Ecological economy (economical ecology) of Lake Baikal

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The movement for so-called "green economy" – economic and financial activity as well as consumer behavior, which would greatly facilitate environmental preservation and investment attraction into the sphere of nature protection – is gaining popularity nowadays. The essence of this phenomenon, in our view, could be reflected in the expression that has already been mentioned: "economy should be ecological, and ecology - economical" (see pp.157, 158). It is important that both of these words have the same root «oikog» which means «home, Motherland». Ecology considers the problem of friendly man-flora-fauna co-existence in the shared house. Economy, in its turn, teaches us how to manage affairs and finances in this house properly. And if these "two constituents" of the house oppose each other, it is unnatural and paradoxical.

Ecological economy at Lake Baikal depends on the effective cooperation of five institutions: science, the government, business, the public and the media. The twists and turns of their interaction in certain historical periods will be considered in this section.

The role of science in the study, the formulation and the tests of the efficient Baikal nature use is well known. It was scientists’ accomplishment that they described Baikal world at different stages and in different variations of its development as well as worked out a social and economic plan for sustainable development in the Baikal region. On the other hand, scientists approved of building Lake Baikal "monsters" - the Baikal Pulp and Paper Plant (BPPP), the Selenga Pulp and Paper Plant (SPPP) - and other harmful industries, including the waste-drain pipe of BPPP leading into the Irkut river. In fact, the scientists blessed the negative trends which are leading today or almost led to disastrous results.

It is hardly possible to speak about a willful, deliberate desire of at least one scholar to ruin Baikal, but in the depths of scientific ethics and psychology some guidelines have undoubtedly existed and they contributed to the negative trend in ecology. Recent facts prove it: for example, recent justification by explorers and engineers of the project to lay an oil pipeline from Siberia to the Far East near the northern Baikal shores.

Some scientists believe that members of the public and environmental organizations due to their amateurism in science matters go too far in struggle against some plants. For example, M. Grachev, the director of the Limnological Institute, expressed his opinion in February 2007 in two newspapers (Komsomolskaya Pravda - East format). First, he said, neither the BPPP nor the SPPP bring perceptable harm to Lake Baikal as a whole, only some local places are exposed to some negative effects. Secondly, he justified that it is rational and relevant to build the International Uranium Enrichment Center on the basis of the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Plant (AECP), although ecologists are skeptical about the validity of such conclusions. In their opinion, such conclusions are based on the data provided only by the interested AECP. In fact, to store uranium wastes is a great danger for the Baikal region, especially for its future. Such kinds of collision will arise from time to time, and their hidden motives should be revealed so as to neutralize, at least partly, the negative effects in future.

Science have always been the pioneer of many human ideas, and concerning nature as well. Its intelligent agents are happy, and they even boast of the fact that they are at the forefront of the mankind. It is so important and prestigious:

• to see something that nobody has seen yet,
• to understand something that has not been described and understood by anybody,

• to utter the phrases which have not been heard before,
• to compare and show the unexpected interdependence of notions and phenomena, which seemed to have nothing in common.

One cannot blame scientists (they are also people) that such priorities bring them an intoxicating feeling of mastery over others, sometimes give rise to unnecessary self-confidence and ambitions, make it possible to put themselves and their work they are doing above all other things. It is remarkable that most natural scientists, engineers and mathematicians are males, and they like to feel that they are men who “fertilize all the things”. Even the most important activities they interpret in similar way. It is interesting how E. Khan originally interprets the invention of the plough. He thought that the idea of land cultivation with drawing a plough by animals could not appear by itself because this technique did not bear any resemblance to tillage by hand.

In this case, in his opinion, mythological personification played a key role: the ground was viewed as a mother’s womb, plow - as a phallus, tillage, i.e. drawing a plow by the bull, a sacred animal – as a ritual imitation of impregnation. Therefore, everything associated with plowing, sowing, harvesting acquired sacred significance. Considerable confirmation of this idea may be found in one of the Siberian Old Believers’ riddles who live near Lake Baikal. The riddle apparently came to their folklore from ancient Russia: "There is a woman on the road with her legs apart. A man comes up to her and says, «God bless me». The answer is easy – it is a wooden plow (297, p. 119).

Male scientists’ strife to impregnate all the things is often accompanied by the desire to show Nature, female in its essence, “who is who”, and to demonstrate her their male abilities. A well-known historian and philosopher R.G. Collingwood had the following thought in this regard: "A famous saying that a scientist should “interrogate Nature” belongs to Francis Bacon, a lawyer and a philosopher. When Bacon was writing about it he denied that the attitude towards nature should be of respectful attention , which is waiting for her testimony, and that the scientist must base his theories on the facts that Nature agrees to tell him. In fact, Bacon states two things here: first, the initiative in the research belongs to the scientist who decides for himself what he wants to examine and in accordance with this formulates his problem; second, the scientist ought to find the means to make Nature answer, to think of such tortures that «loosen her tongue». In this brief aphorism Bacon formulated the true epistemology of experimental science». (174, p. 256. Underlined by A.K.). In the domestic science such "harsh" judgments were not observed.

It is enouch to recall M.V. Lomonosov’s words cited above ”nature and faith are sisters” so as to exclude the idea of possible interrogations and especially tortures of such a «noble person». But the general trends in global science were revealing themselves, and such a "masculine" orientation of environmentally detrimental opinions, according to modern standards, undoubtedly, took place. Foe example, in Biology this idea was reflected in the well-known I.V. Michurin’s aphorism “We cannot wait for favours from nature, our task is to take them from nature ourselves” (one can easily feel the machismo in this phrase). Whatever good aspirations caused this idea and whatever useful it would have been for the human adaptation in the world, it could not help arousing negative impacts (just recall the proverb: «The road to hell is paved with good intentions»). The radical essence of many Michurin’s statements was adopted by the opponents of genuine genetics. «It is possible that human interference is able to force any animal or plant to change quicker and, moreover, in the desired by a human being direction. It opens the most extensive field for the most useful human activity». (326, p. 59-60). In general, a positive thought that "a man can and should create plants better than nature" sometimes led to undesirable results.

The ideas of that time about «organisms of plastic nature» called «shaky» (!) took hold among Soviet researchers in the 1930-50s. Academician T.D.Lysenko (who is guilty of persecution and death of a brilliant scientist N.I.Vavilov) reported at the session of Agricultural Academy on July 31, 1948: «Vegetative organisms with «shaky nature» are the ones which are devoid of conservatism and which electivity for environmental conditions is weakened. These plants tend to prefer some conditions to other instead of conservative heredity» (326 p. 65). The attempts to «shake» the nature of Baikal are evident not only thanks to the listed examples of deepening the Angara mouth and building two tubes on its northern and southern shores. More than that, there was a suggestion in one of the newspapers about putting 2 or 3 nuclear reactors at Baikal so as to warm up its water. Had the project been realized, it would be a kind of Baikal execution which would turn it into the biggest bowl of «fish-soup» made of its inhabitants.

Today we see that a lot of scientists put nature to barbaric and cruel tortures and «shook» it in the wrong way. The matter worsened because people found powerful «artel instruments» to shake nature: the «collective farm order, through which the Сommunist party starts to fulfil the great task of renovating the land will lead the working humankind to the true power over nature. The collective farm is the future of our Natural History».

The famous philosopher O. Spengler saw both the essence and the tragedy of human development in the conflict of Man, his art and culture with Nature, in Man’s alienation from Nature. «A creative man goes away from the union with nature and his every creation takes him farther and farther, which makes him more hostile to nature. Such is the «world history», the history of irrepressible, fatal dissidence between the human world and the universe, the history of a rebel, an outgrown child who lays his hands on his mother. A human tragedy lies in the fact that nature is more powerful. A man stays dependent upon nature because it embraces everything including him, its creation. That is why all great cultures are great defeats at the same time. The whole race is being crushed, ruined from inside, it is falling into sterility and spiritual disorder– being a victim of Nature. Struggle against nature is hopeless but it will go on until the end».

Analyzing the character of such «understanding» between scientists and nature, it is useful to remember Valery Bryusov’s poem «Closed».

Once having chosen the wrong way,

Further and further the scientists walked,

Looking at their compass.

Their work was great , their steps were strong.

Every hour took them away from the goal.

However, nowadays we cannot estimate the viewpoints of unknown and famous researchers only in the negative way: they are the children of their time. All they had to and could create – the products of their work and their minds – were relevant and valuable for that time. The charisma and the theoretical points of many scientists evoked the feeling of respect from their contemporaries and the generations that followed. However, recent tendencies have shown that even positive ideas, developed in an orthodox way, can turn to people with the other side, become something harmful and take them away from the purpose. As a result, absolutely different approaches, which used to lie at the periphery of science, are coming into foreground.

It is necessary to say that the ideas of «torturing» and conquering nature, experimenting on it were not only male, masculine by their gender, but «western» by their geographical and philosophical origin. Philosophers, religious and public figures, ordinary citizens who come from the East considered the relations of Man and Nature in a different way. «… The Far East never had any doctrines aimed to make nature serve mercantile human interests. For us, Nature never appeared to be a mean and merciless enemy who had to be put into obedience. We, the people of the East, do not regard nature as an enemy. On the contrary, we were always taught to look at it as if at a loyal friend or an ally worthy of respect and trust…». Although these ideas permeated rather scarcely into European psychology, their influence on some politicians, thinkers and artists cannot be disregarded.

Seeing nature originally as a great organism, opposing the mechanical interpretation of nature, the famous philosopher Schelling again imparted it with «the universal soul» in the image of God. As the substance of original nature is a permanent basis for God’s existence, nature has to contain the substance of God, though in a hidden state – that was the point Schelling came to. As a result, the matter was represented for him in an idealistic way, as «a spirit contemplated in a balance of its activities».

F.I. Tyutchev, a famous Russian poet, was a vehement follower of Schelling. His well-known:

Nature is not as you imagine her:

She's not a mold, nor yet a soulless mask-

She is made up of soul and freedom

She is made up of love and speech . . .

can be definitely called an important ecological credo.

Vladimir Solovyov was one of the first scientists not only in Russia but in the whole world who raised the questions of moral correlation between people’s labour and nature. His article «Economic issues from the moral point of view» (the chapter from the book “The Justification of the Good”) published in 1896 says about some conditions for morally justified labour. The first condition is that the area of economic activity is not isolated, self-sufficient or self-contained. It means that material wealth mustn’t be considered as the Good in itself or as the final purpose of human activity even in the sphere of economy. The second condition is that production must not be accomplished at the expense of producers’ human dignity; no one can be used only as a tool in the production but he should be provided with enough material means for worthy life and development. If one regards these ideas offered more than a century ago in terms of modern problems, it is possible to say that they are quite relevant for today.

Solovyov says that these two important statements are linked to the third one that had not been paid serious attention to. «This condition is pointed out in the commandment about the labour: to cultivate the land. To cultivate the land does not mean to abuse, exhaust or ruin it, but to improve it, put it into the strength and the fullness of being… Things have no rights but nature or land is not a thing - it is a materialized substance that we must impart with spirituality. The purpose of labour is not to make use of material nature in order to profit, but to make it perfect, to make inanimate - living, physical - spiritual.

Hardly anyone doubts now that V. Solovyov was right. But their importance is growing because the philosopher could already see the major direction of perspective interaction between Man and Nature. It allowed, on the one hand, to «humanize» nature; on the other hand, to plant some ecological and environmental content into human minds. Along with this, the author didn’t idealize the reality but he saw the problematic side of the question. «There are three types of attitudes of a man toward his environment: a suffering subordination to it, then - active struggle against it, its conquest and making use of it as if it is an indifferent tool, and finally, affirmation of its ideal state, what it is supposed to become through Man. The first attitude is unfair to neither Man nor Nature: it deprives a man of his spiritual dignity, making him a slave of the material; it is unfair in relation to Nature because a man admiring nature in this imperfect and unnatural state takes away the hope for perfection. The second negative attitude to nature must be thought of quite normal if it is temporal or transitive, it is clear that we need to treat nature negatively in its today’s imperfect state to make nature ideal. Certainly, only the third, positive, attitude should be recognized as normal and final, a positive attitude because in this case a man uses his superior position over nature to improve himself and nature.

The idea of active struggle against nature and torturing it stay unpopular in Russia in the 21st century. However, they don’t disappear but they are camouflaged by economic, technological and industrial needs. It is very important to learn how to identify such transformations and to find an «antidote» for them, especially in the area of goods production. Today the products of many companies without scientifically justified technologies should be referred to instruments of nature torturing. Though a couple of decades ago the level of environmental industrial developments was hardly lower than, for instance, in America, according to the acknowledgements of foreign experts.

It is necessary to underline the fact that nowadays the supporters of ecological economy are in minority and it is important for them to make their best to influence the majority. To illustrate the situation with the minority «struggling for ecological economy» let us give the opinion of big business about environmental protection generalized by a sociologist.

«First, the purpose of both the Russian state and business is creating industry which can be competitive on the world market. A new highly developed industry could put money into environmental protection and solve the problem of pollution, and that is why nowadays economic interests are more important than ecological. Second, ecological policy must be focused on embedding ecomanagement technologies which are economically profitable for the companies. Administrative mechanisms are not effective for minimization of environmental pollution risks. Third, new federal norms should be created for environmental protection and they must be the only and the obligatory rules for all the regions. At present there are no exact rules. Regional and local authorities use different means to make companies pay for pollution even if there are no payments on the federal level. Fourth, environmental norms must be strict in populated European part of Russia and considerably lower in the north, in Siberia and in the far East: in the areas where oil, gas and other mineral resourses are mostly extracted.

The enumerated «first» and «fourth» points do not speak to the advantage of big businesses. As for the first point, it is built upon the assumption that the representatives of big businesses need to build oil and gas extracting industries, which are ecologically unsafe, and, at the same time, bring considerable profits possible to be shared. (It is also connected to the justification of the «third»). The fourth point about toughening the rules in some areas and weakening them in others as a standard of economical activity has become the practice that is ruining the native people of the mentioned regions. If this idea becomes regulated by the law, the situation can turn into unpredicatable. The way out can be is establishing rental relationships between the corporations that influence the domain of indigenous populations and the representatives of local authorities. Rental payments for justified claims will teach corporations to take into consideration both the direct damage to people and to the environment, and to count the possible losses.

Upon the whole, the ability to count and to take into consideration everything must become the leading principle of economical ecology and ecological economy. This approach is close to the opinion of the world community that begins to realize the uselessness of calls to the public and moral maxims. J. Porry, co-founder and program director of «Forum for the Future», the central charity organization in Britain supporting sustainable development writes: «I think we will have to estimate more and more environmental aspects in terms of money and to define their market price. It seems, the only thing that people can value is banknotes: pounds and dollars. Nowadays in this world the attempts to persuade people that nature is above any price are absolutely hopeless. We have gone too far in our philosophizing – it does not produce any impression, it does not work. The defining of the price can change the situation to some extent». It is an urgent problem for Baikal region. 

See also


  1. A.D. Karnyshev "The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal"© BSU Publishing House, 2011

Выходные данные материала:

Жанр материала: English | Автор(ы): Karnyshev A.D. | Источник(и): The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal. Ulan-Ude. 2012 | Дата публикации оригинала (хрестоматии): 2011 | Дата последней редакции в Иркипедии: 30 марта 2015

Примечание: "Авторский коллектив" означает совокупность всех сотрудников и нештатных авторов Иркипедии, которые создавали статью и вносили в неё правки и дополнения по мере необходимости.

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Тематический указатель: Irkipedia English