The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles. – Anne Frank
Earth Day was celebrated on April 22nd by more than 1 billion people worldwide, making it the most publically acknowledged, international, environmental event in history. All over the planet humankind is coming together and recognizing the importance of protecting and sustaining our shared natural resources, promoting education and moving forward to address our global environmental concerns; transforming the way we, as a species, regard and care for our earth.
This impressive demonstration of unity illustrates two things, first that worldwide environmental crises have grown to a level which has peaked the awareness of a large segment of the human population, and second, people are acting collectively to address the critical nature of this challenge. Hopefully we will all return to the ancient realization that, as biological organisms, we are intimately related to nature, out of which our very form is animated.
Belarus began celebrating Earth Day in the mid-90s, when the country became an independent state. Yuri Drazdow, a chief editor of the Minsk Herald, discusses the beginning of the holiday in this Eastern European country, “Initially, it was a few ecological non-government organizations (NGOs), which paid attention to this celebration, but later both central and local authorities joined the initiative. Normally Belarusians are planting trees, cleaning parks and green zones, and just having fun working together with colleagues and neighbors.” There’s also singing and dancing added to the mix.
Drazdow goes on to say that the popularity of this event may be linked to a similar sort of celebration called Subbotnik, which was observed prior to independence from the Soviet Union, and marked the birthday of Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Soviet state. “Nowadays political ground has been replaced with ecological ground, and Belarusians of all political views join together in the celebration of Earth Day,” he said.
This year the legacy of Earth Day was underscored with the signing of the Paris Agreement that was purposely scheduled on the same day as the holiday. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a special invitation to representatives of 196 countries, virtually every world leader, to officially sign this pact, recognizing the urgent need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, and stabilize the temperature of the planet.
Under this agreement, which will become operational in five years, these participants have agreed to work together to fight climate change and prevent the rise of global temperature, which can increase the prevalence of many natural disasters. Belarus is among the participating countries which will launch special programs on par with the other participants, intending to begin steps to preserve and protect the environment.
Belarusians are very committed to protecting and preserving nature, having been exposed to the Chernobyl disaster 30 years ago, and have already been participating in international initiatives to improve global environmental conditions. At the same time, the popularity of Belarus as a tourist destination has grown steadily among westerners, principally because they are committed custodians of nature’s pristine wilderness. Dmitriy Shamovic, an ornithologist from the Rasony region in northern Belarus and host of a local tourist program there, states, ‘Every year, on average I have about 100 tourists that come to me from a number of countries. What I have come to realize is that typically, tourists do not come to Belarus to see the Belarusian towns or learn about history – they make the journey mainly to take advantage of the Belarusian wilderness, to soak in the picturesque surroundings and to take photos, as this is the ideal place for wildlife photography.’
There are three national parks in Belarus: Belovezhskaya Forest, Braslav Lakes and Narochansky. The forests of Belarus are rich in valuable species of trees: pine, spruce, oak, birch, aspen and alder. More than 200 species of plants are protected by the government. The forested territory on the south side of Belarus is known as “The Lungs of Europe” due to the oxygen emitting greenery located in the central area of the continent. The Belarusians are proud and protective of their rich ecology, both the plant and animal life found in their country.
It’s of interest to note that in order to at- tract tourists and share the treasure of the Belarusian forest, the country is allowing tourists to visit the Belarusian part of the Belovezhskaya Forest without a visa. At present there are entrance requirements for this privilege (only pedestrians and cyclists eligible) and limits to the length of stay. Depending upon the success of this program, it may be expanded.
This year Earth Day supporters have encouraged the planting of new trees and forests worldwide. The fact is that Belarus is ahead of many other nations with respect to their tree populations. Still, the goal of supporters is to have one tree planted for every person inhabiting the earth by 2020 (Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary). No matter where we find ourselves geographically on the planet, one of the easiest ways to contribute to preservation and protection of the earth – is to plant a tree! As it turns out, this small individual step, taken together as a species, is a giant step on behalf of today’s children and for the survival of the natural world.
By Juliette Jones
Source: http://minskherald.com /2015/10/ascetic-scientist-dmitriy- shamovich-explores-in-depth- foreigners-reaction-upon-their- visit-to-belarus/