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Sergey Fomichov



Resources (most of all, people, finances, and time) of the current ecological movement in Russia (and not only) are seriously limited. With the exception of a few big organizations such as Greenpeace-Russia, the Social-Ecological Union, and a few regional ecological centers, the remaining ecological initiatives are more or less without a constant flow of resources to support normal working regimes.

This happens for one reason--the abscence of any significant amount of native resourcs. Essentially everything that the ecological movement of Eastern Europe has, including Russia, currently comes from a Western source. Western aid is seriously limited and gaining access to it is, as a rule, is very difficult for the majority of initiatives.

From this, develops an inevitable dependence of the grassroots of the ecological movement on a small group of organizations consciously or unconsciously monopolizing the resources. This dependence seriously weakens the effectiveness of the ecological movement overall, increasing, really, and also significantly the effectiveness of the work of individual organizations and the concentration of resources. The minuses in such a situation are much more, unfortunately, than the plusses. And here is why.


In 1987-1991 the environmental movement of the Soviet Union was located in an unprecendented "splash of activeness." The reason for this activeness was the fact, that the movement of that time operated more than anything else on HUMAN RESOURCES, which were more than adequate, thanks to the just-beginning political changes, still not transformed into economic changes. In other words, human resources dominated, and financial resources played a secondary role. In this case, the base, guiding, power of the ecological movement consisted of the OBJECTIVE NEEDS OF THE POPULATION. Problems were solved quickly, and not only when the public raised these questions. Without dollars, without computers, without finances and even without offical registration, the ecological movement acheived results, which would now take decades to accomplish. Besides this, it is necessary to notice that human resources had a local character and, for the most part, fed into grassroots initiatives.

With the changes in the country's economic situation, the structure of the movement was transformed. Human resources radically shrunk and shifted to a secondary place, and FINANCES started to dominate. Now, in order to work normally in the almost complete abscence of people and the constant growth of the cost of living, the need for dollars has appeared. Only the Ecological West is able to contribute dollars. Only people connected with the Ecological West are able to receive dollars. In this instance, the main directing strength of the movement has changed. In replacing the objective interests of the population, the SUBJECTIVE INTERESTS OF THE DISTRIBUTORS OF THE FINANCIAL RESOURCES have arrived. Problems take longer to solve and only when there is financing for their solutions. As it was earlier, human resources were the foundation; now, they are mobilized not directly, like earlier, but through the receival of financial resources. It is forbidden to finance peoples' protests and therefore the movement began to "professionalize," not in the sense that it started to attract specialists, but in the sense that it attracted functionaries.

It is not worth it to tangle the subjective interests of the distributors of financial resources with their personal and selfish interests (that indeed also is an issue, but is dealt with further down). He who pays is he who places the music requests--this is true, yet not everyone who pays is the mafia, or the CIA, or Simons, but those ecological-orientated people living in the West. However, interests remain subjective and do not correspond to the objective interests of the population, which ultimately "places the Cross" on attempts to ressurect the former mass of the ecological movement.

The prinicpal inadequacy of subjectiveness is in that it does not reflect the whole complex of ecological problems, which means it is not able to anticipate the ecological castrophe on the global scale. Besides this, resources are being transferred from the poorly-funded sectors of ecological activity to the well-funded. Here it is possible to look at a few examples.

Protected natural territories, and in general, all that is connected with biological diversity, is becoming a key theme in the financing of projects of the Social-Ecological Union (SEU). Despite the fact that the active majority of SEU members stand on the principles of the founding flow of the movement (the preservation of the environment), the organization is still under the control of its creators--Dopniki (members of the Druzhina Nature Conservation Student Movement) and Biodiversants (biodiversity specialists). As a result, if you consider the money spent on the operaton of the organization and the development of the structure, a large part of the financial means of the SEU (in 1992 for example) were spent on the support of protected natural territories--work which the government should finance and not citizen organizations. (Here I foresee indignation and a multitude of objections and am prepared to answer them, but only this does not concern the question of resources. The specifics of the financing structure of the SEU, I touch further on).

This is, as they say, internal subjectivism, depending on the overall orientation of the leadership of these ecological formations. In the worst case it is allocated only for one organization. Then there is the external subjectivism, coming from those who pay, i.e. thus, those from the West. This already concerns the agenda of the movement.

Environmental education projects are acquiring a special popularity. Roughly calculating, close to half of the entire Western financial support (especially from European countries) goes towards the financing of such projects. A multitude of examples exist. As a result of this, ecological initiatives of the former Soviet Union have entirely reoriented their work from nature preservation or the defense of the environment to education. The Western environmentalist does environmental education, because the key ecological problems of Europe have been solved or are closer to their solutions. In such a situation it is possible to think of the nurturing of future generations. There is time (more accurately, Europeans think that Europe is located in another planet), and they carry their idea to our country, already having agonized over the places deteriorating from the violation of the ecological balance. Does this hamper the Russian movement? Undoubtedly, in the case of a fire it is neccesary to put out the fire and not give a lecture about fire safety.

The criticism of the anti-atomic movement, outlined below, is a delicate topic. Beside objectives reasons (in Russia there are 26 widely-known reactors), the positioning of the atomic issue as a priority in the ecological movement of Eastern Europe was done for purely subjective reasons. From the point of view of the Western European observer, the nuclear industry represents the principal threat to Russia. It is so, but only if you look from the West. Frightened by Chernoybl, from which the center of Europe received the pollution, international ecological organizations, naturally consider this problem in the first priority. They have done so that their egoism would not show itself; yet it obviously does. To the person living in the center of Russia, something else is obvious. The nuclear industry without all doubt is dangerous and requires maximum resistance from citizen organizations. Yet, originating from local, as well as from global interests it is possible to name not nuclear threats as the most urgent issue (as it carries a general, potential character), but the real, 24-hour pollution of chemical substances and any other toxic substance and the daily destruction of forests.

The opposition against toxic pollution and the defense of the forests (not only protected forests, but all, including those which represent biological value) is carried out at the present time very weakly. For example, in the recent SEA bulletins the weight given to the atomic issue has grown so much that it is already difficult to read it as a general ecological publication. And moreover this is the most widely-read source of information within the green movement.

If you look deeper into the problem, then, naturally it is not worth it to argue over priorities, but it becomes necessary to try harder to change the political-economic system of this society, as the reason for all occuring chaos; yet our movement's understanding has not matured to this point.


We return to resources. As it was already discussed, the change in the resource-flow into the ecological movement occurred not only in terms of its source, but also in its distribution. In turn, these changes have led to structural changes in the movement. If earlier the basic resource (people) was derived on the local level and by local initiatives, than the structure of ecological coalitions has been formed from the movement from below and according to its needs. With the beginning of this decade the structure of the movement was transformed. The absorption from below ended and in place of it, the humanitarian aid from above has been flowing in narrow streams. Now the structure has been modified in correspondence with the needs of the center, which were mentioned in the second part of this article.

In the "hour-glass" of the movement it is possible to delineate a few levels: international and national centers, big and small regional centers, private ecological initiatives, and finally, the grassroots movement, consisting of simple people, rendering the movement support with their participation in action and campaigns. The bottom level and part of the next level we have already lost. The activity of the alliance of radical greens and anarchic organizations can be seen as an example. In the 1989 action in Chapaevsk close to 7,000 people participated from the local population, whereas in the last actions (Lipetsk and St. Petersburg) local activists were estimated in the ones. The "hour-glass" of the ecological movement in the last few years has significantly sifted and sifted, basically eating away at its numbers.

If you still watch TV, then maybe you have seen a certain style of western, elite restaurants and casinos where, when pouring wine, the wine glasses are placed with the appearance of an hour-glass. The waiter fills the upper part of the glass and the wine pours down through the funnel, it fills one level of the glass and continues down until the lowest level.

This is roughly how the native ecological movement looks right now. While the Center is not satiated with these computers, dollars and other grants, one drop will not fall down (if the waiter's hand does not shake from such an injustice or someone does not push him under the elbow). The bottle is too small and as long as the aid has only reached the level of regional centers. Now it is essential that they become satiated.

The main office of the SEU in Moscow spends huge, according to local standards, amounts of money on the purchase of hand-made carpets, imported armchairs on wheels and other luxuries by appearance, imported thumbtacks and paper clips, and at the same time, in the provinces there is often not enough money for the most essential things. They are somehow required by some agreement with the Americans to have the most, abundant office. It is necessary to send these Americans to the provinces to work for a few days in the conditions of the absence of not only computers, but a table on which it would be possible to place a computer...and an office. In the case of the desire of the leadership of the SEU, it would be possible to easily get around such limitations, however the desire apparently does not arise.

In response to such accusations, they often answer, those who have the money are able to work and don't consider the money to belong to someone else. This shows only that the movement has lost the feeling of solidarity and divided into corporate groupings. Money and the abscence of unifying ideologies is destroying the movement. It is necessary to notice that for those who now receive grants, it would not be so easy if the SEU did not have a multitude of working organizations throughout the former Soviet Union, but only consisted of the Moscow office.

Besides this, as Professor Yanitsky noticed, the real danger arises with "the overgrowing of the Eco-movement and most of all the Social-Ecological Union, a mass of orgnanizations-politicans, not having an ecological orientation."

Ecological organizations, derived from citizen initiatives and the masses, are now being converted into closed structures. The resulting model of such conversions can been seen in Greenpeace, with 5 million members in the whole world. It is a global fabrication, since these members, even in the case that a desire arises, are not able to influence the decision-making of their own organization. In reality Greenpeace consists from a few thousand professionals (functionaries and specialists), but these 5 million are sympathizers or supporters.

According to the opinion of many activists, in such a set-up there is nothing bad. The movement is a flexible organism and constantly resturctures itself in accordance with external conditions. A time will come and the lower level will resurrect itself.

The work of the Russia-Franco research (sociological group of Professors Oleg Yaninsky and Michelle Viverk) in Nizhni Novgorod and the seminar on the problems of radical environmentalism (the Institute of Social and Global Ecology) in Lipesk showed, that activists of the movement are very passively dealing with the abscence of a mass movement. One of the participants of the Lipesk seminar stated, that the expenses for the mobilization of human resources do not pay for themselves.

Allow me to not agree with this. If the ecological crisis would not be so deep and if the ecological movement would possess a massive amount of time for the accomplishment of their diverse goals...but the movement has nothing of the sort.


And such the movement has been transformed according to certain parameters:

  1. the change of the character of a vital resource (instead of people--money);
  2. the societal customer has changed (instead of the population--Western sponsors);
  3. the character of the movement has changed (from a citizen movement to a professionalized movement);
  4. The structure of the movement has changed (from a grassroots to a centralized);
  5. the movement has lost is massiveness and its numbers have shrunk;
  6. the range of the groups activity has narrowed.

The consequences of such a transformation became the loss of a movement of activists and its effectiveness.

Allow me to give a few recommendations to those on whom depend the use of the movement's resources at the present time.

First of all. As much as it is impossible to end the practice of top-down funding, it is necessary to shift to the direct financing of the lowest level of the movement i.e the local initiatives. By bypassing the regional, big and small centers and with the financing try to save the remnants of the grassroots, on which later it is possible to begin the resurrection of the mass movement.

Secondly. In order to ultimately not lose connection with the population, it follows to maximally support calculated initiatives for the conquest of public opinion (journalistic, radical, etc.).

Thirdly. It is essential somehow to keep afloat structures, capable in certain conditions to turn over into mass organizations without big losses of time on organization. (This is, first of all, green parties and the movement of protest).

Fourthly. It is necessary to quickly come to the development of a unifying ideological conception of the ecological movement for the prevention of the further disintegration into narrowly-specialized centers, communicating between each other only in terms of finances. Moreover, this does not require special expenditures. In addition to the ecological training of children and the population, it is necessary for the greens themselves to receive something.

Fifthly. In a short period, it is necessary to prepare and initiate a counter-attack of the greens on all of the positions lost in the last years (atomic and other major energy, chemical production, forests, wastes, and others) as long as the movement has not finally converted into an isolated professional structure, i.e. before it stops functioning as a movement.

taken from the "Third Way" Journal, N 4 (English issue)

translated by Jennifer Adibi