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ECOLOGY AND INTERDEPENDENCE Ecology and Politics: Political Awareness Development in the USSR VASILY SOKOLOV AND I. ABALKINA ECOLOGY AND INTERDEPENDENCE 1930S: Ecological degradation is growing on a planetary scale. The question of ecological survival clearly shows the interdependence of the world, the responsibility of the entire world community for ecological security. Attempts to provide this security on a nation-by-nation basis are no longer sufficient. Ecology as a science and as a practical activity has always been based on environmental interdependence. In fact, the interdependence of the world in ecological as well as a social sense was understood conceptually by Vernadsly, the founder of biosphere theory. Vernadsly wrote in the early Every event in an out-of-the-way place of any continent or ocean is reflected and has its consequence~large or small in some other places or everywhere on the earth's surface ....For the first time the human realizes that he is the resident of the planet and that he may and he must think and act in new directions, not only on behalf of his personality, his family, community, state, or its alliances, but on behalf of the whole planet. We do not propose to evaluate political and social processes by biolog- ical categories and methods but we are persuaded that ecological thinking, as a method of scientific knowledge, can be of great value to both political and social science. Specifically, we believe that the "ecology of politics" (especially international politics) can be created as a branch of science, focusing on the interdependence of the world. It is important to recognize that national decisions can sometimes lead to international consequences and to international responsibility. 65
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66 SOVIET-AMERICAN DL4LOGUE IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES ECOLOGICAL AWARENESS IN THE USSR: GROWTH STAGES Every nation has special features in its "environmental mobilization." In spite of the recent appearance in Soviet political language of the notion of "ecology," political awareness concerning environmental protection has a long history in the Soviet Union. We would distinguish four historical periods of environmental mobilization in the USSR. The first period is connected with the very beginning of the Soviet state. Some of the first decrees signed by V.I. Lenin concerned land, forests, natural reserves, and so on, which proves that the ecological im- perative can have a place in political consciousness even during in the most crucial and acute social shifts (namely, civil war, destruction of the country, and hunger). The other feature of this period the socialization of some ecological resources (land, forests, and so on) was an attempt to take "collective action" in their use and protection. The second period is connected with the so-called industrialization of the USSR (the 1920s through the 1940s). Although the scientific under- standing of ecological threats grew during this period (especially through the work of Vernadsky et al.), actual practice lagged far behind. In real life and in public consciousness, the smokestack was a symbol of progress in every sense. The first decisions limiting pollution were episodic. The main impulse for environmental activities, which we associate with the third period, was the construction of pulp and paper plants on Lake Baikal in the 1960s. The adverse ecological consequences of this construc- tion sparked the public "Baikal movement," which has had- a special impact on environmental mobilization. The other bad ecological event of that time was the construction of a series of huge hydroelectric stations on the Volga River. During the same time, the most fundamental environmental legislation was adopted, including principles of water legislation (1970), principles of land use (1968), principles of mineral legislation (1975), air pollution and wildlife protection laws (1980), and so forth. Special changes regarding environmental pollution were implemented in the Constitution in 1977. But the most impressive developments in environmental mobilization (speaking both publicly and politically) take place in the fourth period, which is directly connected with changes in the entire political life of the country. PERESTROIKA AND ECOLOGY Reconstruction in environmental policy was attendant upon two special circumstances public discussion about transfers of water between Siberian rivers (and the hard decision to stop these projects) and the Chernobyl
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ECOLOGY AND INTERDEPENDENCE 67 accident. Deciding against the huge water projects was a crucial moment in the environmental movement. It showed clearly that (1) the environmental movement was already a real political force and, (2) ecological goals can be more highly valued than economic, "departmental," or regional interests. The nuclear reactor accident at Chernobyl was a practical demonstration of the scale of ecological "mistakes." But changes in environmental policy were attendant mainly on the reconstruction of political life. Broad discussions concerning environmental problems in the atmosphere of glasnost were connected with such key elements of perestroika as economic reform, democratization, and legal reform. Even during the very short period from the 27th Communist Party Congress (February 1986) until the 19th All-Union Party Conference (July 1988), the attention paid by political leaders to ecology increased sharply. Mikhail Gorbachev connected the economic development target directly with a radical amelioration of the ecological situation. There were several results of this new thinking (besides stopping "the project of the century," that is, the redirection of the Siberian rivers): a new, most promising resolution "on radical amelioration of nature protection," adopted in January 1988; special measures to save the Aral Sea (almost half of which had disappeared); a halt to construction of the Ignalinsk atomic station (of the Chernobyl type) in the Lithuanian Republic; refusal to develop a phosphate rock site in the Estonian Republic; a halt to construction of the Daugavpils hydroelectric station; and so on. At the same time, a long-range (until the year 2005) state ecological program was developed, the Academy of Sciences developed its own long-range research program on ecological problems (until the year 2015), the independent State Committee for Nature Protection was started (in 1988), and so on. It is understandable that the new ecological thinking has not been adopted by everyone. One of the reasons for this is departmental interests. A good example of such interests is the Ministry of Land Reclamation and Water Management. Being denied "the project of the century," the ministry is making desperate attempts to find other projects to keep its immense staff and budget intact (almost 2 million people are involved in irrigation and drainage works). Such conduct, as well as the gigantic scale and monopolistic nature of these departments, is the heritage of the command-administrative economic system. But resistance is not always the case, especially when the public is involved. Public response to ecological degradation often runs ahead of the political effort in this sphere because it is the individual who first suffers the destructive effects of ecological degradation. Public consciousness is now the main indicator of the acuteness of environmental problems. Public
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68 SOVIET-AMERICAN DIALOGUE IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES protests, for example, led to cancellation of modernization plans for chem- ical plants in Volgograd, in Jambul, in Chimkent in the Kazakh Republic, and in other places. Mobilization of the public around environmental issues used to be ei- ther very formal or connected only to the particular objects to be protected. Some new forms of public involvement are developing now. Demonstra- tions, meetings, and pickets are being added to the petitions, public dele- gations, educational and informational activities, and independent scientific research common before perestroika. New environmental organizations that are politically oriented, such as the Ecological Union and the Socioe- cological Union, are being created. Perestroika shows clearly some lacks in present legislation. An example is the new state enterprise law, which exempts enterprises from numerous guidelines and from everyday interference including pollution-control su- pervision by higher-level officials. Therefore new mechanisms of protection are needed, including one that would give the public the right to sue an enterprise directly in the case of violations rather than pursuing it through the local government. Legal reforms currently being worked on could help elaborate such mechanisms. It is clear that successful environmental policy depends very much on the results of perestroika. In the economic field it depends on the progress of economic reform, on structural changes in the economy, on limiting departmental power, and so on. In the legal field it depends on the progress of legal reform, democratization, improving environmental legislation, and personal responsibility for environmentally acceptable conduct. In the political field and social life it depends on the growth of public awareness and on public impact on the decision-making process. Finally, in the international field it depends on new political thinking. That means giving priority to the global environmental situation rather than to spending huge resources, human knowledge, and abilities on the arms race and other military and political rivalries.
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