Manfred Pils and Andrea Lichtenecker for the board and the team of NFI
The Coronavirus keeps the world on the move. Public and economic life is reduced to a minimum, health systems are challenged and are reaching their limits in more and more countries.
Naturefriends are also hit hard by the current situation. Activities prepared with great commitment do not take place. Meetings and events must be cancelled. The Naturefriends houses remain closed, with serious financial consequences. Experiencing nature together, providing for encounters and leisure activities – the cornerstones of the Naturefriends movement – have broken away for the time being. What remains are our common values, which are now particularly in demand: Solidarity and responsible action from all of us!
The coronavirus pandemic is causing much pain and suffering – not only in our surroundings, but worldwide. Now it is important to support the weakest in our society, to hold together and to show solidarity. And this solidarity must not stop at national borders.
Let us not close our eyes to the dramatic situation in the hopelessly overcrowded refugee camps on the Greek islands, in Turkey or in Lebanon, where desperate people, including thousands of children, have had to endure the most adverse conditions for many months. Their fate must be of concern to us right now!
Nor should we close our eyes to the situation in Africa, a continent where in many places there is a lack of medical care, hospitals and sanitation. Here too, financial, professional and medical support is needed quickly to save human lives.
Now is the time to act and to show solidarity!
The current situation demonstrates the negative aspects of globalisation. But we also see that many things are possible: people help together, support each other, and economic growth targets are moving more and more into the background.
There is a gentle ray of light on the horizon; every crisis is also an opportunity. Let us grasp it! Let us join forces to emerge stronger from this difficult time! Let us continue working together for a more just, more inclusive and greener planet!
Let us set the tracks for more humanity, for real solidarity, for new future models that focus on people and the protection of our planet – in line with the United Nation’s "Agenda 2030 for a sustainable development of the world": A good and safe life for all!
On the first weekend of March this year, Naturefriends groups from Czechia and the German Saxony met in Naundorf, on the periphery of the Saxon Switzerland National Park, to intensify existing contacts and future cooperation across the common borders.
The associations and local groups presented their successful projects, tried to find solutions to problems together and created ideas for closer cooperation at both state and local level.
Find more information (in Czech and German) and photos on the website of Přátelé přírody (Naturefriends Czechia).
„Sailing the winds of change for Europe's Environment"
Manfred Pils, President of NFI, attended the Annual Conference of the European Environment Bureau (EEB) and the EEB General Assembly on 18 and 19 November 2019 in Berlin. Here is his report:
„Sailing the winds of change for Europe's Environment" – this was the motto of the EEB's annual conference.
The negative consequences of climate change are now perceptible, and the loss of biodiversity (e.g. insect mortality) is clearly visible. An ever-increasing percentage of the population, especially young people, are calling on politicians to take action. Europe is the most environment-conscious region in the world with the best developed environmental and social laws. On the one hand, the youth movement for climate-conscious action has strengthened the Greens in the European Parliament, and, on the other hand, the new Commission intends to present the “European Green Deal” in the first hundred days.
In this process, the following presidencies play a key role; the EEB is continuously supporting them in the implementation of the sustainability goals in Europe – and this is one of the EEB's strengths. Also at this annual conference, experts and representatives of the EU Parliament as well as representatives of the forthcoming German Presidency were on the podium, reporting on their implementation plans for the European agenda.
In unison, all political representatives - be it in Europe or in the member states - see the "European Green Deal" as an opportunity to give Europe a positive content for its citizens by driving forward not only the ecological but also the social agenda. The next 100 days are therefore a key period to shape the European Green Deal.
The implementation of the "European Green Deal" was also a focus of discussion at the EEB's annual General Assembly. It was made clear that a "European Green Deal" parallel to the current agricultural policy and structural support makes little sense and cannot be successful. Instead, the EU's financial flows must also be redirected in the direction of a green deal. This means for agricultural policy that public funds must only be spent for public purposes and that ecologically counterproductive subsidies to the agricultural industry must be stopped. Instead, we need to promote organic farming, preserve CO2 sinks such as forests, moors and natural landscapes, and invest in sustainable infrastructure such as high-speed trains. Of course, rural regions in particular must be upgraded and strengthened in order to maintain their function as natural and living spaces.
On the positive side, the Vice-President of the Commission, Frans Timmermans, has been given general responsibility for climate policy and that other departments such as agricultural and transport policy have to report to him - there is hope that climate policy can finally be implemented in the sub-politics as well.
Within the framework of Green 10 and the EEB, Naturefriends International will support all measures that lead to an efficient climate policy and to a „European Green Deal“ worthy of the name.
Become a „climate scout“!
In 2010, “Naturefriends Bremen” (Germany) has startet an International educational project implementing measures in terms of the education for sustainable development. Children and young adults from Europe, Africa and South America are trained to become “Climate Scouts”.
Students of different age groups perform campaigns against the climate change together. The internationality of the Climate Project reinforces an important message: The climate change doesn’t stop at country borders and everybody should care about climate protection.
The “Climate Workshop” started in Germany and Togo and soon after, a series of those soon very popular events took place in Namibia (2014 in Swakopmund and 2015 in Windhoek) as well as in Chile in 2017.
Find more information on the new website.
Naturefriends Austria: mountain guide training in Iran
by Ernst Dulnigg
The friendship between Iranian mountaineers and Naturefriends Austria started two years ago and can be compared to a thin cord developing into a strong rope connecting the two countries and transcending all cultural and political boundaries.
In July 2018, the Naturefriends Austria were invited to Iran for a mountaineering symposium on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the first ascent of Damavand, the highest summit in the Middle East, by the Austrian mountaineer Karl Georg Theodor Kotschy. Austrians and Iranians climed side by side to the summit of the 5.671-meter-high volcano.
This event marked the start for the mountain guide training by alpinists of the Naturefriends Austria in the coming year. 24 Persian mountaineers, including three women, were prepared for their future work as mountain guides. In September 2019, the Naturefriends Austria held several workshops in Iran at the “Eco Sustainable Symposium”. Using examples from Austria they worked on possibilities to promote mountain tourism in Iran.
There are currently around 64,000 mountaineers in Iran. Around 1,000 people are currently active as trainers and mountain guides - the Naturefriends Austria will continue to support Iran in their training according to international standards.
New member organisations in The Gambia and Bosnia!
The Annual Conference of Naturefriends International on 28 September 2019 has welcomed two new C-members from The Gambia and Bosnia.
JUST ACT in The Gambia has been working intensively with Naturefriends in the context of the Landscape of the Year Senegal/The Gambia for several years. The organisation is committed to sustainable tourism development and the creation of future prospects, especially for young people in The Gambia, and has a network of internationally recognised experts at its disposal. More information.
The recently founded Naturefriends organisation in Bosnia runs a Naturefriends house in Srebrenica and is committed to nature and environmental protection as well as the development of sustainable tourism in and around Srebrenica. More information.
Establishing new climbing routes in Nablus
Why Naturefriends from Nuremberg support climbing in Palestine
Naturefriends from Nuremberg spent five days in Palestine to establish new climbing routes in Nablus.
They wish to support the local climbing scene and create active sport and leisure opportunities for young people. Last but not least, they want to build bridges – between the people of Nablus and Nuremberg and between the local teenagers. Read the full report in our tourism_LOG (report in german at the Naturefriends Germany’s website)
Outdoor against Cancer: Naturefriends offer new perspectives for cancer patients
Cancer is a challenge for the person affected, as well as for their family and friends. Naturefriends Austria want to give cancer patients a simple yet effective tool: Get moving with a group and boost your health.
Together with the German association “Outdoor against Cancer”, Naturefriends Austria wish to give cancer patients courage and new perspectives. Many feel helpless during this difficult time in life and solely look to curative medicine for answers.
Outdoor activities to complement therapy
The project „Outdoor against Cancer: move yourself, go out and live!” is supported by the European Commission. For 2019 and 2020, The Technical University of Munich received a grant within the “ERASMUS+ Sport” framework together with Naturefriends Carinthia and four other organisations from Germany, Italy, Sweden and Greece. They are organising events to raise awareness regarding the benefits of exercise and movement during and after having cancer.
It is not about competitive sports but about using regular and specific movements to strengthen the body and soul during this difficult time. Naturefriends’ sports and outdoor programmes offer a suitable framework for this.
Training the trainers
To ensure a high-quality offer also for cancer patients, Naturefriends trainers need to be educated. Such a training, which was developed by the Department of Sport and Health Sciences at Technical University of Munich together with the association “Outdoor against Cancer”, is now offered for Naturefriends Austria within the EU project.
The first two-day workshop took place in May 2019. 16 Naturefriends took part and learned in theory and practice what needs to be considered when creating courses that are open to cancer patients as well. During the practical part, the participants were able to personally experience (also with the help of simulators) what it means to move while having physical constraints. These experiences allow the participants to put themselves into the patients’ position and help in ensuring their safety.
First certified „Outdoor against Cancer“ courses on offer
Soon, participants, who took the final exam after the training, will offer their certified “Outdoor against Cancer” courses. The offer ranges from easy hikes to skiing, climbing and bouldering. Additional courses are planned for this autumn and for 2020. Then, Naturefriends Austria will be able to permanently offer an extensive collection of outdoor activities for cancer patients.
An opinion piece by Manfred Pils, President of Naturefriends International
The one-sided focus by European politics on economic liberalization of the economy and monetary stability has caused many citizens to doubt the sense and purpose of the European Union. It is not a coincidence that specifically UK citizens have decided to leave the EU, since Great Britain was one of the strongest driving forces behind neo-liberal policies – while blaming the European Union for its negative consequences. This pattern – politicians impeding progress in the EU and then holding the EU accountable for all negative impacts – we unfortunately see in many populist parties in Europe, which are openly campaigning for a reduction of responsibilities on the European level in favour of an increase of national responsibilities.
However, it is obvious that only a strong European Union, focusing strongly on reaching sustainability targets, can overcome global challenges:
1. Everyone is affected by global climate change and it cannot be fought on a national level alone. The European Union has to take the Paris Agreement seriously and turn around energy policy in Europe. We need a put a tax on CO2 at the European level and work on establishing a CO2-free economy. A “Green New Deal” does not only support a sustainable change in energy policy but also creates new, promising industries.
2. The European agriculture policy has to switch from its focus on exporting mass production to offering regional, high quality, healthy and affordable food. The ban of pesticides such as Glyphosate, promoting biodiversity and respecting animal welfare does not only help to create healthy food but also contributes to preserving the environment.
3. A good life also depends on public services, such as schools, water and energy supply, local food supply, traffic, wastewater treatment and recycling. Instead of privatizing such services – which in the end only ensures the quality in big metropolitan areas and thus has failed in many countries already – we need to protect and support these services in the rural areas. The European regional aid is an important element to achieve a balance between urban and rural areas.
4. National and international companies profit from the public infrastructure as well as from important educational and research institutes, which are financed via taxes. Instead of competing against each other, which led to ridiculously low corporate taxes, member states need to cooperate. Only working together on the European level can stop this vicious cycle of tax dumping and achieve fair taxation on all levels. We need to create European wide minimum rates regarding the taxation of company profits, taxes at the production site and not at the location of company headquarters, need to reduce exemptions as for example for the aviation and shipping industry, create a European financial transaction tax and establish digital business premises. EU funding has to be linked to an appropriate tax level in the different countries and other sustainability criteria.
5. The EU has to ensure ecological and social standards – not only within the EU itself but also at a global level with all trading partners. There cannot be any more trade with products made by children or forced labourers and we need legal frameworks along the whole value chain including strict labelling requirements. Wage and social dumping have to be stopped, especially since it heavily contributed towards the aggressive attitude towards “foreigners”.
6. Europe needs to fight against root causes of migration and not against refugees. Everybody knows that the millions of people who are on the run are not doing this voluntarily. We need joint humane asylum policies for internal and external matters, a European sea rescue and a European solidarity fund to support cities and municipalities which are taking in refugees and are actively working on integration.
7. To implement these measures we need to abolish the principle of unanimity. It is unacceptable that necessary changes are being slowed down by a few who are also actively working against the EU. In addition, the European Parliament needs to have more responsibilities, such as legislative initiative.
Those demands ensure that ecological and social sustainability can be achieved – they will add to social security, generate jobs and create prosperity also in disadvantaged regions. The President of Naturefriends Austria, Andreas Schieder, is running for the European Parliament for the Social Democratic Party of Austria. He demands that the neoliberal Stability and Growth Pact is replaced by a sustainable development pact, which is tied to binding economic, ecological, and social targets. Instead of the debt ratio, indicators such as unemployment, CO2 emissions, cost of housing and distribution of wealth should be used, as they give a more accurate picture of the current level of ecological well-being and social welfare.
In the end, it is important that citizens vote on election day to hinder the destroyers of Europe from creating more damage – from which they want to “protect” us then on the national level.
Naturefriends Vienna invite interested Naturefriends groups to celebrate the 125th anniversary and join the festivities happening in and around Vienna.
A week of celebrations will start immediately after the NFI Congress on June 13th, 2020. The guided tours and hikes can be booked all year in consultation with Naturefriends Vienna. Please contact the office of Naturefriends Vienna directly: email@example.com
Naturefriends Czechia celebrate 25 years. But their roots stretch even further into the past.
On February 16th, 2019, Naturefriends Czechia will celebrate the 25th birthday of their re-establishment. 1994, they were founded based on two local groups: One, the tourist association “Naturfreunde” from Jablonec nad Nisou in North Bohemia with local groups in Liberec, Prag and Ostrava and two, the children and youth association Duha with groups of young adults all over the country.
A „Hooray!“ seemed to be in order. However, soon it became clear that this model would not work – the two organisations were officially united but did not work together a lot. This changed in 2010, when numerous local groups of Naturefriends were founded and joint activities were initiated, as for example the multi-day annual meeting and different projects. Since 2015, Duha unfortunately is not a member of Naturefriends Czechia anymore and 3.000 members were lost. Since then, the member organisation works with “only” seven local groups – including the biggest group in Gablonz which has 350 members – but it is an intense cooperation that encompasses nature, art, history, human rights, participation and slow tourism.
The association’s roots reach much further back though – all the way to the end of the 19th century. One of the founders of the Naturefriends movement, Georg Schmiedl, was born in Prossnitz (today Prostejov, Eastern Czechia). The first Naturefriends group was created in what today is Czechia, right after the group in Vienna was founded in 1895 (the group in Trnovany, Northern Bohemia, was founded in 1897 and used to be the third oldest group worldwide). The movement continually grew and finally, in 1921, during the Prague Congress, the national association “Naturefriends in Czechoslovakia” was established.
The Naturefriends were for the most part German-speaking only and worked in the border regions of Czechoslovakia. They built the Naturefriends Houses completely on their own so that they could have a place to sleep from Saturday (a working day back then) to Sunday. Before the war, there were 39 Naturefriends Houses in Czechoslovakia (also in the High Tatras), but the only one that was kept in good condition is the “Presidential Hut”, which was built in 1927 in the Jizera Mountains.
After Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP seized power in Germany and the annexation of Austria, the birthplace of the Naturefriends movement, Naturefriends were prohibited in Germany and Austria, the members of the association were persecuted and some even imprisoned. Thus, Naturefriends Czechoslovakia offered to hold the international Congress in 1936 in Brno. Two years later, the Czech Sudetes and soon the remaining Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany. Now, Naturefriends were prohibited here as well by the Nazis and their property confiscated, just like it happened in Germany and Austria.
In the revived Czechoslovakia after the war, it was not possible to create German or leftwing organisations; also, in the following years during the “Establishment of Socialism” this could not be achieved. Thus, the “revival” of the movement only happened after the Velvet Revolution 1989. With the help from German and international Naturefriends the association was first re-established in Czechoslovakia in 1991 in Jablonec nad Nisou. Since 1994, Naturefriends Czechia operate nationwide. And that is a reason to celebrate!
Přátelé přírody z. s. / Naturefriends Czechia
Birthday wishes from Manfred Pils, President of Naturefriends International
On behalf of the international Naturefriends community I wish to extend our warmest greetings on this anniversary to Naturefriends Czechia. Special thanks belong to Mirek Prokes, who was played a crucial role as one of the co-founders of Naturefriends Czechia. A lot has happened in the last 25 years. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and during the general atmosphere of revival, Czechia finally became a part of the European Union. Unfortunately, the promised prosperity did not reach all parts of society equally, which created political discontent in many countries of the European Union and led to the support of right-wing populist or even nationalistic parties in many European countries. However, closing borders is only a short-term solution – we have to work together to shape the European Union into a social and sustainable Union, with solidarity and shared prosperity as key elements. Since its establishment in 1895, Naturefriends International has always put international and solidary understanding right in the center of its work. International meetings and joint projects help to experience the internationality and hopefully help to tear down the walls inside people’s minds. With this, we wish Naturefriends Czechia much success for the next decades.
With a heartfelt „Berg frei“
Manfred Pils, President of NFI
An ecosystem in jeopardy
Naturefriends Algeria have been advocating nature conservation in their country for many years. Currently, they are especially focusing on the needed protection of oases in South Algeria. Why those ecosystems are endangered and how they can be protected, explains Hedibi Abdellatif, President of A.T.L.E.D (NF Algeria).
Oases are in jeopardy worldwide. The reasons are manifold:
*significant climate change which causes more intense draught periods and has negative consequences on the availability of water,
*pressure due to the rising population and urbanization negatively impact the ecosystem oasis,
*the power of the import/export economy over the distribution channels of local products
*changes regarding lifestyle and consumption, especially the consumption of manufactured goods at the expense of locally produced food and products,
*insufficient development of land law, water management and production methods; the result is increasing urban sprawl, which endangers ecosystems,
*insufficient recognition of the oasis through politics, as well regarding agricultural research, education and training.
Those developments weaken the powers in the region, not only by deduction of capital but also due to migration of young people into the cities or abroad.
This is the background for the work of Naturefriends Algeria – who suggest solutions to all those problem areas.
President von A.T.L.E.D (Naturefriends Algeria)
Naturefriends Belgium are aiming high
Naturefriends Belgium have some big expeditions going on in April, May and June: A group of 6 members are going to climb Denali in Alaska. Including Sanne Lenaerts, vice-president of Natuurvrienden Bergstijgers. For more info go to: http://www.denali2019.be
Besides this lovely trip to Alaska also one of our members, Niels Jespers (boardmember) will go to Pakistan and try to succeed in climbing the K2. This without supplementary Oxygen. He would become the first Belgian who will do this. Also he is climbing on own power, alpine style. After climbing the Khan Tengri and the Nanga Parbat, this will be again a great and beautiful experience.
You find more information on his website: https://www.nielsjespers.be
Lars Ilya Meulenbergs
President Mountaineering group (Natuurvrienden Bergstijgers) of ATB De Natuurvrienden
Climate change strikes NF Italy
by Christian Facchetti
On 29 October 2018, the whole of Italy was hit by an intense wind storm even in comparison to what normally happens during this period of the year.
Unfortunately, in recent years Italy has become famous in the world for the big limits in land management showing a particularly widespread hydrogeological instability but what happened at the end of October is something that has never been seen in last centuries.
Very famous, unfortunately, have become the images of the eradication of 300,000 trees in the Dolomites in a forest known to provide the precious wood the Stradivari violins are built with; less powerful but equally painful were the injuries suffered in the area where there are 2 local groups of Italian Naturefriends, fortunately without causing damages to NF houses.
This is the case of Monte Baldo on the eastern side of Lake Garda, where numerous trees have been uprooted and have closed the forest paths at several points near the Casa NF Baito 359; much more violent instead was the wind that hit the Camonica Valley (in particular Saviore dell'Adamello) exceeding 200 km/h with the consequent uprooting of about 20,000 old trees. The event was so powerful that the local authorities asked the local population not to leave the house for any reason and, the next day, the forest was completely closed by walls of fallen trees. Furthermore, the situation in this area is far from being resolved: winter is coming, and the municipality still awaits the funds to start the work of cleaning the forest on a large scale.
In both cases, however, the friends of nature became protagonists of voluntary activities, much appreciated by the respective communities, restoring with intense manual work the viability of the woods.
For information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Camp for young mountaineers in Iran
Atour Adventure Club in Iran recently became member of Naturefriends International. Since for years they are organizing the UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) Youth Camp.
This Camp is a perfect chance for young mountaineers from all around the world to come together and not only experience ascending Damavand (5610m) as the highest mountain of Iran and the highest volcanic mountain of west Asia, but also to get to know other cultures and make new friends. They also have the chance of hosting experienced mountaineers like Krzysztof Wielicki. From 2015, they have been hosting this event and had participants from all over Europe including France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Poland as well as Afghanistan, Malaysia, India, Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka.
The next camp will take place from 20 july till 1 august 2019. More information.
NIVON (Naturefriends The Netherlands) celebrates its 95th anniversary
Next year NIVON will celebrate its formation exactely 95 years ago. Starting half a century ago NIVON has organized an annual festival: PIKA (= Pinksterkamp) during the weekend of Pentecost. Next year it will be a jubilee event that takes place from Friday the 7th of June till Monday the 10th.
The Central Board of NIVON is pleased to invite a select group of representitives of the international Friends of Nature. Especially members of the IYNF are invited to become part of the programme.
The 95th anniversary will be the prelude to a larger event. We will emphasize the importance of the values in which we believe: Honesty, Durability, Social and Tolerant behaviour. NIVON pursues a society in solidarity.
In 2024 NIVON hopes to celebrate ist centenary. In the same year the Dutch Friends of Nature commemorate that they joined the NFI exactely hundred years ago.
by Hannele Pöllä/Työväen retkeilyliittory, Naturefriends Finland
Everyman’s right is an important part of people’s lives in Finland, allowing free access to forests and land areas almost everywhere in the country. Irrespective of people’s place of residence, everyman’s right plays an important role for them, especially in outdoor recreation, eco-tourism and the use of nature as a source of livelihood. Without everyman’s right, people would be confined to public areas, roads and the land that they personally own.
According to several studies, being in the forests and close to nature increases the well-being: recovering from the stress is enhanced, the mind is refreshed, and the heart pulse and blood pressure are decreased.
Everyman’s rights are for the Finns quite self-evident as we have enjoyed them for all our lives. Only the people in Norway and Sweden have similar rights. Therefore, for many foreign visitors it is hard to believe that everybody can pick up mushrooms or eat blackberries in the forest.
Everyman’s rights allow people to:
- move about on foot, ski and bicycle in nature, such as in forests, natural meadows and water bodies,
- ride horses,
- stay in and temporarily stay overnight in areas where movement is also permitted,
- pick wild berries, mushrooms and unprotected plants,
- angle and ice fish, and
- boat, swim and wash themselves in waters and move about on ice.
The key principles of everyman’s rights are derived from the Finnish Constitution, which also ensures the protection of property. Accordingly, there are certain limitations to the rights and people are not allowed to:
- disturb the use of land by the landowner,
- move about in yards, cultivated areas or cultivated fields,
- cut down or harm growing trees,
- take dry or fallen wood,
- take moss or lichen,
- light an open fire on another’s land,
- disturb domestic premises, for example, by camping too close to dwellings or making noise,
- drop litter in the environment,
- drive a motorised vehicle off-road,
- disturb or damage birds’ nests or chicks,
- disturb animals, or
- hunt or fish without the appropriate permits.
The Finnish Yle, the public service broadcasting company, has launched a one-week campaign "Mennään metsään” - “Let’s go to forest”, where people can register their visits to nature. So far there are already more than 290,000 visits in the register: https://yle.fi/aihe/mennaan-metsaan. During the campaign Yle also offers a rich variety of nature-related programs.
Finland is planning to apply for the everyman’s rights to be included in the Unesco cultural heritage list of living traditions. The list has more than 450 objects from 117 countries – so far nothing from Finland.
EcoCity Forum 2018
From 3rd to 5th October, the Ecocity Forum 2018 “Circular Economy in Smart Cities" took place in Thessaloniki, Greece. Ecocity Greece – a platform, in which also Naturefriends Greece engage themselves – organised this conference to raise awareness regarding Circular Economy and Smart Cities and invited international experts to speak in the different panel sessions.
Naturefriends International, represented by Katrin Karschat, were invited to present the Transforming Tourism initiative. Shedding light on the challenges the tourism industry faces – also in the context with the Agenda 2030 – and also to provide input concerning Human Rights in tourism, the Transforming Tourism initiative was well received and sparked an interesting discussion.
Ecocity Forum | Naturefriends Greece | Transforming Tourism