Environmentalists bid farewell to ‘Grandpa Earth’

Environmentalists bid farewell to ‘Grandpa Earth’

Environmentalists bid farewell to ‘Grandpa Earth’

The co-founder and honorary president of one of Turkey’s foremost non-profit environmental organizations, Hayrettin Karaca was on Jan. 22 laid to rest in ceremonies held in Istanbul.

The Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA) founder, Karaca died on Jan. 20 at the age of 97.

Hayrettin Karaca: Turkey's 'forest hero'
Hayrettin Karaca: Turkeys forest hero

Speaking at the farewell ceremony held at Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall in Istanbul, TEMA’s another co-founder, Ali Nihat Gökyiğit, recalled that Karaca and he started campaigning against soil erosion in 1992, well before climate crisis came to the top of the agenda all over the world.

“Biological diversity sustains the ecosystem. Climate change has stricken after diversity was damaged,” said Gökyiğit, also known as “Grandpa Leaf.”

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu and TEMA officials also took the stage to bid farewell to Karaca.

Karaca’s passion for planting saplings and f wildlife drove him to launch the TEMA Foundation in 1992.

Since its foundation 28 years ago, TEMA has been the country’s leading environmental advocacy group, reaching nearly 500,000 members, as well as active volunteers and receiving the Land for Life Award from the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification in 2012.

As one of Turkey’s pioneering environmental activists, Karaca had received many field honors, including U.N. Forest Hero Award.

He is known for his aged red sweater and his emotional speech during the Forest Hero Award ceremony at the U.N.

“It is not possible to say that we are going through a very positive period for our forests. We can’t tell the difference between forests and tree cultivation. This results in the destruction of our forests on a global scale [...] Of course forestation works also contribute to life, but the ecosystem services forests provide are always greater, one can’t even compare the two,” he said.

Karaca was laid to rest in a ceremony attended by many activists and politicians at a cemetery in Edirnekapı on Istanbul’s European side.