We should point out that environmental protection and pollution control of rivers and streams flowing into Baikal was not popular among Baikal region population of the past centuries. The most conscious and concerned of them tried to appeal to the public by means of various publications and addresses. More than 150 years ago Siberian local ethnographers published articles and newspaper stories reproaching citizens of Siberian towns for numerous rubbish piles in the streets and river banks, pointing out that these trash buildups made fresh water undrinkable in spring. Some people used to have barbaric habits, for instance, instead of climbing a cedar tree for the cones of cedar nuts they preferred to cut the tree saying: there will be a new tree soon! The same barbarous acts were committed to wild apple trees, bird cherries and other fruit trees. Some Siberian intellectuals both in Buryatia and the Irkutsk Region were concerned about this harmful attitude and harmful effect of barbaric tree cuttinggt on forest ecosystems and left articles and other publications devoted to this wasteful practice. Unfortunately, these appeals remained just a voice of one calling in the desert.
We should be careful in dealing with any constant ecological habits of Baikal region population of the past. In the tsarist period people demonstrated few examples of careful attitude to nature (the only ecologically harmless type of economic activity of the past was the activity based on natural economy). The processes of industrialization and electrification of the country that characterized the Soviet era also got in the way of environmental protection activity of new authorities. The task of saving Baikal for future generations is an eternal goal which is viewed by faithful sons of Baikal as preserving their souls. Evtushenko has a very convincing and inspiring verse devoted to Baikal.
I take care of you, my Baikal,
Like a son taking care of his father,
When you roar in the squall
Raising waves in the sky,
I can hear you calling me,
And I answer: “I hear you, Father!”
In skyscrapers I planted your flag.
Being mischievous, I saw it like sails–
– old Russian kaftan, full of holes.
To your rocks, my Baikal,
I directed my boat,
And I never crashed —
Finding shelter from fame in your lap.
You are the pearl of my country,
My sacred Baikal.
Seeing dirt in your waters,
I feel dirt on my hands.
And I hear the cry of your dying soul
You pray: «Save me, save me,
My child, do you hear me? »
We have to realize that environmental protection in our region is a relatively new phenomenon, effective methods of nature protection are being worked out and they will become our contribution to this highly distinctive issue. Here we have to point out a specific psychological nuance. Today it is considered to be a matter of social and political prestige to contribute to environmental protection measures, to fight people who destroy and pollute the environment – it heightens a person’s status. The term “protection” often implies routine work which has nothing romantic or impressive, it can’t bring you fame or wealth, but it will result in something more valuable: clean Baikal and its wildlife areas saved for the future generations.
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