MEMOIR: How the child grows her love for Nature naturally

Roula Pollard
As a child I grew up in an idyllic countryside environment surrounded by the sea, at a time when the word industrial pollution was unknown in the Greek islands. The island of Zante where I grew up was pure and fresh at the time as it was 500 years before. The 100 year old houses in the historic village I grew up, almost as ancient as time, were built from pure materials; cement was totally unknown then. The walls of our home was at least 75 cm thick, to keep the house warm in winter and cool in the summer.

Porches were extra large protective covered areas built in the right orientation, for morning and evening seating and family relaxation. Our home was a safe castle for our family and we were proud of its almost ancient origin. Home had its own garden where specific organic vegetables grew each season. I loved to plant them. Meat was a delicacy for special celebrations and seasons and was home produced. 10- minute walk on foot from home was the wine yard with its special varieties of seasonal vegetables and fruit trees. Along its long footpaths, wild scented roses and lavender shrubs, thyme and rosemary bushes were the delights of my childhood. I had my secret areas which I visited alone to find rare orchids and wild
honeysuckle to dream and learn the perfect rhythms of nature. Delighted by the celebration of colors, fruits, vegetables and crops throughout the year, I also discovered the mystery of the sky, different and varied in castellation every night and experienced the owe of God by admiring the sky’s blessed colors. Thus, I followed the traditions of my forefathers ceremoniously. The clarity and multi-blue brightness of the star lit sky is one of the most important experiences in my life. God was a daily experience, made more real with my grandmother’s improvised stories of creation.


So it became natural to me to plant my own flower garden at home at the age of eight years
 and found a way to care about it when I went on summer holidays. It was also natural for me to start a large school garden at the age of ten years, my love for flowers and color combinations was what I now consider a divine gift, but did not realize it at the time. After I fully planted our school garden it never crossed my mind why other school girls or boys of my age did not help me, despite my admonition to do so. This was a happy beginning of living in nature for nature and me, my love experience with the environment. Our school garden was damaged five times by floods and wild winds but I never gave up. In time I learnt that replanting life follows perhaps similar rules. One makes another brave optimistic fresh start. I now wonder where I found the courage and the new plants every time I started to plant from the beginning our new school garden. I now wonder why I never was disappointed, defeated, lost faith or it never crossed my mind that a new garden could perhaps have the same possibilities to be lost under flooded water and mud. Optimism starts from the heart from lack of fear.

My next junior environmental project was to plant a pine trees wood in the barren area of the school yard. For this, I had volunteers who were my friends at
school, both boys and girls. It was at no time that hundred pine trees were planted with hope in celebration. It came naturally to me as I was looking after the pine trees, eager to see the growth of these future pine woods. I decided to water the pine trees rather than playing during the school breaks. This is how my long love for nature started and blossomed and it is more than a serious part of my life up to now.


As the teenager girl grew into a high school student and then a young woman, the environment acquired a stronger serious place in
her life. I will now turn the “I” of my youth into the “she” of the mature woman who always worked hard to maintain, protect and teach the value of the environment to my son, students, and friends and widely to citizens of our planet.

SELECTIVE VOLUNTARY ENVIRONMENTAL CAMPAIGNS IN ENGLAND AND GREECE

 As a high school student, she took the initiative to organize the planting of hundred eucalyptus trees, in a treeless area along the long road to hospital, in the town of Zante, island of Zante.
In West Yorkshire, England, as an environmental activist, she took the initiative and co-operated with the “Friends of the Earth” to investigate the dangers for a large rural coal mining community from considerable methane gas emissions caused by the rubbish it was deposited there for years in a long disused hollow area, 3 meters deep railway track.
 Finally, the tripping stopped due to the dangers diagnosed after investigation.
Organised an environmental campaign in co-operation with the local Member of Parliament, an environmental film producer, local Councillors, environmental specialists. In the campaign the General secretary for the environment in West Yorkshire was very positively involved, as well as students, lecturers and long suffering local people to investigate the severe pollution caused by the largest public factory cleaning mined coal to smokeless coal, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire. She previously consulted and took the advice of local family Doctors for the statistics of respiratory diseases in the area, which were far above the national average. As a result, a pollution measuring station was placed in the school grounds of the main village and the statistics about the air pollutants were made for the first time ever, available to the public in the Central City Library.
Additionally, she and her team together with the Secretary for the environment visited and inspected the large coke factory. After checking records, it was found that a much higher than permitted number of “coal ovens” to make it into smokeless coal were treated during the night thus the air pollution was not seen during the night, neither the inhabitants of the area smelled the severe stench out of the huge factory chimneys. Luckily, it was found out that a European directive about air pollution was expected to be publicised and come into effect six months after their visit. The factory then was obliged by law to use special filters to reduce considerably the excessive air pollutants emitted from the factory chimneys during day, and night in particular.
She subsequently contacted more family doctors in the surrounding coal mining areas, which had much above average environmental pollution and gave them statistics about environmental pollutants and further respiratory diseases in those areas.
Also she co-operates with a leading African environmentalist,who is Environmental Impact Assessment and Auditor Expert Professor in Kenya, Jared Akama Onyari, whose Association “Kenya Environment and Waste Management Association” is affiliated with the United Nation Environment Program (UNEP) about key environmental issues in Greece, Kenya and Africa in general.
She has contacted the leading Indian Professor Jaydeep Sharangi, who is leading the field “POETRY IN THE ENVIRONMENT” to look further into advancing poetry readings and learning in the environment.


In Athens, Greece her major environmental campaign for almost seven years was about radiation caused by mobile phone aerials. She spotted a large mast of a mobile phone area in a low height building in the centre of a densely populated area in South Athens. She also discovered a specialist Professor in molecular biology at Athens University who started to measure the radiation 10 - 350 mts away from the aerial, in the city square. A nursery school, a large primary school, the adjacent park, the senior citizens center, multitude of shops and multi storey buildings, all were affected by the radiation. She also contacted the leading journalists in Greece, who had international experience on mobile phone aerials radiation at a time when many dozens of people had died because they lived near mobile phone aerials areas.

The students of the professor, including his family, were out on the streets and visiting houses measuring the radiation daily. 99% of the local citizens ignored even the existence of the aerial. At least three people had developed serious types of cancer 30 mts away from the aerial, among whom was a daughter of a judge. We took the matter up to the council, collected considerable number of signatures but the council refused initially to discuss the matter publicly until we found that there were not legal permits issued for the installation of the aerials. We took the matter to the High Court and won, including legal compensation. The compensation was never paid but we obliged through the council the telephone company to replace the old types of three mobile phone aerials with a modern one emitting less radiation. Our suspicions that the telephone company has given money under the table to the mayor and local councillors was beyond any doubts. The council did not reply our letters and we became trapped somehow. Our gain was that the mayors of the nearby boroughs started similar campaigns and court cases, as well as in other far away municipalities of Attica, where 6 million people live. We are still waiting for the final court decision. We learnt through serious lessons. The judges are not adequately aware about the seriousness of damage to the body and number of deaths caused by radiation from high frequency mobile phone aerials. Corruption abounds. Doctors and teachers are not aware of the dangers. An amateur environmentalist has to do specialized international research to argue with public bodies, and it is time-consuming. People ignore the obvious and sometimes they may never know that they themselves may be a victim too.

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