Freiburg & Environment: Ecological Capital? Environmental Capital? Solar City? Sustainable City? Green City?

Veröffentlicht am 18.07.2007 in der Kategorie English Section von Axel Mayer

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In the beginnings of the 1990s a powerful lobby was fighting on regional and national level for lucrative and ususally oversized waste incineration plants and against the construction of mechanical biological treatment plants. In Freiburg, the skilful and influential incineration lobby won a victory over the supporters of the more cost-effective and more ecological version of waste plant.

Another major ecological topic is the usage of land which still increases significantly. While the population in other German regions is decreasing, the Freiburg region is booming. There is still a strong belief in growth especially in the area around Freiburg. Who would not like to live in the environmental capital, the 'German Tuscany', the nation´s sun belt? So the ecological region´s good reputation itself leads to a vast usage of land, splinter development and disfigurement of the landscape along the Upper Rhine.

The extension of the B 31 road through Freiburg was accompanied by protests but nonetheless enforced with a huge array of police units. Street extension in general leads to more traffic. The city and the region suffer from the increasing transit traffic through Freiburg and on the European North-South route.

While every new and passably sized solar plant is duly celebrated, the waste of 50 megawatts lost heat in the waste incineration plant TREA Bremgarten (where also Freiburg´s refuse is incinerated) is hardly spoken of in the ecological capital. The TREA plant emits an unused amount of heat corresponding to the energy of 120,000 litres of oil every day.

The share of sustainable energies used in Freiburg is still small. Municipal intentions cannot lead to grand results when energy politics of the conservative state Baden-Württemberg are decided upon in the EnBW energy company´s corporate headquarter. Freiburg´s wind energy plans of a sustainable and future-oriented energy supply are prevented by the regional administrative authority.

The risks of genetic engineering are not discussed willingly in the so-called 'Gentech-Biovalley' along the Upper Rhine. Not only at the University of Freiburg people want to profit from both environment protection and genetic engineering.

Ecology, climate protection and the environment still are great topics in Freiburg, in particular when they can used to make money. Nowadays self-discovery and other fashionable subjects that distantly can be connected with environmental politics seem to have gained more importance than the enlargement of the Alsace´s zone of heavy industry. Greenwash, the 'green cloak' for industrial plants that cause environmental damage, is far advanced along the Upper Rhine. Here even the atomic companies EnBW and EDF with “Au fil du Rhin“ have founded an 'environment' organisation controlled by the economy.

Sustainable community and ecological capital don`t automatically go along with 'pushing ahead with ecology and sustainability'. Ecological capital Freiburg means that with lots of effort people succeeded in regionally slowing down the global processes of destruction. But the consumption of resources and energy as well as the production of nuclear waste and carbon dioxid cannot be called sustainable in the slightest. Therefore, they must not be adopted by the 'rest of the world' in no way.

The Green City Freiburg and its ecological footprint Upon looking on Freibirg its ecological footprint is easily overlooked. The term "ecological footprint" refers to the area necessary to sustain a person's lifestyle (which is a wasteful one in Freiburg, too). Many goods and all the resources consumed and used in Freiburg are produced and won in countries far away from the Green City. So these goods actually don't pollute the Green Capital's area but the environment in those countries producing them. An objective evaluation however should not omit this pollution when calculating Freiburg's ecological balance

The crucial question concerning the future is the limit of growth. But even in the city of Freiburg there is some hesitation to raise this question.

Sustainability cannot be reached without social justice.

Freiburg citizens, environmental groups and companies as well as the committed administration achieved many ecological objectives. There are many reasons to be proud of the results achieved, and in crucial fields Freiburg indeed is more environmentally friendly than many other cities. The city has made the first steps in the right direction and others can learn from Freiburg.

But the legitimate pride sometimes leads to a certain laziness, a weakening of efforts and the wrong belief to have reached (almost) every ecological aim. The essential pressure of the environmental movement has decreased as well. So there is no need for Freiburg to lie back, because the ecological capital is still far away from real sustainability.

Axel Mayer / BUND Geschäftsführer
Translation: Annalena Ehrenfeld

Link list Freiburg & Environment:

Growth and Growth criticism - Unlimited growth destroys limited systems

About the BUND in Freiburg
Global Warming USA
Nuclear Reactor: Function and Risks - Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR), nuclear plant
Official website of the BUND - Oekostation, which is the educational centre for environmental awareness of the Southern Upper Rhine.
"Green City" Freiburg
Several options in terms of Freiburg's solar projects are available
Official homepage of Vauban district
The official homepage of the “Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems“
Freiburg - an inspirational city powered by solar, where a third of all journeys are by bike
The official homepage of the “Freiburg Öko- Institut“, an Institute for Applied Ecology.