Monday, August 30, 2010

Bono's fronds: Did Vox save a forest?

The Moscow Times appears convinced that Bono has saved the threatened Khimki Forest:

President Dmitry Medvedev ordered a halt to the construction of a highway through the Khimki forest Thursday, marking a rare victory for a grassroots effort that the authorities heavy-handedly tried to squash but nevertheless swelled into a thousands-strong rally last weekend and the intervention of U2 frontman Bono.
Really, though?

Natalia Antonova isn't convinced:
There was an “intervention” on behalf of Bono in regards to the destruction of the Khimki forest? Where is the evidence of this intervention?

Unless he comes out and says otherwise, he didn’t bring it up with Medvedev. According to at least Chirikova (a prominent defender of the Khimki forest), he actually didn’t make any promises regarding the issue.

Bono and his stupid glasses can waltz in to this country and then waltz back out again with no risk to himself or his career, express “regret” for failing to raise any actual issues with the president, and then try to make himself look cool by aligning with someone like Yury Shevchuk. I’m wildly impressed.
It does look like all the heavy lifting has been done by Shevchuk and his campaign, while Bono has, once again, just turned up for the applause at the end.

Indeed, so late did Bono turn up, as Foreign Policy reports, he didn't even know about the planned driving of the highway through the trees when he was talking to President Medvedev:
Bono had gotten an open letter from Shevchuk before the concert about Khimki, and he spent the hours before his Moscow show giving pre-concert interviews to Russian papers in which he said he wished he'd known about the Khimki forest so he could've brought it up with Medvedev.
Given that protesters have been fighting the Kremlin for years on this - and the Kremlin has been violently fighting back - it must be galling for them to be hearing that their efforts didn't do anything and the forest has been saved, instead, by a tax-avoiding former pop star doing a Bob Dylan cover, who had only known about the road proposal for a few hours.

Not that the forest has been saved - the plans are being re-examined, which - as we learn from the story of Ringo's house - might merely be a way of getting the campaign to break up and disperse.

And, the real kicker: Foreign Policy suggests the stay of tree-felling is down to more pragmatic concerns than What Bono Says. The burning of Russia this summer played its own part:
Even Chadaev admits that. "The summer heat wave and the forest fires had a much bigger influence on our decision to save the forest than the noise around the Khimki forest," he told me, alluding to the catastrophic environmental disaster that many have blamed on human interference in nature.
Still, nothing is going to save this from being seen as another victory for Bono. Be warned: if you're currently campaigning to stop Tesco opening a store on your high street, watch out for Bono turning up as soon as he hears that the boys in Delamere Road are cooling on the plan.