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Environmentalism, HES and Dam Projects and Return Migration on the Black Sea

sofia 2

When we began our trip we had clear guidelines for the ventures that we were going to visit in all of the places that we were going to go to. Nevertheless the plan for Camlıhemşin seemed more nebulous since we were not visiting any particular venture that was concerned with social innovation. We mostly heard that we were going to speak to people that had created opposition to the HES and dam projects that were planned by the government. We also heard a lot about the social development of this area and about how the population is aging and because of emigration there are few young people. At the same time a few of the people we talked to were return migrants to this region, having some sort of family connection to the area, but having left when they were children or young adults. We were able to piece these trends together after we had the chance to talk to a number of different people.

Today we started off by heading to the Fırtına Pansyion where we got to meet Selçuk, who was originally from this area, but lived in Samsun for years, choosing to move back a few years ago. He talked to us about Savaş, a man educated outside of this area, who later returned with his children and German wife in order to foster economic development in the region by trying to bring new economic activities such as  raising chickens and growing azaleas. Selçuk felt a strong connection to what Savaş advocated and eventually became one of his “disciples”. Savaş’s son, Evrim also lives in this region today. We met with him later in the day. Even though Savaş died when Evrim was young Evrim was profoundly influenced by his father’s ideas and hopes to sponsor development in this area through eco-tourism.

After meeting Selçuk we headed up the hill to meet with Vatandaş (Citizen) Mustafa, an environmental activist from this region who is involved with the AKP government in an effort to sponsor environmental protection of this area.

Most of what we did today was related to environmental activism and the question of how to create jobs and employment in the Black Sea without destroying the environment. This is an important issue because as we found out repeatedly throughout the day there is a lot of emigration  from this region. There are few children, not enough to keep most of the schools open and those children who do live in this area often end up going to boarding schools in the bigger coastal cities since the schools in this area are sparse and of doubtful quality. We got a closer view of this issue as we talked to Betul, a girl whose father had decided to move back to this area after he retired from the army. This was also manifested in the recurrent theme of return migration that we saw as Selçuk, Betul’s father and Evrim had lived in the big city, but felt compelled to come back to this region eventually, both in search of a more peaceful life and in search of alternatives to develop tourism as well as conservation in the region. Their families had originally moved from this region searching for jobs or looking for a college education. It was interesting to see the different perspectives of Selçuk and Evrim in comparison to Vatandaş Mustafa. Even though the first two had roots in the region they had become educated in western schools, away from this region and came back seeking to change in through small initiatives mostly concerning tourism. On the other hand Mustafa has lived in this area during his whole life and even though he only completed primary school education he is extremely knowledgeable about the HES projects and is advocating for this region on a larger scale, becoming directly involved with the AKP and currently serving on its local board. Meeting with these different kinds of people gave us the perspective of innovation explicitly within the system and innovation in the way that Defne presented it previously, on a small and gradual scale without necessarily being directly involved with the existing government.

Our meetings during the day gave us a lot to think about in terms of the Black Sea region, what challenges it faces on both an environmental and on a demographic level and what people in this area are trying to do to preserve it and develop it at the same time.