Nr. 2 (80)
English Language Version of Dzikie Zycie
A Letter for the New Millennium
This letter laments the general poor state of affairs regarding
environmental issues in Poland (and throughout the world). In
the author mentions the lack of awareness that exists in Poland. For
example, he stresses the general lack of knowledge among children and youth
living in villages and small towns with regard to environmental issues and
nature protection. Despite a decade of efforts by environmental
organizations and activists, most people in Poland remain oblivious to needs
to protect the environment and surviving natural areas. Mirski points out
that eight years after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, we have fallen
far short of achieving fundamental needs to save the planet from
environmental devastation. Among our major failures of the 20th century,
lists the following: logging, desertification, the extinction of thousands
of species, water, soil and air pollution, and the hole in the ozone layer.
He also mentions that the earth's population has increased from 1. 64
billion in 1900 to over 6 billion in 2001.
Among the prognosis for the next century, Mirski lists the following:
-an increase in the human population to between 12-15 billion.
-Wars over access to water.
-The migration of millions of people seeking food and better living conditions.
-More destruction of the environment, for the sake of convenience and to
further enrich the world's elites
- The development of previously unknown diseases and epidemics caused by the
extinction of species central to maintaining a natural balance.
-The appearance of new and more radical schools of thought and segments of
the environmental movement, including those which promote a religious
component in their reverence for nature.
Mirski stresses the importance of taking action, rather than sitting back
and passively letting further environmental disaster erupt. He commends
efforts of Pracownia (Workshop for All Beings) and other organizations that
have already exerted considerable effort to promote the importance of saving
wilderness areas. He also advises readers to create a "mini-nature
in their area and envisions a day when there is such a mini-reserve in every
local area in Poland.
Exotic Prisoners and the Lawless Republic
Trafficking exotic animals is illegal in Poland. However, Czy?ewska points
out that it is rampant in Poland and that those who engage in smuggling such
animals often go unpunished. She mentions a specific case in LódY where
people were caught re-handed with 500 turtles, as well as pythons, monitor
lizards, and iguanas. Many of these animals were in terrible condition and
died or had to be euthanized because they were in such poor shape. The
turtles were in the worst condition, many had cracked shells and were being
kept in cardboard boxes piled on top of each other in a room that was 4
degrees Celsius. The author stresses the absurdity that when this case
to court it was tossed out due to a lack of evidence. She also mentions
that environmental activists demonstrated outside the court to draw
attention to the case, hoping that it would not go completely unnoticed.
The author points out that Poland has signed the Washington Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna in 1990,
but that since this time trade in exotic animals has flourished in Poland.
Often such animals travel through countries to the east of Poland and are en
route west. Many are also sold at Polish outdoor markets. Over half
these animals die in transit, others lay suffering and dying at these
markets. Yet there seems to be a wealth of people (ironically who usually
consider themselves animal lovers) who are ready to buy such animals and pay
a great deal for them.
The bottom line is that trade in exotic animals continues to be a prosperous
business in Poland, and at present laws are not enforced enough to
discourage shady individuals from engaging in this cruel trade.
A Pie in the Face for the Polish Minister of the Environment
Act I: The Government's Environmental Policy Runs Counter to the
Expectations of Most Polish Citizens
In September 2000, the Polish minister of foreign affairs, Bronis3aw Geremek
stated that there was an opportunity to build a pipeline from Russia to
Western Europe through Poland, since environmentalists in the West were
protesting similar plans to lay a pipeline under the Baltic Sea. He
neglected to mention that a pipeline running across Poland would also
destroy important wilderness areas. He stated that in Poland, "we
have any environmental problems."
A few months later the press mentioned a tentative agreement between the
Polish president and a representative of the Russian government regarding a
pipeline that would run through Roztoczanski National Park. The
Ukrainian governments also have plans for a pipeline between Odessa and
Gdansk (through the Ukrainian city of Broda). The building of such a
pipeline would have to cross the Wieprza Valley, threatening the
Skierbieszowski and Strzelecki landscape parks.
The Polish minister of the environment Antoni Tokarczuk has stated that the
maintenance of national parks is a great strain on the nation's budget and
that, "there are not enough resources to further develop national parks in
their current form. They just suck away huge sums of money."
not a single z3oty has been invested in the national parks.
Tokarczuk warned ? that, "we must not demonize nature," and added that
"an opponent of national parks for their own sake. National parks are
us to enjoy." Revealing his resentment of regional nature
officers, he said, "we cannot let it get to the point that tourists are
suddenly startled by a park officer in a green uniform." Nature
is meant to serve and be subservient to human objectives. "If
don't feel comfortable in national parks, then it's not worth maintaining
them" (the above quotes come from an interview in the Dziennk Zachodni
October 24, 2000).
Another interview with Tokarczuk appeared in the December 1, 2000 edition
of the Nowa Trybuna Opolska (a regional newspaper in Silesia). When asked
about a report by European Parliament Commissioner I. Wallstroem which
negatively evaluated Poland's environmental policy, he responded by saying,
"I don't take extremist environmental organizations very seriously,
including those in the West" (making it obvious that he had not heard of
Commissioner Wallstroem and was not familiar with the report). Later in
this same interview, Tokarczuk stated that, "We can't turn Poland into a
wild country and return to the wilderness. This would be completely
unnatural! I would like the environment to be pleasant for people, we
should not be tyrannized by nature."
There is a wide gap between the views of Polish politicians and the rest of
Polish society. According to a poll taken by the Public Opinion Research
Center, most Poles (95% of those surveyed) indicated that the primary goal
of the parks should be to protect nature. Only 12% of Poles are of the
opinion that the purpose of the parks is to support tourist activity. 77%
of Poles are against the building of hotels and restaurants within park
borders. According to television polls, the majority of Poles are also in
favor of extending national park status to all of the Bialowie?a Forest, and
most also supported the director of the Tatra National Park when he was
sharply criticized by local business leaders in the resort city of Zakupane
. . . and the minister of the environment. Should we
hold it against
Minister Tokarczuk that he is not familiar with the intricacies of
environmental issues? After all, it was the prime minister who chose such
person, what kind of environmental policy did he envision? Hmm . . .
Act II: Pie for the Minister!
In November 2000 a notable event occurred for the first time in Poland at
the National Environmental Conference in Poznan; the prestigious
"Pie-in-the-Face Prize" was awarded. This award was financed by
Nature Club (Klub Dzikiej Przyrody). After considering several candidates,
the jury of the KDP unanimously chose to recognize the accomplishments of
Antoni Tokarczuk--the Polish minister of the environment, for his plans to
inflict extensive damage on the Tatra National Park--an International
Biosphere Reserve. The prize was awarded, in particular, for an agreement
he arranged with municipal authorities in the region allowing them to
decrease the size of the national park and build new recreational
infrastructure within the park. In the end, the environmental policy of
Polish government and an increase in tourist sports facilities will have the
effect of turning the park into a Disneyl;and-like sports park. The second
major reason for awarding the pie to Tokarczuk is his extensive involvement
in plans to attempts to pave the Wis3a River--the last major, natural river
in Europe. The minister has been an adamant supporter of building a new
on the Wis3a near the town of Nieszawa.
Conference participants and many journalists witnessed the shoving of the
pie in the minister's face. After receiving his award, Tokarczuk said that
he was very happy to receive this award and made a vague attempt to explain
the intricacies of his decisions on environmental policy. Many
aware of the reality of on-going destruction of nature areas, are convinced
that the pie was awarded to the appropriate person.
Act III: A Brief Conversation with the Pie-Terrorist
Dzikie -ycie (Wild Nature): Why did you shove a pie in the minister's
after all it's a form of assault?
Dariusz Matusiak: This "sweet custom" of shoving a pie into the face
well-known politicians and people in the world of culture and business a has
30-year tradition in Europe. It began in Belgium with Noel Godin, a
director, actor, writer, and founder of the "Pie Internationalists"
the Wild Nature Club (Klub Dzikiej Przyrody) also belongs to. According to
Godin, the gloominess of reality requires humor as a remedy--by laughing at
its darkest manifestations and their lofty representatives. The best way
do this is with a pie in the face. From this time on, public figures who
are too full of themselves and who expose this in their public statements
can expect to receive a pie as a present from a member of the
What kind of company does the environmental minister find himself in?
Another Pie-laureate is Bill Gates--the founder of Microsoft Computers for
using his talents to support the dreary status quo in this messed up world.
The Pie Internationalists ridicule such people by shoving a pie in the face
of those for whom power has gone to their head. And these are always
who later have to make a trip to the cleaner's.
How do these people react when they receive such a gift?
That varies a lot. The French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, who had the
misfortune of stating that he was the most talented writer of his
generation, received a pie in the face. After catching members of
Levy's body guards were about to shove their heads in toilet bowls when
police rescued them at the last minute. Bill Gates also didn't demonstrate
that he had much of a sense of humor, that same day he gave his body guards
the boot. Only Jean-Luc Goddard--the famous French director--managed to
accept the prize with grace. When he received a pie in the face at the
Cannes film festival in 1985, he licked pie off of his cigar and paid silent
homage to cinema.
"Pie therapy" operates on the principal that "the health of the
most important," which is why we don't throw pies, but shove them into the
face. Delicately applying the pie mask guarantees that the therapy will be
carried out safely and allows for personal contact with the client. There
is also no need to hold negative feelings toward the person receiving the
pie, since it's not the person, but their decisions that are the problem,
and our present is meant to function as a kind of sweet aspirin.
How do people who receive this award come through the experience?
That also varies a lot. The philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, who I
earlier received the sweet gift five times, even so, his level of healing
was minimal. Others only received the treatment one time with positive
results. Bill Gates received four pies during a single attempt, so his
condition was very serious and required extensive therapy. In the case of
Mr. Tokarczuk we decided that a single pie was sufficient--to be more
precise a single cream pie with the words "To the Minister, on behalf of
Wild Nature" which he had a chance to deeply study.
In the end what is the minister guilty of? That environmental affairs
aren't that important to him? Afterall, it's the prime minister who chose
him for this position.
I disagree with the idea that the wrong person received the pie, that it
should have gone to someone in a higher position. It's true that he hasn't
had much to do with environmental protection, instead he was involved mainly
with building construction and earlier with sociology, as well as his
interest in horses, cycling, and judo which helped him a lot with these
pursuits. I have no fears that the pie was delivered to the wrong address.
(Interview by A. Janusz Korbel)
-A. Janusz Korbel
The regional director of the state forest near Krosno (SE Poland) laments
that in the 1999/2000 season wolves have killed around 500 red deer, 385 roe
deer, and 52 wild boars. Wolf critics also bemoan the slaughter of
innocent sheep by this brutal animal. According to the Dziennik Polski
(Polish Daily), the sly wolves have eaten as many as 60 such victims! The
murders were not satisfied with just sheep, they have also killed a calf and
a goat! The Office of the State Forests in Krosno has no doubts that
are responsible and that they should be shot. Otherwise there will not be
anything left for the hunters to shoot, since the big, bad wolves will have
eaten all the cute little deer and wild pigs. One forester/hunter from
Bieszczady, has been saying for years that wolves are terrible beasts and
that he personally has shot a couple of dozen of them.
In this season, bending to appeals from the forestry/hunting lobby, the
Ministry of the Environment has temporarily waived legislation, allowing
hunters/farmers/foresters to shoot up to ten "of the more aggressive
(despite the fact that, since 1998, it is supposed to be illegal to shoot
wolves in Poland). Hunters then began looking for aggressive wolves.
Hunting Bison: A Polish Specialty
For many years western magazines have advertised Poland as a hunter's
paradise. They indicate that you can hunt European bison there. The
is actually protected in Poland, but there are always a couple of animals
that need to be eliminated--for their own good--so why not take advantage of
the occasion and make some money off of it?
When money comes into the picture, some people will be tempted to take
advantage of certain opportunities, and ideals go out the window. On
December 6, 2000, the first of six bison marked to be put down due to
disease was shot in the Bieszczady region. The minister of the environment
was responsible for granting permission. The pretext for these killings is
that some bison are thought to be infected with tuberculosis. The
took place in the Brzegi Dolne forest district, undertaken by forest
officials and veterinarians, but without informing the proper local
conservation authorities. The killing of bison has provoked protests in
various circles. For example, finding out if the bison is actually sick
be determined only after it has been killed. However, it is especially
controversial that these shootings were undertaken without informing the
voivodship conservation authorities, despite the fact that the director had
explicitly requested notification of such plans to cull sick animals.
The Unfortunate Forest
The whole of the Bialowieza Forest was supposed to be granted national
status by now. At a meeting with OECD ministers in October the
environmental minister Antoni Tokarczuk informed them that the Bialowieza
National Park would be enlarged on January 1, 2001. It didn't happen.
According to the Bialowieza Forest Protection Society, about 20% of the
forest that lies outside of the park borders is also old growth forest. On
the Polish side of the border, hardly 1/6 of the primeval forest is
protected with national park status.
The government has gone back on its promise and has not allotted funds in
its new budget for enlarging the national park. The approaching of
parliamentary elections has led to a new phase in the auctioning off of
Bialowieza National Forest. The populist nature of local political
campaigns promotes the importance of the forest toward fulfilling human
needs (read further exploitation of Bialowieza Forest).
The Destruction of Polish Mountains Continues
The author documents further destruction of Poland's mountains. In
particular, he criticizes Marian Czop, the major of Piwnicza (south central
Poland), municipal authorities in this area, as well as engineers and other
specialists from the Politechnical Institute in Krakow for their plans to
build new recreational infrastructure in the mountains. He condemns their
plans to build an "environmental" ski lift, stating categorically that
ski lifts are inherently anti-environmental. In the process, the author
points out that more and more often it is enough to label something as
"environmentally friendly" to validate projects that destroy natural
and the environment.
The Devastation of Pilsko Mountain Is Legal?
On December 13, 2000 Pracownia (Workshop for All Beings) received a letter
from the Municipal building Authority in Bielsko-Biala informing us of a
recent decision by its administrative body. Previously Pracownia had won a
case against the Gliwice Tourism Agency (the owners of an illegal ski slope
on Pilsko Mountain (south of the city of Bielsko-Bia3a). The building
authority informed us that the firm has been given 5 years to dismantle the
ski slope infrastructure. In practical terms, this means that the firm has
been given 5 years to erect new, "legal" ski infrastructure.
given for allowing the illegal slope to operate, it that there is a "social
need" for a ski slope in this area.
Laws on Nature Protection Grant Unprecedented Power to
-Zbigniew J. Witkowski
This article explains problems with new laws that effect environmental
protection in Poland. Witkowski blames this on laws passed two years ago
an effort to restructure municipal and regional governments. The result is
that municipal governments now have more power than the Polish constitution
allows for. He mentions that the national laws with regard to
protection are basically sound, for example they allow for the national
government to intervene and purchase lands that are of important natural
value. In theory, these laws appear to take a rather "hard line"
protecting such areas. However, a lack of governmental funding and
personnel to support these national laws renders them meaningless.
Witkowski lists several points in the more recent legislation that, in his
opinion, are steps in the wrong direction. A) At present local governments
now have powers that go beyond those prescribed by the Polish constitution.
If the national government wants to establish a protected area, it must now
acquire the approval of all local governments in the area in question (even
when the lands already belong to the state). B) The elimination of legal
provisions that require regular inspections of areas that are designated as
protected. Without such an inspection service, protection in many areas
becomes a farce. C) There are no legal provisions which allow mechanisms
for individuals or groups to offer donations (of land or money) toward
nature protection efforts. D) There are also no legal provisions
facilitate co-operation with environmental organizations in managing
The author suggests that rather than "creating order" the new legal
provisions have served to hide conflicts.
-The new legislation does not allow society to influence decisions about
priceless wilderness areas. Instead the management of protected areas is
strongly guarded by the rigid hierarchy of the Ministry of the Environment
(with recent decisions suggesting that nature protection is not always a
priority of the ministry, which has lately been more concerned with
fostering "economic development").
-Such provisions have set in order a dichotomy which violates existing laws.
According to this process, a sharp contrast exists between those areas that
are designated as "protected" and the "ghetto-ization" of
those which fall outside of protection (which are often just as valuable in
terms of providing habitat to threatened species).
-The legislation also fails to clearly state that the interests of the
nation supersede local interests.
Janusz A. Korbel
stowarzyszenie "Pracownia na rzecz wszystkich istot"
miesiecznik DZIKIE ZYCIE
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