Monday, March 18, 2024

At Local Level, Environmental Activism Transforming ‘Residents of Russia into Citizens,’ Expert Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 14 –In the last several years, Moscow has shut down most all-Russian environmental organizations and gutted the environmental laws that had given some promise that the government was committed to cleaning up the environment and fighting climate change and all the problems related to that.

            These defeats – and they have been widely chronicled – are serious, Insider journalist Marina Dulnyeva says Russians concerned with the defense of the environment have told her. But she suggests that all is not lost and the Russians are still winning some small victories on this front (ru/obshestvo/267019).

            And these victories, even when they are limited and often reversed, Vitaly Servetnik, coordinator of the Ecology Crisis Group, says, highlight two important developments. On the one hand, Russians have not bought the Kremlin’s message that concern for the environment is an unwelcome import from the West. Ever more believe it is a concern of Russians as well.

            And on the other, the ecological activist continues, despite all the setbacks, “environmental problems,” many exacerbated by the Kremlin’s own actions since the start of the expanded war in Ukraine have had the effect of “transforming residents of the country into citizens,” a development that strikes at the heart of Kremlin efforts to prevent that.

            This has been happening, Servetnik continues, despite Moscow’s closure of all-Russian environmental movements and its elimination of many environmental protection measures and controls that the Russian government had introduced in earlier decades. But it has been below the radar screen of Moscow writers who have focused on the center alone.

            He says that his group has collected data on 50 “ecological victories” in 2022 alone ( and additional ones in the months since. Few are earthshaking by themselves and some have already been reversed. But they are proving to be the seedbeds of citizenship, even if they are typically ignored.

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