March 10th– Jeff Kerby (University of Aarhus, Denmark), “Gas, Guns, and Grass: The Changing Ecology of the Russian Arctic”
Nowhere on the planet is warming faster than the Arctic. The natural rhythms of the tundra emerge from where the snow melts and when the ground thaws, processes that are being reshaped by rapid regional climate change. The biological consequences of this can be seen from space – the Arctic is greener now in summer than it has been in decades past, but within that relatively simple signal are complex ecological narratives with global implications. Dr. Kerby discusses these by focusing on the Yamal Peninsula – home of Russia’s largest natural gas reserves, but also the Nenets people and their traditional large-scale nomadic reindeer husbandry practices. Dr. Kerby also shares his own personal experiences of working as part of an interdisiplinary team in the region.
March 17th– Kate Pride Brown (Georgia Tech), “Saving the Sacred Sea: The Power Dynamics Surrounding Baikal Environmental Activism”
In the middle of Siberia, just north of Mongolia, lies Lake Baikal: the deepest and largest lake on Earth. Called at times the “Pearl of Siberia,” the “Galapagos of Russia,” or the “Sacred Sea,” Baikal is both scientifically unique and aesthetically beautiful. Home to thousands of endemic species, Baikal also hosts human populations on its shores. The human impact at Lake Baikal since the 20th century has been increasingly potent and environmental harm reached an unprecedented scale. However, concerned environmentalists have been striving to protect Lake Baikal in a movement that spans decades. From the Soviet Union, to the neoliberal 1990s, to present-day Russia under Vladimir Putin, Baikal activism has changed its shape and form as it responds to the larger political economy in which it is embedded. By examining environmental activism at Lake Baikal, we can better understand civil society as a form of power — one that is formed in relationship to other types of power at any given time.
March 22nd- Valerii Shevchenko Q&A “Baikal: Awareness of Beauty”
Valerii Shevchenko’s “Baikal: Awareness of Beauty” is the newest Russian-produced documentary about the largest freshwater lake on Earth – Lake Baikal, located in southern Siberia. Offering stunning shots of the lake and the surrounding landscapes, the film features interviews with locals living and working in the area, and takes us to Irkutsk, the administrative center of the region. Addressing environmental concerns that have been plaguing Baikal, the film betrays strong anti-Chinese sentiments that have formed among many Siberians. This film serves as evidence of the growing tensions between Russia and China, which have been fueled by China’s growing population and demand for Russia’s vast natural resources. Irresponsible tourism, deforestation and the risk of shallowing Baikal fuel the antagonism of the locals, which is directed at China. But the film also hints at the role of the local and federal governments in (mis)managing the natural resources of Baikal.
March 24th- Dr. Greg Wiles “Where are the Old Trees in the Far East?”