Bremen. The German Environmental Award of the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU, Osnabrück) has been presented for the 18th time. The award went to the business partners Dr. Winfried Barkhausen (51) and Edwin Büchter (41) from Herzogenrath near Aachen, and to Dr. Rainer Griesshammer (57), co-managing director of the Institute for Applied Ecology (Freiburg), who each received 245,000 euros. The special prize of the DBU, worth 10,000 euros, was awarded to the former president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev (79) – only the third time this prize has been presented in the DBU’s history. Barkhausen/Büchter received the prize for the mobile laser technique developed by their company, Clean-Lasersysteme. It cleans technical surfaces in an environmentally friendly way, while also offering economic advantages and optimising industrial safety. Griesshammer was given the award for the way he has promoted solutions in the environmental debate and made the issue of sustainability an integral part of everyday life. Gorbachev was honoured for his international involvement in environmental protection. Worth 500,000 euros, the award is the most lucrative environmental prize in Europe.
“We can do a lot of things better – starting today”
At the award presentation in the Musical Theater in Bremen, German President Christian Wulff told the some 1,300 guests that the prize winners showed what was necessary for sustainable development: “pioneering innovations, courageous investments in future-looking technologies, farsighted and responsible decision-makers in the political and economic spheres and a social awareness of how urgent the change to an ecologically viable lifestyle is.” Wulff said that the award presentation thus “sent a message that can give us great hope: we can do a lot of things better – starting today.”
Committed people necessary for ambitious protection of the climate and environment
Wulff praised the prize winners Barkhausen/Büchter as an example of how the efficiency of resource and energy consumption could be drastically improved by means of clever innovations and investments. He described how technical systems and components could in future be cleaned quietly, precisely, gently, simply and without leaving residues, dispensing with harmful solvents and using a fraction of the energy consumed by conventional techniques – an “innovative technique benefiting people, machines and economy”. However, he said it was also necessary to have people who disseminated the results of their research into material flows and eco-balances, efficiency and sustainable cycles among the population, business companies and politicians. Wulff said this was something that the prize winner Griesshammer had done in the past – and the president asked him to continue doing so “persistently” in the future.
“Goal of uniformity in the ecological living conditions in eastern and western Germany has been reached”
Wulff went on to note that the ecological and economical advantages of investments in innovative technologies and energy efficiency could be seen in encouraging fashion in the territory of the former East Germany. He cited the region around Bitterfeld as an example, where large chemical collective combines used to pollute the environment. He said pollution had been drastically reduced, while modern environmental technologies were now being produced there, providing around 11,000 people with work again. The goal of achieving uniformity in the ecological living conditions in eastern and western Germany had been reached, Wulff said.
Environmental technology as the leading global industry of the 21st century
Wulff pointed out that one of the best symbols for the way Germany had grown together was the “Green Belt”, which Mikhail Gorbachev in particular had promoted with intensive commitment. The president however noted that, even though much in Germany had improved, industrialisation and rapid population growth in other parts of the world had greatly increased the destruction and pollution of the environment – and that as consumers we had partly caused this, even living far away from these countries. He forecast that environmental technology could be the prime global industry in the 21st century, adding that Germany was among the leaders in many of these future-oriented industrial fields.
Innovations of Büchter/Barkhausen go towards creating a “good future society”
In connection with the prize winners Barkhausen/Büchter, Jochen Flasbarth, the president of the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and member of the jury for the Environmental Award, said that the jury had been particularly impressed, during the ceremony moderated by Katrin Bauerfeind (3SAT), by the way two researchers had set out to translate an innovation into economic processes by founding a company. Flasbarth said that cleaning technical surfaces with laser rays had enormous advantages over conventional procedures, because it reduced the consumption of water and use of chemicals in the production process and helped save a lot of energy – energy savings of up to 87 percent were possible. With Barkhausen and Büchter, he said, two companies were “on the way to winning” and that their innovations went towards creating a “good future society”.
Griesshammer “leading figure at the Institute for Applied Ecology”
Speaking of the prize winner Dr. Rainer Griesshammer, Prof. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, a jury member and himself a former winner of the Environmental Award, said Griesshammer was the “leading figure at the Institute for Applied Ecology”, helping turn it into one of the most important institutions in the area of environmental protection. He said Griesshammer had realised that consumers needed to understand ecological principles in order to really judge products and take decisions on whether to purchase them. With his life cycle assessments, for example, Griesshammer had initiated a change in the way chemicals were used, Weizsäcker said. Griesshammer’s scientific research was reflected in over 150 studies that he had put together with his team. Weizsäcker said that, with the EcoTopTen, for instance, an instrument for the analysis of ten important areas of life and 25 types of product had been created that laid out and evaluated the ecological dimension of products.
Weinzierl: Gorbachev has “made a great contribution to the survival of humanity”
The chairman of the DBU board of trustees, Hubert Weinzierl, praised Mikhail Gorbachev as the architect of the fall of communism, saying Gorbachev had always ecologically been on the same wavelength as the changes it had engendered. Weinzierl said Gorbachev had helped make it possible to preserve the “Green Belt” along the former German-German border. He said the perseverance in efforts to consistently protect the environment had paid off. Citing Gorbachev’s wide-ranging endeavours in support of environmental protection, Weinzierl said he had “made a great contribution to the survival of humanity.”
For Gorbachev, politics cannot function without ecology
Mikhail Gorbachev emphasised that politics did not function without ecology, saying that the topic of ecology was at the “foremost front” of all the many problems that existed. He said that over 60 percent of eco-systems were damaged and that there was a massive water crisis. As his political power increased, he said, he had realised how bad the environmental situation in his country was. And the nuclear plant accident at Chernobyl had forced him “to reflect deeply.” He said that, while he had to praise the Germans for “being on the ball” in the area of environmental protection, there were two billion people worldwide living under terrible hygienic conditions. In the future, he said, it was important to help them and put the topic of water on the top of the list. He added, however, that the legacy of the Cold War, which had left whole regions contaminated, still needed to be dealt with.