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Fighting deforestation with language

Meet Iris, a former Bell Cambridge student, who is using English to fight deforestation in the Svydovets massif in the Carpathian mountains.

Iris in the woods

Talking to Iris, you can’t help but be inspired by her.

Having finished a master’s degree a month ago, Iris came to Bell to improve her English, so she can continue her work as an activist and enable her to continue to lobby on an international platform – English is a way for her to be understood on a global platform. Her academic excellence was noted by Frank Bell’s son Nick, who offered her a scholarship to study at Bell.

Having known Nick since birth as they both live in a European cooperative, they now both campaign as part of the Free Svydovets group, working against the deforestation and planned development of a ski resort in the Eastern Carpathian Mountains – the Svydovets massif. “We’ve created a big movement now…its becoming international”.

Bordering Romania and Hungary the Carpathian Mountains are home to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the Tisa River which flows into the Danube. As well as being home to bears, wolves and other wildlife, the landscape of the mountains will be changed to accommodate the ski resort - the true environmental impact of the development is still under investigation.

It is easy to understand where Iris’ passion for the environment comes from “my parents had a little ecological farm and so we are mindful of the environment and [live] a green lifestyle”.

This passion for the environment spills into her master’s degree with the last year focusing on environmental law and her future plans to study environmental law in Paris. This will give her “an opinion from another country…for me the environment is bigger than a country, it is worldwide”.

Language plays a key role in the fight against this development. Iris is responsible for co-ordinating between all those involved – local people, lawyers – all speaking different languages.

Taking the fight to the European parliament, Iris finds herself in meetings speaking French, while also working with organisations in the UK, as well as speaking to locals in Ukraine who speak in a local dialect. She works with them all - “you have to make it understandable for everybody...I need to explain [it] to people”

Following her time at Bell, Iris will train with an environmental firm in Switzerland, who are working with her on her campaign. “For me it’s an opportunity to speak English rather than French”.

For now, though, Iris continues to campaign and is readying to take the cause to the supreme courts.

Iris’ passion for protecting the environment is infectious, and it left us thinking about our impact on the world we live in.