Celebrating A Decade of Inspiration: The Green Belt Initiative
Between the former East and West Germany runs one of the most fortified boundaries on the globe. During the Cold War the Iron Curtain stood imposingly between Germany’s capitalist and communist states, together with dog runs, land mine fields, concrete tank traps, and border patrol paths
The amazing transformation of the former East-West border stands as an inspiration to the world even as it is remembered a grim reminder of the war-torn past. After the Iron Curtain came down in November of 1989, the border became the interest of scientists and conservationists. Even in the early 1970s satellite photos showed a dark green strip of old-growth forest along parts of the border. Scientists observed a range of species including several endangered ones becoming rare in Europe living in the area. In spite of scientists’ and conservationists’ discovery, many still wanted every trace of the East-West border to be erased from the reunited nation’s geography, quite understandably for the unpleasant memories it brought. Others wanted to develop the area and use it as a connection between industries on both sides. However, the wealth of biodiversity convinced authorities to preserve it instead.
Today the East-West border is part of the European Green Belt. It runs around 12,500 kilometers across 24 nations including Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Poland, Finland, and others. The Green Belt connects a network of key protected areas which conserve biodiversity, such as national parks, biosphere reserves and other transboundary protected areas. The IUCN’s The Green Belt of Europe From Vision to Reality lists a range of priority areas along the border that shows the rich diversity of habitats and ecosystem it supports: alluvial corridors and wetlands, coastal ecosystems, high mountain ecosystems, alpine biotopes, steppes, grassland areas and others. The Green Belt is home to more than 600 rare and endangered species in Europe.
The European Green Belt Initiative was established to preserve the ecological backbone of Europe and by doing so transform a symbol of human conflict into an inspiring model of conservation in Europe. The initiative also promotes sustainable development alongside nature conservation. It aims to do this by increasing opportunities for regional socio-economic development of local communities along the border.
The European Green Belt Initiative will celebrate its 10th year anniversary this May in Berlin, organized by EuroNatur and BUND – Friends of the Earth Germany together with the German Environmental Ministry and the German Federal Agency. The event will be hosted by the German Federal Environment Minister Peter Altmaier. Representatives from the European Union as well as from the riparian states of the EGB are expected to join the celebration and international symposium regarding the EGB.
The ugly past of the East-West border does not lessen the beauty of nature and wildlife now thriving there, but enriches it with rare meaning and significance. It’s good to know that even in the most tragic of places where humans have failed to let their better side win, there is always hope that change for the better is possible and still within our reach.
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