Small things, big effect

Small things, big effect

Dialogue Forums 2021

They are tiny but still cause a lot of fuss: viruses, bacteria, fine dust, microplastics or even CO2 molecules. Small thing with a big effect: That is definitely true for all of them. Viruses trigger pandemics. In Germany alone, fine dust kills as many people as road traffic accidents. Microorganisms have a decisive influence on the geochemical cycle of the earth and the smallest microplastics can be found in many of our foods. Tiny CO2 molecules are mainly responsible for man-made climate change.

Reason enough to look at these very small things under a very large magnifying glass. In the 2021 dialogue forums, we and our experts literally go into the smallest detail: We show important connections and explain how tiny organisms, particles or molecules unfold their great impact on humans and the environment every day.

The moderator of the events in January, February, March and May is Dr. Patrick Illinger, Süddeutsche Zeitung Munich.

The event in April will be moderated by Dr. Marlene Weiß,  Süddeutsche Zeitung Munich.

*** Due to the COVID-19-related restrictions, we are currently planning the Dialogue Forums 2021 as a virtual event. We will communicate more details about the event format in the run-up to the respective dialogue forum sessions. ***

News and reports


26 January 2021, 18:00

The Corona crisis is only the most recent example: In our globalised world, tiny pathogens can spread at breakneck speed across all continents - with fatal consequences. How do viruses, bacteria and parasites differ and what makes us sick in the first place when they attack us? How can we protect ourselves more effectively and prepare better for future pandemics? And what have we learned from the Corona crisis so far? Washing our hands is not enough!

Planned panelists: 

Prof. Melanie Brinkmann, Infection biologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research at the Technical University of Braunschweig
Prof. Armin Nassehi, Sociologist at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich
Prof. Philipp Osten, Medical historian and Director of the Hamburg Museum of Medical History 

11 February 2021, 18:00

Whether in the oceans, in our rivers, in soils or in cosmetics: Microplastics are everywhere and are changing the entire biosphere of our planet. The water-insoluble plastic particles are smaller than five millimetres and have long since entered our food chain. How can we stem the flood of microplastics? How dangerous is microplastics in our food? What needs to be changed in our national and international environmental legislation? Can micro-organisms be used to break down man-made plastics such as PET?

Planned panelists:

Dr. Lars Gutow, Marine biologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research Bremerhaven
Dr. Sebastian Porkert, Managing Director and founder of ECOFARIO
Nadja Ziebarth, Microplastics expert at the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND)

16 March 2021, 18:00

Fine dust is a natural component of air. However, combustion engines, tyre wear, industry and power stations are causing the concentration of particulate matter in our environment to rise enormously - and can trigger massive health problems. Scientists have already succeeded in detecting fine dust in human cells. In addition, soot particles contained in fine dust are extremely harmful to the worldwide climate. Who are the biggest emitters of particulate matter and how can the pollution be reduced? Do we need stricter limits - in the EU and worldwide? How can I protect myself from fine and ultra-fine dust?

Planned panelists:

Dr. Bettina Hoffmann, MdB, Spokesperson for environmental policy and environmental health of BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN, Berlin
Peter Sänger, Managing Director of Green City Solutions
Dr. Alexandra Schneider,  Head of the Unit "Environmental Risks" at the Helmholtz Centre Munich, German Research Center for Environmental Health

15 April 2021, 18:00

Carbon dioxide - a small molecule at the heart of the current climate change debate. The CO2 content of the earth's atmosphere is constantly rising and our way of life is playing a major role in this. The increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is closely linked to the observed rise in average global temperature - including changes in climatic patterns. How exactly does CO2 influence the climate? Which options do engineering solutions such as Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) or Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) offer? Are these approaches useful and target-oriented? And how effective are the nature's CO2 sinks?

Planned panelists:

Christoph Beuttler, Carbon Dioxide Removal Manager at Climeworks
Prof. Sabine Fuss, Head of the working group on sustainable resource management and global change at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) Berlin
Dr. Doris Hafenbradl, Microbiologist and Managing Director at Electrochaea GmbH Planegg
Dr. Barbara Olfe-Kräutlein, Research Group Leader at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies Potsdam

20 May 2021, 18:00

5G is the new magic word. Not only the mobile phone industry is electrified by it, but also a large part of our society. With modern technology one hopes for an undreamt-of increase in data transmission speed. The exchange of information should be even better, smoother and faster. Critics, on the other hand, still see major deficiencies in the infrastructure. Many also fear the new technology because of potential health risks. But also infrared radiation, which we have been using for a long time, affects our environment. What exactly is the effect of infrared radiation? Can mobile phone radiation or wireless networks really make people ill in everyday life? And how exactly does medicine make use of such "dangerous" types of radiation?

Planned panelists:

Prof. Achim Enders, Head of the Institute for Electromagnetic Compatibility at the Technical University of Braunschweig
Jörn Gutbier, Chairman of the association "diagnose:funk”
Dr. Inge Paulini, President of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection

24 November 2021, 19:00

As of World Population Day on 11 July 2021, there are 7.88 billion people living on our planet. One consequence of this development is insufficient resources, increasingly scarce raw materials and a drastic increase in waste. According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany (Destatis), 4.9 million tonnes of used transport packaging, repackaging and sales packaging were collected in the commercial sector in Germany in 2019 – and that trend is on the increase.

Janine Korduan
, Circular Economy Expert, BUND – Friends of the Earth Germany, Berlin
Olga Witt, Blogger and author on the topic “zero waste”
Sophie Zielcke, Head of Sustainability, Grover, Berlin
Prof. Dr. Georg Zollner, Professor for Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Management, Munich University of Applied Sciences

updated in October 2021