Growing up in the countryside of Austria and spending all his free time in the woods, marshes and mountains, Markus Lattner created an intimate connection to nature. The main focus of study and interest for Markus Lattner was on raptors; in his teen years he spent every minute observing, seeking out and collecting data on these birds of prey.
At 13 years of age Markus Lattner became aware that a big waste company was planning to build a large trash sorting and composting facility only a half mile from his home in the marshland adjacent to the river flowing thru the valley. At that time Markus Lattner knew that a vary rare bird named the Eurasian Curlew, ‘Grosser Brachvogel’ in German (Numenius arquata) was using that land as a nesting ground. It is now declared a near threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Markus Lattner was very upset that these birds could be lost, and with his cousin (who had inspired him to take up interest in birds) and uncle’s help, the three started to sound alarm in the community. It took many years of fighting, educating the community, and legal wrangling but they were instrumental in creating the first grass roots movement for the conservation of nature in the region of Upper Austria.
According to Markus Lattner, their efforts resulted in the scrapping of plans to build the composting facility. Instead, the company built a very small recycling sorting facility a few years later outside the marsh area. It also led to the protection of land by the WWF for the birds. In a new unique way now, reports Markus Lattner, the marshes are left untouched until the birds have left in late spring and only then the farmers can use the land for agricultural purposes when the birds are no longer affected.
More importantly, says Markus Lattner, this was part of the beginning of the larger green movement in Austria. The people involved in that movement later fought for changes in building a major European north/south highway corridor thru the valley. In addition, Markus Lattner says that the people realized that concentrating waste in one place was more harmful to the environment than equally distributing the waste. It also brought about major restructuring how Austrians looked at waste creation, collection, separation and recycling. In fact, says Markus Lattner, Austria now is the leading country in the world – recycling 60% of waste products.
These lessons, relates Markus Lattner, are a constant reminder of the importance of ever-looking at energy needs and finding environmental solutions for them. He says that it has reinforced in him a belief that decentralizing the creation of energy is the way forward. Part of the solution, suggests Markus Lattner, would be that energy is created at the point of usage without having to rely on complex (and vulnerable) distribution and centralized generation systems. He agrees that there will remain a need for a distribution network and central generation but on a minimal scale. Unfortunately, concludes Markus Lattner, that would mean loss of control for big interest groups and therefore investment into solutions are not of great interest.