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Sustainability Star Award: Expediția Mountain Rescue Station

Acest material face parte din competiția Sustainability Star Award, Categoria I: Sustenabilitate în General.

Autor: Valentina Ivorciuc

There’s one all-popular all-loved saying in Romanian culture: “the forest is the green gold of the world”.

Truth being told, the first time I heard it, I was mesmerized. I was a little girl with a boy-ish haircut could not comprehend how someone can be so foolish to compare gold (the almighty jewelry material) with a... tree?! It took me many years filled with alarming news and personal research to understand what deforestation really means for the local communities in Romania and for the forest itself.

Fast forward to Valentina from summer 2023, 23 years old, who had one year of continuous life in the big city and had a great desire to spend the summer as far from the noisy city as possible and as deep in the forest as provisions allowed. Understandably, since the pandemic and the lockdown kept many of us sealed in concrete cubes, and finishing a bachelor in stage design while on medication for severe depression only made her desire to scream into the void bigger. When she got an e-mail from Laura, entitled something like “We are going to the forest. Wanna join?”, I think the answer is pretty clear.

Ok, first of all, I am Valentina, and I am, after a pretty solid 5 months, still looking backwards to what I have learned about the Romanian Carpathian Mountains forests.. A trip who was first seen as a fun camping experience, proved to be a bigger milestone than I first anticipated. The GreenPeace team asked me a to be a first-hand witness of the real situation. No position needed, I just had to open my eyes and see. And for a person who grew up hiking barefoot in the forest and who was taught to love and nurture its presence, it was my pleasure to do that.

I still find it really hard to write about what i have discovered, to be honest with you. Is it such a deep wound? Maybe. Am I partly ashamed of my own blindness? Most likely. For us, Romanians, the media and the politicians presented the situation in a very disturbing way: “Yes, there are people who cut our forests, but all of them are strangers, devious strangers who want to steal the resources from us and we can do nothing because they are the big bad wolf, powerful and greedy. Our hands are tied and we can do nothing but stay and watch how our dear forests are being cut down, tree by tree.” It was either this or throwing the guilt in the arms of the poor, who need the wood to warm themselves in the cold seasons (but have a bigger respect for the forest, since it’s their primary resource of warmth and food).

I don’t have the tools to present the reality in a nice way. So I will do it in the only way I find to be closest to my values – I will present you the truth. No, there is no devious stranger who wants to cut our forests and the Romanian governors/ state/ law-people/police & comp. can do nothing about. At the heart of this, is money. Is the yes, greedy strangers who want wood, and are willing to pay for it. But the Romanian authorities would do absolutely nothing to protect those forests. Why? For money. As simple as that, they get money from it, and would do anything, even look in the other side when Romanian woodcutters are being paid the minimum possible (and thus kept in poverty and dependent on the big companies that will come and hire their work for nothing and so the cycle repeats). They will ignore everyone who says that forests are important, they protect us, give us fresh air, could help us in regulating CO2 emissions, they nurture life and so on. For money. I got a know in my stomach, I feel like I would puke just writing about this – if wondering how much this means to me.

MRS taught me how important forests are. And I almost broke down at every sight of deforestation. They’re barbarian, with not a single thought about how it affects the whole system. I see deforestation as genocide. It’s impossible to see it in any other way when hundreds of acres of forests are clear-cut in a single day. Hundreds. Of acres. That being millions of individuals. If we only speak about the trees, and ignore all the life around it. Doing a quick math, I can only intuitively grasp the real impact of deforestation. But I saw it. I saw what forests protect, and then what happens without them. It’s heartbreaking, being in the position to properly understand what the real impact of losing a forest is.

And I am still heartbroken and mad at those whose only axis mundi is money. And they would stomp over everything for that. Even on our beautiful green gold.

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