I have been wondering about Green politics in Ukraine: as all over the world, it seems that the more energy self-sufficient a country is, the better it will be able to resist dependency on any foreign power. My correspondent in Lviv, political analyst Lyuddmyla Pavlyuk, answered my questions, and with her permission I share her letter here.
Green Voices in Ukraine: a Letter from Lyuddmyla Pavlyuk
Green voices in Ukraine are individual than rather than party-related. The official structures of the green movement are not really popular. For example, the Green party of Ukraine had parliamentary representation only until 2002. The reason is very simple: Ukrainian oligarchs wanted to use the party’s brand to get to parliament, and people felt that the party was not really independent and concerned with the environment.
So, if ecological problems appear at the nationwide or local level, people create problem-oriented groups and look for solutions. Many good journalists are also very devoted to environmental themes and work very well and gather important information and conduct investigations.
The use of nuclear power is the most vital problem here. Ukraine has a lot of experience to share with others and there are many strategies and technologies, especially energy saving ones, that we need to learn and borrow from others.
Without Chornobyl’, we probably would be very enthusiastic about atomic energy and consider it clean. Chornobyl’ has shown that it’s absolutely inappropriate.
I remember that about a year after Fukushima, one of my colleagues entered our office and asked, “When Chornobyl’ happened, everyone seemed to talk about it. Why people are silent about Fukushima – the second serious warning to the global environment”?
I said that many people in the world seem to be aware and very concerned – for the general public it appears first of all as food safety concerns. I saw many people on forums, even in regions that are far away, like Oregon, discussed prospects of Fukushima-flavored sushi and seafood with a hint of radiation. A bit later I read about very practical and serious responses to Fukushima in Japan: more than twenty atomic stations in this country, actually all except for one that Japan has on its territory, were closed. But it turned out to be a temporary decision. This spring I read that Japan is going to reopen its nuclear stations.
Anyway, now we are members of the same club. Only practical experience, especially if it is a negative one, can change our perception of uncertain issues.
I remember a meeting with a guy from Belarus at one conference many years ago when we exchanged “black humor” jokes about consequences of Chornobyl’. I almost forgot about this type of folklore and only was reminded about it when I read some post-Fukushima jokes on the American sites, kind of: “Don’t eat anything with three eyes, I watched the Simpsons, I know.”
This is all to say that I understand my personal place in the “peaceful atom” debate: if I were a member of a green movement or just had enough personal time for an individual campaign, I would have argued for closure of nuclear power stations in Ukraine. Because I know what Chornobyl’ is. But this perspective is for a peaceful time.
In the current complicated situation, when Ukraine is under attack, atomic power is a very ambiguous issue. The working nuclear plants mean a heightened risk at time of active military actions. As the threats gradually increase, more resources and extra people are directed to guard nuclear objects. On the other hand, the plants give us a diversification in energy sources from Russia’s supply. Without our nuclear energy, we would have been even more dependent.