There is a growing need for basic ecological education of world population in general and the citizens of Russia in particular. It is not only the struggle for clean air, water and soil, it is the fight for the survival of mankind, our physiological and psychological health. Moreover, there are regions where ecological problems are becoming so important that they cause alarm and stress among the population. This is especially true for big cities. The article “Deadly capital” published in Trud (a Russian quality newspaper) in late November 2006 listed some alarming facts.
Independent experts in ecology published the results of the research carried out in districts of Moscow, rest areas and drinking water sources. The facts are shocking: it is dangerous for health to live in 49 districts of the Russian Federation capital! “Ecostandard” laboratory experts had been carrying out the “Ecological ratings of Moscow and Moscow region” research for a year, then specialists of SRI (Scientific Research Institutes) of epidemiology and microbiology named after Gamalea and Geological Exploration Institute of basic and noble metals joined their activity. The specialists worked in 25 popular parks of the capital, about 15 fresh water springs and 125 Moscow districts.
They studied the acoustics, the radiation level intensity and the chemical composition of air, searched for unauthorized dumps. The experts carried out air chemical analysis in rush hours, when the parks were full of people. The parks were subdivided into four conventional categories. The first category included the cleanest parks where you can take your children any time of the day (Botanic Garden, Filevsky Park, Neskuchny Park, Izmailovsky Park, Vorobyovy Gory). The parks of the second category are better for sports activities. The parks of the third category are suitable for walks, but without children (Sokolniki, Kuskovo, Khamovnichesky). It is advisable to visit the parks of the fourth category as rare as possible (Presnensky, Chistoprudny boulevard, Alexandrovsky Sad, Central Park after Gorky and others).
This fact which is true not only for Moscow, but also for other metropolitan cities of the world, provokes ambiguous thoughts. On the one hand, there is a vital need for certain measures directed at the reduction of harmful consequences of cities industrialization on health and psychic state of the citizens. On the other hand, the fact that anthropogenic threats to the environment are underestimated, kept secret or even justified should be revealed to raise public awareness of the problem. These facts cannot be hidden forever.
Unfortunately, some scientists tend to belittle the harm we cause to Baikal or to blow out its “self-cleaning” abilities. A Russian aquatic biologist A. Mishchenko said after diving into Baikal with Pisces: - “As a scientist, I am concerned about cleaning the waste sewages of Baikal Pulp and Paper Plant. Earlier I thought that there should be a growing pile of chemical waste on the bed of the lake near the plant. Now we were able to see the real situation. Bacteria attack the alien mass and start their fight. Being aquatic biologists, we should learn how we can help Baikal in its noble attempts to keep its waters crystal-clean”. When the scientists found protozoa in the depths of Baikal, he said: “scientists used to think that there are no sponges and algae at the depth of 30-40 meters because there is no sufficient light for photosynthesis, but we were mistaken! Here we discovered brand new synthesis processes. Sponges feed on filtering water, thus cleaning the whole lake”.
Such points of view can be definitely called “psychological mechanisms of self-defense and self-comforting”. They can be absolutely harmless as they sooth our awakened conscience. However, they can be harmful - when they lead to the projects that can harm Baikal ecology in the long run.
If we will try to bring all the negative factors together, we can create a list of anthropogenic ones:
— Social and economic crisis that leads to reckless consumption of natural resources which is the result of our attempts to survive, relieve hardship, avoid famine more than a wish to enrich on trade in natural resources,
— Neglect of ancient customs and traditions by the elder generation owing to their inability to change the situation, improve living standards of the people living in the area and even of themselves,
— Absence or neglect of the norms of rational and zealous attitude to nature, they are still in the process of formation,
— Weak system of ecological education and ecological upbringing is aggravated by all the factors stated above,
Psychology of a “temporary user”, a rolling stone, who doesn’t care much about treasures and beauty of his homeland: “ubi bene, ibi patria» — “my country is where I am at ease”.
These are only a few psychological factors we should overcome to lay the basis for effective environmental protection.
All given above aspects of environmental conscience and environmental protection in Baikal region can be of practical importance provided that it will be effectively used in the development of environmental protection system. In order to substantiate the psychological aspect of the system, we should answer a number of questions. First and foremost we should figure out how to make environmental conscience and action natural for everybody. Environmental awareness and protective action should be as natural to people as a habit to brush their teeth, to make their beds, to wash the dishes, etc. «I do it because I can’t live the other way but not because I must do it» — this attitude should be the basis for environmental consciousness. Only this approach can help us create environment-oriented society.
This attitude is ideal and desirable for many of us. Building castles in the air in the realm of ecological education is as useless as hope to solve economic problems in the country quickly. Only stable system of social interaction in this direction can make the society environment-oriented. Though we have to avoid dull moralizing, frequent repetition of tiresome edifications, we have to implement a system of ecological education in our everyday life so as it would be able to form corresponding habits unperceivably but consistently.
Let’s formulate the rules which can be natural for people because they are in harmony with people’s natural states and their personal needs. They may be like this:
• Understanding of connection of ecological problems to our personal health, way of life, life expectancy. We should know and keep in mind that every harm we cause to nature returns as a blow to our organism (there is a saying in Russian which can illustrate this “butterfly effect” – “it’s more trouble than it is worth”);
• We should understand that our personal ecological position and our ecological actions are closely connected with those of other society members and we should see their significance to the society;
• We should be aware of how to use our potential abilities to protect environment, guarantee its future well-being and develop our skills and talents that are connected with natural world;
• We should aim at having adequate self-esteem which will include understanding of the impact of our “self” on the environment protection and the tendency to live in harmony with nature;
• We should interact willingly with other people in terms of actions of vital values that lay at the basis of environmental protection actions (we can illustrate it by the popularity of the “green” movement).
These attitudes and points of view, characteristic of a person’s mentality, become the basis for our general perception of nature. But mentality is always a two-dimensional thing; its second dimension is inalienable from social models of behavior that a person receives from inner or outer circles. It is natural for a person to compare his behavior with that of other people and look out for their actions as well as to follow the attitude “self comes first”. The second dimension of our mentality can be characterized by the following interconnected attitudes:
• Society in general and its representatives in particular taking care of social and individual health, which is formed according to the following sequence: “healthy” environment — healthy way of life — health of a person. We cannot remove any of the elements of this chain without harm to environmental education in general. It is more effective to see true measures implemented in order to create sustainable society in healthy environment than to hear declarative statements of officials about it.
• Making up ecological priorities that should be introduced to every person as consistent and inherent values, able to lead to environment-centered attitude of a person; these values should be clearly expressed and reasoned, they should not only be understood by people but also stay at subconscious level and form the basic principles of behavior;
• Setting up, supporting and stimulating environmental administrative, institutional and public organizations: associations and communities enable every person to take part in environmental protection, fulfilling some important social functions. On administrative level they are different departments and committees of national and municipal agencies (they also involve participation of volunteers), as well as different “green” movements with different specializations that are spreading around the world and in our region (“Baikal ecological wave”, “Baikaleconet”, etc.); special opportunities and responsibilities in the sphere of environmental protection should be given to governmental and private institutions. The latter are only undergoing the process of formation in the spheres of production, commerce and business, but, as they are becoming more numerous, their contribution into environment protection should also be growing, as well as their management and employees should be actively involved in it.
• Universal recognition of environmental protection in general and every single environmental action in particular; recognition here will make the support of governmental, municipal and institutional environmental actions the basic criterion together with opposition to any of these organizations if their activity harms the environment now or can have negative consequences in the future; this recognition helps a person to maintain positive self-esteem and self-respect.
• Maintaining broad cooperation of the public in environmental questions on the national and international levels; the scope of cooperation is not limited and can have many different forms.
To give a particular example of the interaction between individual and public dimensions of our mentality, we can touch upon the question of including ecological priorities into the papers determining corporate culture of the organization. In 2005 we had to work out the Code of corporate culture for Kuzmikha auto center in Irkutsk. O. Lobachev, the director of the center insisted on the fact that environmental awareness should be included on the code: «We create the feeling of confidence, safety and comfort among our clients, which also influences natural and social environments. We live in this world and in this environment and we want them to be clean, comfortable and safe. We want our future generations to have the best of what we have now. We are willing to direct our efforts, knowledge, skills and anxiety to this». The fact that the director and the employees of the center actually take part in environmental protection of Irkutsk and Baikal is really important here. The more individuals and corporate cultures having a strong accent on environmental action, the sooner we will have substantial changes in our attitude to the environment in economic, ecological and mental dimensions.
We should not adopt the attitude of “Ivan who knows no kinship” in environmental action. We should study the experience of other countries and use it when it is applicable to our conditions, especially in the case of Baikal national parks and reserves taking measures to ensure environmental protection. In this respect, we should point out the fact that Canadian national parks has introduced parks zoning principle which is being put into practice. It specifies 5 types of land use.
I. Specially protected areas, where human interference is reduced to disaster prevention measures, road building, mechanical transport and customary visits are prohibited. Scientific research is possible there if it does not disturb ecosystem’s integrity. This type of protected areas can include unique historical and cultural sites where limited walking tours are possible during the daytime.
II. Recreational natural parks with characteristics and visiting schedule close to the sites of the first type. They should be bigger in territory and located away from the zones of noticeable anthropogenic impact. Such areas are open for hiking, riding tours, rowing boats (no mechanical transport is allowed).
III. Recreational national parks that are buffer areas between II type areas and usual recreational sites. They have automobile roads, camping sites and other simple recreational facilities.
IV. Recreational areas that have camping sites, observation points, basic public service facilities.
V. Intensive use areas provided for large remote parks located at their borders or on the sides of major highway intersections that run inside the parks. These areas can have hotels, stores, petrol-filling stations and other facilities.
While working out the system of ecological education for Baikal region, we need to keep in mind that it should connect with traditional aspects taught in all educational institutions of the region. Thus, it is essential to realize the elements of ecological socialization and their interconnection. Let us consider the aspects of ecological consciousness and behaviour, which ought to be present in all types of socialization and upbringing.
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