On June 5, World Environment Day, scientists are giving strong warnings about the climate crisis and its effects on the environment.
5 June World Enviroment DayScientists in Turkey are giving strong warnings about the climate crisis and its effects on the environment. Located in the Mediterranean basin, one of the regions where these effects are felt most intensely in the world. Turkey Danger bells have been ringing for a long time.
The list of environmental problems in Turkey is quite extensive: Deforestation, loss of water resources, the impact of climate change on people and nature, pollution of the seas and soil, air pollution, fossil fuels, waste and garbage problems…
Recently, mucilage emerged in the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus, further deepening environmental concerns. However, according to experts, the danger may not always be so visible.
Although a pessimistic picture emerges when the problems are written one after the other, scientists agree that the solution is not “impossible”. However, some problems that have become chronic make it even more difficult to find solutions for the environment.
1. ‘No step is taken until it reaches the point of no return’
One complaint of scientists and environmental experts is that no action is taken on environmental problems ‘before the point of no return’ is reached.
Climate change and environmental problems can spread over a long period of time. Therefore, serious changes are not always visible to the naked eye. Waiting for a problem to become obvious sometimes means it’s too late for a solution.
BBC TurkishSpeaking to , Bogazici University Institute of Environmental Sciences Faculty Member Dr. İrem Daloğlu Çetinkaya cites the problem of ‘sea saliva’, or mucilage, covering the Bosphorus as an example:
“We decide to fix the problems after we have passed the breaking point. We take action from the very beginning, not at the point where we see the problem, but after the system has crashed.
“Mucilage is an example of this. The system is down, it gives a red alert, but at this point we look at ‘How can we solve this,’ in a panic, because we did not pay attention to any of the previous warnings. That’s why environmental problems are stamped ‘unsolvable’.”
prof. Dr. Murat Türkeş confirms this situation by saying that there have been warnings for more than 30 years that there is an irreversible environmental problem in the Bosphorus.
Boğaziçi University Climate Change Center Board Member Prof. Dr. Murat Türkeş says, “We have talked morning and night for 30 years, but Istanbul has come to this. What will happen was very clear 30 years ago. Our teachers wrote very clearly that the Marmara Sea is dead and that if it continues like this, it is impossible to return.”
Not taking steps before the problems become visible is one of the main reasons that delay the solution of environmental problems.
2. Exceptions to laws and ‘special permissions’
The way the laws are implemented also comes into play when environmental problems in Turkey seem to be ‘insolvable’. Because when we ask the experts which laws should be prepared, we get the answer, “First, the existing laws should be implemented properly”.
The story of the laws regulating the protection of forests and mining activities are among the most striking examples.
Laws regulating mining activities in Turkey have been amended 21 times since 2001. 5 of the 21 amendments relate to Article 7, which regulates mining permits.
According to experts, with each change, more nature assets, forest ecosystems, water assets and cultural heritage have become open to mining activities.
prof. Dr. Murat Türkeş says that there is not a single protection status in Turkey that protects nature, forests and cultural assets against mining activities:
“Mines, energy, exaggerated highways, bridges, junctions, whatever comes to mind… When it comes to these, none of Turkey’s wealth matters. All this wealth is considered as an area of rent.
“Actually, there are laws in general. But the changes made on them, special permits, all changes made against nature, forests, agricultural areas, water basins must be abolished.”
Another example of the problems created by breaches in laws and regulations is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports.
The purpose of applying the EIA report system is to measure the impact of projects on the environment. However, there are intense criticisms of environmental experts that it has already lost this purpose. In many environmental lawsuits, it is argued that the EIA reports are not prepared scientifically and that the reports are for show.
For example, in the EIA report on the felling of trees for gold mining by Alamos Gold near Kazdağları in 2019, many reports were written that the calculation of the number of trees was incorrect.
The Foresters Association of Turkey stated that the number of trees to be cut was 45 thousand 650 in the EIA report, but as a result of the examination made based on official records, the number of trees to be cut was 348 thousand. That is about 7 times the number in the EIA report.
The latest example of the law being overturned was the revelation that 13 coal power plants that were supposed to be shut down in early 2020 were still operating.
According to the report “Customized Thermal Power Plants and Compliance Processes with Environmental Legislation” published by the Climate Change Policy and Research Association (IDPAD), a temporary activity certificate was issued for these power plants that did not fully make the investments required by the environmental legislation and did not solve the flue gas and wild waste storage problems. Allowed.
3. ‘The consumer is not aware of his power’
According to experts, the failure of consumers to take a stand on certain issues and the lack of a holistic approach to environmental problems are also effective in keeping the problems ‘unsolvable’.
The approach to the problems in Turkey’s water resources is an important example of this.
According to scientists, the perception that Turkey does not have a water problem due to its geographical structure and location does not reflect the truth.
Countries with an annual per capita water amount of more than 8 thousand cubic meters are water rich, countries with less than 2,000 cubic meters of water are among the countries with water scarcity, and countries with less than one thousand cubic meters are among the water poor countries. According to the data of the State Hydraulic Works (DSI), the annual per capita amount of water in Turkey is approximately 1519 cubic meters. With this amount, Turkey is in the category of countries suffering from water scarcity.
Dr. İrem Daloğlu Çetinkaya asked her students, “How can Turkey be poor in water?” He says he asked:
“People think, ‘When I turn on the tap, water comes out.’ Because they do not know where the water comes from. In Istanbul, water is carried from the surrounding basins.”
Stating that there are problems in both the amount of water and the quality of water in Turkey, Çetinkaya said, “Why may water be insufficient in Turkey?” The question can only be understood when a holistic approach is adopted:
“The water we use indirectly is more than we use directly. We ignore this part because we do not see it. As consumers, we do not realize our power. We have a power beyond ‘let’s turn off the running water while brushing our teeth’.”
It is underlined that consumers should also know their “water footprints”.
The water footprint is the total amount of water used in the products consumers buy, from the clothes they buy to the food they consume.
Dr. İrem Daloğlu Çetinkaya is of the opinion that the disconnect between the scientific world and society also plays a role in the problem of awareness:
“Complex and dynamic systems are not easy to understand. But that doesn’t mean we are powerless. How did people rise up for mucilage? Now they are making their voices heard because they have now had the opportunity to see it. There is also a disconnect in communication between science and society.”
4. Deficiencies in environmental education
Environmental education in Turkey is given at primary, secondary and high school levels. However, in the course contents, criticisms are frequently expressed that there are deficiencies in establishing cause-effect relationships and understanding human-nature relations.
Stating that environmental awareness should be taken from the first steps of the education system, Boğaziçi University Faculty Member Dr. İrem Daloğlu Çetinkaya notes that if the facts are seen as a whole, students may react differently:
“Some concepts and values, unfortunately, are more difficult to establish in later ages. Starting from pre-school education, the relationship and balance between nature and human should be seen and, if possible, experienced. Students at primary, secondary and high school levels discuss these phenomena, but because they do not see cause-effect relationships in a holistic way. they don’t know.”
Stating that environmental courses may be made compulsory in universities, Çetinkaya also reminds that these courses are required for students in other countries.
Last year, Italy became the first country to make climate change and sustainable development lessons compulsory in schools.