connected to patriarchy and our understanding of the human being? The Brazilian artist and researcher Mari Fraga looks at the environment from an ecofeminist perspective and finds an answer to these questions.

Photo (detail): © Mari Fraga The art piece „Fosso Fóssil – sangria“ by Mari Fraga

Nicaragua A Tenacious Advocate for Indigenous Communities

Nicaragua's legislation is among the most progressive in Latin America – and among the least enforced. 90 per cent of the country’s Indigenous areas are threatened with invasion by armed settlers. Lottie Cunningham, a Nicaraguan lawyer, environmentalist and Indigenous rights activist, talks about her struggle and the humanitarian crisis in her country.

Photo (detail): Esteban Felix © picture alliance/AP Photo Miskito paddling on the waters of the Rio Coco, Nicaragua.

Cyberactivism Secret Sarayaku

Ecuador, Amazon Rainforest: A small Indigenous community, confronted with the interests of Big Oil, fights to preserve its land using the tools of its ancestors and the internet. This is their story. A visual essay. 

Photo: © Misha Vallejo Feather and hand

Art as an Additional Space “Nature Has Rights”

What contribution can art do in the discourse about sustainability and how can Indigenous perspectives be included? Curator of the online exhibition “Take Me to the River” Maya El Khalil and assistant curator Danielle Makhoul review in the interview about their biggest learnings in terms of this exhibition. 

Photo (detail): Misha Vallejo 2015 © Take Me to the River Night shot of palm trees

Climate Change and Neocolonialism Climate Colonialism as a New Power Structure

Wasteful use of the earth’s resources is a leading cause of environmental disasters, and the wealthy industrialized countries are benefiting from the exploitation of developing countries, says author Petra Schönhöfer.

Photo (detail): Bruno Kelly © picture alliance/Reuters The rainforest is on fire: smoke and flames in the Amazon region near Porto Velho.

Climate Change Deniers “Climate Is Really Just Weather”

Promoting alternative facts and conspiracy theories: a look into the world of climate change deniers.

Photo (detail): © Adobe It’s nice that the world is getting warmer, right? A sandstorm in Australia.

Sustainable Economy

The Informal Sector “The Climate Crisis Isn’t Happening in a Vaccum”

What makes a just transition – and what does that have to do with gender? In the interview, Dinda Yura explains why sustainable economics cannot be achieved without the involvement of workers.

Photo (detail): © Solidaritas Perempuan Anging Mammiri A fisherwoman in Makassar.

Green Financing Fossil Fuel Divestment Works – at Harvard and Beyond

Amid an escalating climate crisis, many institutional investors have dropped their fossil fuel assets. Harvard joined them in fall 2021, divesting its endowment from the oil and gas industry – thanks in part to the tireless work of pro-divestment activists.
 

Photo (detail): Caleb Schwartz Aerial view of a protest event for the climate

Emissions Trading System The Challenge of Environmental Integrity

Mexico is the first country in Latin America to create an emissions trading system to reduce greenhouse gases. What does this controversial instrument consist of and what are the primary challenges it faces?
 

Photo (detail): Rebecca Blackwell © picture alliance / AP Images Already in 2018 Activists from Greenpeace hold a sign reading in Spanish “The air in Mexico kills”.

Sustainable Production Processes The Factory of the Future

Industry is increasingly under pressure to meet demand for both economic production and environmental protection. Robert Miehe from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA explains whether and how this might be possible.

Photo (detail): Rainer Bez, Heike Quosdorf © Universität Stuttgart IFF / Fraunhofer IPA Is sustainable industrial production even possible? Robert Miehe from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA is convinced it is going to take lot of technological and systemic innovation.

Supply Chain Act Holding Companies Responsible

For many outside Europe, working for a supplier of German companies means exploitation, poor wages, and a lack of labour rights. Starting in 2023, a new law will take effect to punish human rights violations taking place in German supply chains. But can it really bring the needed change?

Photo (detail): © Adobe Globalisation was the buzzword of the 1980s: Back then, international corporations began outsourcing large parts of their production abroad to cut costs. Today, the world’s 50 largest corporations carry out 94 percent of their operations in supply chains.

Less Meat at the Catering Eat Your Greens!

The UK’s Committee on Climate Change recommends the British public to reduce their meat consumption by 20 percent. The public sector caterers feel responsible for that – and wants to implement the recommendation with their own resources.

 

Photo (detail): Picture alliance © Photoshot Sheep in a field

Greenwashing Green Lies: Trust Is Bad, Control Is better

Greenwashing not only dupes consumers; it also stands in the way of real change. Ecological promises and voluntary certifications have long led the public to believe that the global economy is getting greener all on its own. But that is simply not the case. A new law is being passed to fix it.
 

Photo (detail): © Adobe Soybean field in Brazil.

Community Project in Mexico-City Rebellious Gardens

The garden Huerto Roma Verde offers a temporary escape from the chaos and air pollution that dominates life in Mexico City. It is an experimental community project whose participants are searching for sustainable solutions in response to consumer habits in megacities. 

Photo (detail): © Irving Cabello A volunteer at the garden is watering the plants

New Agriculture Is Agroforestry just a Utopia?

Erosion, flooding, drought: ever more extreme weather events are making life difficult for conventional farmers. How can we produce food in a more environmentally compatible manner? One possible solution is currently being trialled in the Netherlands.

Photo (detail): © Springroll Media A volunteer with the day’s harvest

Urban Farming Agriculture 2.0

The innovative use of urban space for agricultural purposes offers some interesting solutions to many of the problems faced by the food industry. Lufa Farm in Montreal put the idea of rooftop greenhouses into practice and today operates the world’s largest rooftop farm.

Photo: © Les fermes Lufa Lufa Farm Saint-Laurent

An Alternative Development Model Mexico and the Circular Economy: Challenges and Opportunities

For cities to develop sustainably, it’s essential to have a strategy that enables a future with more equality and responsibility for the environment. What the circular economy is and why it represents a feasible and necessary model for megacities like Mexico City.  

Photo (detail): Daniel Aguilar © picture alliance/reuters Birds at a waste disposal site

Sustainable Technologies Getting the Digital Fix Right

Is digital technology the Holy Grail, the solution to all our global environmental problems, or actually part of the problem? Green IT specialist Niklas Jordan weighs the pros and cons of digitisation.

Photo (detail): Jens Büttner © picture alliance/dpa Video store

Coronavirus and Sustainability “COVID-19 Must Be Used For a Green Change”

In times of Corona, the air in Korea has improved – but the mountains of rubbish are growing. So how can the country still make a green change? An interview with Korean environmentalist Jieon Lee.

Photo: © Yonhap News People wearing masks, though under clear skies: Seoul in the coronavirus era.

A Sustainable Film Industry The Show Must Go Green

Many films and documentaries explore environmental issues or call for a more sustainable lifestyle. Is the industry living up to its own values though, and just how green is German film?

Photo (detail): © Adobe Filming goes green: the ecological message of many films is now coming true behind the scenes.

Urban Water Management “Water to Go” and a Floating Farm

Cities are growing around the world, and the need for more drinking water is growing right along with them. Here are a few ideas for making water management more sustainable. 

Photo (detail): © Adobe Cities are growing around the world, and the need for more drinking water is growing right along with them.