Environmental Topics at the Carnival of Basel 2019

During exactly 72 hours each year, Basel is in an exceptional state. Then, the Carnival of Basel is taking place, which is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. But this event is not just about music, costumes, confetti, and fun. The confrontation with all kind of local, national, and international topics of the last year plays a major role. This March, it was time again for the Carnival and I looked at some of the selected environmental topics. Especially plastic pollution and climate change were popular subjects.

The topics are presented in different ways by the different Carnival groups who are called cliques. One of the most important means is a themed lantern that every clique makes, which shows colorful drawings as well as riming sentences. In addition, there are several parades at which parade floats and costumes are often matching the topic. Furthermore, there are compilations of short riming verses called ‘Schnitzelbängge’: Small groups of active Carnival people are going to the cellars of the cliques in the evenings and talk or sing satirically about topics of the last year, accompanied by music and caricatures. During the parades and the Schnitzelbängge, sheets of paper with text are distributed. Here, I’m showing some of the lanterns, parade floats, costumes, and texts of the Carnival, whereat I tried to translate sentences from Basel German to English 🙂

Plastic contamination

Probably the most selected environmental topic was the pollution of the oceans and the environment with plastic. This is indeed a great topic for the media as it triggers many spontaneous emotions. Who doesn’t feel pity when one sees the poor dead whales and birds with all of the plastic in their bodies? And who didn’t see plastic trash lying around in nature? The chain between the production of plastics, its usage, improper disposal, and pollution of the environment is rather short. It symbolizes the abuse of the environment by humans. I find it very nice that this topic is so popular in the media nowadays and that it triggers so much empathy and willingness to act. The disadvantage is that other important environmental topics are slipping out of focus or keep being unknown, respectively. The loss of biodiversity and the disturbed nitrogen cycle are considered two of the biggest problems on Earth but both get much less attention by the media.

Climate change and society

That the climate is warming due to human activities, is known since quite a long time but the protection of the climate has been neglected way too long. Especially the school strikes now around the globe are contributing that climate protection is finally more in the focus of the media. The older generations leave the Earth to the young generations in a bad condition, while industries, politics, and all of us still don’t do enough to limit the upcoming climate catastrophe. Already now, droughts and extreme rainfalls are a consequence of climate change, in Europe and around the world.

Bug invasion

The loss of species is a huge ecological problem. It is caused, amongst others, by the destruction of habitats and the pollution of the environment. Another problem is that more and more plant and animal species are introduced into foreign countries and continents, where they replace native species because of missing natural predators. One example is the brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive species from China that is spreading in Switzerland (and other countries). They were brought most likely with a diplomatic gift from China to the Chinese garden in Zürich, from where they began to spread. They replace native species and cause harm because they eat ripening fruits. In addition, they seek shelter in the buildings in the cold season where they annoy people in their homes and offices.

Great interest for the environment

The choice of topics and how critically they were handled shows much understanding and interest for the current environmental problems and the willingness to act. On topics like the invasive bugs, it is unfortunately hardly possible to do anything. But regarding the plastic in the environment and climate change, we can act! I think and hope that we are at a point where environmental awareness is more and more in the people heads and more readiness to act arises. Especially the young generation gives much hope at the moment for a general rethinking in society in favor of environmental protection.

The Carnival of Basel was very entertaining and interesting in any case and I can highly recommend everyone to see it! I’m excited to see what environmental topics will be present in the next year.

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