Cyclists assemble in Yerevan, Armenia, for a bike tour to Teghut Forest. Photo by Ruzanna Hovasapyan via ride-earth on Flickr.
Armenian environmental activists fighting plans to build a copper mine in an endangered forest got a boost recently when former System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian, surely the world's most famous Armenian-American rock star, sent a message of support for their campaign and promised to donate a song to the cause.One of few significant wooded areas remaining in a country already heavily deforested, the Teghut Forest in northern Armenia is home to many native species, including the Syrian brown bear, the endangered Caucasian gray bear, and the short-toed eagle. Activists with the Save Teghut campaign say the Armenian Copper Programme's plans to build an open-pit copper mine in the area will destroy more than 1,500 acres of forest habitat, dump toxic ore waste in a nearby river gorge, and pose dangerous health risks:
Pollutants from the mine's processing facilities could be expected to include carbon monoxide, nitrous dioxide, dust, and other harmful particles. Air pollution from other copper processing [sites] operated by the same company has already caused health problems for people in the region, including infertility, cardiovascular disease, malignancy, and respiratory diseases.
Despite the dangers, environmentalists face an uphill battle to stop the mine, which supporters say will bring much-needed economic development to the impoverished country. (Residents of Appalachia, where the health costs of coal mining have been found to "far outpace" the revenue it brings in, might have something to say about that.)
'Mining is Against Our Interest," System of a Down Star Says
Local activists are trying to promote ecotourism as a more economically and environmentally sustainable option for Teghut, leading bike tours to raise awareness about the threats to the area and its potential as a destination for visitors. A film about the issue is also set to help kick off an environmental-movie series at a popular restaurant/bar/bookstore in the Armenian capital city of Yerevan.
"The destruction of wildlife and environmental havens can no longer be excused for the sake of progress or the attainment of natural resources," rocker Tankian, a longtime backer of human-rights and animal-rights causes, wrote in a statement of support for SOS Teghut. "Mining is against our combined interest as a people and nation."
More about rock stars supporting the environment:
Stars Will Rock Stages, Environment at Bonnaroo 2010
Pearl Jam Offsets Their Tour: Rock Out Guilt-Free
Sheryl Crow Tunes Up for Greenbuild
SXSW Steers the Music Biz onto the Green Track
Bjork Releases Environmental Documentary... and other Eco-Musician Updates
The Top 5 Buzzworthy Green Musicians of the Moment
Tommy Lee, Ludacris to Star in Planet Green's Battleground Earth