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Naturefriends talk: Maritta Strasser, Executive Director of Naturefriends Germany

© NaturFreunde Deutschlands

Since the first of July 2018, Maritta Strasser is the new Executive Director of Naturefriends Germany. She takes over from Hans-Gerd Marian, who will retire after his many years spent working for Naturefriends Germany. Maritta talks about her ideas and plans.  

With more than 70.000 members, Naturefriends Germany is the second biggest member organisation  of Naturefriends International. Where do you see your strengths and priorities for the future work?  
There are so many activities within Naturefriends Germany: Sport courses, holidays, the Naturefriends houses, nature conservation projects, cultural programmes… Naturefriends do a lot and most of it with volunteers. I think this is really impressive. 
However, we are not known well enough. We should be more self-confident. We have a lot to offer! We should be more pro-active in asking the people who take part in our sport courses or visit the houses to become members.

  Where do you personally see the biggest challenges?

I would like to emphasize the need for growth for Naturefriends so we can lay the ground for a sustainable future. Thus, I would like to focus more on effective public relations work. I want to promote a change in culture within the association. I would like to make sure we are more open and inviting, especially to reach young people. Working together with the youth association is very important for me.

Naturefriends Germany see themselves as a “political leisure association” . What is meant by that exactly? And how important is political work for you – at the national as well as at the international level?

We are basically the campfire where people, who think that there is something fundamentally wrong in our country, come together: Nature is ruthlessly being exploited more and more, in order to accumulate wealth for only a  few. We are powerless alone and can only create change together. Since not only nature, but also people need to relax, we not only fight together but also enjoy sport activities and free time together.
We are needed more than ever. The political parties have less and less answers to the challenges of our time. Their power is declining. Thus, it is up to the civil society to develop social alternatives – for a policy of isolation, for the redistribution from the bottom to the top and for the ruthless exploitation of our planet.  

An important goal of the international work done by Naturefriends is to promote the values of our movement, as for instance international solidarity, and to actively contribute with for example the Naturefriends Climate Fund or the Landscape of the Year in the border region between Senegal and The Gambia. In your opinion, how important is international engagement for a movement like Naturefriends?
Personally, I think global engagement is very important for two reasons: First of all, climate change and depleted global resources know no borders – they are global problems, which can only be solved with an enormous global effort. 
Second of all, solidarity is our core value and solidarity can know no borders, if taken seriously. Because exclusion and limiting support to certain groups of people is definitely not how solidarity works. Since we are all people, we are equal in rights and free. Our diversity is our treasure.

(July 2018)



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