UNSpecial N° 607 — Mai – May 2002

International year of mountains

By its resolution A/RES/53/24, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the year 2002 as the International Year of Mountains. The resolution «invites FAO to serve as the lead agency for the Year, in collaboration with Governments, UNEP, UNDP, UNESCO and other relevant organizations of the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations» to increase international awareness of the global importance of mountain ecosystems.

Address to humanity from the mountains peaks of all continents

Mountains are monuments to time, visible evidence of the slow but steady changes wrought by geological forces. Their magnitude and majesty have inspired some of history’s greatest poets, writers, artists and explorers.

Mountains come in all shapes and sizes. Found on every continent, from the equator to the Polar Regions, they rise to different altitudes, in a great variety of climates and particular combinations of ecosystems. For millennia, mountains have served as vast reserves of valuable resources – such as water, energy and biological diversity – as well as key centres of culture and recreation.

Today, however, the rapid pace of globalization, urbanization and mass tourism are threatening mountain communities and the resources they depend on. Worldwide, mountain areas face increasing marginalization, economic decline and environmental degradation.

To increase the awareness, especially during the International Year of Mountains, poets, writers, other organisers, including politicians and other international activists, supported the idea to address humanity with poetic appeal and to transmit an important message to mankind from the Seven Summits of the seven continents and other significant 24 mountaintops. The idea was born within the “Dialogue through poetry” organisation, created during the United Nations Dialogue among Civilisations, and was highly welcomed during the literary conference in United Nations in New York, held last year. Professional mountain climbers working with Alpine Ascents International and International Mountain Guides are preparing the mountain ascent.

Thus from the highest summit of the world Mt. Everest, mankind will hear his Holiness, the Dalai Lama “Never Give Up” (Expedition is currently taking place during May 2002).

"Never give up 
No matter what is going on 
Never give up 
Develop the heart 
Too much energy in your country 
Is spent developing the mind 
Instead of the heart 
Develop the heart 
Be compassionate 
Not just to your friends 
But with everyone 
Be compassionate 
Work for peace
In your heart 
And in the world 
Work for peace 
And I say again 
Never give up 
No matter what is going on around you 
Never give up

From the roof of Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the words of Mevlana Jeladuddin Rumi, great poet of Afghanistan of the 13th century with his appeal for tolerance will be delivered during the month of August.

We can’t help being thirsty, 
moving toward the voice of water. 
Milk drinkers draw close to the mother. 
Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, shamans, 
everyone hears the intelligent sound and moves with thirst to meet it.

From the top of South America, Mt. Aconcagua, Argentina 23 January 2002, the Indian philosopher Kabir as if through the centuries (1440-1518 AD) addressed us his philosophy for the union of all souls and harmony of a human being and nature:

Between the conscious and the unconscious, 
the mid has put up a swing:

All earth creatures, even the supernovas, sway 
Between these two trees, 
And it never winds down. 
Angels, animals, humans, insects by the million, also 
The wheeling sun and moon ; 
Ages go by, and it goes on. 
Everything is swinging: heaven, earth, water, fire, 
And the secret one slowly growing a body. 
Kabir saw that for fifteen seconds, and it made him a servant for life.

One of the most extraordinary expeditions, in all senses, took place in Antarctica 19 January 2002 to launch the International Year of Mountains. The poem of English poet William Blake was read out from Vison Massif (alt. 4,897 m) “Great things are done when men and mountains meet; This is not done by jostling in the street.” The expedition itself perhaps deserves to be written about in all details. It was described by one of its members as “an absolutely incredible expedition; highly recommended for any serious mountaineer and these are certainly the people to go with.” In fact, this is one of the most rarely visited summits for difficulty of journey, access, and weather conditions.

A number of readings are organized all over the United States. Poetry of Walt Whitman, Li Bai, Han Shan, Leopold Sedhar Senghor will sound from the mountaintops of the United States. Just to mention the readings by the coordinators of the programme who will climb the Mt. Rainer, Washington to deliver the words of Korean poet, So Chong Ju, so deep and philosophic it the sense of harmony between a human being and nature:

If I became 
a stone 
stone would become 
and if I became 
a lake 
lake would become 

Several readings were organized already in New York (the readings in the United Nations HQ and the participation of the UN staff from New York is specially marked in separate article).

Readings at the top of the Stone Mountain of 27 April 2002 perhaps should be mentioned as well because they turned out to be a real conference-manifestation of several organizations of cultural and humanitarian character. Readings were held with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed to the nation:

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. 
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. 
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. 
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. 
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. 
But not only that. 
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. 
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. 
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi, 
from every mountainside, let freedom ring !

From other mountain peaks and among other voices of great poets of all continents we will hear the voice of Pablo Neruda:

Entonces en la escala de la tierra 
he subido 
entre la atroz marana de las selvas 
hasta ti, Macchu Picchu. 
Alta ciudad de piedras escalares, 
por fin morada del que lo terrestre
no escondio en las dormidas 
En ti, como dos lineas paralelas, 
la cuna del relampago y del hombre 
se mecian en un viento de espinas.

There will be many other readings on other mountaintops. Reading will be organized to pass an important message through poetry, to commemorate the International Year of Mountains, or simply to celebrate the beauty of the mountains. There will be also readings appealing for environment protection, and mountain protection, protection of our natural heritage in particular.

The Matternhorn is on the list of the “Poetry on the Peaks” programme. I have contacted the coordinators and alpine climbers. They told me that they had chosen the Matternhorn just for the beauty of the mountain and difficulty of the ascent. They intend to read out the poem of Percy Bysshe Shelley “Mont Blanc” when they reach the summit and see the huge Alps area. The poem of Shelley is really exceptionally beautiful, it sounds like an ode to the eternal snow and majesty of the mountains. Definitely, it deserves to be read out from this summit, as well as perhaps many other poems of many great poets inspired by the beauty of the mountains.

For us all, the Matternhorn, I am sure, means much more. This is not only gorgeous mountain in Switzerland, country of mountains. This is the symbol of the country, which is the home for the European office of the United Nations and other international organisations. This is the symbol of the country, which this year (voting was held 3 March) has taken the important decision to become a member of the United Nations.

This could be a good opportunity to commemorate all these events – the International Year of Mountains from the top of Switzerland, the top of United Nations member-states, home of the European centre of peace of diplomacy, the European office of the United Nations. We all could participate in such an endeavour, express our feelings and words of solidarity, and address our own message – be it the message for peace and tolerance, or the message-appeal to protect our ecosystem, our natural heritage for future generations. This message can consist of different poems in different languages. We can add our voices to the international group of climbers and accompany them to the foot of the highest rock (highest accessible place). We can read out together our message in all six United Nations languages from this place and then pass it in symbolic form to the climbers who will transmit it from the very summit. Thus our message for peace, tolerance and protection of our nature addressed from the symbol of Switzerland will be heard and understood all over. (For information – the international climb will be organised between 27 July and 9 August 2002, UN Special will prepare further the details of this project and will keep you updated).

If you are interested in participating in this activity or if you wish to contribute with a poem in any of the United Nations official languages, please address to us: evelina.rioukhina@unece.org with cc. unspecial@unece.org.

Overview prepared by Evelina Rioukhina 
in close collaboration with Ram Devineni, coordinator of international “Poetry on the Peaks” programme, USA and with the assistance of Gordon Janow, director of Alpine Ascents International, USA

(Special thanks to Mr. Ram Devineni for his efficient assistance and cooperation in providing with the materials for the publication. Ram Devineni is the publisher of Rattapallax Press and a film-maker. He was an Eagleton Associate at the Eagleton Institute for Politics at Rutgers University where he studied political theory and campaign management. He has organized several state and federal elections. He organized Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry at the United Nations Headquarters. He initiated the Poetry on the Peaks Programme within the International Year of Mountains. Please consult his web-site at: www.dialoguepoetry.org).