European Wilderness Volunteer DiaryThe Diary of the European Wilderness Society Volunteers

What does the witch-hunt have to do with climate change

This text was written by two of the students, that participated in our Youth Green Conference.
Author: Natalia Savko – student from Ukraine
Translated by Anastasiia Banoi - student from Ukraine

On the very beginning of October, a group of Ukrainian kids, NGO representatives, environmentalists and decision-makers took part in the Youth Green Conference 2019 about climate change, as a part of the Austrian-Ukrainian educational project of the same name. The European Wilderness Society and NGO FORZA, supported by the EU educational program ERASMUS+, implemented this project. After selection and a series of preparatory activities in Uzhhorod, we finally reached our place in Austria (Burg Finstergrün) in Ramingstein. This is the place, where you realize there is no such thing as your unlimited power of being intelligent.

Climate change, is it real?

“How do you think your life will change after 20 years due to climate change? And if so, how then?”, Max Rossberg asked us in the morning. By the way, Max Rossberg is a chairman of the European Wilderness Society.
During our discussion, we understood that after several years we won’t be wearing warm clothes, not only because it will be hotter, but because we will use all resources that our clothes are made of.

Indeed, for greater economic benefit and our own comfort, we are ready to use all available non-renewable resources for ourselves without thinking about future generations…
All the surrounding forests in the Lungau region are planted artificially. A few centuries ago, populations of many countries used beech trees to make charcoal from them. After a few centuries, people used coal more actively, as it was more economically viable. Instead, a completely different need arises – a tree that is flexible and does not break down, so foresters began to actively plant coniferous forests.

And the beech will soon disappear on its own due to climate change. Literally, such forests remain to live for several decades. Therefore, when they say that to save earth, it is necessary to plant trees, you need to think about what kind of species. They also seek to control the animal world. Human hands destroy almost everything created before them. Forest disappears and with it certain species of plants, animals, insects – the entire ecosystem – is destroyed. These processes are irreversible. But what cost do we pay for our current temporary comfort?

Insects and animals

During the conference, we also had a “Insect Respect” training, where Helena and Ziva, volunteers of the European Wilderness Society, explained why these creatures are extremely important to the planet. These tiny helpers pollinate almost 85% of the plants, while others contribute to the formation of nutritious soil. To improve the life of insects, we made them hotels from natural materials.
The next, no less interesting, part of the training was the bee path, where we, in the form of a quest, found the information we needed about the most useful insects – melliferous insects.
We also visited the exhibition of the European Wilderness Society “Human & Wilderness Coexistence” and learned how to act when meeting predators. The main thing here is to remain calm.

Building insect hotels

What do Witches have to do with climate change?

The next day, Max took us on an excursion to the valleys of the Lungau region, where we learned a lot of interesting things not only about the environmental but also about the economic situation in the country. We saw the first abandoned houses. Even in Austria, there is little employment opportunity in mountainous areas. Whatever investments the government does not invest in our valley, has no future. In recent times, there has been a tendency of concentration of all settlements in the vicinity to one bigger city. Here it is the city of Tamsweg. It immediately reminded me of our picturesque Carpathians. In a few years’ time, densely populated areas will become vacant. In addition, the problem of unemployment and earnings … Is it not just us?

The Mur river flows nearby. Here it is the cleanest, and already near the city of Graz it is considered the dirtiest in Austria. 30 years ago, Europe had a popular tendency to enclose rivers in concrete to control the powerful element. Now here they do the opposite. Dams are built around the river, aluminum fences are put, and the channel is widened. The slower the water flows, the less likely floods are and, on the contrary, drying out. They finally realized that nature is perfect by itself, so the rivers return to their natural course. It could also help Uzh river in Ukraine. But every such action is too expensive now.

There are 4 ski resorts in the Lungau region. The most interesting thing about climate change is that their owners are increasingly using artificial snow. Therefore, at the beginning of the season, they are preparing to use as much water as could be placed in all the wagons of a train that could easily connect Austria and China. Imagine the amount of fresh drinking water. Why so? Because natural snow is not enough and too high temperatures destroy the structure of this snow.

A few centuries ago, people began to notice the first climate changes. They prayed to god for a long time in the churches to help but the weather only got colder. The church in desperate need to find a reason and someone to blame climate change on, blamed the witches and the werewolves. According to historical sources, 21 women were burned in the region, and the execution place still exists in the forest right next to Tamsweg. The trout chamber in the castle Schloss Moosham where the witches were tried by the church still exists almost 400 years later.

Burg_Moosham_0005.dng - European Wilderness Society  - CC NonCommercial-NoDerivates 4.0 International
Burg_Moosham_0005.dng – European Wilderness Society – CC NonCommercial-NoDerivates 4.0 International

Those, who carried out the terrible judgement, even calculated the amount of firewood needed to burn the women – so that nothing was left of the witch. That’s what we humans are. We blame others for all the problems created by ourselves.
“Witches” are not burned anymore, but climate change is still happening, and by the way, extremely fast.

Learning how to read a map

Exercises for brain and body

Particularly noteworthy is the history of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Lungau, in which we spent 3 days. It covers an area of over 1,498 km2, was founded in 2012, and one of its main tasks is not only nature conservation, but also organic farming, regional and cultural development.
On the territory of the reserve, there is also an outdoor park, where the rest of the day, our team, together with Austrian friends, learned to pack a tourist backpack, especially the placement of the necessary things in it; we were able to fly out to the lake and climb the highest cliff face.

The morning of the last day of the conference began with presentations on Ukraine and Austria. Both countries surprised with their own uniqueness and beauty. Further, together with Radmila Ustych, a representative of the NGO Forza, we spoke about the important impact of the forest on the planet and that the green spaces can save it.
The last important location was the heating system of Tamsweg, which produces all the energy from wood chips and supplies the heat for the entire village. One of its founders told us about the history of its creation, the peculiarities of this kind of raw materials and why heating homes with such fuel is extremely profitable. “The same system and mechanism can be easily installed in Ukraine. It’s simple enough.”

It’s our turn to act!

On the last day, our Ukrainian team had an opportunity to interact personally with Max Rossberg, to find out what we can bring to reality by our own efforts. Also, we, ordinary teenagers with a fire in our hearts and an incredible desire to change the ecological situation in Transcarpathia for the better, founded the Youngster Chapter of the European Wilderness Society.
It is believed that in a few years we will be able to conquer Mars and make it a second Earth. But maybe we should at least try to leave our planet a comfortable place to live for future generations? Because, sometimes, even the smallest of our actions can change absolutely everything. Greta Thunberg had enough of a display to stir up the world. It is your turn to act!

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