Against the backdrop of protests against the Rosia Montana mining project, the protests taking place in Pungesti against the exploration of unconventional gas reserves in the Vaslui area seemed similar. Not because of the typology of the protesters, since the peasants from one end of poor Moldavia have far too little in common with the urban hipsters. But because of the spirit of the new militant environmentalism, capable of opening such a broad front of challenge, bringing together so diverse and apparently non-convergent social categories. A kind of new variant of the old dream of the link between intellectuality and “the people.” In fact, apart from the heterogeneity of any spontaneous protest phenomenon (where the association is freer than it is in the case of a more pretentious organization that impresses on the participants a more accentuated identity), it’s fairly clear that the ethos of each of the two protests is different.
The anarchic (in the sense of political space grown by freedom) dimension and the strictest environmentalist dimension (in the sense of culture and of a more non-invasive relation with the natural environment, promoted primarily by urbanites) are determinative in the first case (“Rosia Montana”), while the refusal of “imperialistic capitalism” and a patriotic cult of the “ancestral land” dominate the second case (“Pungesti”). The former wants to take advantage of a refreshing environment in their spare time, not an environment turned ugly by polluting industries and waste. They want their food to be tasty and safe, while some of them who are more left-wing add to this the pretention that the food should come from the equitable economy system. The farmers on the other hand want to be able to use their land, even though their labour is in most cases subsistence farming. They are afraid of being tricked through offers that would eventually leave them even poorer and they do not want any industry to poison their agricultural products. The former reject the modern arrogance of MNCs whose influence that is on the rise restricts the impact of civically-inspired policies. Their reproach is political in nature, with them feeling excluded from any important decisional body. In spite of democracy, the governments constantly ignore their options. It is, in their opinion, a new form of what Plato includes among the forms of political regimes as oligarchy. The few who govern while ignoring to a good extent the interests of the many. That is why they are rather left wing, because they see the current political system rather as reactionary, favouring a caste at the expense of the regular citizen. The Moldavian peasants are on the other hand preoccupied with the economic dimension, worried by such an uncertain future. They do not want “revolutions,” but they have a vague idea about a national demophile regime that would protect their status as society’s “healthy” basis. But the age of nationalist Samanatorism is primarily expired from a sociological point of view. The peasantry is a class in crisis, and those who still promote its myth, culturally speaking, are only today’s “traditionalists,” many of them affiliated to currents that promote a reactionary Orthodoxy.
In fact, the protesters of the two camps, if they were to get to know each other better, would notice they have plenty of reasons to hate each other. The legionnaire-like “resistance” in Pungesti, encouraged by priests and monks, has far too little in common with the anarchists and left wingers (to simplify the matter because the circle of these protesters is much wider) who are against the Rosia Montana mining project (and who during the previous protests, those against Basescu and the PDL government, were shouting: “we want hospitals not cathedrals!”). Today’s protesting hipsters (which is in fact a make-shift and vague term) are partially the heirs of yesterday’s hippies, who eventually led to phenomena that continue to grow: green industries, the new “organic” ideology, animal rights legislation, industrial products with significantly diminished toxicity, much more rigorous environment policies. On the other hand, today’s “traditionalists” are the heirs of yesterday’s nationalists, the promoters of an economic protectionism whose apex was none other than Nicolae Ceausescu. Who was anything but an ecologist, for him the development of national industries trumping any environment protection reason. The “selling of the country” rhetoric is however hollow. Would the natural-gas-exporting Romanians be “greener” than the Americans? Such nationalism however has plenty of followers. More than is visible on the surface. The network of Orthodox groups is heterogeneous, but has several points of convergence. One of those is the recently departed monk Iustin Parvu, whom many want beatified as soon as possible. His followers at the Moldavian Petru-Voda monastery (in Neamt County) have even sent a wayside cross to the “resisting” villagers in Pungesti.
What does the left winger who still reads Marx through cafes have in common with the peasant that wants to defend “the land and Orthodoxy”? The future of Romanian environmentalism needs less circumstantial alliances. So far the environmentalists with political ambitions have been able only to crumble or gravitate around the big shots, without leaving a trace in the politics of the last two decades. And the big shots, such as the Social-Democrats, have only been demagogical. Victor Ponta for instance stated just two years ago that he wants an environmentalist platform within his own party, necessary precisely in order to calm the enthusiasm towards socially-attractive but polluting industrial projects. The platform did not come to be and the environmentalists protesting in the street are asking not for his support but for his resignation. A real environmentalist party is necessary in Romania, if only in order to have clearer ideas in this domain that is after all new for the Romanians’ preoccupations. However, what is missing is an ideology adapted to the Romanian case and its cultural context. Because in order to be successful such a political movement has to feel that web of significant and fertile currents (bringing together ideas and sensitivities) that it would direct towards a politically-viable finality. However, where are the local environmentalist “doctrinaires”?