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Monday, April 20, 2009

Easter and the Environment

Economically, Ukrainians are doing better than Indians. Environmentally, it’s hard to tell.

Yesterday, Ukraine celebrated Easter.
I took a walk through my riverside Obolon neighborhood in Kyiv.

So here's the beauty of my
Obolon Riviera. Littered with broken glass. Paved with plastic. Crucified with carelessness.

10 minutes of my time

What will this place be like when the baby grows up?
(All things being equal.)

I even invented terms like бидлоболонці or picnic pigs. That's what I would call people who come here and leave behind a trail of trash. Tons of trash.

This recreation culture puts a whole new spin on “Don’t shit where you eat.”

I'm not a big believer, but I believe that churches should organize community service days and promote a culture of environmental stewardship.

The shit I've seen starts with the soul.

Clean souls, clean shores.


Buffalo Expat said...

Great post. We just had a huge clean-up day here in Buffalo this weekend for the waterways and beaches. It's unbelievable how careless people are with their garbage. I'll tell you, it makes me never want to use a plastic straw again! I hope things are well with you. Shaslivo! Elise

alienolenka said...

"Picnic pigs"? You put it too nicely :-)
Though you know, you may find pigs in any part of the world, including so-called developed countries. In my neighborhood (Colorado, US) you may see all kinds of crap on road shoulders including baby diapers thrown out of the window of a car riding in front of you. I think the difference between Ukraine and Colorado, for instance, is that once a month I see prisoners or workers walking along roads and picking up shit that people get rid of. Regretfully, subbotniki died out in Ukraine and government is careless to spend a least small funds to clean the environment.

Jonathan said...

I, too, am disappointed by the amount of litter strewn around the place. I mean Ukraine is a beautiful place but people's habits of leaving rubbish for others to clean up leaves me puzzled - is it really pleasant for you to go and BBQ in an area that has more visible rubbish than grassed areas? I think its not - which leaves me wondering why people think it acceptable to dump/leave their rubbbish where they feel like.

I also like your idea about Churches organising clean-ups - perhaps a church could adopt a park or beach area to look after? (We had a group from Australia clean up our beach but that was only a one-off)

elmer said...

1) Has anyone asked the city to put up trash bins, so that people can conveniently throw the garbage into trash bins? Or perhaps the space cadet mayor of Kyiv is too busy flying around in outer space in his helicopter and in his Assembly of God church, while singing (badly) on the steps of the city council to his babushkas.

2) In national parks in other countries, people are required to haul out everything - everything - that they bring in. Apparently, some Ukrainians have no pride in their country.

3) In other countries, there are many volunteer organizations - Boy Scouts, civic groups, school groups, church groups - that organize clean-up trips to various places. Apparently, some Ukrainians have no pride in their country.

4) It's a lot worse than that. One example - burning tires in Donetsk, which is a toxic activity -

Taras said...

Thank you for your comments, guys!


You did the right thing! People should contribute to their communities and clean things up on a regular basis. That’s the heart of community life.

I don't know how Buffalo compares to Kyiv in terms of waste disposal, but I would assume you're ahead of us. Btw, do your local authorities fine people for their trashy behavior? Who organizes clean-ups in your area? Do schools teach proper behavior?

In Ukraine, we lack both sticks and carrots.

Aside from improving our waste disposal culture, we have yet to build a recycling industry and switch to biodegradable material.


Sure, pigs can be found anywhere. It’s a question of how many pigs you have in your area relative to normal people:)

Kyiv schools do organize spring clean-ups, but those events pale by comparison to Soviet-era subotniki.

On the downside, the Soviet attitude toward the environment could be characterized by a culture of disownership and blatant disregard for safety. Everything was nicheinoye (it’s-not-my-job/somebody-will-do-it-for-me). There was no perceived limit to natural resources.

Today, private property takes us to the other extreme end of the spectrum. Rich people bribe local authorities and grab miles of land and beaches in violation of law, putting up huge fences everywhere. Businesses dump toxic waste into rivers and fill the air with carcinogenic substances.

Nothing happens to these businesses because law enforcement and environmental protection agencies get well paid for their inaction. Meanwhile, ordinary people prefer to die of cancer rather than take to the streets and put the polluters out of business.

Contrary to the Western “polluter pays” principle, the polluter prospers in Ukraine.


Your observations mirror mine.

Unfortunately, consumerism set foot in Ukraine in the absence of a civilized waste disposal culture.

Economically, our consumerism comes with a modest footprint. Environmentally, it’s anything but modest.

I wonder how many much more trash it will take for the problem to hit home.

Your adopt-a-park/beach idea makes perfect sense to me. It would bring churches and communities closer to each other.

Ukrainians should finally get in the business of cleaning up their beaches.

Taras said...

The mess they leave outside comes from the mess they keep inside.

On the one hand, these people value the experience of having a riverside picnic. On the other hand, they don’t value the environment that creates the experience.

The lack of garbage cans and dumpsters brings out the worst in them.

Meanwhile, Chernovetsky’s plan is obviously to sell everything to the oligarchs and then get the hell out of here.

elmer said...

It looks like Oleh Skrypka has organized a clean-up of one of the islands in Kyiv.

Pawlina said...

Another great post, Taras.

FWIW, I agree with the other commenters that Ukrainians are not unique in their disregard for the environment. In Canada, we too have "picnic pigs" strewing their rubbish around, even in the most beautiful of places.

I also agree that putting out trash bins is a good starting point toward changing bad habits and attitudes.

Taras said...

Thank you for the link, Elmer!

I’ll probably attend, weather and circumstances permitting.

Thank you, Pawlina!

Don't let the pigs take over!:)

Installing trash bins in reacreation areas and teaching people to use them should indeed improve our waste disposal culture.

elmer said...

It reminds me of this:

їли як пани, лишили як свині

They ate like lords, and left everything like pigs

That is a beautiful river.

It won't stay beautiful, obviously, if the "picnic pig" (your neat little phrase) routine is allowed to continue.

People should have some pride in such a beautiful river.