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Germany's Black Gold Threatens Villages
Brandenburg
By Isabell Zipfel
03 Jun 2014

Despite Germany’s reputation as an environmentally conscious nation, the country has been quietly ramping up its production of brown coal in recent years. As mining companies buy up land and dig vast open-pit mines, natural areas are being desecrated and inhabitants of nearby villages are being forced from their homes. Now, residents in nine villages in the eastern state of Brandenburg fear for the future of their homes, as the very land their houses are built on is being bought-up by Swedish mining company Vattenfall.

Brown coal is considered by many to be the black gold of the 21st century. After oil, coal is the world’s most important energy source, which makes mining it a highly lucrative business. Germany is the biggest brown coal producer in world, far ahead of China and the United States. In 2013, they produced over 162 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity from brown coal. Currently, Germany’s coal production is at a 25-year high and shows no sign of slowing down. Some coal industry experts are even calling the recent surge in production a “brown coal renaissance”.

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From Runes to Ruins - Anglo Saxon Pag...
United Kingdom
By Tom Rowsell
20 Apr 2014

FULL DOCUMENTARY VIEWABLE ON REQUEST

From Runes to Ruins is the first ever documentary film about Anglo-Saxon paganism. Independently produced and funded, it is unique in its emotive and artistic approach to religious history.

All over Britain there are people whose lives are influenced by the largely forgotten culture of the Anglo-Saxon barbarians who founded England. There are landmarks, place names and aspects of our language which are remnants of Anglo-Saxon paganism. It is from Woden, the god of war, that we take the name for the third day of the week, Wednesday (Woden’s day). There are many places around England named after Woden, like the ancient earthwork of Wansdyke which was probably a cult-centre of the god. In this film, Tom Rowsell, an expert in the paganism of early medieval England, travels around the country looking at places like Wansdyke and talking to people whose lives are influenced by the Anglo-Saxons and their pagan religion. The film features all kinds of peculiar characters; like neo-pagans worshipping Thor in Oxfordshire, the leader of the London Longsword Academy and historical re-enactors who like nothing more than to get dressed up in armour and swing axes at each other.

From Runes to Ruins combines amusing and characterful interviews with informative history all presented with beautiful cinematography and an original and haunting synth soundtrack.

Despite the significance of Anglo-Saxon paganism to the history of Britain, no one has ever made a documentary exclusively on this subject. In this film, Thomas Rowsell reveals a forgotten aspect of English history that many are oblivious to, by uncovering paganism in runes and ruins

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Villagers gathering
By Ulrik Pedersen
09 Mar 2014

Villagers discussing Chevron's activities. Residents and farmers of Pungesti are determined to keep fighting against Chevron's exploitation of their land.

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Children playing
By Ulrik Pedersen
08 Mar 2014

Children playing football in front of the fields used by local farmers and also located next to Chevron's compound.

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Life in Malawi 1
Karonga, Nothern Region, Malawi
By Arjen van de Merwe
16 Dec 2013

Cooking Sweet Potatoes
At some point the lagoon used for irrigating the fields of the village ran dry. Investigation showed that the forest in the catchment area had been cut down for firewood. Now the forest is maintained, and cutting is made illegal. The water returned and the fields got irrigated again. Sweet potatoes from the field provide a meal for the family.

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Syrian shepards in Lebanon
Bar Elias, Lebanon
By lukas.goga
11 Oct 2013

There are a lot of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Many of them are poor and live in tents. Some children use to work and support their family. For example they pasture ships and goats. Like these three boys from Quneitra, who live now in Bar Elias in Lebanon.

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Syrian shepards in Lebanon
Bar Elias, Lebanon
By lukas.goga
11 Oct 2013

Syrian shepards pasture flock of sheeps and goats in Bar Elias (Bekaa Valley, Lebanon)

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Syrian shepards in Lebanon
Bar Elias, Lebanon
By lukas.goga
11 Oct 2013

Syrian shepards pasture flock of sheeps and goats in Bar Elias (Bekaa Valley, Lebanon)

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Syrian shepards in Lebanon
Bar Elias, Lebanon
By lukas.goga
11 Oct 2013

Syrian shepards pasture flock of sheeps and goats in Bar Elias (Bekaa Valley, Lebanon)

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Lake Malawi - turbulent times in quie...
senga bay
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
05 Aug 2013

Deck over lake Malawi in Senga Bay. Most of the fresh water fishes in aqueriuns sold in pet shops in Europe and America came from this lake. It have more than 1000 different species of fishes ranking dozens of colours.

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Aquaponics in Egypt
Cairo, Egypt
By Leyland Cecco
23 Jun 2013

Faris Farrag, the founder of the farm 'Bustan', believes that aquaponics will play an increasingly larger role in Egyptian farming as water resources become scarce.

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Inside an Atlantic Island Rainforest
Madeira Island, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

trekking in a 20 million of years old rainforest in Madeira Island, Unesco World Heritage Site

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

After some flora, many birds are also endemic species that can be found only in this island

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

Water channels that after more than 350 years continue to deliver water from inside the island to the villages and farms. The trek paths follow this water routes until its final destination

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

Madeira Island is visited mainly because its nature and natural beauty. Its common see tourists from all ages trekking paths that ranges from easy to very difficult, from half an hour to one or two days walking.

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

Laurissilva is the name of this rainforest that only exist in Madeira and Azores Islands (Portuguese), Canarias Islands in Spain, Cape Vert Islands and parts of Mauritania coast. Is the same forest that existed between 15 to 50 million of years ago.

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

levadas is the term in Portuguese for the water channels that take the water from inside the island to the villages and farms along the tiny island

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

The water necessities "ordered" two century's ago islanders to open tunnels deep inside the volcanic island.

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

From European royal dynasties in the end of XIX century to middle class German and British tourists, trekking in the island levadas is a must have during a holiday season in Madeira

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

With volcanic origins, the island now presents deep valleys, where nature is abundant and UNESCO classified of World Heritage Nature Site

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

Tourists can find themselves, when inside the island at the real human scale and insignificance when compared with Nature

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

Deep V valleys are the main landscape of the island interior, surrounded by waterfalls and views to the Atlantic ocean in every corner

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

Intense wet forest with frequent periods of sun and fog at an altitude between 400 meters above sea level to 1800 meters

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

Resting after a 6,5 kilometer trekking path during 2,5 hours in a stunning environment

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

Deep V valleys rapid change from subtropical sun to intense fog and humity

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

Madeira Island is home of hundreds of endemic flora species like more than 30 different wild orchids only found in this island

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Trekking in a 20 million year old rai...
Madeira, Portugal
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
15 Jun 2013

Many times the paths turns into varandas with more than 800 meters below

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Spills & Curses
Yenagoa, Bayelsa, Nigeria
By U.S. Editor
15 Jun 2013

The Ikarama community of the oil-rich state of Bayelsa, Nigeria struggles to survive with crude oil spills from Royal Dutch Shell, ruining their crops and natural spaces.

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Spills & Curses (8 of 20)
Yenagoa, Bayelsa, Nigeria
By Tife Owolabi
14 Jun 2013

A Boy from crude ravaged community of Ikarama near Royal Dutch Shell Facility plays with spill crude in the oil rich Bayelsa,Nigeria.

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Spills & Curses (4 of 20)
Yenagoa, Bayelsa, Nigeria
By Tife Owolabi
14 Jun 2013

Farmland covered with spilled crude from Royal Dutch Shell Facility at Ikarama community of oil rich Bayelsa state,Nigeria .

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Spills & Curses (5 of 20)
Yenagoa, Bayelsa, Nigeria
By Tife Owolabi
14 Jun 2013

Alagoa Morris, an environmentalist, walks through the bush around the recent Royal Dutch Shell spill site at Ikarama of oil rich Bayelsa state, Nigeria.

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Mozambique Tea Estates
Gurue, Zambezia, Mozambique
By Luis Miguel Rodrigues
14 Jun 2013

Gurué, town and history

Once called the Switzerland of Mozambique, Gurué, in Zambezia Province, centre of Mozambique is forgotten for decades after the independence of country and three decades of civil war.
In colonial times, the district, founded in the 19th century and named, later, Vila Junqueiro, was the biggest tea region in Mozambique, having a total of fifteen factories processing tea leaf and exporting worldwide. Now only three to five remains working without major problems and in tentative of a constant and uniform production.
Due to the high level of the region (having the second highest peak in Mozambique - Namuli Mountain) and the wet climate, the settlers, one century ago, found this place with the proper conditions for tea plantations. The landscape was largely transformed to grow tea and tea tasters from India and producers from Europe began building the city with its houses, factories and other infrastructures. Gurué is a model in colonial architecture with a well preserved number of houses, churches, and other vestiges of Portuguese heritage.
By the middle of 20th century, brands like Chá Moçambique, Chá Licungo and Chá Gurué as others, achieved international recognition in Europe, Great Britain and even America and Canada. It was the time of the tea aristocracy with its wealthy style of living making this place be named Switzerland of Mozambique.
Nowadays, the Lomwe people, continue to work in the tea, this time owned not by the old settlers but mainly by Indian capitals. However the production is far from the 70´s of last century. The independence from Portugal in 1975 made the old European aristocracy run back to the metropole. Everything was abandoned and three decades of civil war along with leftist collective economy politics, leaded by the single ruling party FRELIMO, made the production decreases and most of the factory’s get nationalized and later closed, destroyed and abandoned.
Meanwhile the intense green, the complete transformation of the landscape made by the vast tea plantations, the unique climate and its isolation together with the individuality of this Mozambican region make Gurué a must visit destination.

The tea culture, past and present

By the late 70´s of the past century, Gurué with its 15 tea factories was producing an average of 19.000 tons per year of processed leaf employing around 28.000 workers from the city and neighbor villages. It was the time of around 300 settlers, ruling sometimes using forced labour brought even from other provinces, own plantations that reached near 9.000 hectares of cropped land. It was the golden era of Mozambican tea and of the city itself.
By 2012, the last figure shows that the production was reduced to a number of around 2.500 tons, just thirteen per cent of the average before independence and with an area used of just 5.700 ha, near half of the past. The industry employs now around 3.000 workers in peak periods but just 250 are in an effective job situation. This figure makes the tea jobs, once a major employment industry as just a part of the solution for the daily income in one of the poorest countries in the world for these Lomwe people.
With a ratio of two workers per hectare, picking the leaf into wood baskets that they hang in their back, its necessary to work two entire days to receive about eighty metical’s (three dollars) for each fifty kilograms of leaf picked. It’s around one dollar and half a day, when there is leaf to be picked. To make the situation worst, at least in two of the five active factories, there are about 8 months of salary with late payment. This situation creates a vicious cycle where the employer don’t pay and the workers, in a silent and quiet strike, are pushed for an inactivity, tactically and inevitable, making all this industry atrophy year after year in this isolated region of Mozambique.
Together with the low wages and late payments that make the productions much lower than before, also the plant itself, named camellia sinensis is no longer strong and able for productions per hectare comparable with the figures achieved in the last century. Planted mainly in the 60´s of the last century, the plant need to be replaced with other varieties more productive and adequate to the region. This fact make the tea decrease its quality what creates difficulties in the sales at the international markets. From the neighbor producing countries like Malawi and Kenya, Mozambique is the only one that up to know didn't renovate the old plants.
All this facts make the income of the industry decrease significantly. The actual owners of the industry, mainly Indian capitals and in one case a joint venture between Indians and Mozambicans claim they need about 100 millions of dollars of investment for the renovation of the potential 10.000 hectares of the crops and with that bring the production to the old values achieved before independence. They also claim that due the actual panorama, bank credit is difficult to get to support the modernization of the business. The low productions and low quality make this business unable to deal directly with international buyers and inevitably part of the production must be sold in auction flours in Kenya and other part sold internally. The situation of sell it in auction flours makes the final price be much more vulnerable to the market price fluctuations and much difficult to deal in good terms and conditions. Resuming, the business in its actual situation don’t encourage the exportation of the goods due to the actual market sold prices. With an average of 1 dollar per kg as sold price and low productions, it is not enough to export directly to international markets worldwide. Far are the times that the tea was directly exported to Europe, America and Canada and Gurué was the Switzerland of Mozambique.

Perspectives for the future

With a recently created producer association, in 2011, ideas and hope for solutions are being discussed to change the actual wilt panorama. One is to bring more power and control to the workers instead of being mere wage earner from the capitals that owns the industry. The simple be employed conditions have shown that it is not an adjusted solution for the present times. The idea of create and provide conditions for small production associations and family’s to grown themselves the tea leaf and sold later to the industries is gaining adepts.
With this solution, the production of the leaf would be passed to the workers in form of associations or among their families. It would make easier that small financial loans, difficult to get by the owner of the factories, could create big changes. Instead of being mere employed, the workers would be responsible and be more active in the production of the crop. By the other side, the factories would spend less financial resources in some operations like fertilizing, that due the general poverty of the workers and few control see many times the products being robbed, employing and others and would concentrate and specialize just in the leaf processing, packing and exporting. That’s the new hope for Gurué industry and for Lomwe people in the interior of Zambezia Province.