Index – Tech -Sudomány – Áder János: We have two dogs, they are not very demanding, so we do not have food waste
Mr. President has previously advocated the topic as the founder of the Blue Planet Foundation and the patron of the Budapest Water World Meetings. How can Planet Budapest say something new on this topic now?
We have already organized three World Water Meetings in Budapest. It was the first in 2013, eight years ago. Many such statements and suggestions were made here, and they were also incorporated into other later UN documents and international conventions. In addition, Hungarian companies were able to introduce themselves, some of which have since been successful not in Europe but also in other parts of the world.
We organized three water events, and then the idea came to have a sustainability expo in Budapest, where both water and wastewater will remain a topic, but we will also focus on five other topics.
The other change is Water World Meetings exactly the fact that we only organize scientific meetings and corporate exhibitions, but also audience programs and youth “adventure parks”. In one of the pavilions, we will create eleven interactive information islands, where the visiting adults and children have so enriched their knowledge. There will also be a pavilion specifically for young people, it could be for the upper grades of primary school and lower grades of grammar school. It will be as if we are kneading together the Palace of Miracles, an enchanted castle and an escape room, all sparking issues related to climate and sustainability.
The third important change is that it is not possible to meet domestic exhibitors, but also participants from the Visegrad countries, so there are Slovaks, Czechs and Poles as well.
We would like to show that we are not talking about problems, but also about solutions, and we are only looking for solutions in Hungary, but also in other countries.
You may find prospective partners here who can then work together to create a new product.
Have there been any examples of this before?
More, I say one thing: the Wattay brother and sister Awning product. When this quick-release spray is applied to the ground, a thin, film-like layer is formed on the surface, which allows the precipitate to pass but makes evaporation difficult. Thus, the water holding capacity of the soil can be improved by 30-40-50 each. Its use helps the plant to survive a drought period of 2-3 weeks and thus does not reduce yield. In addition, it is completely environmentally friendly, no harmful substances are formed during its decomposition, it does not pollute the waters. This product has also been taken to Ghana and Kenya, where innovation is working well, the company is already building local production capacity.
Let’s also talk about domestic challenges! Hungary is traditionally described as a country rich in water, but many of our rivers come from abroad. Pollution or even changes in water flow beyond our borders can be a problem. What do you think can be done about these?
The statement is true, Hungary is a country rich in water. If we talk about surface waters, we see that 90 percent of them come from abroad. In this sense, we are vulnerable. Even if they are blocked with, say, a valley dam or for energy production, for example, and even if they are polluted. There are bad examples: cyanide pollution on the Tisza, pollution from the Rába on the Austrian side, and recurrent plastic pollution on the Tisza from Ukraine and Romania, which is still a serious thought to this day.
THE PET Cups they are completing a very important mission, now only on the Tisza but also on the Bodrog. For two weeks, the waste is collected partly from the floodplain and partly from the surface of the river. However, it is quite obvious that if we spend 2 of the 52 weeks on this, that is not enough. That’s why we put it to work on the Tisza in the fall of 2019 from a machine that traps incoming plastic and other waste from the surface and directs it to shore, where it is taken out of the river with a suitable line, disposed of and then recycled or incinerated. Putting this line into operation cost more than a billion forints, but it is still cheaper than letting the river get completely polluted.
We clean up other people’s garbage at our own expense. I am used to speaking in international forums with a lot of pride:
Domestic rivers leave the country cleaner than they came to us.
This is what few countries in Europe can say, and this is not the case in other parts of the world. We have no shame.
In areas that have been seriously developed by climate change, we have found a single solution throughout history: they had to be abandoned. Looking at our country – trusting in today’s creativity and technology – what do you think we can do something about the desertification of the Great Plain?
The National Directorate General for Water Management in the course of his work, he divided the Sand Ridge into four parts, because each region likes its geographical and hydrographic features. In the southern region, there is still a debate among professionals on how to solve water replenishment. In the other three regions, especially in the East and the West, various investments have been made since 2010: artefact development, artefact reconstruction, sewer cleaning or extension of the canal line, construction of reservoirs.
In five settlements, a so-called pilot project was implemented, in which they did not build a reservoir, but supported the storage of soil water. Essentially, the ancient natural solution was reused. The solution can be well examined in all five places, which can be a good example for other settlements as well.
Evidence of water treatment throughout the area is making quite a bit of money and time.
If we can keep to the timetable and the serious sums needed for funding are still available, by 2027 all the investments to help replenish water will be completed in this area. It is important that this is not just an environmental issue, as 830 thousand people live in this area, so in addition to many jobs, agricultural activity is also affected. Our goal is for people to stay there, find the calculations, and find nature for itself.
According to some views, the growth-focused capitalist system cannot do effectively against the overexploitation of natural resources, a paradigm shift is needed. Hungary – where we want to keep our standard of living high and protect the Hungarian environmental values at the same time – what are our chances for the future?
We are preparing with a study, I intend to be able to present it at the expo. The point is precisely that we need to reshape our economic thinking. So far, we’ve talked about GDP calculations, but time has gone beyond that. If we do not take into account the so-called externalities, such as the harmful effects of setting up a new factory, air, water, soil pollution or health effects, we are fooling ourselves. A team led by environmental economist Gábor Bartus will work to propose a new calculation method.
There will be a big fight, but the issue is being addressed elsewhere in the world because traditional economic thinking needs to be gone beyond. This is not impossible sooner or later.
Personally, what do you prefer to believe in, what can bring about change: small steps from below, or rather a comprehensive regulation from above?
I think so. You can’t separate the two, and it’s not worth it. There is also a need for a change of attitude in the state, on the part of companies and individuals. It is important that this issue is included in our daily lives. Fifty years ago, we thought we had unlimited provisions for natural resources and we could use them indefinitely. We now know that this is not the case. This approach must also be reflected in education even from an early age completely to higher education, as many professions will later have to deal with sustainability and environmental issues, be they engineers, economists, agricultural, water, transport professionals.
Second: regulatory change. Both the state and the regulatory system need to change. New international restrictions may also need to be concluded in order to prevent further pollution. Everyone knows and says this, but today we do not always act accordingly. It would be important, for example, for a neighboring person to allow the construction of a new plant only if it is clear and knows that the wastewater coming out of it or even harmful substances will not be neutralized even on the factory site. This way you can’t pollute the environment.
The third is scientific research, the search for technical solutions. For example, increasing the energy efficiency of solar cells, long-term storage of solar energy or wind energy is a task to be solved. More ideas are needed in quite a few areas. So the three important things are: a change of attitude, a change of regulation, and scientific research.
Mr President, what can they do about sustainability in this office? I will tell readers that they were greeted with seasonal domestic fruits: grapes and plums are on the table. But where do the food scraps and exchanged assets of an institution of this size go?
It is good that you have asked this question, because I have not raised this with the office so far, but now it is. I got a long list and was very happy to acknowledge that I don’t have to say about ourselves that we preach water and drink wine. If guests come – and this is also true for receptions – we buy vegetables and fruits from the market, we try to get Hungarian products. He asked about the leftover food: here the Hungarian Armed Forces cooks, the leftover food is taken away and used properly, so there is practically no food waste here.
We also collect electronic waste and take it to a place where we know it will be recycled. We try to buy devices that are energy efficient, long lasting. We have tried to reduce the use of plastics, we do not use PET bottles. We handle deliveries within Budapest by electric cars. We are actively trying to reduce the environmental footprint of the Office of the President of the Republic.
Do you have these aspects in mind in your own household as well?
We have been collecting waste selectively for a long time: separately the plastic cap, separately the metal, glass, paper waste, separately the used oil, separately the green waste. We have two dogs, so we don’t have much leftover food. They are not very demanding, they are happy to eat practically everything we leave.
Do you also garden? In the unofficial part of our conversation, you seemed like a real fruit fan.
A couple of years ago I got 50 beautiful fruit trees, ancient Hungarian varieties from the Fairy Garden. I planted them in the garden of the residence. I don’t spray, so of course there are losses, wasps also come, a few grains fall, but the first crop is ripe.
A good couple of raspberries came from the same place. I know the secrets of raspberry growing, as a child we also grew raspberries for sale. Yet, as a novelty, I have now received varieties – more white, pink and red raspberries – that are practically still being produced. It’s the end of September and I can still pick a few handfuls of fresh raspberries. He was very surprised.
Let me tell you the latest experience about domestic varieties! We have a small garden in Kisorosi, we want to transform it into an orchard. I planted a Jonathan apple tree there. Csornan, we had a lot of Jonathan as a child, I know exactly what the real thing is. This little woodpecker is only three years old, but has already grown several three-pound apples. My wife, who doesn’t particularly like apples, tasted it and said she hadn’t eaten such a good one yet. It’s so incredibly juicy, a little sour, yet sweet. Not too big, true, but the taste is unbeatable.
Mr President, in conclusion, let me ask you, if there were three wishes, what environmental problems would you solve?
If someone were to deal with this subject a little more in depth, it would sound the same as mine after his three wishes: clean air, clean water, good farmland.
The interview was conducted by Zsófia Sápi, Editor-in-Chief of Greendex, and Gábor Csaba Molnár, Founder and CEO of Greendex.
(Cover image: President János Áder at the Gödöllő International Nature and Environment Festival on September 10, 2021. Photo: Zsolt Szigetváry / MTI)