My wealth should not give me more rights than others.

Acceptance speech – Hayrettin Karaca

Unfortunately, due to heavy snowfall in Stockholm and flight cancellations, Hayrettin Karaca could not make it to Stockholm for the Award Ceremony. His speech was read in his name by TEMA’s Vice-Chair Mrs Deniz Ataç. 

Esteemed Mister Deputy Speaker, Honourable Members of Parliament, Your excellencies, Mr. von Uexkull, Fellow laureates of the Right Livelihood Award, Dear guests and friends,

I am speechless. I do not know what to say? I am very touched! It is a great honor and pleasure for me to speak here today in front of you. To be honored with a prize so valuable for someone my age is probably a situation that we don’t see very often; therefore, I would like to extend my deepest thanks in particular to the Right Livelihood Award jury for selecting me. In addition, I would like to thank Ms. Birsel Lemke, a previous laureate of the Right Livelihood Award and a dear friend, for putting in incredible effort and support to make it possible for me to be standing here today.

Believe me, you have extended my life by giving me numerous new tasks and responsibilities. I would also like to thank my companion Mr. Nihat Gökyiğit who cofounded TEMA Foundation with me, and over 450,000 staff and volunteers of TEMA all around Turkey who dedicate their time and expertise both voluntarily and professionally. I have no doubt that with this award, they, too, will determine new targets and chart a new road map to protect the most precious asset in life. And this asset is SOIL!

Our marvelous soil – the origin of all living things, life-producing, feeding, happiness-providing soil. We owe you a lot, yet, we do all kinds of evil to you that you don’t deserve.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, I am 90 years old. And in my lifetime, I have visited many parts of the world and witnessed all the colours and beauty of different countries. I have also witnessed a lot of pain and misery. I have come to realize what wealth and poverty means in the world. One thing I realized very early is this: the primary injustice in this world comes from our approach towards soil and how we treat it. We see soil as a right given to us. We perceive it as a product, as a resource that we can use inexhaustibly. We almost never pay any attention to soil, we neglect it or even scorn it. We throw our garbage onto it. We wash our hands after we touch soil! Soil that gives us life is not dirty. It is us who make it dirty. Our soil is so valuable. It hosts so many small organisms, micro-organisms and numerous beneficial minerals that enable the continuation of life. These magical beings form a harmonious collaboration with other magical beings, and this mysterious concert provides for an apple tree and olive grove or a tomato to grow. At the end, soil gives life to all of us.

If you want to live, you have to let live! To live, first let the other living beings prosper. Let’s start with protecting the soil!

When I was a little boy, I discovered my love for every living being in the soil. This love of soil proceeded with me throughout my life like a red thread. I grew up, became a successful businessman, and almost everyone in Turkey wore my knitwear whose slogan was “Karaca – with you for years”. I was a well-known businessman but in my heart I have always remained and felt like a child of soil who has to run towards the calls of nature all the time. Because I feel indebted to nature.

I had money, BUT I didn’t have a RIGHT. My wealth should not give me more rights than others. About 40 years ago, I handed over the keys to all my factories to dedicate myself to my best friend, the soil. I wanted to do everything perfectly and solve the problem permanently from its root. And the name of this problem was EROSION.

I hit the road and in those years travelled almost 340,000 km in Anatolia, living in villages and witnessing with my own eyes that the valuable soil of my beautiful country was subject to erosion through wind and water. But unfortunately, more than natural reasons, erosion is mainly caused by human related activities.

I ran into degraded lands, impoverished farmers, unnecessary dams, dried up rivers and springs and wrong agricultural applications. In 1992, my friend Nihat Gökyiğit and I founded the TEMA Foundation.

Today, they call TEMA the largest environmental NGO in Turkey. This makes me very happy. But I think that when one looks at the scale of the problems it has to overcome, TEMA is still small. It has a long way to go. In the future, the goal must be to have one million TEMA supporters, which means one million defenders of life.

TEMA has accomplished several achievements until now. TEMA has worked to protect soil and other natural assets. It has advocated for laws protecting the soil to be passsed in parliament, has formed Scientific Committees, planted millions of trees, implemented rural development projects, implemented large scale education programmes and has led legal struggles against environmental damages. I am pleased to say TEMA has succeeded in the majority of legal cases it has been involved in. Today, TEMA is represented in almost every city across the country; its organization involves all age groups starting from pre-school kids. TEMA is recognized and supported by everyone in Turkey today.

However, this is not enough. Problems of erosion and soil loss have to reach the consciousness of all people. Erosion is not a simple technical problem. Erosion is not only a problem of my country. Together, we have to fight this threat that recognizes no borders.

First of all, each individual has to embrace the soil around them and protect it consciously with sincere hearts. Because we all know that once the soil is contaminated, soon it will be lost forever. Soil can’t be cleaned like water or air.

And since everyone does have soil in their surrounding, before it is too late, everyone can do something to protect it. Because everything starts with just one person, there is no second without the first.

If there Is Me, there Is Us.

The basis of World Peace is healthy soil. If there is no soil, there is hunger, there are wars – to protect the soil and peace, first me, then us.

Dear Mr. Jakob von Uexkull, dear esteemed members of the Right Livelihood Award Jury, you found me worthy of this incredible award. In return, I have brought you a very valuable gift, something I have dedicated my whole life to. This is from my Arboretum, a piece of Anatolian soil, part of the cradle of many civilizations including your own.

Please take very good care of my precious gift. Tack för att Ni lyssnade – Hoşçakalın

TEMA Foundation
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