Poland Accelerates Its Destruction Of The Primeval Białowieża Forest

One of the lesser discussed aspects of the cultural republicanism which fueled the early 20th century Irish Revolution was the environmental interests and concerns of the men and women of 1916. Of course they did not express that interestin the language of the modern ecology movement but throughout their writing there is a deep respect for the flora and fauna of Ireland and the wider world. For Patrick H. Pearse the island was inhabited by “…fellow-citizens of the grass and woods and water” and this greatly influenced his educational and intellectual pursuits. While that strand of republican thought was lost in the decades following the internecine Civil War, in recent years it has come to the fore again, notably with the Shell to Sea campaign in County Mayo or the national movement demanding constitutional ownership of all water resources by the State.

In my own politics I am very much a Green Republican, reflected in my former enthusiasm for the Green Party (until that was killed by the GP’s willing complicity in the desecration of the historical landscape around the Hill of Tara, its ministerial role in the denigration of Irish nomenclature for official placenames, and its part in the discredited Celtic Tiger economy). So further news from Poland on the destruction of the ancient Białowieża forest, featured by the Guardian, is deeply worrying.

Scientists and environmental campaigners have accused the Polish government of bringing the ecosystem of the Białowieża forest in north-eastern Poland to the “brink of collapse”, one year after a revised forest management plan permitted the trebling of state logging activity and removed a ban on logging in old growth areas.

Large parts of the forest, which spans Poland’s eastern border with Belarus and contains some of Europe’s last remaining primeval woodland, are subject to natural processes not disturbed by direct human intervention.

A Unesco natural world heritage site – the only one in Poland – the forest is home to about 1,070 species of vascular plants, 4,000 species of fungi, more than 10,000 species of insect, 180 breeding bird species and 58 species of mammal, including many species dependent on natural processes and threatened with extinction.

While the odious right-wing Law and Justice government in Warsaw has restricted logging in part of Białowieża, in the dedicated national park reserve, this area represents just 17% of the Polish-controlled woodlands in the region. Tens of thousands of hectares of associated primeval forest have been left deliberately vulnerable to exploitation. Which as the Guardian points out, is exactly what is happening, with an incalculable loss to Europe’s natural heritage.

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4 comments

  1. This is not just about a forest zone 2000 kilometres away. It is also about Ireland, and the rest of the EU, and the fact that once all of this territory was covered in primeval temperate rain forest, at the end of the Ice Age, wherever it could spread. Ireland was noted, at the time of the early Anglo-Irish wars, for having the same vast forests. It was an ecological paradise on a scale with the Polish border forests. All deliberately destroyed, of course, over the last 600 years, and converted into Anglo land holdings, with mass deportations of populations, or worse. This Polish forest actually connects with Irish history. Even today, Ireland is noted for its very poor forest cover, its lack of bio-diversity, and bad use of remaining forest. Why do I mention this?….it is simple. What is in Poland, is what needs to be in Ireland. Protection of remaining tree cover, reforestation, until at least Ireland reaches average levels of North European tree cover. The economic costs of not having the eco-services of diverse forest are huge, and they simply do not appear in the Irish Government accounts. The idea of large scale forest recovery, the creation of bio-reserves, etc, is barely on the mental horizons of the average Irish Politician. Not only that, but they also are made very uneasy by places like the ancient Polish Forest. Such places represent everything they know is connected with a true love of country, its land, and its soil. This makes the Gombeen men very nervous. Paidric Pearse was everything that they fear. They still fear such people. Pearse understood, at the deepest level, what green things mean. So do the Polish species of “Gombeen”. As in Ireland, they hate all things Green, that have a life, that speak to the spirit, and not to the Money. They get, these creatures, in both Ireland, and on the European Mainland, the same rabid hatred of life and green things. The loss of this forest, in Poland, matters just as much to Irish people. We have the same species of anti-life, anti-green politician, whose hatred of these things, has the same accountancy mentality, that knows the cost of everything, the value of nothing. The Dail is full of them. So some solidarity with those in Poland, who fight for the survival of its green places, is very much an Irish issue.

    1. I agree. It’s amazing to think that up to the Tudor/Elizabethan period the majority of the island consisted of open woodlands. That one could walk for days under tree cover. Now you’d be hard put to get longer than 20 minutes.

      Forests have practical benefits as well their innate beauty. In relation to the floods we’ve witnessed in recent years in the West and South-West, it has been consistently argued that large scale tree-planting, the creation of “green barriers” would have a beneficial effect on reducing these incidences. Instead all the talk by politicians is about barriers of concrete and earth, diverted waters, drainage and other expensive solutions benefiting certain businesses and industries.

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