Speaking about cities and the towns situated on the shores of the Baikal and near it, peculiarities of their life and culture I find it useful to reflect on the common subject – the interrelations within the triad City – Nature – Human, taking into consideration that possible agglomeration of them in the Baikal region can sharpen the problem even more.
In the modern industrial society it is rather short-sighted to deny the modern people’s urbanized values, and their sticking to different canons of beauty. A proverb says: “the truth is always somewhere in-between”, and upon it we can judge the importance of today’s opposition of different approaches in evaluation of surroundings. More than a century ago Nicholas Roerich said: “Let cities pile one on another, let them wrap themselves up into the wire web curtains, let the train- snakes dart in at different depths and let hundred-storey buildings rush up to the towers of Babylon to the sky. The city outgrown from the nature threatens the nature now; the city created by a human holds sway over the human. Now in its present state the city is an absolute opposition to nature; let it live in its oppositive beauty without being conformed to what it is not to be conformed to. In the urban conglomeration, in the newest architectural lines, in slenderness of cars, in a crater of smelt-furnace, in volumes of smoke, and, finally, in the methods of scientific improvement of these poisonous inchoations there is a poetry of a certain ilk, but it is not a poetry of nature.
And there is nothing frightening in the contrast of the beauty of a city and the beauty of nature. Like beautiful contrasting colours that do not destroy each other, but strike a stronger chord, so the beauty of a city and the beauty of nature, so opposing each other, go hand in hand and intensify the impression of both of them; they give a strong third with the third note sounding the beauty of the mysterious”.
This Reorich’s reflection raises a question not only about an unreasonable contrasting of the urban and natural ways of life, but also about those psychological causes that induce citizens to reach for urbanization. It is only when we understand the way city dwellers think it will be possible to influence their attitude to the nature somehow. Beyond all doubt, the following factors form people’s preference of the urban culture:
availability of modern municipal and household conveniences in city life;
opportunity to satisfy the most important material and spiritual needs and advantages of qualitative services;
absence of neighbours’ “eye of Omniscience” that is present in small settlements, and that raise the level of individualism and anonymity;
opportunity to develop background and educational level in different cultural institutions (theatres, cinemas, museums, expositions, etc.);
opportunity to establish business relations and get in touch with different interesting people, to communicate with them, establish interest groups and “group-gropes”;
prospects to participate in various significant public events (meetings, demonstrations, processions, etc.), in such a way acquiring a high social status and bolstering self-esteem;
absence of social constraints in the evolution of one’s views, attitudes, preferences in the pluralistic urban environment; opportunity to choose the priority values, etc.
All these factors expand considerably the spheres for realization of an individual potential, enhance loyalty to the urban culture, and to some extent keep people away from the constant interaction with nature. At that people understand that they can compensate for the deficit of contacts with nature by artificial urban imitations of the natural environment (garden-plots, parks, gardens, zoos, etc.) or by outings to the nature, since there are many opportunities for that.
At the same time the urban environment has the other side of the coin and introduces the following row of psychological threats into the internal world of its disciple:
potential and real negligence to the environment cleanness, hence there are risks for physical and psychological health;
high level of anxiety and fear because of the developing criminal situation;
disturbance of mental rest because of the noise produced by auto transport, trams and trolleybuses, innumerous radios and cellphones; consequently, lowering of intellectual potential of many people for the reason that “noise is a killer of thoughts”;
frequent conflicts between acquired norms of real social life which occur in a polyethnic and more stratified social situation;
heightened possibility to enter into a conflict with people of different political, ethnic, confessional and other orientations, both in business and everyday life;
society’s stimulating of aggressive reactions and categorical opinions;
more frequent collisions and disagreements between representatives of different generations.
The enumerated points, the list of which, of course, can be extended, burden the life of townsmen and require psychological compensation, and it is calming, heeling property of the natural environment that performs this role. In this context the Baikal is and will be a perfect natural health resort for psychological health of many people.
The eternal call of a human to nature is his natural need to be inseparable from it. And a citizen living in the world of asphalt, bricks, concrete, with abundance of streets depleted in the vegetable kingdom and, of course, with diverse vociferous noise effects is especially attracted to nature.
The dramatic confirmation of this idea is citizens’ passion for the vegetable kingdom that is revealed through their kitchen-gardens, summer cottages which somehow compensate for the deficit of communication with nature. One more demonstration of the eternal call is a certain imitation of wildlife in flats and especially in cottages; it is the love to various kinds of animals: dogs, cats, white mice, hamsters and many other animals that share humans’ miserable existence within four walls. Among such imitations there are also aquariums, cages with birds, indoor plants and small trees, fashionable “interior gardens” that relieve some subconscious sadness about the charm of living in natural environment.
But when in nature this or that citizen completely forgets about his “blood mother”, about his obligations to it and becomes “the crown of nature”, and he can be referred to as the “Ivan-forgot-about-his-kinship” type. It is demonstrated by careless, improvident and even predatory treatment to fauna and flora; the consequences of such treatment are wounded, ragged trees and bushes, littered glades that blossomed the day before, outrageous bonfire sites on green lawns, and many other unattractive things.
I have already spoken about the agglomeration of three cities situated near the Baikal: Irkutsk, Angarsk and Shelekhovo. Together with this there is an idea that the agglomeration is a kind of megapolis in itself. But we should not forget that these concepts are somewhat different. The city agglomeration is a complex system of settlements that are connected with the each other by the unity of day and week cycles of human activity (office hours, places of amusement, recreation, summer cottages, sightseeing, etc.). Hence the agglomeration is not so much a definite populated territory but a certain order and style of living. And the megalopolis is first of all vast territories of densely situated buildings as it can be observed in Moscow, New York, Tokyo and other very large industrial centres. In ecological literature of the end of the XXth century there appeared the name of Cheremkhovo-Irkutsk agglomeration that was said to pollute the Baikal with its wastes. So, one can say for sure that the presence of an agglomeration near the Sacred Sea has been discussed for a long time.
In my opinion, in case of the official establishment of an agglomeration (if this happens) near the Baikal the strategic guidelines should take into consideration the following important points. It is common for western citizens of the middle and high classes to have a flat in the city and at the same time a country house or a cottage in the country. The feeling of being a part of wildlife blends with the feeling of being a citizen, and this makes a person much happier. And if we speak about the middle class development, the realization of such approach must become the most important base in the strategy of the agglomeration establishment and at the same time in the provision of the population living close to Lake Baikal with dwellings. In 2007 we conducted a poll on dwelling problems and its prospects in Irkutsk. 60% of more or less well-to-do people, who were going to build or buy a dwelling, preferred country cottages and individual houses. I think that there are some notes of patriotism in such approach because everyone can love a flat in glass and concrete jungles in any city. But a person will appreciate and love more his own house that is situated in wildlife and allows realizing other interests. And Siberia territories are quite enough for all who aim at such lifestyle.
The realization of this strategy presupposes that the integration of the three cities must and can lead to the development of the agglomeration as a “zebra” of a certain ilk that is composed of city blocks, parks, forest shelter-belts, alternating with settlements of different types. But anyway the designing of agglomeration must take into account ecological consequences of it for both life style of a definite person and the environment as a whole. The modern agglomeration that consists of several autonomous administrative territories near the Baikal must establish concrete mechanisms that can range from encouraging to the toughest ones when any egoist who neglects and does not pay attention to his or her duties to the nature will be punished. In my opinion, today there is an urgent need in the carrot-and-stick policy that had been sworn many times. It is this policy that will help most of us to come gradually to the habit of zealous attitude to the nature. The agglomeration must be carefully thought out and worked out from the point of view of its architecture and design. It will be worthy of the Baikal only when natural objects blend with city blocks, cottage settlements, suburban gardens, traditional and modern settlements. The agglomeration near the Sacred Lake as none of the other inhabited territory must be notable for the harmony of megapolis, settlement and the natural environment. This is a place where a man of future will live, dream of many people come true, and at the same time where nature ideas the triumph over ecology folly.
No matter how unpatriotic it may be for the population of the Baikal area, some ideas of agglomeration establishment must be adopted from the foreign countries practice. The main point of it is that with the minimum damage of the environment while building dwellings, industrial and social objects, introduce them in harmony to the wildlife. In one of the pictures in this book you can see the German health resort Bad Blumau where the architect created “the inhabited nature”. The Baikal cities must develop just in this direction.
The conversation about agglomerations encourages thinking about the ecological prospects of Lake Baikal settlements in the whole. They must be not only “introduced into wildlife”, but also have ecologically reasonable life support system. It concerns, firstly, the effective electric energy and heat supply, complete biological processing of people activity wastes, etc. And it turned out that the elements of scientific and technological supply, for example, of building “solar” cities have already been adopted in the region. As for the scientific rationale, the Professor of the Buryat Agricultural Academy V. Taysayeva, who is called “the author of solar cities” for her projects of utilizing the large inflow of solar energy on the territory of the Baikal for heating houses, farms, green houses, etc. and for heat accumulation for everyday needs. In 2007 one of the recent projects of Professor Taysayeva “The Technical and Economical Efficiency Study of Ecological Settlement Implementation on the Basis of Renewable Energy on the Natural Territory of Lake Baikal” was awarded the prize “Economic Development Achievements” by the International Assembly for Economic, Scientific and Cultural Cooperation (IAECSC) “Global World” and the certificate of “Global World Economic Award”. The implementation of such a project will allow to choose a more rational regime for eco-houses, green houses and farms, and on a large scale to get environmentally safe products, to improve the environment ecological condition. I think that it is the future of each settlement at Lake Baikal.
There are all necessary resources and oppotunities for the production of solar batteries in the Baikal region. Thus, the basic solar batteries component, silicon, is produced at the chemical plant in the town of Usolie-Sibirskoe, and it can provide silicon not only to meet needs of this country, but also sell it abroad. I hope that this fulfillment will first take place in the Baikal region.
One of the most principal goals of the administrations of the Baikal cities situated on the western side of the lake is the reduction of air pollution caused by industrial enterprises. For example, out of 502,000 tons of pollutants in the Irkutsk Oblast in 2005, 26% are exhaled in Angarsk, 6, 4% – in Usolie-Sibirskoe, 5, 6% – in Shelekhovo, 3, 4% – in Irkutsk. Moreover, all the enumerated territories have been in the list of the Russian cities with the highest level of pollution for more than ten years.
Meanwhile, there are a lot of opportunities for enterprises to prevent such pollutions. For example, in 2006 “IrkАZ-SUАL” Ltd spent 297, 2 million rubles for ecological security, and that sum exceeded the planned one by 27%. This work allowed to increase the efficiency coefficient of dust cleaning up to 98%, of resinous matters up to 70%, etc. The ecological problems solution of this kind must be characteristic of all the Baikal cities and enterprises no matter what shore they are situated on.
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