“This is a clash of two camps, even more – two cultures, two mentalities. One camp consists of the successors of the hunter-gatherer era in the development of societies: they consider nature subservient to humans. If there is a forest, it must get logged; if there is an animal, it has to be killed. When a tribe clearcuts the forest and kills off the game, it wanders on until it finds new spoils. This is the mentality of people for whom the Earth has no boundaries, and there is no bottom or end to its resources.

The other camp consists of people for whom nature is not simply prey, but something completely different – it is our kin and compeer, whose presence is a condition of existence. If there is a forest, it must grow; if there is an animal, it must live. Humans are not alone but part of nature; killing nature, they annihilate themselves. This is the gist of the dispute over the primeval forest, the mighty remains of which still stand.

If you have clearcut an old forest and planted a new one in its place, this does not mean you have maintained balance in nature or that this balance will have been restored when the young forest matures. The old forest can never be restored. This ancient wilderness with its thickets, shade and smell, its internal tangles, connections, and interrelatedness, cannot be recreated, copied, or repeated. When a forest is clearcut, part of the world is irretrievably lost.”

Ryszard Kapuscinski


Photographs taken in Białowieza.