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Under the magnifying glass

Oct 04, 2021 / Michael Gams, CIPRA International
What treasures and resources are hidden in the Alps? How do we deal with them as sustainably as possible? These and similar questions are posed in the August 2021 issue of SzeneAlpen.
Image caption:
A houseleek on the mountain: the treasures of the Alps often only reveal themselves on closer inspection. © Bartek Naprawa / istockphoto

Biological and cultural diversity, solidarity, innovative ideas, perseverance, a willingness to engage in dialogue and much more: the Alps hold an incredible treasure trove of resources. Many of them are not recognisable as such at first glance – here it is worth taking a closer look. For example, Flora Mammana, a transformation designer and baker profiled in this issue, travels through Italy’s Vallagarina Valley with a mobile bread oven, cooking up ideas. “We have lost the relationship with many everyday things and consider them as dull commodities – not as something that is also related to our lives”, Flora says. From bread flour to snow: snow only became a resource in the Alps towards the end of the 19th century because the view of it had changed dramatically, as cultural geographer Bernard Debarbieux explains in the magazine: “A resource never exists by itself. It only ever exists when there is a social need associated with it”.

From microbes to the economic elite

Away from all social issues, even the smallest creatures – microbes – contribute their share to life in the Alps. They colour glaciers red and give mountain cheese its typical aroma. The diversity of these microorganisms is what makes life possible, as microbiologist Heribert Insam explains in an interview. Filmmaker Julia Niemann, on the other hand, takes a closer look at the highest city in the Alps. For the production of the award-winning documentary DAVOS, she spent more than a year at the annual venue of the World Economic Forum. The film shows the unequal distribution of power and resources. In her essay for SzeneAlpen, Niemann poses the question of questions: “Can the economy be more than the mere exploitation of natural or human resources?”

The thematic issue SzeneAlpen no. 108 “Under the magnifying glass” goes in search of the hidden treasures of the Alps. It can be subscribed to free of charge at and is available in digital form at (de, fr, it, sl).