Publicado 28/10/2018 16:39:12CET
As a member of this year's jury for the German Environmental Prize, which provides recommendations on the basis of which the DBU Board of Trustees selects the year's prize winners, Heidi Foth (Director of the Institute for Environmental Toxicology at the Faculty of Medicine of Martin Luther University Halle) and Bettina Lorenz (co-founder of the initiative "Zukunft selber machen - Junge Nachhaltigkeitsideen e.V." and DBU scholarship recipient) discussed the achievements of the 2018 prize recipients. Foth praised Boetius for being able to take a relatively complex field of research and disseminate it into the wider society. Boetius makes it clear that by breaking down methane gas, deep-sea microbes act as a sort of protective shield for us. Foth went on to say that Professor Boetius' presentation was truly eye-opening for her: "We have a lot of work to do together." About the prize winners from Leipzig, Bettina Lorenz said that they were not only able to provide the technological services required to develop wastewater treatment systems, but also install these systems in a region that is unusual for such a technology-oriented group. To succeed at all the levels required in order to implement this type of project is "incredibly impressive".
Boetius: Vanishing sea ice, climate change, environmental pollution and plastic waste is "dramatic".
In films that were shown during the ceremony and in discussions with the moderator, Judith Rakers, the prize winners once again made their positions clear. Antje Boetius said that the deep sea is one of the largest inhabited environments on the planet, and yet we have only researched a fraction of a per cent of it. She emphasized the importance of the microorganisms on the ocean floor that trap harmful methane gas, preventing it from escaping into the atmosphere. Boetius: "Without them, we would essentially live on a completely different planet." When it comes to the global emissions of equally harmful carbon dioxide (CO2), Boetius warned that we must act quickly: "While we sit here thinking about what we should do, if we really need to cut our CO2 emissions, everything is already changing." Boetius used the words "dramatic" and "scary" to describe not only the rapid disappearance of the polar ice and the speed at which the climate is changing, but also the significant quantity of pollutants and plastic waste that are ending up both on the ocean floor and the ocean surface. For her, "it's all or nothing, right now." We need to take the knowledge acquired by observing the deep sea and our climate and earth models and "bring it directly to our society in order to determine how we need to prepare ourselves for the future." Boetius: "This is absolutely essential!"
"We can make a tangible difference in terms of conserving resources and promoting wastewater treatment."
Roland A. Mueller, a member of the Leipzig-based team that received this year's prize, pointed out the fact that approximately 90 per cent of wastewater around the world is discharged into the environment either untreated or poorly treated. For that reason, it must be our goal to significantly increase the amount of clean, treated water available "for future generations." Local solutions are particularly environmentally friendly because the waste water is treated and stays in the community where it was created, and where it can be reused, explained Mi-Yong Lee. When it came to the wastewater project in Jordan and building a wastewater research and demonstration centre near the border to Israel, it was important to raise awareness among the local population through direct contact so that they could develop a personal connection the solutions being introduced, said Wolf-Michael Hirschfeld. This type of process can "help stabilise the situation and improve communication between the countries," added Manfred van Afferden. Mueller, summarising: "Naturally, as researchers we can't save the world; but I think that our work has demonstrated concrete ways in which we can help to conserve resources and promote wastewater treatment."
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