Turkish PM Erdoğan issues green warning at UN forest meet

Turkish PM Erdoğan issues green warning at UN forest meet

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish PM Erdoğan issues green warning at UN forest meet

‘We need to start thinking about the tragedies of a liter of oil, or a cubic meter of gas, or a bag of coal,’ Prime Minister Erdoğan says at the UN forum. AA photo

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan kicked off the United Nations Forum on Forests yesterday with a heartfelt speech that touched upon the environmental cost of “cruel competition” and financial inequalities that see thriving richness at the expense of the poor, warning participants against a wide range of global environmental threats from pollution to scarcity of water.

“Humanity now needs to question how a bag of pasta ended up on the shelf before buying it,” Erdoğan said. “We need to start thinking of the tragedies a liter of oil, or cubic meter of gas, or a bag of coal has witnessed in the making. We are not only creatures of bodies, heads and brains. We carry hearts, we carry souls, and we carry conscience.”

Erdoğan’s speech was the first of the forum; hosted for the first time outside of the U.N. headquarters, and the prime minister was persistent in making clear the threats and troubles of an age he defined as “when global conscience was needed the most.”

“People are racing to put on perfumes as the atmosphere is punctured. People race to get faster as the ice melts. We all need to see this and understand that if what we call development and growth continues like this we will not have a world to live in. If this cruel competition, this ambition, this avarice keeps going, we will not have a world to leave to our children,” Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan reminded participants of an old Native American saying, stating, “When all the trees have been cut, all the animals hunted, all the waters polluted and the air cannot be inhaled, then you will realize that money is not edible.”

The prime minister drew contrasts between nations with strong economies and rapid markets, and countries which were exploited and used.

“I have to be clear on this, such a method of growth and development dominates the world that one country’s wealth rests on the misery of another,” Erdoğan said. “I saw mothers in Somalia who dreamt of a glass of milk for their children, and I have witnessed mothers fill up shopping carts to the full, and then fill up another cart.”

The global threats which humanity faces eliminate “the luxury of saying, ‘What do I care?’” Erdoğan said.

“If the dress we wear is built on the hopes of a five-year old child in Bangladesh, if the gasoline we put in our cars is mixed with the blood of the innocent in Libya, if a chocolate we hand down to our children poisoned rivers in Africa, if a coat we are wearing has caused the extinction of a species, if the furniture in our homes plundered the rain forests, then we need to be disturbed by this cycle, by this kind of globalization, by this kind of trade. We need to question this to the deepest level and resolve it.”

Erdoğan then called on global actors to intervene in the ongoing dangers.

“When faced with such a disaster, a destiny that could be almost labeled as the apocalypse, we need to stop taking steps toward it, and find ways to avoid this, step by step,” Erdoğan said, adding that the Rio conference on sustainability had resulted in a decision to commit to sustainability in forestry, fighting against desertification.

Turkey had increased projects to help sustain forests, as well as adding to the capacity of the country with over two billion new saplings planted on millions of hectares of land, Erdoğan added.

Erdoğan’s speech caused a strong reaction from the delegates and United Nations officials, with Director of Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests Jan McAlpine later describing the speech as “underlining the relation between humans and forests.”

Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo also defined the session as “historic” due to its location, and Turkey’s commitment as “undeniable.”

“This confirms Turkey’s commitment,” Hongbo said. “The gathering of political leaders will provide much needed support.”

Turkey’s Minister of Forestry and Water Affairs, Veysel Eroğlu, reiterated Turkey’s support for the forum’s cause, referencing Turkey’s recent battles against forest fires.

“We have new projects in fighting forest fires, and we employ officials in countries that need help in their fights against forest fires,” Eroğlu told members of the press. “We built education centers, and are willing to build more, and send officials out, if requested.”

Turkey also launched projects to help increase areas of forestry, Eroğlu added, saying, “Turkey is at the top of the list for countries that increased their forest capacities.”

The forum was attended by nearly 2000 participants, including over 1200 delegates coming from 197 countries.