LOS ANGELES—A leading figure in Armenia’s environmental movement was in Los Angeles on December 6th, 2012 speaking at a town hall event about the looming ecological disaster facing Armenia and the rise of a new generation of activists, committed to protecting and preserving their homeland.
The event, organized by the Armenian Youth Federation, ARF “Shant” Student Associatio), and the All-Armenian Student Association (All-ASA) featured a discussion led by prominent activist Yeghia Nersesian of the Save Teghut Movement.
“The government’s support of the Teghut mining project is not only destroying Armenian lives and villages, but also, by annihilating the beautiful ecosystem, the leadership is working against their own goals of increasing tourism,” explained Nersesian. “Through our demonstrations and protests, we are not trying to create a revolution in the country, but instead hope to spark a revolution within ourselves, as a people and society.”
Nersesian illustrated the consequences of the Teghut mining initiative and emphasized its negative impact on the country’s ecology and health of the population in the region. By highlighting the “Save Teghut” movement along with efforts to save Mashtots Park, Nersesian drew a connection between the rise of environmental activism among youth in the country and its connection to increased activism and a larger movement for democracy in Armenia.
“We believe it is our responsibility to raise awareness in our community, about the ecological disaster unfolding in Armenia, and more importantly, about the young men and women risking everything to try and save our homeland from an irreversible environmental meltdown,” said AYF Chairperson, Avedis Shanlian. “It is imperative that we support and join these activists as they continue to struggle for a better, more democratic Armenia.”
“Save Teghut” is an environmental movement that demands an immediate stop to all mining operations by the Valex group at Teghut Forest. Though much of the forests many thousands of acres have already been destroyed, open-pit mining on the mountain has not yet begun. If Valex is allowed to exploit the mine, the process will destroy the surrounding eco-system and displace numerous villages in Armenia.
Following Nersesian’s presentation, the audience led a discussion highlighting the positive progression of Armenian civil society, while condemning the Armenian government’s lack of accountability to its people and its broken commitment to upholding democratic principles.
“The fact that we are sitting here today and critically evaluating our government and the state of country, proves that the 21st century can give us the tools to make change in a different way; by recognizing the power of social media and the power of the masses,” explained Nersesian. “As citizens, we are responsible for protecting the well-being of our homeland and we cannot wait for others to defend us and our country in times of injustice.”
Nersesian concluded the event by emphasizing the importance of activism in the face of injustice, whether it is in Armenia or in the Diaspora.
Founded in 1933, the Armenian Youth Federation is the largest and most influential Armenian American youth organization in the United States, working to advance the social, political, educational and cultural awareness of Armenian-American youth.