Green stirrings in Hungary

The Hungarian government has rarely shown the slightest interest in the planet. This is not surprising since for about half the politicians the world is flat and small and ends at Hegyeshalom. The result is a slow withdrawal of the State from the cause of protecting the environment, as ever more tired officials with ever duller grey suits are given fewer and fewer resources to squander among their cronies within the Ministry of Environment. This creates a dilemma. We don’t like the State meddling, but we also don’t like it when there’s no policeman to stop people chopping down all the trees.

In one vital area the State’s withdrawal has been remarkable. Yesterday’s Népszabadság tells us that environmental education in schools has never been such a low priority. The State, which makes education compulsory and thereby should shoulder the responsibility for its provision, does not seem to think that educating kids about the environment is important.

“Oh no”, we think, our knees jerking uncontrollably. “Things are bad enough today, but what will the future be like with generations of kids which have had no environmental education?”

But hush! What do I hear over the horizon? A blasting of horns and clashing of cymbals, horses gallopping amidst a joyous waving of green flags. It is the private sector arriving to save the day. The newspaper continues that companies such as Coca Cola, Canon, and MOL are stepping in and funding environmental education programmes at schools across the country. Several other blue-chip names, the Bustard has heard, have similar plans.

The State has failed and the private sector is showing the way.

It’s not just business. It’s people, too. Perhaps for the first time in the history of Budapest, areas of tarmac have been dug up and replaced by grass and flower beds. In the last few months, three such plots in the 12th district of Budapest have sprung up out of pavements and roads which were unnecessarily wide – not Sackville-West, but garden-like all the same. Could this be a trend? Can the city find a kind of peace by tearing up swathes of tarmac and concrete, and planting shade-giving trees and rich carpets of wild flowers? Will butterflies flutter in the bus-shelters and wrens make their nests in post-boxes?

Nature is indeed making a comeback. Just last night, the front door open because of the heat, two hedgehogs walked into our flat, snaffled the cat’s food, and then settled down under a cupboard in the bedroom for a snooze. They did waddle off after a while, but they had made their point.

The government withdraws into irrelevance, and a strange coalition of global brands, municipal workers, and hedgehogs builds a new world.

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