Friends House Moscow at Britain Yearly Meeting Gathering 2011

The theme of Britain Yearly Meeting Gathering (August 2011) was “Growing in the Spirit: changing the way we live to sustain the world we live in”.  Our FHM staff member from Moscow, Natasha Zhuravenkova, gave a talk at the Gathering on “Sustainability and Russia”.

Natasha described some of the environmental challenges facing Russia – for example the recent high summer temperatures causing forest fires to rage, sending a pall of smoke over Moscow.  Privatisation of forests, and relaxation of laws to enforce proper woodland management, is thought to be a factor in helping the wildfires to spread.

There are other dangers too.  Industrial pollution threatens the waters of Lake Baikal, the largest and deepest fresh water lake in the world.  In the cities of Sochi on the Black Sea and Kazan on the Volga, new developments are disrupting the environment, destroying wetlands and endangering water supplies.

Russia has nature reserves, and species like the Amur tiger are protected.  But awareness of ecological issues among the public is not greatly developed, and most people do not seem to care about environmental destruction or about living a sustainable lifestyle.  But though ecological activism was slow to take root, there is a growing network of groups and individuals who are concerned about preservation of the natural world, the built environment and Russia’s cultural heritage.

You can read Natasha’s notes to accompany her talk here.

Natasha also talked about Dzerzhinsk, which in the Soviet era was a centre for chemical weapons production and is reputedly one of the most polluted places in the world.  Life expectancy there is 42 years for men and 47 for women.  FHM currently sponsors a project in Dzerzhinsk to support foster children and their carers.  You can read about the project here.

The talk was well attended and generated a lot of questions and interest.  We also had a lively presence at the “Groups Fair”, where our sales of Russian craft items raised much needed funds to support our work.