Worldly wisdom of evolution

Afterword to the international scientific conference

 “Natural forests in the Temperate Zone of Europe – Values and Utilisation”

Valentyn Babenko, “Uryadovyi kuryer” newspaper, January 27th, 2004

It seems, the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve initiates a good tradition to hold important international scientific assemblies in the late fall of each year. Such events help to restore the former fame of the “Hutsul Paris” (called so in early XX c.) to the scenic town of Rakhiv in Transcarpathia, venue of the conference. This proves, without overstatement, great success of the international conference “Mountains and People” (2003) and the present “Natural forests in the Temperate Zone of Europe – Values and Utilisation”, already mentioned in the subheading. This year’s conference assembled quite reputable audience, which was above 200 representatives of the scientific elite from 26 countries (unfortunately, it was impossible to receive all persons interested) – from Netherlands to Iran, from Greece to the Great Britain, from Russia to Romania…

The event was carried out under the patronage of the Council of Europe, WWF, IUCN and IUFRO. Without fail, such support of the authoritative international political, scientific and nature conservation institutions proves the deserved authority of our scientists-biologists in the eyes of respectable foreign colleagues, shows scientific and practical actuality of their workings and reflects great interest of the European community to the Ukraine.

Carrying out of this conference was an important stage of fruitful co-operation between the worldwide known Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL and the Ukrainian Carpathian Biosphere Reserve. The managers of the institutions Mario F. Broggi and Fedir Hamor, certainly, were the principal persons of the scientific forum.

We have no respect for what we have…

After these words, having finished the official part, having “digested” a thick “Talmud” of shorthand notes of the presented speeches and reports and having recalled talks in the lobby, let me try to present in this article the quintessence of what I have heard and seen.

Indeed, the Carpathian forests are our national pride and, at the same time, though it is deplorably to realize – our not dully estimated national treasure. Notwithstanding our recently adopted State Program “Forests of the Ukraine”, Law “About moratorium on clear cuttings in the fir-beech forests of the Carpathian region”, newly prepared version of the Forest Code etc., such documents, in fact, have a tendency to decrease the forest areas – in spite of the departmental statistics.    

And it is when the Ukraine is generally one of the least afforested territories in Europe. Besides, in connection with the uncontrolled human activity the ecological problems increase each year in the browsed pine forests, groves and oak forests, especially, in the very Carpathian region. Though there is a contrast situation. Despite thoughtless felling of everything, that has a large stem and is of material value, in the plain and upland areas, it is not so easy to fell our “green friend” to the roots.  One cannot imagine, that in Transcarpathia there are still preserved large areas of virgin forests (“primeval, untouched forests- according to the explanatory dictionary). And one cannot hear clattering of an axe and a patrol driven power saw in the forests, where life of the local flora and fauna, within many centuries, flows due to the wise laws of evolution.

To get familiarized with this, let me quote it as “the lost world” according to one famous fantast. Scientists and tourist groups from Austria, Germany, Slovakia, France, the Czech

 Republic, Switzerland and other countries often visit this area to touch the eternity, to breath in the clean and fresh air of the past, or to see suddenly a bird, insect or plant, species and populations of which have vanished “not without help” of the human being.

In the opinion of foreign specialists    

The article “What are the virgin forests of Transcarpathia for us”, published 4 years ago in the well-known Swiss newspaper “Neue Zuricher Zeitung” said that “virgin forests and cultural landscapes of Transcarpathia are the ideal base for the comparison with the actual themes of forest management, nature and landscape conservation in Switzerland”.

In a year, in the presentation at the international conference “East-West: nature and human values”, held in the Alpine Republic, the expert of the Council of Europe, director of the Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Dr. Mario F. Broggi expressed his opinion more specifically: ”today these great riches, (i.e. virgin forests of Transcarpathia), that contain extremely valuable information on the evolution of forest and climate, species and nature conservation become objects of joint investigations for the scientists of the Western and Eastern Europe. Such co-operation creates an excellent platform for the researchers from western and eastern countries, gives an opportunity to exchange information, ideas as well as ensures preconditions for the European network of ecological investigations.

So, it seems that the world science did not lose interest in us. Professor of the department for Countryside and Community Research Unit of the University of Gloucestershire of the United Kingdom Mr. Bill Slee, in the presentation “Social-economic values of the natural forests”, one of the most noticeable at the assembly, expressed his opinion very pragmatically. “Natural forests favor society and economy in different complex ways, - I quote in translation. – If social-economic values, associated with such forests cannot be adequately recounted and properly reflected in policy and management systems, there could emerge a danger, that certain types of values (often financial resources from timber harvesting), without counting any other non-market values, might hinder the multifunctional optimum”.

In other words, untouched natural forests are the most exact standards of evolutionary processes, which are going on in our planet. Such forests require special treatment, since forests help better understanding of the future development of the forest in the result of human interference and if necessary – can make some changes. Such forests are the natural heritage of the world significance. Furthermore, having acquired within millennia, immunity against the planetary cataclysms, the virgin forests serve as the ecological stabilizers and regulators of water run-offs that minimize the outcomes of floods and practically prevent slides. Such is the role of the virgin forests in the opinion of the world science.

The utilization and conservation of the local forests has an ancient history, closely connected with the development of civilization, alteration of social and economic relations, administrative-territorial division etc. Within many centuries forests were destroyed by ignorance, self-interest and poverty, which do not want to admit and observe the law. The lower is the level of progress of the society and agriculture, in particular, the higher is the level of life at the expense of forest, and the lower attention is paid to the forest regeneration, reforestation and forest conservation.

Beautiful and useful

Strategy of the safe treatment of nature by Homo sapiens was also determined at the conference, since it is impossible to separate human being from the environment. Though, it is necessary to outline the regulations of treatment of this green temple. It means to create scientific backgrounds for the development of the very popular today in all civilized countries ecological tourism. And with respect to this, scientists of the CBR do not lag behind. Last summer I saw under my own eyes, figuratively speaking, the first shoots of such tourism deeply rooted in Keveliv forestry of the CBR, where Vasyl Verbitskyi is a manager.

One cannot deny that representatives of “the wandering tribe” have visited these scenic sites, with the footpaths to Hoverla, Petros and Chornohora and up to the ruins of the observatory, constructed at the beginning of the last century, in old days of Poland. Although, recollecting the cultural level of such tourists, even today you clutch at your head. For the most part, sites visited by the soviet tourist, resemble the areas after the invasion of the Mongolian hordes. The present well-bred successor cannot be satisfied only with the campfire, primitive “shashlyk” and the excessive drinking of alcohol “to the accompaniment of a guitar” in the open air. Such person seeks to enjoy with sober eyes the unique beauty of the scenery and strives for the spiritual freedom following the principle “travel, take pleasure and protect”.

Therefore, for such very respectable guest, who is going to visit the elite primeval forests, specialists of the CBR have already prepared information stands and maps of the exotic routes. There is a very limited amount of finances available for the construction of buildings to spend overnight in the Keveliv forestry. Although sites for the tents with the appropriate accessories, including biotoilets, modern tents, tent sticks and firewood for the campfire etc., are already arranged.

Fedir Hamor is positive that the “proletarian-international” tourism, which was strongly encouraged until recently should change its status and priorities. Tourism should change its type. Having been so far a kind of the sport entertainment, today it should transform into the aesthetically educational tourism. To live in harmony with nature, to feel oneself as a small alive part of it – what else can be better for an ordinary person, tired of everyday stresses in this restless unpredictable century.

I apologize for the “lyrical digression” from the main topic, but as for me, future of the Ukrainian Carpathians, their recovery as strongly depends on the development of the civilized ecological tourism as solid monographs of the titled academicians.

“Bless the forests…”

Let me finish with my few, personal impressions. The international language of scientists, as it is generally known, is English. This language prevailed at the above mentioned conference, but what was the most pleasant thing, that both our accredited young fellow countrymen post-graduates and respectable professors from Uzhhorod, Lviv, Chernivtsi and Kiev could easily communicate and express their ideas with foreign colleagues without interpreters. So, that was at least a small step forward to the world community. We could not even imagine this happening 15 years ago.

There were active discussions, clarifications of scientific positions and a few hour debates while driving in the old “Ikarus” buses (unfortunately along the roads of the same age), to the last stop of the journey – famous virgin forests, especially the last 20 km to Uholka, in Tiachiv district (with muddy puddles).

Despite rainy weather, owing to the faultless organization (I cannot stand from thanking my old friends deputy directors of the CBR Dmytro Sukhariuk and Vasyl Pokynchereda, who proved to be the first-class guides with their “O’K!” in English) the respectful audience successfully overcame few kilometers of the steep slopes of beech virgin forests, lively communicating with each other.

I remember unintentionally overheard conversation of two scientists from Lviv:

I agree with the professor that we have to refuse from “clear cuttings”. In the nature utilization one should refuse from many cunning ethical postulates of the totalitarian regime. We cannot forget Tourgenev’s “nature is not a temple, it is a workshop”. That was, actually, a call to outrage upon our native land in the mournfully memorable “nature transformation” post-war period.

Should we, spoiled by the mentioned fables, children of the unfavorable in ecological aspect XXI century, paraphrasing the “national academician” wait for the “bounties favors from nature”… after all that was done to it?

Or, may be, the primeval forests still inspire some last hope?