Interview with Inga Zarafyan, Chair of Ecolur NGO, candidate of biology
Mrs. Zarafyan, you raise environmental issues for many years. Can we say the green movement has moved beyond its civil functions, like in 1988? What are the possible developments?
In 1988 we participated in the movement, and then we were scientific personnel. There is a major difference between the two movements. The movement of 88 advocated the closure of the nuclear power plant and Nairit chemical plant and it was mainly led by scientists who understood the essence of the issue. But then, the scientific community was very active, now I cannot see such activity since some of them have left Armenia, others are passive. In 1988, we believed we could win. That movement coincided with the Karabakh movement and there was enthusiasm to improve the world. Then different developments were underway so I don’t think the green movement grew into a political one. We are in the same situation when we need changes.
Now environmental movements have started since there are a lot of environmental issues, the environment is being intensively destroyed. In the 1980s the environment was not destroyed so intensively and now everyone can see it so the movements have many more followers.
Isn’t there a relevant change of consciousness relating to the issue?
The situation has changed. Then, the situation forced us to participate and believe that we must live in a better world, but now there are few people who believe in this. Now many people think that they must change something only for themselves and few want to change the world. They have access to a huge amount of information on the developments in the world, so they understand it is very difficult to achieve change. Many of them want a small shelter for themselves but they don’t understand that they can’t have it if everything is being destroyed in the world. Neither the people nor the authorities understand this important element. But it is important to encourage these movements because without them there would be no possibility to develop.
Though you say those who want to change the world are few, many changes have been achieved recently, such as success in Mashtots Park and Trchkan.
When I say they are few I mean the civil movements which want to do that. They say their number has grown, I think they are being formed more like a movement. I can say that the quality of these movements has improved significantly. There are about 20 “green” movements on Facebook.
Activism means we forget about one’s own self, fight in the sun and rain, this is the main function of movements, since it is one thing when you declare something and it is another thing when you are ready for hardship. We see readiness for sacrifice.
We can see how forests continue to be destroyed for eminent domain. Today the issues of Amulsar and Sevan are urgent. Does it mean the result is not satisfactory?
We have government decisions dating between 2010-2012 and we can see a lot of land has been allotted for mining and energy generation purposes.
Is the public unable to influence the decisions of the government?
The public influence is there in regard to Shikahogh, Sevan, Trchkan, Jrvezh, Khosrov reserve, Mashtots Park and other cases. When people feel they need to unite for a concrete issue, they do it. The issue of Mashtots park was not an ecological but purely political one. I think the activists don’t want to deal with the political forces. It is a difficult question whether they will become political forces or not because additional conditions are necessary that I cannot see. When the conditions are provided, when leaders appear and provide an ideology it may bring together a lot of people in a political force. Harsnakar shows that it is necessary to unite the civil initiatives.
What conditions do you mean?
The point is that the ideology of the greens does not unite all the movements here. Other elements that would unite everyone are necessary to form a political force. A new platform is required otherwise we are losing a huge potential. The public at large cannot do the revolution, the public needs strong leaders. It is necessary to prove to the authorities that they are not invincible but vulnerable.