Russia and Climate Change

Today is the first in a series of ‘global perspective’ posts sent in by a handful of Finley’s friends and family living around the planet. This one is from Sarah, Finley’s dear friend from school.  Sarah is posting from St. Petersburg, Russia. Thank you, Sarah!

“While taking an International Relations class in St Petersburg, Russia, where I have been living for the past 6 months, the professor was talking about stereotypes about Russians. The normal stereotypes came up: Russians love vodka, hate smiling, bears, etc. However, he mentioned one I did not expect. My professor said that it was an untrue stereotype that Russians do not care about the environment. A Canadian in the class (unsurprisingly) asked how this was not true, given that Russians don’t recycle and how polluted and grimy St Petersburg is—a tragedy given the beauty of the city.

The lack of recycling was something I noticed right away after asking my landlady where the recycling bins were and being told there weren’t any. Our professor told us that St Petersburg had tried recycling for a trial period of 1 week. Not shockingly, recycling did not catch on after this very short and un-mandatory trial. This was a classic Russian response—denying any wrongdoing, and then explaining that they were indeed not doing the thing they were meant to be doing in a very matter of fact way.

It would be false to say Russians do not care about the environment. The Russian people have a deep love of their wildlife and landscape. To many Russians climate change seems like a positive as it brings with it a warmer climate, which is easily understood after a few days of walking to class in the snow when it’s -8. Russians tend to care more about projects like the protection of the Amur Tiger [], where parts of their country and heritage are directly affected in a way that is tangible.

I’ve learned that in discussing climate change we need to be aware of the different perspectives and experiences of other cultures. While Russians may not be as bothered by the temperature rising, loss of traditionally Russian wildlife will be a far more impactful issue. Approaches to inspiring activism and environmentalism must be adapted to different attitudes and peoples.”