Another year has gone!

What comes next is always a mystery.  We started the year 2020 with a solid plan for our training programs as always. But the unexpected pandemic has forced us to adapt our programs to the current situation. Without a doubt, this year was and still is one of the most challenging’ year for CIPSEM since the beginning in 1977. Nevertheless, thanks to the great effort and commitment of the representatives from UNESCO, BMU, UBA, TU Dresden, and the CIPSEM team, three postgraduate training programs were successfully implemented using online/e-learning methods. Of course, the commitment and enthusiasm of participants have motivated the CIPSEM – Facilitators to continue with the programs using new online tools to transfer their knowledge and experience.

Indeed, as the year 2020 comes to an end we are pleased to say: We made it! A total of 66 international executives and experts from governmental and non-governmental organizations from more than 30 countries have joined us in the virtual e-learning platform of NEO despite the difference in time zone. They were able to learn from the expert and share their experiences regarding the controversial field of environmental management, integrated water resources management, and sustainable mobility. The gain knowledge has enabled the participants to understand the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in their home countries and has provided them with the tools to implement local actions towards sustainable solutions at local level.

The year 2020 has given us, the CIPSEM family, the grates’ lesson of the times, and we are ready to go on with education. The 44th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries is already on, and ready to welcome the participants on January 13th. Until then, we wish you a beautiful holiday season and a new year of peace and health.   

The CIPSEM – Team

A Central-American Experience in Dresden

Growing up in a small farm in Nicaragua surrounded by wildlife, I always found natural processes particularly fascinating. This along with TV shows hosted by personalities like David Attenborough, Steve Irwin, and Jane Goodall were the reasons of my early environmental awareness. This continued in high school, where I researched about man-made forest fires and their impacts on soil quality, air quality and biodiversity; a lifelong environmental issue in Nicaragua. In a way, my career choice was decided in the early stages of my life, and led to me studying environmental quality engineering at the Universidad Centroamericana in 2008.

Whilst studying there, a severe drought lasting three years hit Nicaragua. Our family’s livelihood from farming suffered, requiring us to sell all our assets and changing our family lifestyle completely. Our farm was not adapted to climate change, a concept I learned about during my years at university and one that became mainstream with the help of Al Gore’s documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. The impact of drought on our farm was the first time climate change directly affected my life. This shaped my professional path, making me committed to working with those in need who lack the tools, knowledge or technologies to face climate change, something that they themselves had done little or nothing to initiate. This commitment is why, since graduating, I have been working with certified organic agriculture, a climate change resilient farming systems.

In 2017, I moved to Peru where I designed, validated and implemented a tool for small farmers that would help them sell their agricultural products for a better price. The tool was a participatory guarantee system (PGS), the second one in Peru, based on agroecological practices. The idea behind the tool was to bring farmers and consumers closer, fostering trust relationships, making consumers aware of the reality and challenges farmers face to produce food. This work led me to seek further professional development and Iuckily, I won a scholarship from the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety to study a Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries with the Centre for International Postgraduate Studies of Environmental Management (CIPSEM) at TU Dresden. Here I got the opportunity to meet individuals from all over the world, all with a shared concern for our natural world and how small efforts can pay off when they have the possibility to reach several individuals.

Pablo Urbina, Nicaragua/Peru – alumnus of the 43rd UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries (EM43)

Learning from lecturers from one of the most advance nations in the world was a once in a lifetime experience. Here you get to appreciate that in a seemingly economy-driven world that, from the outside, looks to not care much about the environmental sphere, there are still individuals and institutions that contribute tirelessly with their work and research to bring new knowledge and technological advances for an environmentally friendly world.

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Opening ceremony of the EM43 course at the Rectors Office of TU Dresden in January 2020

During my first few weeks at the course I learnt about the International Climate Protection Fellowship by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and saw the perfect opportunity to extend the scope of the PGS I developed back in Peru. That is why I applied to the fellowship and my application was accepted in September 2020, and I will start my research in 2021 in cooperation with a senior professor at TU Dresden. The international Climate Protection Fellowship enables me to communicate my work to an international community so it can be replicated around the world. This programme will allow me to interact with brilliant minds that are constantly thinking about how to bring solutions to issues related to climate change from their areas of expertise and provide opportunity to learn about different perspectives or approaches to common issues.

by Pablo Urbina (EM43)

“More Than Fruits and Vegetables”

Community garden experiences from the Global North to foster green development of informal areas in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

On behalf of the CIPSEM team, we are very happy to share with you the latest publication entitles “More Than Fruits and Vegetables” Community garden experiences from the Global North to foster green development of informal areas in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This research has been made by the alumni Alexandra Aguilar Pedro, a participant of the 41st UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries and with the cooperation of Dr. Anna Görner, Dr. André Lindner, and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wende.

Abstract

Urban gardening contributes to society in various ways such as by enhancing communities, ensuring food security, improving health, providing places for recreation as well as by raising environmental awareness. Although urban gardening initiatives have been spreading, the challenge remains to include vulnerable communities, especially in developing countries, which face manifold infrastructural, environmental and social pressures, thereby helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 (Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) and foster urban inclusiveness.

The study evaluated the performance of urban community gardens in order to verify their potential for implementation in the slums of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Significant assets and drawbacks were analyzed from existing studies and categorized into social, spatial, economic and environmental factors. Additionally, qualitative interviews on societal and motivational issues were conducted with contributors to a community garden in Dresden, Germany.

The results highlight the potential of urban gardening to counteract spatial pressures in informal areas by creating green spaces, improving food quality, raising environmental awareness and, in general, ensuring a higher quality of life. On the other hand, some obstacles remain to be overcome, such as soil pollution, the high probability of further contamination as well as a lack of basic infrastructure. A top-down implementation of urban gardens within slums is considered feasible if the projects are designed in partnership with the community, and a long-term adaptive management model is applied. Under these conditions, urban gardening will make a significant contribution to ‘inclusive urbanism’.

You can download the full article here:

This publication is available online as part of the book “Inclusive Urbanism – Advances in research, education, and practice”. The Open access of the book is here:

https://rius.ac/index.php/rius/issue/view/8

Education Must Go On!

Marolyn Vidaurre, CIPSEM

Picture from the Opening Ceremony, 14th September 2020

How could we imagine that, in the blink of an eye, our lifestyle would take a 180-degree turn? The current health crisis due to COVID-19 is having an unprecedented impact worldwide; many countries keep their borders closed, limited social life, low or limited access to essential resources, among other limitations. Despite all this, we at CIPSEM strongly believe that education must go on. For many years we have had the opportunity to bring together specialists and environmental leaders in our classrooms to share and exchange knowledge. For that reason, and with the same enthusiasm and dedication, we are pleased to inform that the 80th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on Integrated Water Resources Management – IWRM has officially started, and for the first time we are now developing the entire course online.

The opening ceremony took place on the 14th September with a total of 45 participants from different corners of the world, including 21-course participants and three guest listeners from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as the participation of several authorities from Germany, the representative of the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the representative of the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA), the representative of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP), members of the Curriculum Committee of the Course Programme CIPSEM Alumni, facilitators of the course and the CIPSEM Team and guests.

Although being online is not something new, we all use social networks in one way or another to connect with those who are far away from us, many universities around the world offer different higher education programs online. So, what’s new about doing a course entirely online? The participants of the 80th Short Course – IWRM are attending the virtual classroom from home while the specialists and facilitators are here in Germany. Therefore, a live session, implies that while some participants in Panama are having breakfast at five o’clock in the morning, others are at lunchtime in Europe and some already finishing dinner in Mongolia. Doing this course online is a big challenge that all participants are willing to take. Each one of them has the enthusiasm and desire to make this possible.

We have developed a strategy to support a group of 21 experts in upgrading their knowledge and skills concerning IWRM in the best possible way. We will ensure that, also in this online edition, the exchange will be interactive with plenty of opportunities for learning from and with each other as well as from numerous facilitators covering all sectors from academia through governance. Besides knowledge and skills related to IWRM, participants will also be better prepared to harness the benefits of digital communication and learning – something of great value for many of your professional challenges ahead. All the necessary tools are available to make this course successful.

Today, less than a week after starting the course, we can already see how the participants are beginning to interact and collect experiences. These are times of radical change, yet our problems remain the same; climate change, poverty, misuse of natural resources and more. We have the firm conviction to continue with the education, despite all the challenges, now more than ever we need leaders with knowledge and understanding in our environment, for that reason, here in CIPSEM we are willing to continue in the arduous task of education for the future.

How to improve our relationship with nature after coronavirus

Zita Sebesvari, United Nations University

In the middle of the coronavirus crisis, many of us have turned to nature to reduce stress levels, improve mental health and stay physically active. Yet, human interaction with nature and ecosystems contributed to the existence of the current pandemic in the first place. So what can we take away from this?

Human action has altered our planet, from land to ocean, and has led to a loss of ecosystems. There is strong evidence that the emergence of zoonotic diseases – those that jump between animals – is linked to alteration of ecosystems and human encroachment into wildlife habitats, and the United Nations has recently linked environmental degradation to the emergence of pandemics.

There are two main ways that our impact on the environment is increasing the threat of pandemics such as the current coronavirus outbreak.

First, with growing human settlements and land-clearing for agriculture, the transition zones between different ecosystems have grown. This leads to species from different habitats mixing and interacting with each other in new ways. These new contacts provides new opportunities for diseases to jump between species, as coronavirus did.

Our expansion into wild areas is increasing the threat of new diseases such as coronavirus. huyangshu/Shutterstock

The second important driver for the emergence of zoonotic disease is biodiversity loss. With decreasing biodiversity, disease vectors – those animals that carry and transmit an infectious pathogen – are more likely to feed on vertebrates than other species which are no longer as abundant. Those other species then become the primary reservoir of the pathogen.

An example of this is the increased risk of Lyme disease to humans in North America. It was shown that forest fragmentation led to reduced diversity of vertebrates and increased the abundance of some generalist species such as the white-footed mouse, which has become the primary reservoir of the bacteria causing Lyme disease.

High biodiversity, on the other hand, can reduce the risk to human health. The underlying mechanism is called “the dilution effect” and it works by reducing both the relative density of animals that serve as a natural reservoir for pathogens and the population density of the pathogen vectors (such as ticks). This means fewer encounters between vectors and the animals they infect with the disease.

The benefits of nature

But greater contact between humans and their environment has been one of the most important responses to the pandemic, from a mental health perspective.

Many of us who have been fortunate enough to live in areas where lockdown restrictions still permitted outdoor activities turned to walking and exercising outdoors and enjoying the beauty of rivers, urban green spaces and forests, all the while adhering to the prescribed regulations on physical distance and group size.

As we respond to the pandemic, the draw of such spaces for improving well-being cannot be overlooked. Science has long established that access to urban green areas such as parks and lakes has positive impacts on health, typically due to improved air quality, increased physical activity, social cohesion, and stress reduction. It has also been shown that interaction with nature helps us to better recover from stress.

Greening cities not only supports human health but comes with a wide range of other benefits: it is economical, helps reduces the heat island effect in a time of increasingly extreme temperatures and improves air quality.

Green areas can also contribute to flood risk reduction by allowing more water to infiltrate into the soil and thus reducing the amount of excess water during rainstorms. Finally, urban green can create new habitats for plant and animal species.

What we can do next

In light of this, my hope is that the coronavirus pandemic will instigate action to address the underlying drivers of disease emergence, including ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss. The challenge of protecting the environment in an era of a rapidly escalating climate crisis is enormous and individuals often feel overwhelmed and unable to contribute to change.

But our recent positive experiences with the environment also present a unique opportunity to emerge from the pandemic with a better relationship with nature. Recognition of the value of green spaces should be encouraged long after the pandemic has passed and, if managed properly, could encourage action on the community level to protect ecosystems from further human incursions.

As we look to the future, growing cities need to prioritise existing green spaces and build new ones within existing city boundaries. Green areas within cities support health objectives without degrading biodiverse areas elsewhere. Experiencing nature outside cities will remain important to maintain human health but will only be possible to access and experience in the long run if we can find a healthy balance between our resource use and nature protection.

Enforcement and strengthening environmental regulations to protect or restore biodiverse areas will be vital. The cost of managing those areas for biodiversity conservation and recreation is easier to communicate if the full range of benefits are considered, including the contribution they make to human health.

A green strategy that helps us build back better after coronavirus can support sustainable development on many accounts, not only for mental and physical well-being, but also to ensure that multiple global goals, such as combating climate change and reducing natural hazard risks, can be achieved.

Zita Sebesvari, Head of Environmental Vulnerability and Ecosystem Services, Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), United Nations University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The season has changed…

It happened again. It’s summertime. With the summer has also come the time to say goodbye to the 43rd UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries (EM43 class) as “current participants” and welcome them as ” CIPSEM Alumni”. The closing ceremony was as usually quite emotional, flourishing that feeling of “I made it”. But no, wait, something was different. Oh, yeah!

For the first time we had a virtual ceremony. The worldwide disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the shut-down of the on-site activities for this course. Nevertheless, an online and virtual program was developed and implemented so the group could finish their studies and receive the well-deserved certificate.

EM43 Closing Ceremony

Many words have been said during the ceremony as “challenge”, “effort”, “computer”, “friends”, “home”, “happy”, “grateful”, “online”, “dedication”, “sad”, “action”, “world”, “future”, “loss”, “family”, “lonely”, “nature”, “care”, “together”, “contact”, “winner”, “time”, “work”, “experience”, “concern”…and so on. Such words can really be considered the essence of this group. However, the most important thing here is that you, us, we really made it. It was a big challenge but a great learning experience for all of us, especially a learning experience about ourselves.

We hope that, globally, people also took the chance to ask themselves as we took now: “What does it really matter to me?”… And as the EM43 class highlighted during the ceremony, now is the time to act and to take better care of our nature. Anyway, the season has changed, it is time to go home, to be at home, and give our best.

What more to say? It was a pleasure. All the best. Take care. See you soon. Well done. Thank you!

A walk through the Botanical Garden in Dresden

Picture: Patrícia Gallo (2020)

We may instinctively think that we all know what a botanical garden is – a beautiful garden where plants are labelled. However, a botanical garden is much more than that. According to Botanic Gardens Conservation International, botanical gardens are institutions holding documented collections of living plants for the purpose of scientific research, conservation, display and education. A botanical garden also has a greater emphasis on conserving rare and threatened plants. Moreover, it provides opportunities for society to immerse in nature, explore their interests, and experience leisure.

Picture: Patrícia Gallo (2020)

Some of the participants of the 43rd UNEP/UNESCO/BMU IInternational Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries (EM43) had this week the opportunity to visit the Botanical Garden of the TU Dresden. The history of this garden dates back to 1820. In 1822 already 7,800 plant species were there cultivated – quite a large number compared to the 3,000 species of the natural flora in Germany. The bomb attacks of February 1945 not only destroyed the city of Dresden but also severely damaged the botanical garden. Since 1949 this garden is managed by the TU Dresden.

Today, about 10,000 plant species from different regions of the world are cultivated there within an area of approximately three hectares.

The collection is predominantly arranged geographically and is displayed in landscaped grounds. Three public greenhouses show tropical and sub-tropical plants of American and Old World deserts and rainforests species from America, Africa and Asia. 

The Botanical Garden provides pleasure and inspiration to plant lovers all year round =) And a special thank you to Dr. Barbara Ditsch for the pleasant tour!

Coherence despite all odds

In contrast to the physical distance we all need to keep these days, here is another example of the persistence of team spirit and the power of relationships. Recently there was a spontaneous online get-together of alumni of the 71st UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services, which took place in September 2017:

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Also the ongoing 43rd UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries had to adapt its character and after most of the participants returned home, it’s now continued as an “online only” effort. Nevertheless there was, despite the significant differences among time zones, a first complete reunion of all fellows last Wednesday (April 15th):

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Once me and a friend and former colleague tried to come up with a fancy catchphrase for CIPSEM to be used for public relation purposes – we inoffically ended up with “CIPSEM – we open worlds” … and we still do, despite a global shut-down.

Take care and stay safe!

From a learner to a key actor

From where I come from, it is often said “if mountains can meet, then men shall always meet”. I always thought it was a consolatory statement whenever we had to go away from a friend or someone we cherish, but little did I know a famous re-union will proof to me how true the statement is. The short story started last August 2019 when I was privileged to be one of the 21 participants who attended the “77th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services”. Spending almost a month with 20 young talented and inspiring professionals from diverse countries around the world, dedicated and sacrificing every minute of their life’s in fighting for the conservation of our biodiversity was a unique experience for me.

The various course lectures, group works, field and study trips were just awesome. Nevertheless, I thought I was at the end of my excitement until we had a study trip at the Isle of Vilm, words can’t explain the experience. However, one of the main highlights of the stay at Vilm was the course on “CBD-COP negotiation simulation”. Under the coordination of Dr. Axel Paulsch, a seasoned CBD-COP negotiator, we were drilled on negotiation skills, language alignment, getting what we want via compromise, pressure building….. Passionate on issues relating to blending science and policy as far as biodiversity conservation is concerned, I found my world during the simulation exercise. Futhermore, I was boosted when Dr. Paulsch at the end of the exercise said and I quote “Simon, I am convinced soon, very soon, you will be at the international stage, this time around in the real, negotiating for your country”. Those were just words isn’t it??? Yes they were, but never underestimate the strength of words.

Last February to March 2020, 1000 delegates from 142 countries met in Rome-Italy for the Second Meeting of the Open-ended Working Group of the CBD on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. The main aim of the meeting was for parties to engage in negotiations towards the elaboration of an agreed main text of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

I was greatly privileged to be designated as one of the two delegates who represented Cameroon to the negotiations. But this privilege was amplified when I met one special personality in the meeting. Guess who??? – Dr. Axel Paulsch – The famous re-union took place. I was full of emotions when I met this wonderful professional who across CIPSEM and the SC77 course, empowered me with innovative negotiating skills.

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Our re-union was smooth, humble, peaceful and quiet just like nature itself. The humble character of the re-union was expressed when Dr. Paulsch told  me as we met and I quote “yesterday you were a learner but today you are my colleague and I will be honoured to get your perspectives relating to the negotiations we are about to embark in”. The words say it all. On my side, whenever I had to speak either in the name of my country or the African group, I felt the weight of the responsibility and the unique privilege I had not only as a delegate from my country, but as a CIPSEM SC77 Alumnus having his course instructor in the same conference hall listening to him participating in the development of a new biodiversity framework that shall re-shape life on earth and participate the sustainable well-being of hundreds of millions of people.

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Meeting Dr. Paulsch gave me the opportunity to finally accept the statement that “if mountains can meet, then men shall always meet”. But beyond statements, participating in the Rome negotiations was another proof of the skills learned, knowledge gained and senses built during the CIPSEM experience, which goes a long way to highlight the rich and innovative content of the CIPSEM course programs.

At the certificate award ceremony of the CIPSEM SC77 course, I had the honour to be one of the two speakers who spoke on behalf of our fellow course mates. I remember telling them that, “if we don’t want to be victims of the destruction of biodiversity, we should be actors of its conservation and to do this, rather than trying to do things right, we should always do the right things”. CIPSEM has done its part and I’m convinced we SC77 Alumni are doing our everyday in our universities, government agencies, NGOs, CSOs, businesses, etc.. And this is true because the re-union at the Rome meeting wasn’t only with Dr. Paulsch but I also met my SC77 course mate Mr. Yew Aun Quek, who was part of the Malaysian Delegation.

 

by Mr. PATAMAKEN ANECK Simon Ndibnuh,

Senior Environmental Engineer, Ministry of Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development-Cameroon, SC77 CIPSEM Alumnus

Rising from the ashes: A panoramic view of German history or futuristic outlook of mankind?

Looking in from the outside, it can be simple for one to so easily misinterpret or even blatantly disregard the history of another. This is because “history” is often viewed as an entirely independent factor of past – a past which is often unwanted for repetition in the future. Though history is taught as a lesson, it is extremely crucial to also realize that history plays a fundamental role when applied in trying to understand a person, country or pattern.

Over the past couple decades, Germany has become one of the role model developed countries of the world due to its thriving economy and relatively high standard of living for its residents. Present day Germany, in most parts, has developed rather quickly, boasting efficiency as well as maintaining priorities in sustainable transport, renewable energy and waste management. The easy access to resources via the internet is irrefutably impressive and effective in maintaining a booming economy. Need to catch a train but don’t have time to stop at the ticket station? Click! Done! Do you want food delivered to your door-step? Click! Done! Need to make an appointment with the doctor? Click! Done! For someone who doesn’t readily have these amenities available, this is seemingly remarkable.

Slow down for a minute though… The fact is, not all roads to such simplicities were so effortless. Germany had to forge its own path and its people made some hard choices, some which proved beneficial and others destructive in nature. On one excursion to the Dresden Panometer, the class of EM43, if they hadn’t already, would soon realize at the bare minimum what it took to become present day Germany. So let’s turn the clock back about 75 years ago to Dresden, Germany, 1945.

Dresden, February 15, 1945

Bright orange flames produce thick black smoke, giving off embers and ashes rising high into what is now a seemingly pitch black sky. The air, hardly breathable, is regrettably the only thing left to be taken away from the regular man and as far as the eyes can see, the once bustling city centre of Dresden, lay in rubbles after three long hellish days of bomb raids from the Allied Forces. Thousands of civilian lives were lost during the three-day airstrike, leaving thousands of others mourning the loss of their loved ones and quite some years of “cleaning” and rebuilding to restore the City of Dresden.

Dresden, was not a city for military defense at the time, but became targeted for bombing to allegedly disrupt communication among the Nazi Party, which was being ran by Adolf Hitler since 1933. Under Hitler’s Chancellorship, approximately 6 million Jews were killed and millions of other people, whom he deemed politically, religiously or racially “unfit” to live among the German population. These persons were often segregated and taken to extermination camps where they would face certain death at the hands of Hitler’s soldiers. This was a tremendously dark time for Germany, one in which being different was a crime and the mere thought of this invoked fear in the heart of millions of people who took refuge there. Hitler’s rule was ended at a great cost of the lives of German civilians in order to save the lives many more.

Moving forward

So, not everything can be taken for face value. Thereafter, Germany sought out progressiveness through economic growth, which not immediately but eventually welcomed diversity, literacy and now the concept of sustainability and environmental cohesiveness. The last factor, more than anything else, is probably what will make us or break us as a people! For years, mankind has struggled to accept diversity and individuality-history lesson #1. However, lesson #2 is ours for the taking, in deciding how our personal choices in the use of our natural resources will affect each other and our children! Each person, each ethnicity, each country has either chosen or needs to choose soon how to live so as to not lead to the demise of mankind through our destructive nature in the unwise and over exploitive use of our natural resources. Yadegar Asisi’s Panometer of Dresden 1945 is not just history. Under different circumstances it is provides a definite insight of mankind’s future should we not understand our weighty dependence on maintaining healthy environmental ecosystems!

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One of the old gas storages in Dresden saved as a historical monument

by Ms. Deidra Mahler, Belize