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