Tag Archives: Environment

Another Drop In The Ocean

Turkey is in turmoil, entering a third week of protests against a backdrop of tear gas, rubber bullets and excessive police repression – this is not a happy country right now! It’s hard to know what to do, especially as a foreign resident without a vote. We have a voice via the internet but if we are too strident we risk censure – foreign criticism is a sensitive issue in this intensely proud nation.

I often pontificate that we should ‘put our money where our mouth is’ rather than grumble or mutter over a beer in some bar. Move the mountain one stone at a time – put our own drops in the bucket and all that sort of stuff. Easy to say, less easy to do.

That said, J and I are luckier than most. Thanks to the Okçular Book Project and all of our supporters at home and around the world we have funds available that may not cure all that ails this beautiful country but can, at least, brighten the day for some of our fellow villagers. This is the story, with pictures, about our village primary school’s end of year outing . .

DEKAMERFollowing a chat with the teachers, who had to overcome a load of bureaucratic crap for permission, we decided to take the whole school for a visit to the DEKAMER Marine Turtle Rehabilitation Centre at İztuzu Beach near Dalyan. Although only 10 kms away we had been amazed to learn that most of the children knew nothing about the place and what it tries to achieve. We arranged for all the children and staff to be fed an early lunch of pide (Turkish pizza) and ayran, a deliciously healthy yogurt drink. Then it was on to the buses and off to the beach . .

ayran and pide

ducks in a row

There our group was met by one of the volunteers who did a terrific job of explaining everything and introducing the children to some of the deeply traumatised ‘patients’. Perhaps the most poignant was a 65 year old Caretta that had suffered severe head and back injuries from an unguarded boat propeller. Another had lost a front limb after becoming entangled in fishing line.

65 years old and in care

Our volunteer ‘teacher’ did an amazing job and it was a delight to see how much the children were engaged with her and the subject at hand.

engrossed

After some excellent educational films a series of questions and the enthusiastically correct responses from the children and our teachers convinced J and I that this had been a really worthwhile effort.

bonding

The volunteers were thanked and the Book Project gave the children a 100 lira note to donate to the centre. A perfect ending to a perfect day – another little drop in the ocean so to speak!

donation from Okçular school and Book Project

Alan Fenn, for the Okçular Book Project

 

Interlude

This post was going to be the one that brought the ‘Mystical Tour’ to a fitting climax, but then a beautiful Spring day, the gorgeous Kösten Dağ, the mountain behind our house, and my dear J with two sets of walking boots in her hands conspired to bring about what, back in the 50’s, the ‘Beeb’ tv used to call ‘time for a short interlude’. You remember, they showed fish wandering about aimlessly in a tank or a pair of potter’s hands turning a pot accompanied by soothing music? Incredible to think that we sat there mesmerised!

Anyway, back to this interlude. J and I went up Kösten Dağ and around to the eastern facing side and we went for a very good reason apart from the walk and fresh air. Kösten is made of limestone and this corner of Turkey gets some torrential rains so the whole mountain is carved out by valleys. Some are narrow and deep and others are more broad and gentle which means that all sorts of habitats are available to be colonised and exploited by a wide variety of flora and fauna. Some are common or garden and some,  as regular readers know, are anything but! Today’s photo interlude is about the common or garden on our walk today – are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin . .

first among equals – Barlia robertiana – Giant Orchid

Romulea tempskyana – Sand Crocus

Asphodelus aestivus  – Asphodel

goats forecasting the weather

Anemone coronaria Crown Anemone

the inevitable Anemone coronaria – Crown Anemone

nest and caterpillars of Thaumetopoea pityocampa – Pine Processionary

Gagea villosa - Gagea

Gagea villosa – Gagea

view east to Çal Dağ and the western Tauros Mountains

Old Man’s Beard – clematis seed-heads

Anagyris foetida – Bean Trefoil

new life – a few minutes old

J and I have been trying to identify this for years – any ideas?

. . and here is the main reason for visiting this area at this time. There are scattered pockets of this plant all around Kösten Dağ, but on the eastern flank on the north-facing side of one valley can be seen countless numbers carpeting the hillside. Come back a week from now and you will have missed them – Iris unguicularis v. carica – Algerian Iris

IMG_3274_1

Iris unguicularis v. carica – Algerian Iris

. . . and finally . . . Ahhhh!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

What You Do Speaks So Loudly . .

. . that what you say I cannot hear! A variation on ‘Deeds speak louder than words!’

Here in Turkey I am lucky enough to live in a country that is so enthusiastic about protecting its natural environment that it has probably signed up to more treaties, conventions, agreements and memorandums of understanding than any other on the planet. Turkey ‘Talks the Talk’ like few others. The obverse of the coin, ‘Walking the Walk’ leaves something to be desired!

It would be more accurate to say that ‘Money Talks and Walks the Walk’ – in 16 years of living here I have seen example after example. I want to stress that Turkey is no better and no worse than most other countries around the world – greed, ‘primitive accumulation’ lies at the heart of the economic system; a system that commodifies everything – including the environment! If tiresome protection laws get in the way of the ‘fast buck’ then they are to be ignored, rescinded or bribed away.

The small town of Dalyan is a case in point; it sits at the heart of Turkey’s very first Specially Protected Area – the setting is stunning! Carian tombs, mountain views, amazing beach and Loggerhead Turtles, the potential for exploitation was enormous and so exploited it was!

These days the attractive old houses have been demolished and replaced by concrete.

the last of its kind, Omer’s ‘Old Turkish House’ bar in Dalyan – demolished and replaced by a row of concrete shops

Great swathes of once beautiful countryside are covered in villas that stand empty much of the year. Unregulated development means an excess of hotels, pansions, restaurants, fashion shops, boats on the river, etc., all chasing too few customers to make a decent living. The once magnificent reed beds of the Dalyan canal and delta are gone, replaced by sedge due to salination because of excessive fresh water extraction. Inadequate infrastructure means some parts of the town stink of raw sewage in the summer.

 

all that remains of old Dalyan’s charm

Tourists are now guaranteed to see endangered Caretta caretta turtles as the captains have taken to baiting them with kitchen scraps on fishing lines so they hang around instead of going off and living a natural life. Many are injured or killed by boat propellers, some have bitten tourists and had to go for ‘rehabilitation’. Much of what once drew visitors to the town has now gone – exploited away, and no amount of fancy floodlight illumination of the Carian Tombs or plastic turtles in the park will bring it back.

baiting endangered Caretta with endangered Blue Crab at Dalyan (travbuddy.com) and below the consequences

. . and one of the consequences (igougo.com)

Another case in point is the Lycian Way – Turkey’s first long distance walking route.

my copies of Clow’s books

Pioneered by Kate Clow, the route begins at Hisarönü near Fethiye in the west and ends, 500kms later, at Hisarçandır 25kms short of Antalya in the east. In between lies some of the most beautiful, rugged and unspoilt countryside to be found anywhere along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast – but, for how long? Truth be told, Turkey gets a lot of prestige but very little money out of the Lycian Way. The Lycian Way will never really be an income generating asset – unless that is it can be turned into a commodity!

Lycian Way above Ölüdeniz (anadolujet.com)

Lycian Way near Mt Olympus (lycianadventures.com)

‘Tadaaaa!’ Welcome to the future as Ölüdeniz Belediyesi (local council) blithely drives the thin end of a very big wedge under its end of this world famous, world class walk. How? By granting permission, admittedly together with the Environmental Agency for hotel development on the first few hundred metres of the route, and then allowing the bulldozing of the ancient path to make way for the standard, 7mt wide, access road.

getting it wrong – the future for the Lycian Way

. . is that the rustle of leaves or banknotes I hear?

It won’t stop there of course, it never does. There will be others anxious to give tourists access to this most beautiful, rugged and unspoilt path by building hotels, swimming pools and restaurants (whilst making a little honest income, of course). And they’ll be ready to grease the odd palm to do so! Just as has happened at Hasankeyf and so many other places money will trump ÇET (environmental impact) reports and the earth-moving machines will be in before you can organise a protest group. The damage will be done, shoulders will be shrugged and the wedge will get another surreptitious tap or two from the bulldozer.

One day those who jumped on the bandwagon will wake up and realise that the very things that drew visitors to the area have disappeared along with the visitors. There will be much wringing of hands and midnight flits; the once snazzy ‘butik’ hotels will become sleezy flop-houses as overheads outstrip income. I predict that the ‘patient’ will straight-line within a few years. The Lycian Way, one of Turkey’s genuine, long-term assets will have been ‘Dalyanised’ and no amount of green fluorescent strip lighting or plastic palm trees will bring it back.

armageddonMass tourism, that ‘pile-it-high flog-it-cheap’ commodity has had its day and is declining rapidly. Unless the politicos, local and national, wake up to the real worth of this beautiful, historic country that they have inherited, and start to protect and defend that worth then sustainable tourism is finished. Not in my lifetime, it’s too late for people my age, but what about your grandchildren Başkan – don’t they deserve something better than the ‘fast buck’ you are offering now?

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Mantis Pantry

The Praying Mantis by Ogden Nash

‘From whence arrived the praying mantis?
From outer space, or lost Atlantis?
Glimpse the grim, green metal mug
that masks the pseudo-saintly bug.
Orthopterous, carnivorous,
And faintly whisper, Lord deliver us!’

 

‘Martian’ from BBC’s 1958 Quatermass and the Pit

Sphodromantis viridis African or Bush Mantis (the Star and Best Supporting Actor)

. . with over 2400 species spread around the world’s temperate and tropical regions these creatures have to be regarded as pretty successful having shown up in fossils from as long ago as the Cretaceous Period (145 million years ago). Their closest relatives (believe it or not) are termites and cockroaches! Good company to be in if you want to survive into an uncertain future. They have featured as the ‘baddies’ in one form or another in all sorts of B Movies and Horror Films (my personal favorite BBC’s Quatermass and the Pit) and it’s hard to understand why.

J and I are off to Tuscany for a week in a few days and who knows if there will be an e-lifeline, so, to keep you entertained I proudly present . . .

Filmed on location in our garden a couple of days ago.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Meet Me Mates!

. . or Getting Up Close And Personal With Some Of The Oiks Of Okçular!

J and I often have close encounters with some very strange looking characters; it’s a hazard of living where we do away from a lot of the disturbance created by human activity. Generally, we are delighted to get chummy with them and only occasionally will discretion dictate some serious caution about getting involved too closely; a decision usually dictated by an aggressive, NIMBY-ish attitude on their part.

What follows is a photo intro to just a few of our local characters; (in the main taken in and around our garden) the pictures are not necessarily of the finest quality and not everyone has a name. In some cases you might not want to know them anyway . . let’s make a gentle start . .

Convolvulus Hawk Moth

J makes the acquaintance of a male Predatory Bush Cricket (Saga pedo)

Barrel Spider or Wind Scorpion – these guys have an attitude problem!

Syrian Squirrel – the family give us hours of entertainment

voyeurism – a very intimate and sticky moment!

 young Leopard Snake

Fire Salamander – Lyciasalamandra fazliae (critically endangered endemic)

Viennese Emperor Moth (largest European moth)

 J with an Ostrich of Okçular (true)

Chameleon

‘Don’t shoot guv!’

young Cone-head Mantis

the famous Carl Frogarty and some of his concubines

Brown Bush Cricket (female)

 eyeball to eyeball with newly emerged Emperor Moth

dinner time

head shape says ‘viper’ – eyes and nose-plates say Rat Snake – any ideas?

. . and finally a perfect miniature

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Testing – Testing

This post is by way of a try-out for a slide show – so maybe you’ll see it, and maybe you won’t. Maybe it’ll be here later and maybe it will have been kicked into touch! Maybe it’ll be something different from the usual waffle – and maybe it won’t!

If it works, here are just some of the beautiful ‘Orchids of Okçular’ – if it doesn’t work then here are not some of the beautiful ‘Orchids of Okçular’!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

The Way To a (Wo)man’s Heart Is Through Her . .

Even occasional readers of the twaddle on this blog will know about J and her compost heaps – her passion and love for that which enriches her soil knows no bounds! A few years ago, a professor of horticultural science from our local university suggested that she should accompany him to meetings with local farmers in an attempt to educate them on the benefits of composting. She is also very enthusiastic for the creatures that show their appreciation of her efforts by moving in to the centrally heated, organic warehouses that are her heaps. (these heaps get hot enough to cook in and to prove the point, I did) Huge grubs are proudly displayed; mouse nests are carefully moved and blinking great, fat toads are gently transferred to new homes away from the dangers of her garden fork whenever she sets about the job of moving her ‘pride and joy’ from bin to garden.

a pat in the right place

Now, J and I have been together for a long time – a fact that never ceases to surprise and delight us. Expectations that a hot-house rose from Zambia, or a half pound box of Cadbury’s Milk Tray will be all that is needed to curry a favour or two, have faded as cholesterol and blood pressure pills (together with a red meat, salt and fat free diet) have kicked in. However, with age and experience comes a wily cunning – I know exactly how to woo the lady of my life, and set her Yorkshire heart a flutter. The days of climbing up the vine to her balcony, rose clamped between teeth, may be over, but a pat in the right place at the right time is all it takes!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

“Come Into The Garden, Maud(lin) – tra-la-la!”

Toprakana - Mother Earth
Toprakana - Mother Earth

Good old ‘Toprakana’ (Mother Earth); she knows when to put on a show to cheer up her supporters. Faced with the destruction being wrought by Dalyan Belediye on one side of our house, she has raised the proverbial ‘two-fingered salute’ by scattering a small selection of her finest works on the bit of hillside we call our back garden.

Here’s a few of her offerings to ‘warm the cockles of your heart!’ No more being maudlin!

Funny sort of word, ‘maudlin’ – meaning sad and tearful it’s derived from old English from Mary Magdelene, sad and weeping at the tomb of Jesus. Magdelene College, Oxford is pronounced ‘Maudlin’ – not many people know that!

 

 

Giant Orchid – Himantoglossum robertianum (formerly Barlia robertiana)

This beauty is not uncommon but is rather ‘picky’ where it lives – grows in profusion around the mountains and valleys of Okçular.

Wild Peach - Prunus persicum

Wild peach is easy to distinguish from Almond blossom by the deeper pink of the petals.

Woodcock Orchid - Ophrys scolapax

Woodcock Orchids are incredibly ‘promiscuous’ and appear in many guises.

Friar's or Monk's Cowl - Arisarum vulgari

Monk’s Cowl is a member of the Arum family and a plant of shady, damper spots.

Laurustinus or Viburnum tinus

This beautiful shrub is a veritable ‘honey-pot’ of a plant, attracting many insects.

Liquid Amber or Frankincense Tree - Liquidamber orientalis

The Liquid Amber or Frankincense Tree is a remarkable tree with remarkable properties, to learn more, click the link. It is endemic to SW Turkey and grows around Okçular and my garden. This picture shows the two red, drooping female flowers and the fine, upstanding male in the middle (seems pretty normal to me!).

Fritillaria carica ssp carica

These delicate Fritillaria are a joy to see; together with F. acmopetala, F. sibthorpiana and F. whittalii they make the family that I know around here.

Fritillaria carica ssp carica

. . and to finish, a simple, beautiful daisy.

Southern Daisy - Bellis sylvestris

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Mister Bird

Little Owl
Little Owl checking out the goings-on in the spare bedroom

My fellow villagers are a funny old lot – farmers almost to a man (or woman) and mostly country born and bred. Even so, when I ask them what that is – indicating a dragonfly or cricket – ‘Böcek!’ they exclaim. And that? (a beetle) ‘Böcek!’

It’s the same with birds – what do you call that? (jay) ‘Kuş!’ And that? (robin) ‘Kuş!’ There are few exceptions and this continues to astound me, even after 15 years.

When I was a kid growing up in the countryside we bumpkins knew the names of every reptile, insect and bird species whose eggs we plundered for our collections (do be forgiving, nobody had heard of environmentalism back then; this was how it was!). Many of the creatures were known by their local name – it was years before I realised that a ‘Throssle’ was a Song Thrush. Here in Okçular there doesn’t seem to be the same interest, a böcek is a böcek and a kuş is a kuş – what else do you need to know?

Mind you, there is one particular exception, ‘Baykuş’ or Mister Bird. Mister Bird is an owl, which is a dignified and appropriate term of address for a most dignified and intelligent looking creature.

Owls are not let off the ‘böcek’ or ‘kuş’ hook entirely. There are Little Owls, Scops Owls, Tawny Owls and other owls – but they are, to a bird, all labelled with the same monika – ‘Baykuş’ – Mister Birds to a man (or woman).

Tawny Owl

Turks are also a bit superstitious about owls, seeing them as bringers of bad luck – harbingers of doom and such. All of which causes our neighbours some consternation because for a number of years we’ve had a beautiful Tawny Owl living in one of our chimney pots. Not only consternation but incredulity that we are happy about it! In fact, we give off so many happy vibes that, this winter a second Tawny has moved into an adjacent condo – two down, two to go! We also get visits from Little Owls and Scops Owls.

Living where we do at the edge of the forest, without street lights (another source of neighbourly worry and consternation) and other distractions, we can sit outside or lie abed and listen to these beautiful creatures calling and answering each other. When the stars are out or the moon is high they add extra enchantment to an already spellbinding experience.

Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo)

Soon after we moved here, J was driving home quite late one evening and had stopped the car just outside our gate. I went out to see what the problem was and was treated to the most fantastic sight – standing in the beam of the headlights was an enormous bird – an Eagle Owl! J’s nose was glued to the windscreen watching this magnificent creature from just a few metres away. The owl sat there for a while before gathering itself and lifting off silently and disappearing into the night like something returning to another dimension. This is the only Eagle Owl I’ve been fortunate enough to see here – the experience is burned into my memory banks.

I don’t have any photos of that night, so we must make do with these stock images.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

and just after you've really pissed it off!

Yuvarlakçay – Two Years On – The T-Shirt

Occupy cartoon
'Occupy Everything'

My last post, ‘Yuvarlakçay – Two Years On’ complete with video of the ‘Lionesses’ raised a lot of interest, especially via social networking. Many found the story of protest against corporate greed and bureaucratic vindictiveness heartwarming and fascinating and were encouraged; especially in these times of protest and ‘occupy’ around the world.

I was amazed to learn, for example, that some students in the US were ‘aghast’ that community organising could happen ‘in a country like Turkey’. For me it illustrates very clearly how wrapped up in ourselves we ‘Westerners’ can be – how Orientalism lives on by feeding on a diet of ignorance, intolerance and general lack of interest in the lives, culture and social conditions of so many of our fellow human beings.

That said, this post is about a quick follow-up on the situation for the Yuvarlakçay River and the villagers of Pınarköy who were the backbone of the resistance.

military at Yuvarlakcay
the military arrive . .

Many of you asked if the battle was won, and my answer was a provisional ‘Yes!’ Today came

Yuvarlakcay villagers stop military
. . and the villagers stop them

confirmation from the Yuvarlakçay Protection Platform (organising committee and supporters) that the law suits against the following bureaucratic organisations of the state had all been successful – Governorship of Muğla (our province); State Waterworks Directorate; General Directorate of Forests; Muğla Provincial Administration; Muğla Provincial Directorate of Environment; Muğla Regional Office for Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage; Environmental Protection Authority for Special Areas; Ministry of Culture and the Energy Market Regulation Authority.

I invite you to read that list again – and applaud the efforts of our pro bono lawyer Berna and the determination of the people!

Yuvarlakcay general assembly occupy style
General Assembly just like the Occupy Movement

The Government filed law suits against a number of protestors by way of intimidation – all

Yuvarlakcay women chained to tree
women chained themselves to 'Tree 23' to prevent cutting

have been dismissed!

17 villagers were targeted by the government and had fines imposed for so-called ‘illegal’ buildings – we are awaiting the outcome of appeals. Whatever the result people will stand together and share any burden.

The campaign raised a fighting fund of TL41,491 (Turkish Lira) from personal donations and TL13,390 from activities. After all expenses (the

Yuvarlakcay 'Tree 23' is now a Wishing Tree
'Tree 23' saved and now a Wishing Tree

lawyers worked for free but the courts, advertising, fuel, food, media, etc cost money) there was a surplus of TL1184 which was donated for projects at Pınarköy Junior School, as previously agreed.

Meanwhile, to quote the Platform and villagers, ‘our eyes will be wide open for any threat.’

Just writing this has made me feel good – I hope our success will inspire you and others to stand up against all that is rotten in the economic system. As a fellow blogger commented ‘People Power At Its Best!’

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

 

Yuvarlakcay villagers on tree-planting
villagers march with new saplings to replace cut trees
Yuvarlakcay planting trees
planting for our future
Yuvarlakcay Torchlight Protest
New Years Eve 2009 Torchlight protest

Yuvarlakcay New Years Eve 2009