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Taming the Garden
A billionaire conquering the natural world
Hundreds of centuries-old trees are uprooted, loaded onto trucks and transported to a billionaire’s garden. They tower over the landscape while driven through towns and villages. Enthralled residents wander zombie-like in their shadow. Others stare with dismay whilst making the sign of the cross. Taming the Gardenfilms these strange sights in communities around Georgia. I don’t expect these people to know the science behind trees' life-sustaining impact or could describe the way they heal and nurture our planet. But they seem to feel something is not right.
Forests cover 41% of Georgia. They are home to many species and provide sustenance to humans. We know that trees are vital to life on earth. They protect and enhance the soil. Regulate the water cycle. Prevent natural calamities and suck up carbon. All this is under threat because of the whims of one very wealthy person. Bidzina Ivanishvili supposedly loves trees and wants to protect them by planting them in his park. But he's devoured the natural landscape to enable this “environmental protection”. New roads and piers were built to help shunt the trees onto rafts. A river widened to make room for a massive barge.
Ivanishvili has few qualms when it comes to environmental extraction. He earned billions from buying and selling shares in mines in post-Soviet Russia. Two of these were iron ore mines. The market for this resource causes more carbon emissions than countries like Colombia, Israel and Chile. In 2014 a fund controlled by Ivanishvili launched the “Panorama” real estate project in the Georgian capital Tbilisi. To make room for its construction, the fund cut down swathes of forest in the hills overlooking the city.
After all the damage from private jets, luxury yachts and fleets of SUVs, billionaires are now reconfiguring the environment to suit their tastes. After spewing carbon on helicopter and submarine journeys, the 0.1% want to commodify our life support systems. After devouring the planet’s resources to build mansions, the rich want to syphon off the natural world into their private domains.
Georgians watching in alarm at those trees being wrested away had a natural reaction. For millennia humans have existed symbiotically with nature. We hurt at the sight of our livelihoods being dismantled. Ivanishvili’s environmental atrocities show us how our world is threatened when the wealthiest are left unchecked.
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