| Sometimes it is
the seemingly insignificant events that say the
most about the living condition: Putting a new coat
of polish on worn-out shoes; sweeping trash from
a sidewalk that is hardly more than dirt itself;
carrying yourself with dignity on your way to borrow
money . . . Such things.
We have a story this week that could be seen
as insignificant, unless you look past the event
itself and to the mentality that creates the environment
in which such actions flourish.
Some trees were uprooted from an Armenian hillside
and replanted to decorate a Yerevan cafe. So what?
So what, is that the trees were planted 30 years
ago in an effort to filter the air and protect,
via a "greenbelt", the environment.
Now they are practically nothing but potted plants,
likely to dry out and do little more than filter
clouds of cigarette smoke from one of too many
So what, is that the person who put them there
is the very appointed government official - the
Minister of Protection of Nature - whose title
should spell out pretty clearly the irony here.
That Minister took 30 years of cultivated nature
- significantly in this case, government property
- probably damaged it, and turned it into window
dressing for his wife's cafe.
The official was clever enough to disguise the
intentions of his action. He filled out papers
saying the trees were going to be used for aesthetic
enhancement of a government property in Kotayk.
But two days after those papers were filed, the
15-to-20-foot silver spruces became landscaping
for Mrs. Minister's central Yerevan cafe.
So what, is that an environmental protection
group - the Union of Greens - found out about
the transplanting and asked the General Prosecutor's
Office to look into it. An investigator found
that violations had occurred.
I guess the fact that it involved an appointed
official got somebody's attention, so the President
was advised that his Minister of Nature Protection
had arguably defiled his very title. The President
told prosecutors to back off, answering their
investigation with, in effect: "So what?"
I came here from California, but I am not a tree
hugger. I find it hard to get worked up over environmental
issues because I generally find them arrogant
suppositions that Mother Nature can't find a way
to take care of herself - like, after billions
of years she needs our puny help.
This isn't about trees. It is a damn lot about
the environment here, however.
The environment here is that abuse of government-appointed
power is seen as a privilege of the post, rather
than a punishable offense. I wish this incident
with the trees were the most egregious example
of that fact. In any case, since it is our jumping
off point on this occasion please indulge further
examination of this "insignificant"
First, does anybody question how it is that prime
property, i.e., cafe sites in one of the busiest
parks in the capital, ends up owned by families
who run the government? Does anybody question
whether it is right that a pensioner in the city
center can hardly find a park bench that isn't
attached to the disco-deafening noise of a cafe?
Or that a strolling family has no green space
for introducing babies to nature because the green
space has been overtaken by concrete and neon
put up to entice business for the well-connected?
Finally, is it too ironic that government officials/cafe
owners cut down park trees to make room for their
cafes, then uproot trees from government property
to decorate them?
Okay, okay. I won't unravel the whole socio-political
ball of thread over this one. So what?
It's just some trees, right?
for related news story.)