ATP Initiates Celebration of Earth Day and Arbor Day in Armenia
KARIN, Armenia--On April 25, Armenia Tree Project (ATP) jointly with the US Embassy initiated a ceremonial event to mark Earth Day and Arbor Day.
US Embassy Public Affairs Head Thomas Mittnacht and a large number of guests joined in this celebration with ATP. Among the attendees were the head of the Hayantar department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Martun Matevosyan, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Alexander Avanesov, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development Country Director Gagik Sardaryan, as well as representatives from a number of other international and local organizations.
This is the sixth year that ATP has celebrated Earth Day and Arbor Day with the US Embassy and its partners at one of the rural refugee villages where ATP has been developing programs. The celebration at ATP’s nursery in the village of Karin unites Armenian officials, ambassadors, and NGO representatives for a tree-planting ceremony to raise awareness of ecological issues and emphasize the need to solve them together. This year because of extremely unpleasant weather conditions--snowfall on April 24 was a surprise to everyone--only one tree symbolizing Earth Day was planted by ATP Executive Director Jeff Masarjian.
In his opening speech, Mr. Masarjian referred to the 37th anniversary of Earth Day and stated that in the US, environmental awareness was raised through public education. The environmental movement became a global phenomenon by the early 1990s, he stated, when 200 million people around the world started celebrating Earth Day.
“Armenia is truly a treasure, which our ancestors sustained for thousands of years. Today this great treasure is at a greater risk of being lost forever than at any other time in history. Over the past few years people in Armenia have become increasingly concerned about hotter and drier summers, longer and colder winters, choking air pollution, and storms which bring flooding, erosion, and landslides,” stated Mr. Masarjian. “Our ancestors survived enormous challenges so that we could be here in Armenia today, and we have a responsibility to the generations that will follow to be good stewards of the environment.”
After welcoming the guests, Masarjian passed the floor to US Embassy Public Affairs Head Thomas Mittnacht, who emphasized the importance of environmental protection. “President Bush in his Earth Day message said that it is our responsibility to be stewards of the land. We need to protect our environment, and as you all know, trees are a very important part of it. In fact, in the United States we have not only Earth Day now, but also Arbor Day. It is widely celebrated and on this day we honor trees and we plant seedlings all across the country. These two celebrations go together very well, because trees play such an important part for the environment by bringing a range of benefits to it and to people.”
“Armenia, like many other places in the world, has suffered from deforestation,” continued Mr. Mittnacht. “But fortunately you have the Armenia Tree Project, which is doing something about that. I would hope that everywhere in the world we could say that our generation will leave a better environment for future generations. I am not sure whether it is true everywhere, but I hope that it is going to be here in Armenia.”
Martun Matevosyan, the head of the Hayantar department of the Ministry of Agriculture, mentioned the important role of Armenia’s non-governmental organizations, and particularly ATP, in reforesting Armenia. Mr. Matevosyan stressed the seriousness of the situation of the forests of Armenia, and he thanked the NGOs for helping to overcome the problem. Mr. Matevosyan expressed his deep gratitude to the supporters from the Diaspora and greeted all participants of the event on behalf of Minister of Agriculture David Lokyan.
Sabina Safaryan, a biology teacher from School No. 43, and her seventh grade student Knarik Sargsyan presented speeches dedicated to nature protection and environmental education. Both cited the need to raise public awareness and stressed the role of ATP in expanding knowledge among students all over Armenia through its environmental education program.
“Only due to our collaborative efforts, enthusiasm, and love toward nature can we reap positive results,” said Ms. Safaryan. “Human beings are dependent on nature, but at the same time nature is very fragile and can be easily infringed if mistreated.”
Little Knarik stated, “If people call the planet home, then how dare they pollute it. Because the environment is a house we all live in, it should stay clean and healthy, as we do not have anywhere else to move to. Our duty is to protect and take care of our home.”
ATP has built a partnership with the Sun Child Regional Environmental Festival. A member of the Sun Child team, Mariam Manukyan from the Manana Youth Cultural Center was one of the most active participants in the environmental trainings organized by Sun Child this spring.
Mariam arrived to participate in the Earth Day celebrations
together with other Sun Child representatives. “Young people gain
a lot by getting involved in ecological trainings. We start paying more
attention to the surrounding environment and our contribution becomes
more visible and effective,” stated Mariam. “I was very excited
to be a part of the environmental education process. Certainly, I could
not protect nature on my own--I need help. We all know that one of Armenia’s
most important and immediate problems is the loss of green spaces. Trees
are essential to all of us and we cannot live without trees.”