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Important Ecology Conference in Turkey, called by 70 organisations


ByEcehan Balta

January 28, 2023

The Conference of Ecology Movements in Turkey was held in Istanbul on January 21, 2023, following a call of some 70 ecology organizations. In total, over 100 organisations participated, with more than 400 people present at the meeting. 

This was not just a single-day event. In the 6-month period before the conference, 1 workshop and 6 webinars were organized. The webinars covered topics such as the struggle against the climate crisis after COP-27; war and migration; women in the struggle for ecology in Rojava and Turkey; and the need for an ecological constitution. 

This Conference was an important achievement for organisations that have been pushing for the cooperation of ecology movements for many years. 

The fact that ecology movements in Turkey are extremely localized contradicts the fact that ecological struggle cannot be successful without being fought on a global scale. In order to overcome this paradox, organisations such as the Ecology Union, Climate Justice Coalition, etc., which have been established and have gained an accelerated momentum especially in recent years, engaged in discussions that led to the organisation of this Conference. 

Distinctive characteristics

The importance of the Conference is revealed if one looks at some of its distinctive characteristics.  

Almost all those who spoke at the conference highlighted the impact of the ecological crisis on women and the role of women in ecology movements as an essential element of their process. This element was woven into the very fabric of the Conference and this was reflected in the final declaration.  

Another aspect, one of the most important of the Conference, was the representation of almost all groups from all over the country, including the Kurdish population, which is subjected to ethnic-based discrimination. 

Moreover, the Conference expressed that it would evaluate the positions of political parties on the issue of ecology on the eve of the general elections, to be held in May 2023. It was stated that this election will be between those in favor of an equal, free and festive life against those who advocate ecological destruction. Not content with this, it was recorded in the final declaration of the Conference that the performance of political parties in the field of ecology will be monitored after the elections. 

A step forward

As former MP of HDP, Ertugrul Kürkçü writes in his layered analysis of the Conference, 

“The Ecology Movements Conference deserves to be taken into consideration as a renewable model that points to the possibilities of a democratic alliance from below that can quickly begin to weave against the one-man regime”.

The Conference was indeed a step forward for the environmental and ecology movements in Turkey. It filled us with hope that it will encourage women, LGBTIQ+, Kurds, Alevis, refugees and other oppressed layers to put forward their specific demands and take the elections as an opportunity to take the stage as political subjects. It also created hope for a common front of the ecology movement with struggling workers. Notably, LC Waikiki warehouse workers, who recently gave a battle against their bosses, were present at the meeting.

Below we publish the resolution voted upon at the Conference, which is indicative of the political atmosphere which prevailed.   

RESOLUTION OF ECOLOGY MOVEMENTS CONFERENCE:

WE STAND FOR FREE AND EQUAL LIFE FOR ALL BEINGS

January 21st, 2023, Istanbul

We are part of the struggle against the various types of political attacks we are experiencing, from the insatiable consumption of everything that represents the thousands of years of memory and cultural accumulation of humanity, along with all the beings that have lived and are living on the planet, to deforestation, from the excessive use of fossil fuels and the resulting extreme climate events, to the condemnation of labor to precarious, unequal life.

Today, with the experience and spirit of resistance accumulated over decades by those who struggle for environmental justice all over the world, we have held this historic gathering in Istanbul with the call of more than 70 ecological organizations and the participation of more than 100 of them. After a preparatory process that included a workshop and six webinars, we, the participants of this Conference, are united in our goal to form a program and list of demands prioritizing ecological life. We are determined to transform our lives, society and politics in this direction.

THE PERPETRATOR OF ECOLOGICAL DESTRUCTION IS CLEAR: CAPITAL

The main reason for today’s ecological crisis is the transformation of the nature of the human relationship with nature as a whole. Capitalism can only exist by commodifying nature, including human beings; we are witnessing the ecosystem being seized as private property, the enclosure of living spaces, and the transformation of every living and non-living element of the environment into commodities.

Capitalism seeks to extract new revenue streams from all kinds of disasters and damages that nature and people are exposed to. At the same time, patriarchal capitalism dominates both women and nature through similar mechanisms. The ecological crisis created by capitalism not only divides societies through extreme climate events that cause mass climate migrations, but also exposes women to the consequences of this process – such as the heavy and unpaid labor of social reproduction, the marked inequalities in the exercise of reproductive rights, the detachment from production, and the violation of the right to housing.

ECOLOGICAL CRISIS IS THE CAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC

Industrial agriculture and animal husbandry, interference with wildlife habitats, the global exotic animal trade and deforestation are the main causes of the pandemic. With the COVID-19 pandemic, on top of the annual figure of 9.2 million preventable premature deaths caused by ecological destruction, 7 million preventable deaths were added according to official figures and up to 20 million according to research. Serial work-related murders and social murders have emerged as a policy of extermination. All marginalized communities were affected disproportionately more severely by the pandemic. Healthcare services were dominated not by those who produce it, but by those who profited from unhealthiness. The pandemic has increased the reproduction functions that are entirely attributed to women, and all kinds of violence against women have become more common.

TURKEY: CLIMATE INJUSTICE DEEPENS, EVERYWHERE’S AN ECOCIDE CRIME SCENE

The government of Turkey, which has zero concern for combating the climate crisis, has introduced a Climate Law agenda to its policies based on fossil fuels, mega projects and ecological plunder. The draft Climate Law does not aim to protect natural and cultural beings, the urban memory of civilizations, nature, biodiversity and the ecological system; the draft defines the problem as “reducing carbon emissions”. By introducing the Emissions Trading System, it envisages new areas of profit for capital through carbon trade.

In terms of energy policies, Turkey’s National Energy Plan, published at the end of 2022, contains projections that will deepen the climate crisis and increase ecological and social destruction, such as increasing the installed capacity of electricity produced on coal and natural gas, and the establishment of nuclear power plants.

Today the domain of politics in Turkey is characterized by ever-accelerating ecocide policies. Agricultural areas are being destroyed by being offered to mining, energy and construction companies, and pasture areas are being allocated as nuclear waste sites due to altering of regulations. The ecological destruction in the Eastern Mediterranean in search of fossil fuels is simultaneously generating tensions between Greece and Turkey that could even lead to war. Economic growth based on the construction sector brings with it concretization, deforestation and the desertification of cities. In a country where even the most environmentally friendly municipalities compete to pour as much asphalt as possible, natural areas such as groves, pastures and orchards need protection from the institutions in charge of protecting them. Due to unscientific and unlawful practices, the slightest of rains in our cities turn into natural disasters and urban life becomes impossible. Our commons, which hold a vital value, are being turned into private property.

In a world that has witnessed the consequences of disasters at Hiroshima, Chernobyl and Fukushima on nature and human life, nuclear power plants are now considered a renewable energy source due to overnight changes in statute based on the panic of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Along with Akkuyu, nuclear power plants are being forced into our lives in Sinop with their radioactive wastes. The Kazdağları are being ransacked with cyanide pools and hell pits. We are surrounded by mega crimes such as the third airport and Canal Istanbul. Every attack on the Akbelen forest and Uludağ is directed against us.

OUR STANCE IN THE ELECTION IS IN FAVOR OF ECOLOGY

We will not be a party to these crimes committed by a handful of rich people against nature, the poor, the women, the Kurds, the LGBTI+ community, the refugees and the disabled. We know those who are liable for these crimes and those who wish to partake in them, and we will hold them accountable.

The upcoming election, unlike previous elections, has emerged as a regime choice in Turkey. We are joining forces and taking a common stance in the elections as a political subject in order to get rid of the government that has fueled its twenty-year existence with ecological destruction and plunder. We see the upcoming elections in Turkey as a stepping stone to put an end to the politics of trusteeship, the one-man regime and the ecological and social destruction it has created. In this election, the will of those who defend the environment and the cities, of the millions who took to the streets in Gezi Park protests and refused to surrender, will be visible. We will not forget that all pro-war groups participate in ecological destruction and that the exploitation of nature leads to new wars.

However, we know that the ecological crisis will not be extinguished by parliamentary arrangements or by getting rid of the AKP. That is why we will make cities, forests, streams, all natural and cultural assets the main agenda of the upcoming elections. The election day will be the largest Public Participation Meeting[1]. We know those who do not include ecology in their party platforms and those whose ecology policies are just green painting: we shall call them out at every step. Our Working Group, which we established at this conference, will examine the platforms of all political parties and alliances through the lens of ecology and we will declare where we stand in relation to said political parties and alliances.

We will not be satisfied with this: after the elections, we will record all interventions that involve ecological damage or destruction and help create mechanisms that will enable us to intervene jointly, starting today. We will act with the awareness that we are in a battle between those who want to conserve and sustain their living spaces into the future and those who want to plunder them and turn them into profit.

WE MOBILIZE FOR AN ECOLOGICAL CONVENTION, AN ECOLOGICAL LAW AND CONSTITUTION

Any constitution that prioritizes capitalist growth and delegates decisions and discretion over life to the state legitimizes the destruction of life. As ecology movements, we who want to liberate life will not negotiate such a constitution.

In many countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Colombia, Rojava and many others, ecology movements claiming their living spaces have made significant progress on ecological conventions. We will put the ecology contract into practice with other social movements and with the social power of struggle. We will elaborate on the Ecology Convention, the main principles of which we have opened for discussion in the areas of resistance and here, in the coming period. The main principles of our Ecology Convention are as follows:

  • A convention that prioritizes the rights of nature, democracy, women’s freedom and the liberation of labor
  • A non-colonialist, non-racist, non-sexist, anti-capitalist convention against exploitation and oppression, against deepening ecological destruction
  • A convention based on struggle, solidarity and internationalism; from the bottom up, from the local to the general
  • Self-governance, a convention based on local and social self-organization in which the holders of the right have a primary say in its development
  • A convention that recognizes history and peoples and protects cultural rights and beings
  • A convention based on the principle of ending the exploitation of nature and labor, where ecocide is recognized and punished as a crime
  • A convention recognizing the power of the electors to recall the elected

BASIC PRINCIPLES OF ECOLOGICAL LIVING

We are fighting for ecology as a political struggle against the oppression of corporations and governments.

Our demands are not limited to material needs; we demand not only bread but also roses! The emancipation of life is not only about reducing working hours and striving for appropriate levels of wages, but also about having control over labor and its product, about beauty, about enjoying one’s work and about the emancipation of labor-time.

At the same time:

Economic policies, currently at the service of the few rich and large corporations, must be put back at the service of the needs of the people; destructive economic growth must be curtailed by redirecting human activity to creative and pleasurable activities. Solidarity-based economic models must be strengthened against the power of money.

Science and technology, which are besieged by capitalism and stand out as the apparent causes of ecological destruction, must be freed from the guidance of capitalism, our universities from the guidance of capital, and science from its function of legitimizing and recreating the plunder of nature.

There will be no place in ecological life for any form of industries that destroy forests, aquatic ecosystems and poison people and nature.

Energy production and consumption should only exist for the production of absolutely “necessary” goods and services under conditions that are in harmony with nature.

We will reclaim our cities and our lives, which have been taken over in the name of profit; whose commons, natural areas, natural and cultural assets have been plundered; we will prioritize nature’s entry into the city, the revival of cultural life and free public services at the center of urbanization policies.

We see the right to housing as the right of all living beings, including humans, to make a home and live unhindered in the environment of their choice. We will defend the right to defend the living spaces: the soil people step on, the water they drink and the air they breathe – in other words, the right to defend their home. We will not allow forced displacement on any grounds. We will develop housing policies based on the right to housing, not profit.

As an integral part of all these, we will fight against political decisions that will disrupt the ecological balance on the grounds of war and security, ecosystem massacres, and the expulsion of local people from their living spaces. We will nourish the antimilitarist struggle. We want a future in peace.

All living beings other than the human species have the right to grow and live in conditions that ensure their well-being. We will recognize natural assets as subjects with their own rights in order to protect species and biodiversity.

CONCLUSION: TOGETHER WE WILL CHANGE, TOGETHER WE WILL LIBERATE

Our struggle is not only a defense against ecological destruction, but also aims to end the capitalist system that causes it. For this reason, we know that it has become imperative to create alternative ways of living harmoniously with nature without the politics of power, ownership and conquest, and to build another life that will free life, produce only for need, protect biodiversity, life cycles and habitats, based on agroecology and on heirloom seeds, where animals are not commodified and exploited, where intangible cultural beings are protected, and where there is NO ECOCIDE, FEMICIDE AND GENOCIDE OF WORKERS.

We want to freely work in our fields, to prepare a good future for our children, to be paid justly for our labor, and to express our ideas freely. We want justice. We want a life where one being does not oppress another being. We are trying to reclaim the life in our villages that have been dehumanized in order to re-establish a self-sufficient and healthy life. We want a life without exploitation during the day and without starvation at night[2].

This Position Paper is also a call to action. We know that ecological destruction cannot be stopped in conference rooms or by negotiating: only mass actions and collective organization from the local to the global level can bring about change. As the workers’ resistance who attended our conference said, “those who exploit nature and those who exploit labor are one and the same.” As ecology movements, we call on all struggles against the onslaught of capital and the state to march together and unite in their goals to build an equal and free life for all beings. We can dispose of this system by combining the will of local resistances. We will come together for the liberation of water from capital accumulation, for the free flow of rivers, and for the liberation of labor. We will stop being me and start to become us. We will reflect the enthusiasm and determination of this ecological struggle to the younger generations.

***

Greetings to all defenders of ecology and life, including our friends Vahap, Gönül, Mücella, Çiğdem, Mine, Tayfun and Can, who greeted our Conference from prison as we embraced each other in Gezi, where we struggled together for the sake of a couple of trees, as we broke through the walls of the hegemony of fear and oppression and passed through the “lighted gap”, and greetings to all the ecology and life defenders we joined arms with in its creation. “Freedom of life is both our concern and our decision.”

Long live the right of all beings to a free, equal and festive life!

Together we will win.

[1] Public Participation Meeting is a legal process foreseen in the environmental impact assessment processes of a project.

[2] A line from Nazim Hikmet’s poem “Salute to the Turkish Working Class”

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