Some time ago I received an impromptu e-mail from an individual who has been advocating the protection of millennial olive trees in Zaragoza, Spain. His name is Adrián Gracia and he is heavily involved with the issue of legislatively regulating the prohibition of logging, as well as the sampling of ancient olive trees.
He is studying law, with a special interest in environmental law. Urged by his father, whose inherent love for the land has been dully transmitted to Adrián, he started a project related to granting legal protection to millenary olive trees. He gives thanks to God that the olive trees in his own family's plot of land have not been cut or sold; indeed they have resisted the pillage (unlike most places in southern Greece).
The legal protection of millennary olive trees is now his personal and seemingly professional crusade. Upon finishing his master studies, research for this ongoing project of his reached an international dimension, and he began looking for information and legislation from all the countries of the Mediterranean basin (one by one); he was astounded to find that Greece is the only country where there is not a single law that protects the olive trees.
As such, Adrián contacted me to act as a proxy agent, suggesting I follow suit of this type of environmental protection in Greece. As he eloquently put it to me in writing (he and I have been engaging in correspondence for several months now), he was "contemplating horrified how could it be possible that in Greece, practically the cradle and one of the first producers in the current Europe of Olive Oil, you can cut down the trees without any control?!" Sadly, not only are there no legal sanctions, but the trend of felling millenary olive trees in Greece is on the rise at epidemic proportions!
Luckily, in his neck of the woods, there is light at the end of the tunnel. "At this moment," says Adrián, "we are in process with the Regional Government of Aragon, and with great probability the olive trees there will be declared as Singular Trees, and later Monumental, a protection that prevents their felling, cutting, starting or trade with them… we want to export [this law] to Spain, and later to all the places where there are these type of olive trees." At the same time, he was happy to report to me that the Catalan law for the protection of ancient olive trees is also very close to coming into force, and that this will no doubt help the activists in Aragon to ask for similar regulations along the same terms, as well as to extend such legislation to countries such as Greece.
While I was tremendously pleased with progress being made in other countries within the European community, I replied to him that I could not do much vis-a-vis trying to persuade the Greek government to pass legislation, and that the extent of my work was to photo-document the remaining regal olive trees for future generations to admire visually online. His reply to me in this regard was inspiring, here's what he wrote:
<< It is curious that since we are small, the idea that a man can not change anything is taught to us in school since the earliest childhood, but then when we read the history books it is just the opposite, it was only one man who changed the world, from the ill-fated John FitzGerald Kennedy, who paid a high price for trying to open his eyes to the people, passing through the medieval Galileo Galilei, who had the whole system against him trying to boycott him and of which nobody knows who they are today, however we all know Galileo, passing by great emperors like Julius Caesar, and if we go back in history we have pharaoh Tutankatón, Cristóbal Colón, Napoleón, Leonardo daVinci, etc. In the end it turns out that there were a few industrious men who changed the course of the world. With some work we will get the EU to support us, and with Greece I hope that this change of direction will help us to change the law. Here the farmers have put innumerable obstacles to prevent the law from coming into force, but the administration has said that the preexisting cultural patrimony prevails to them, that the profit that they can obtain with its commerce and sale [be prohibited]. We are not alone, Adoni, only that we are few and we do not see each other much, and the same thing [that you think about me] I think about people like you, who are light at the end of the tunnel. It will be an honour for me to be able to count on your collaboration to spread our message, all help is welcome.>>
Adrián indeed expressed to me sincere and enormous gratitude, as he said, "for [my] work in defense of these ancient inhabitants of the earth, who are authentic witnesses of the history of the last millennia, and [my] job to make them continue here and give visibility to the existing problem." I told him that it was he, and his epic effort, that was there real antidote to the illness. My project was a band-aid at best, whereas striving to persuade governments to legally protect the ancient olive trees was the only real measure that could bring about a holistic solution.
Below are some pictures of olive trees from Adrián's land. We know for certain that these magnificent olive trees are for the moment safe. I wonder if the trees are aware that they belong to one of the few authentic "protectors" of their species. If trees could think and reason (I honestly believe that they can "feel"), they would surely express pride and gratitude to their caretaker, Adrián. Personally, I have on several occasions, and here again am now expressing my utmost indebtedness to Adrián; it is individuals such as he who are the Galileo's of the modern world in the realm of environmental and heritage protection.