The Right Livelihood Foundation mourns the passing of Turkish environmentalist and 2012 Laureate Hayrettin Karaca

News 20.01.2020

2012 Right Livelihood Laureate Hayrettin Karaca, who is widely considered as the grandfather of the Turkish environmental movement, has passed away at the age of 97.

Karaca’s death was announced on Monday by the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats (TEMA), which Karaca co-founded in 1992.

Karaca was born on April 4, 1922, and built a successful textile business in the first part of his life. However, in the 1970’s, he became increasingly concerned with the environmental degradation he witnessed during his travels around Turkey, especially soil erosion.

Karaca decided to document the situation with the aim of warning the authorities and the public about the threats facing Turkey’s nature.

“The carrying capacity of the ecosystem is not unlimited,” Karaca told the Right Livelihood Foundation in a 2012 interview. “I cannot exist without the Earth’s vital life-support systems. Therefore I should not destroy what is necessary for me to live. I do not have the right to ruin or destroy the ecosystem.”

In 1980, he established an arboretum on his land in Yalova, which today holds over 14,000 species, subspecies and varieties of trees, and 3,800 herbaceous plants and perennials.

In 1992, together with fellow businessman Nihat Gökyiğit, Karaca established the TEMA foundation, whose mission is to raise public awareness to environmental problems, specifically soil erosion, deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change.

Since its foundation, TEMA has grown into a large-scale movement currently numbering around 500,000 volunteer members.

Due to his environmental activism, Karaca became a well-known and beloved public figure in Turkey, often taking the opportunity to educate children and young people about the importance of protecting nature.

He received the Right Livelihood Award in 2012 “for a lifetime of tireless advocacy and support for the protection and stewardship of our natural world, combining successful entrepreneurship with effective environmental activism.”

“The Right Livelihood Foundation expresses its deepest condolences over the passing of Hayrettin Karaca,” said Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Foundation. “His steadfast commitment to protecting the environment has inspired many people both in Turkey and around the world. Karaca’s impact will surely be felt for generations to come.”

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