Where – St Petersburg, Russia. We met at a Hari Krishna restaurant called Rada&K with amazing veggie food.
When – Tuesday 9th September 2014 is when we met. Musora Bolshe Net was set up 10 years ago in 2004, when a few friends cleaned up some lakes near St Petersburg.
Who – Denis Stark, one of the founders of volunteer network Musora Bolshe Net and his girlfriend. There are about 10-15 volunteers including Denis who devote regular hours each week alongside their work, 200 people helping out at occasional events and 100,000 people who get involved about once a year.
What – Musora Bolshe Net, one of the largest environmental networks in Russia, working towards a human system in which production of rubbish is eliminated, and everything is cycled round, as in nature. Activities include lessons for educating people about recycling, waste systems, environmental issues and so on; eco-events working with businesses to run team ‘away days’ in natural surroundings with an element of tree-planting, rubbish-collecting etc; attendance at festivals to run glass deposit systems to help reduce amount of waste produced; organisation of and participation in conferences to share experiences, often internationally.
Why – to strive towards “life without garbage”, where production and consumption patterns produce no waste.
Impacts/success – no tangible measurements, partly due to the model of Musora Bolshe Net: the idea is to make it as easy as possible for people to organise their own clean ups, which makes tracking quite difficult. It is also very tricky to know what change has come about as a result of Musora Bolshe Net and what is from general cultural changes in society, as with most organisations trying to engender changes in behaviour across society!
There are easy step-by-step videos online, and various spin outs that Denis knows about which started from Musora Bolshe Net volunteers providing encouragement and advice at the beginning. There are possibly lots more events and initiatives besides which he is not aware of but have their roots stemming from the activities of Musora Bolshe Net.
Find out more – musora.bolshe.net
Personal reflections –
” The most important thing is to lead by example” – this is the main philosophy behind Denis’ approach.
– Business and government said the general public won’t separate waste if they provide for it, so Musora Bolshe Net show it is possible by demonstrating with particular apartment blocks to show that people are ready. Government officials are now making promises related to waste management (fulfilling is another matter but it’s the start that is needed to make it a reality!) and some businesses are providing separate waste contsiners to enable recycling.
– They share experiences through webinars, conferences and online tutorials to provide inspiration and encouragement.
– T-shirts are provided to clean up teams as presents afterwards rather than being given to wear while doing it – so that the clean up team are not perceived as separate to others who might observe them. The observers are the same; they can/should get involved too.
– Half of the time spent organising a clean up should be to tell people about it, why they are doing it, encouraging involvement and the other half actually doing the clean up, again, all about providing inspiration for others to get involved too.
Denis’ advice for anyone trying to effect positive change is to realise the trap you are in when wanting to tackle a big problem i.e. feeling too small to make any difference, and therefore you do nothing. Do small things, openly, with others and that gets others doing things too and so it grows. It reminds me of the quote about the mosquito…
“Whoever thinks small things cant make a big impact has never gone to bed with a mosquito”.