Exploring resource efficiency in Dessau

The participants of the 73rd UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Resource Efficiency – Cleaner Production and Waste Management have received a warm welcome at the German Environment Agency in Dessau… as well as lots of input with regard to the topic of our training programme. Please see the image caption for details.

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Increasing​​ resource efficiency

Meet the participants of our 73rd UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Resource Efficiency – Cleaner Production and Waste Management:

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Today we have embarked on a 4-week-journey of learning from an with each other how we can move towards a more resource efficient world, in the context of our different countries, communities and institutions.

There is a sense of urgency, as Prof Jeffrey Sachs has pointed out in his keynote talk during this year’s conference of the Partnership for Action on Green Economy, PAGE.

 

Dealing with contamination

Freiberg has a long mining history. Naturally high background values, mining and ore processing have led to high concentrations of heavy metals in the area, as well as in the downstream flood plains. During our visit to the Saxon State Agency for Environment, Agriculture and Geology, Dr Ingo Müller and Dr Natalja Barth have elaborated on the historic development, as well as monitoring and soil protection efforts by the State Agency. We have received a good overview on farming activities on soils with high heavy metal concentrations and also learned a good deal about the set up of the agency and its interactions with key stake holders.

Soils and agriculture

On Monday, we went to visit the Centre for Agriculture and Environment in Nossen. There, we received a warm welcome by Dr Bergfeld, head of the Agriculture Department of the Saxon State Agency for Environment, Agriculture and Geology (LfULG). After an introduction into the agency and its responsibilities, we got to follow the way soil samples take in the laboratory (see captions for details).

After lunch, Dr Trapp and her colleagues introduce us to the test done in Nossen and in other facilities of the LfULG, for example, to give recommendations on the varieties most suitable for local conditions.

The bigger picture

During our visit to the Helmholtz-Centre Potsdam – GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences we could upgrade our understanding of how soils and modern landscapes are a highly interconnected part of the Earth system. As director, Prof. Dr Dr h.c. Reinhard Hüttl introduced the manifold research activities of GFZ. Later, we got to build our own Earth system with the fantasic support of Prof. Dr Nils Hovius.

In the end of our stay, we could see firsthand, how climate proxies are being analysed in the GFZ laboratories.

Caring for soils

You will only take an interest in soils and protect them if you know about their importance, right?

Ackerdemia e.V. supports schools all over Germany who wish to set up school gardens where children and teenagers can explore the origins of food and land management together, with expert guidance. During our visit to the Ackerdemia office in the Berlin ‘Malzfabrik’, Jan Jansen introduced us to the association’s educational approach.

 

Soils in the landscape

We got to visit the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) in Müncheberg, just east of Berlin. During the previous day, Prof. Jochen Schanze had introduced basic concepts of Integrated Water Resources Management in relation to land use. Some of these ideas have been fleshed out during our exchange with Dr Dagmar Balla from the ZALF Institute of Landscape Hydrology. For instance, we got to run a very educative model of the water cycle at the landscape scale and also received some insights into water reuse for agricultural purposes.

Exploring the ZALF campus …

The social dimension has been added in the afternoon when Dr Frieder Graef and his colleagues Michelle Bonatti, Festo R. Silungwe shared insights into a large trans-disciplinary R&D project on food security with the group. It has been particularly helpful to learn about educational approaches and techniques for a more sustainable use of land resources, besides an introduction into the project framework.