The Dispatch

Dispatch – March 18: Acclimatization

This summer is going to be hotter than usual, and it’s not just because of the campaign. Over the past months, Georgia has received a series of environmental wake-up calls as natural disasters and unbearable heat waves have made us rethink our everyday safety. The dangers of climate change lurk everywhere, threatening our way of life, economy, health, and well-being. New problems require new solutions, and what better time to offer them than in the months leading up to major elections? Fortunately, our politicians are already at work. New platforms are emerging with green and animal themes and the protection of their citizens on their minds. Well, not really new… or green… and the focus on those animals, too, seems to be less about diversity and more about the lack of it.

Here is Nini and the Dispatch newsletter to talk about helicopters, [human] nature, and [political] animals that will define the upcoming election race.


On March 12, the Georgian Interior Ministry broke a happy news. The Border Police finally received its first French-made Airbus H145 helicopter, built for extreme conditions and well-equipped for rescue operations. According to the authorities, two more helicopters are on their way and will be delivered by June. The new helicopters will take the burden off the Soviet-era Mi helicopters that have been the first choice for emergencies in Georgia. The latter models have been in service for decades and, as befits good and loyal Georgian servants, exploited for any task their employers could think of regardless of their capacity or training.

Old Mi-s were used for everything from border police rotations to battling wildfires, from search-and-rescue operations to flying foreign leaders (including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy) to dividing lines. The old machine was even deployed on film sets, including starring (with many other Georgian co-stars) in a widely embraced 2012 romcom featuring a series of love stories between Georgians and Russians (which was long before we’d adopt principled stance and permanently condemn similar ventures as flirting with colonizers. Advocates will say those were the times when we still – vainly and counterproductively – hoped to disarm our Northern neighbors with our soft Khachapuri power). 

But as is often the case with multitaskers, the poor Mi-s suffered burnout. After a tragic crash in 2022 during a risky mission that followed a paragliding incident, the government finally had to purchase proper helicopters. The delivery took time, and they were still being assembled when the Shovi landslide disaster hit, and the available helicopters took about three hours to arrive on the scene, adding to the public relations backlash. But now that the new ones are being delivered and ready for use, their life doesn’t seem to be any easier than that of their older pals. They face a rather difficult mission – to protect the ruling Georgian Dream party from any unexpected events that might stand in the way of its steady march towards the declared goal of a “constitutional majority.”

A Hard Rain’s A‐Gonna Fall

Indeed, Georgian Dream must love the chaos. Wars and turbulence in the region, and (in part) the opposition’s poor reading of the situation, have allowed the party to capitalize on fears and gain support by positioning itself as a protector of peace. But as much as they promise us immunity from nuclear destruction, the greatest threat to their stable rule (and, more importantly, to the lives of Georgian citizens) may lie not in nuclear black rain but in routine rainfalls. Dozens of people have died in a series of landslide disasters over the past year, including in places unaccustomed to these threats. Quietly, with each change in the weather, the country began to live in a greater, shared sense of doom.

While this new era of disasters has shocked many, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. In Georgia, discussions about climate change have indeed been delayed, and part of the reason is that the small country has done little to contribute to the overall environmental damage (sorry, dear CIVILIZED WORLD, this time we will not join in your self-flagellation).

And yet, experts have warned that Georgia will be affected by destructive changes more than many other countries. About ⅔ of the country is covered by hills and mountains – including glaciers – and many families still live on mountain slopes. In a country that prides itself on its hydrological resources, these changes can mean reduced water flows but also devastating floods, affecting everything from energy to irrigation, tourism to food security.

And yet, somehow, the issue hardly makes it onto the political agenda. Even when the relevant authorities are working on climate strategies, activists worry that the work is being done on a superficial level just to meet foreign-imposed deadlines. The recently announced projects only add to the concern that the issue is not being taken seriously. These include the recently launched construction of exotic artificial islands in the Black Sea in Batumi or the huge aparthotel complex project in the cozy mountain resort of Bakhmaro. The latter project, locals fear, will destroy the tiny and picturesque resort if the avalanche doesn’t destroy the monstrous complex first.


With months to go before the general election, will it be the new political players that make a difference? Let’s take a look at the two new forces that have emerged on the Georgian political scene in the past two weeks. One is Ahali [New], an alliance of opposition media chief Nika Gvaramia and Nika Melia, former leader of the United National Movement. Their brand colors are green and orange. But the leaders have made it clear that green is more about “new beginnings” than environmental concerns (far from being the first Georgian force to use green in such a non-traditional context), while the orange – though partly associated with the graphic color of a fox – is more about Melia (the leader’s surname means “fox” in Georgian) than any particular concern for endangered species.

Whether two Nikas, both old political faces, together mean “new” is for you to judge. And save some of that judgment for another “new” force, the Georgian Dream spin-off People’s Power, which registered as a political party on March 18. Champions of Georgia’s most notorious illiberal bills, the movement was first created to protect the fortune of the ruling party’s founder. But will they end up protecting the environment as well (their big boss is into trees, we’ve heard)? That depends on how you look at it. If gays and lesbians are indeed the reason why God is raining wrath on us, then yes, they are definitely up for the job. But if it’s corruption and negligence that God hates more – we will have to look elsewhere.


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