Mikhail Gorbachev’s commitment to the environment was ahead of his time | Mikhail Gorbachev

Wchicken Mikhail Gorbachev Reforms that allowed for greater freedom of expression were introduced in the 1980s, and the first thing Soviet citizens started talking about was their anger at the pollution emanating from the country’s largest and oldest factories.

This prompted his administration to close 1,300 of the most polluting factories, he said in an NPR interview in 2000, but it also helped crystallize a commitment to environmental causes that kept him ahead of his time and out of the world. Among other former world leaders.

This is a problem that cannot be postponed. I think the environmental problem will be the first item on the agenda of the 21st century,” he said in the same interview. “If we just hope that we can make it somehow, that nature will somehow deal with these problems with its own resources, and we can just do what we’ve been doing, and we can take a much more dangerous situation.”

Most international Greetings to Gorbachev He focused on his agenda of liberation and reform, perestroika, glasnost, and the role he played in ending the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the work he did Promote environmental issues His stepping down as president of the Soviet Union is also important to his insight.

Two years after his resignation, he created the International Green Cross, an organization he hoped would earn Red Cross status, focusing on environmental rather than humanitarian crises (the intersection between the two was less well established). Created to tackle everything from climate change to Chemical contamination left by weapons mass destruction.

His preoccupation with the issue has been baffled by many of his fellow world leaders, according to Adam Koniewski, who was director of the nonprofit from 2008 until 2017. “He brought a level of urgency to issues of environmental degradation and climate change, questions raised by many world leaders as You still don’t take it seriously enough. Many have wondered how a serious state person – credited with perhaps having the greatest influence on world affairs in recent times – could be so concerned with questions about the environment?” he said.

Within Russia, where Gorbachev was viewed less warmly than in the West, there was some skepticism about his environmental campaigns. Shortly after its release, reporters asked him about his role in the initial cover-up of Chernobyl disaster And about why he didn’t do more to stop dumping used Soviet nuclear reactors and radioactive materials into the sea when he had the ability to do so.

But those who worked closely with him said the Chernobyl experience was partly what motivated his commitment to the cause. “It affected him as a kind of industrial catastrophe that has consequences across borders very quickly, with cloud spreading. He realized that environmental problems do not stop at borders and require international cooperation. Also, his childhood experience of losing two sisters and an uncle to starvation prompted Stalin’s collective collectivization program in The 1930s shaped his concerns about man-made environmental disasters.

Gorbachev wrote in 2006: “I am convinced that this is the most urgent task facing humanity today.”

Tony Juniper, former vice president of Friends of the Earth international, said Gorbachev was highlighting the importance of immediate climate action 30 years ago at a time when other world leaders viewed the environment as a “future challenge rather than an issue that should be dealt with immediately.” Strong links with issues of poverty and security. There was a lot of insight into what he did.”

international environment minister Zach Goldsmithhe tweeted this week: “Mikhail Gorbachev was a good and wise man, with tremendous courage and a true passion for the environment. I had the honor to meet him 20 years ago when I was awarded the Gorbachev Prize for my environmental work. He was a giant.”

Primatologist and environmental activist Jane Goodall He met Gorbachev on several occasions to discuss the environment. “I admire him for his commitment to the environment when not many leaders seem to care,” she said. He was very clear about the interrelationship between poverty and sustainability. He understood the importance of poverty alleviation, because he understood very well that when you are really poor, you can destroy the environment just to survive.”

In the 1990s and 2000s, Gorbachev brought together film stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Redford, CNN founder Ted Turner, scholars and leaders from the United Nations to sit on the organization’s board of directors, but her influence has waned since he stepped down, without achieving global family recognition for the cross. the Red.

But the organization has had a tangible impact in raising awareness and facilitating the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles. His greatness lies in the fact that he has seen and understood the greatest challenges of our time before most, if not all, of the other world leaders. “I think that’s a great thing,” Koniewski said.

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