Students for Sustainability
Author: Kerstin Schnatz
Energy shortages in China, water scarcity in mega-cities or waste management in slums. There are plenty of environmental challenges in the world. But what are the answers for them? German engineering company SIEMENS asked young bright minds from all around the world to bring forward their solution to a local problem. The best ideas for a more sustainable world were awarded by a panel of experts in Rio de Janeiro. The city currently is host to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – better know as Rio+20 or the Earth Summit.
Desalination to rescue the world?
Before the event, we interviewed Michaela Rizzo from the United Kingdom. The young woman of Cambridge University believes that with sea-levels to rise and deserts to expand, the water problem will become more and more pressing. According to her, by 2025 four billion people will be living in water scarcity areas already. „As 97% of the world’s water resources are salty, desalination really makes sense“, she said.
Her project team had been studying a desalination plant in London, asking whether the technology was an apt solution to water infrastructure challenges in large cities.
Winning concepts in Rio
The negotiations in preparation of the Rio+20 congress are stuck. Only about 30% of the conference text could be agreed on so far. Especially the term „Green Economy“ is an ongoing point of discussion for which a winning concept cannot be seen yet.
At the „Students for Sustainability Award“ a winner was found after only two hours when Michaela’s team had to give way to the Chinese team. The students of Beijing’s Tsinghua University convinced with a project focusing on energy shortages in rural China. They proposed to reuse waste oil as biodiesel. “We aim at solving the problems both of diesel shortage and of waste oil disposal in China’s Yangtze River Delta region“, the lucky winners said.
New fuel for desalination plants
One of the big challenges of desalination plants, is the high use of energy. At the moment, the London plant uses mainly conventional diesel, Michaela’s team colleague admitted in the presentation. Replaced by biofuel such as promoted by the Chinese team, CO2-emissions of water desalination could be cut down tremendously.
Michaela meanwhile hopes that the over 100 world leaders and delegations from around the globe expected to take part in the Rio+20 congress will not forget the issue of water. The Earth Summit starts Wednesday June 20 and is expected to end on Friday June 22.
Want to know more about the teams and their topics? Visit:
Students for Sustainability
DateJune 18, 2012
„I am a realist“
In a couple of days the high level meetings at the Rio+20 conference, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, are going to start. What can be expected from these debates? What could be the outcome of Rio+20? We asked Barbara Unmüßig, head of the German Heinrich Böll Foundation. She took part in the first „Earth Summit“ in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and has been following the international debates closely ever since. According to her it’s best to „be a realist“ – and not to expect too much.
DateJune 15, 2012
Rio’s romance with renewable resources
Author and pictures: Kerstin Schnatz
The Brazilian government is trying to make a point, it seems, of just how much it values the use of renewable resources such as corn or sugarcane. Indeed, Brazil is well known as a biofuel-country: The standard blend cars run on consists of up to 25 percent of biofuel for example. Even the Brazilian airline that flew us in bragged about its green commitment in the inflight magazine. The carrier plans to operate a domestic flight on biofuel especially for Rio+20.
Whilst renewable resources may emit less CO2 than fossil fuels, depending on how they are processed and transported, they can of course also create a lot of problems – monocultures, conflict between food and fuel production or soil degradation to name just a few.
DateJune 15, 2012
Tagsbiodiversity, Brazil, conference, conservation, environment, rio de janeiro, Rio+20, sustainable, United Nations
Face to face with the tiger
Dieter Hoffmann of Harapan Rainforest knows what a reporter likes to see. “Are you interested in some fresh footprints or photos of a Sumatran tiger,” he asked. Of course I am! Harapan Rainforest has installed a few camera traps in the forest. Sometimes monkeys are fooling around with cameras, because they have learned that there’s something behind the lens. But every now and then a Sumatran tiger crosses one of these cameras and sneeks a peek.
We walked to one of those cameras. And yes, there were footprints. I hardly knew what to do with my emotions. The prints were fresh, Dieter said. There was a tiger right here, just a few hours ago. My first thought: “Brilliant!” I’m a reporter, I’m always looking for a stunning picture. But right after that first thought my instincts came in: “Are you crazy?!” I thought. What on earth am I doing here on the favorite path of a real Tiger? That’s dangerous! I don’t want to end up in a tiger’s stomach!
But Axel, my camera-man, could hardly believe his luck and headed forward into the jungle as if looking for nothing but his pet dog.
To make a long story short: We didn’t meet a tiger and we are still not eaten by a tiger. But the photos of the camera trap revealed what really happend: At 9.40 in the morning a female Sumatran tiger passed the camera. We followed – in a safe distance – close to five a clock in the afternoon.
DateJune 3, 2012
The road from Santa Marta winds along Colombia’s Pacific coast to Bogotá. It’s one-lane traffic and the path is dotted with potholes. Massive trucks idle in impossibly long lines: tankers, timber trucks and hazardous material transporters all share the same road because it is the only one that takes them to their destination. The landscape along the ride, though, is beautiful: lush, green mountains line the road, carpeted with palm and banana trees as well as ferns. But the idyllic scenery has a darker side, too: here, FARC guerrilla fighters used the thick green canopy to hide kidnapping victims and hold them until they received ransom money in return.
DateApril 11, 2012
Tagsbogota, climate, Colombia, family, farc, farming, land, latin america, palmalianza, plantation, traffic