Forget the Alps

Benedikt Loderer (learnt draughtsman, studied Architecture, became author, founded “Hochpartere”, a magazine for architecture, design and planning, of which he was the first chief editor. He is now living in Bienne as an independent writer.)

Everyone is familiar with Heidi. Everyone knows that Switzerland and the Alps are one. The Matterhorn and its connected mountains are equal to Switzerland. However, this is not true: Switzerland is flat. On the plane between the Lake of Constance and Geneva live two third of the Swiss population and three-quarters of the money is made there. Not the Alps make up Switzerland, but Switzerland without the Alps is equal to the reality.

This reality is split in two. There are the inner-directed and the outer-directed parts of Switzerland, which are slowly shifting apart. Be it immigration, banks, language or traffic, there is a division of Switzerland into two and the political system makes sure to maintain the rule of the poor relatives, the inner-directed. Anyway, one should neither mystify, nor demonize Switzerland. It is just the friendly crank of the Europeans.

Natural Hazards and Risk Governance – A view from two perspectives

Dr. Margreth Keiler (Head of Geomorphology, Natural Hazards and Risk Research Group, Institute of Geography, University of Bern) and MSc Rebekka Strasser (University of Bern)

Recent natural hazard events resulting in high damages, such as the floods in February 2014, June 2013 or August 2005 in several regions in Europe, indicate new challenges in hazard and risk management. In the last decades, several of the affected states established and improved their management strategies towards a more integrated risk approach. However, the implication is still dominated by a more natural science perspective and thus the research and application of social aspects need equal consideration in the risk governance approach. The presentation will highlight both perspectives illustrated with the example of the Lammbach near Brienz. Important factors for the application of risk governance and lessons learnt will be discussed.

Changing environments and human adoptions in the pre-Columbian Amazon (Bolivia)

Prof. Dr. Heinz Veit (Professor for Palaeo- and Geoecology, Institute of Geography, University of Bern)

Environmental changes and population densities as well as settlement and land-use patterns in the pre-Columbian Amazon are quite unclear. Was this area only sparsely populated by hunter-gatherers, due to harsh environmental conditions like poor soils and frequent seasonal flooding of huge areas? Or did complex societies exist, practising intense agriculture and trade? If the latter is the case, did they have indigenous knowledge allowing to overcome the environmental constraints? And could we probably reactivate this knowledge in order to improve food security today? Or was the paleoclimate, especially the flooding intensity different to the present one, allowing for a higher population density?

 The state of the art in this discussion will be presented in the talk, based on own investigations in the area since 2008.