I was having a quick review of my blog posts and realised I never put this one up from back in Moscow!
Environmental action at grassroots level is on the increase in Russia. Tatyana puts this down to a number of factors:
– Internet – use of social networks (and increasingly apps too) for generating support, finances, a team around you and publicity. It is used mostly by the younger generation, creating horizontal links and enabling initiatives to get off the ground through crowd funding.
– Disappointment in authorities – people are calling for change and taking action themselves
– Observation of and involvement in international movements – communication with colleagues in Europe and the USA means there is increased activity here e.g. 10:10:10, youth climate movement
– Fashion – being ‘eco’ is becoming fashionable in Moscow and St Petersburg so more people are getting involved
There are some fantastic examples of initiatives and movements that have been set up in the last few years and are achieving success:
– Save Khoper Movement (http://savekhoper.ru/) – campaigning against the development of a nickel mine, about 600km from Moscow. Its coordination has mostly been through the use of online social networks
– Development of recycling infrastructure – this is the kind of thing Musora Bolshe Net get involved in. There are many more examples too, as Denis had said – two girls here in Moscow organise an ‘eco yard’ once a month to collect signatures (and recycling) to call on the local administration to provide recycling facilities (http://ecamir.ru/news/Prazdnik-Eko-Dvor-v-Severo-Vostochnom-okruge-Moskvyi.html). Sergey Zogorobov created his own recycling system for his apartment block – he now has a grant from the city administration! (http://ecamir.ru/experts/Razdelnyiy-sbor-othodov-vozle-doma%E2%80%A6sdelal-SAM.html)
– Demand for bicycles as a transport alternative – ‘Let’s Bike It’ calls on the central administration in Moscow to increase the availability of cycle lanes and bike racks. Two years ago 5000 people took part in a festival to call on the administration to provide more facilities so that people can use it as a mode of transport in the city.
– Eco-communities – in Moscow a guy called Sablin Roman set up an eco-commune where many activists (including Tatyana) lived together for 3 years, which increased the level of activity and sense of community. It unfortunately no longer exists due to people moving on to other projects or life stages.
– Eco-events – a film festival is being organised for later this year in Moscow focused on grassroots initiatives; http://delaisam.org/ (which translates as ‘do it yourself’) is an annual ‘un-conference’ bringing together lots of initiatives e.g. environmental, social, street art, film making, all about sharing experiences, in Russia and internationally.
Tatyana has been involved in environmental action for the last 5 years in Russia, first with an NGO in Irkutsk, now with ecocamir (http://ecamir.ru/), a tree-planting initiative working across Russia, bringing local teams together, and championing those taking leading roles to get involved in other initiatives too. It is funded by a business man who owns a cosmetics company.
My conversation with Tatyana re-instils the difficulties associated with the political system for getting things done, but re-affirms how many individuals are finding ways around this, and still managing to make changes. To me, it seems there is a hopeful future and increasing numbers of people getting involved, which is starting to reflect in central and local administrations to some extent. My main concern/counter-point to this positive picture is the worry that if individuals are setting things up, it then means government doesn’t have to. Then again maybe that is actually democracy and active citizenship at its best, depending on how you look at it!