Phil McKenna in The Big Roundtable:
“In this area you should go just behind me,” the stout man says, the th of his this buzzing like a bee. Then, as if to reassure me, he adds, “I’ve been here before, with other colleagues and journalists, and no one died.” I’ve traveled here, to the former Iron Curtain, still studded with the occasional land mine, in pursuit of a love story. It’s an improbable tale about two boys, a friendship, and a passion for birds.
Twenty-five years earlier, in 1989, the man in front of me had hatched a plan to transform the former no-man’s land that separated Western Europe from the Eastern Bloc into an eco-corridor running through the heart of Europe. It was a preposterous idea. The Iron Curtain had been just that—a series of steel-reinforced barriers. Electrified fences, razor wire, land mines, trip lines, and machine guns: If it could stop, maim, or kill you, the Soviets put it there. Not exactly “eco.”
What’s more, the corridor would bisect one of the most heavily settled and fully domesticated continents on earth. Central Europe’s ecosystems have been so thoroughly reduced that locals don’t even bother hanging window screens.
Yet if returning lynx, wolves, and other wildlife are any indicator, it might just work. If it does, the European Green Belt, as proponents call it, will be one of the greatest conservation success stories of all time.