WE ARE DELIGHTED TO HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK TO YOU. OBVIOUSLY, 2016 IS A BIG YEAR FOR IDEA, WHICH IS MARKING FIVE YEARS OF ITS OPERATION. WE WOULD LIKE TO CONGRATULATE YOU ON THIS ANNIVERSARY AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR IMPORTANT EFFORTS IN PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT. HAVE THESE BEEN DIFFICULT FIVE YEARS FOR A FAIRLY YOUNG ORGANIZATION SUCH AS IDEA?
I am happy that our endeavors are supported and appreciated by the public as well as the media. Have these been tough five years? Yes, absolutely. But again, no one anticipated this to be an easy job – that was the challenge. From the very outset, we realized that protecting nature and achieving sustainability was a complex, multifaceted and interlinked process. We cannot focus our efforts solely on removing the symptoms of a disease, without treating the disease itself. For instance, merely cleaning polluted areas will only be a temporary solution if we don’t raise awareness and promote responsible consumption among the public. Therefore, our approach is to simultaneously address multiple core areas to achieve the most effective problem solution. This is a demanding and timeconsuming mission, which requires extensive human and material resources, and I am satisfied with the results achieved in a relatively short time.
“I am deeply grateful for the support of thousands of concerned individuals, especially young people, who were with us from the beginning.”
WOULD IT BE FAIR TO SAY THAT THE MAJORITY OF IDEA’S ACTIVITIES ARE DEVOTED TO ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION? DO YOU BELIEVE THAT IS WHERE THE KEY TO SUSTAINABILITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTIONS LIES?
The misconception that people can take nature and its resources for granted must be overcome. Educating people about Earth’s vulnerabilities, helping them see the direct link between environmental degradation and human activity, and highlighting the urgency of the matter – all this can really make a difference in getting people on board for environmental action and sustainable living.
From day one, IDEA has prioritized education as the best way to win people’s hearts and minds so that they commit to protecting the environment and behaving responsibly towards it. These people, especially youth, will pass on the message and motivate others, who, in their turn, will take it further.
This is exactly why IDEA devotes so much attention to education and awareness raising and, every year, we expand our agenda with new study activities covering three pillars of the young generation –children as young as 5 years of age, students and young professionals. Among such activities are numerous training sessions, scientific courses, seminars, lectures, vacation camps, field studies and conversation clubs. Each year, hundreds of young people benefit from IDEA’s educational projects.
Our awareness programs involve attracting public attention and engaging the society in public events. Throughout the city, we have installed billboards, banners and ads featuring environmental calls, as well as green corners. In late 2013, we decided to make documentary films about the nine national parks of Azerbaijan. We labelled this project “Nine Miracles of Azerbaijan”. Three of the films have already been produced and shown to public. Another remarkable project of IDEA was the introduction of new postage stamps illustrating IDEA’s Big Five endangered species in the Caucasus the brown bear, imperial eagle, grey wolf, gazelle and Caucasian leopard.
People should know the value of the treasures they hold before losing them completely. So, I think that helping people appreciate the nature of Azerbaijan and the region is the least we can do to contribute to global environmental efforts aimed at saving our common Planet.
WHAT IS THE FOCUS OF SOME OF IDEA’S CURRENT EFFORTS AND WHAT NEW INITIATIVES CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE IN THE YEARS AHEAD?
IDEA attaches great importance to the preservation of our region’s rich biodiversity. We have taken a number of practical steps to preserve some of the endangered species of the Caucasus.
IDEA’s milestone project “Reintroduction of gazelles to their historical habitat in the Caucasus” was launched in 2013. The project aims to increase the population of goitered gazelles in the region and relocate them in the areas where they previously lived, but disappeared for various reasons. Similarly, an action plan has been prepared on the reintroduction of bisons and we intend to open a breeding center for them in the Ismayilli district.
In 2014, IDEA increased its efforts to save the Caucasian leopard from extinction. We have organized the Caucasus Cat Summit in Baku, which brought together prominent international cat experts from all around the world and which became the starting point for future efforts in this regard. As a result, IDEA and the Zoological Society of London published a joint report entitled “Recovery of the Leopard in Azerbaijan”, which contained practical recommendations on the issue. Currently, IDEA and its partners are in the process of undertaking the necessary preparation works for the successful implementation the national roadmap that is based on these recommendations. We recently launched cooperation with the Leopard Breeding and Rehabilitation Centre at the Sochi National Park to advance leopard protection and restoration efforts in Azerbaijan.
IDEA also closely cooperates with the leading international experts, notably from the Blue Marine Foundation, with a view to protect and restore the biodiversity of the Caspian.
“We are committed to conserve Azerbaijan’s biodiversity and to implement similar projects to restore other endemic species of the region that face the threat of extinction.”
Another important part of our work is the protection and expansion of green spaces, especially in urban areas. IDEA’s tree saving efforts include two aspects – prevention and increase. We launched our “No tree cutting!” programme in 2014 to combat and prevent unlawful cutting and removal of trees and shrubs. The 1113 hotline and mobile response team has been created. The program is widely supported by the society and public control over illegal destruction of greeneries has been strengthened since the launch of the program. Since its establishment, IDEA has also organized a number of tree-planting campaigns, as a result of which over 5 million trees have been planted in the country. Indeed, we are planningto persistently carry on our efforts in this regard.
AS AN ARTIST, MANY OF YOUR WORKS TOUCH ON THE THEME OF NATURE, IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. DO YOU THINK THIS REFLECTS YOUR STRONG COMMITMENT AND PASSION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION?
It is true that the theme of harmony with nature and sources of life is central in my creative process. My focus on wildlife stems from my realization of unity of humans and nature. My artworks merely echo my interpretation of this unity. Development of civilizations, industry and technology, and the process of urbanization – all of these thingsmake people forget that we are all in the realm of nature; we are part of nature. And the harshreality is that those human activities that violate the laws of nature threaten to bring great global calamities. Our utmost responsibility is to be the howling voice of Mother Nature, which houses us and provides us with everything needed for our existence and way of life. This is what drives me as an environmentalist.
“I was happy to have an opportunity to merge art and environmental action as part of our awareness-raising activities.”
Сommunicating environmental problems through art has proved to be an effective method of attracting public attention. IDEA both organized and supported a number of art events in Azerbaijan and beyond, including traditional exhibitions and street art events, which enjoyed great public interest.
LEYLA KHANUM, WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK YOU AGAIN FOR EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING FOR OUR ENVIRONMENT ANDFUTURE GENERATIONS. TO CONCLUDE, IS THERE SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SAY TO OUR YOUNG READERS?
I would like to call upon everyone – both young and old generations – not to ignore the plight of our Planet. Our common home is changing and it is the kind of change that has no upside for mankind. Everyone’s actions,lifestyles and habits have an impact on the environment in one way or another. Hence, everyone must do their part to ensure our common sustainable future.