Support for Khimki Forest Campaign, Affordable Housing in Central Cali, & Post-Industrialism

Protest at the Khimki Forest

New Orleans  It was wonderful to see a rare smile on the face of Evgenia Chirikova, our friend and ally, who has been the sparkplug of the feisty, though failing, effort to reroute the construction of a highway that would cut through the supposedly protected Khimki Forest.  She has been named one of the grassroots environmental activists awarded a Goldman Environmental Prize.  Not only does it open this small group to potential support from donors, but the prize itself comes with a $150,000 check to Evgenia, which could be a huge boost to their hand-to-mouth operation and help them with legal and medical costs incurred in the constant police actions they have endured in trying to stand in the way of the construction.

            Just to refresh everyone’s memory, ACORN International has stood strong with our sister and the efforts to Save the Khimki Forest.  We have protested with them in front of the construction company offices in Toronto, Buenos Aires, Lima, and Tegucigalpa.  We have created a Facebook page for them in English.  We have told their story on our website and in Global Grassroots:  International Perspectives on Organizing after we first met Evgenia and listened to her when she was just beginning this fight as a young mother stumbling on the problem while walking her children near her apartment.  We have been proud to support this hard fight and are pleased to see them win attention and more resources in their difficult battle.    Join them!

In other news, I was fascinated to learn yesterday on the Firedoglake.com Book Salon in the discussion of Global Grassroots about the work of the Coalition for Low Income Housing (CLIH), based in San Luis Obispo, California.  Having now checked out their website, I was impressed by their willingness to fly the flag and engage the battle for affordable housing in central California.  Here’s a shout out and the hope that we can lend them a hand.  They seem like our kind of people!

Keeping an eye on the “race to the bottom” or the race to somewhere, the debate seems to be joined in Japan now.  Interesting quote in the Times:

“It is time for Japan to find a new model for its economy,” said Masatomo Onishi, a professor of business at Kansai University.  “We can follow the United States into a more postindustrial economy, or we can follow Germany into high-end manufacturing, but we shouldn’t be trying to compete with China in mass production.”

We’re not so sure how this post-industrial, service economy thing is working out over here, so be careful before jumping on this path!

Support the Save the Khimki Forest Movement

New York

Yevgenia Chirikova while she was speaking to Organizers' Forum delegation in Moscow in 2007.

Yevgenia Chirikova while she was speaking to Organizers' Forum delegation in Moscow in 2007.

City In the fall of 2007 a delegation of labor and community organizers with the Organizers’ Forum (www.organizersforum.org) visited with organizers doing similar work in Moscow and St. Petersburg.  One of the more moving meetings we had was with a young, passionate and spirited mother, who told the story of moving with her husband to a Moscow suburb that they could afford and finding signs while walking her baby in the nearby woodland forest that a highway was going to be built in this protected, virgin area.  Her name was Yevgenia Chirikova and this became her cause as she went door to door in her apartment block and suburb trying to build support, recruited friends and students, and tried to build support in challenging circumstances to reroute the construction of safer alternative routes.

I was so impressed with her that upon returning to New Orleans I enlisted the help of a Russian speaking co-worker, Denis Petrov, and his wife to reach back out to Yevgenia and see if there was any way we could help or support her work.  Time, language, and imagination all probably stood in the way, so in spite of the initial enthusiasm of her response, nothing really developed, until yesterday, when I got an email from Yaroslav Nikitenko, a physics student who has joined this effort whole heartedly, and was writing to update me on the situation and ask for any help possible since the effort to save the Khimki Forest has reached a critical juncture.

The twin towers of power in Russian politics have been Valdimir Putin, who as President was a promoter of this project and continues to support it as Prime Minister, and the current President Dmitri Medvedev.   In the fall of 2010 activists seemed to have won some reprieve when Medvedev halted the steps to construction for review, but at the end of the year, the project D greenlighted against despite substantial opposition in the community and throughout Moscow to the project.  There are lots of other issues that are endemic to current Russian politics that muscle their way into this fight including massive corruption that seems hardwired to any highway construction in the country and raises the costs as much as 50 times comparable jobs building in the USA and elsewhere, and brutality and corruption which have seen journalists beaten and in one case crippled, visits by “child protection” to Evegenia’s home to question her fitness as a mother and insinuate that there were reports of child abuse, and countless stories of rallies and demonstrations rousted and stopped.

Bottom line is that the Save the Khimki Forest Movement, Evegenia, Yaroslave, and the crew, Muscovites, and just maybe the ability of the Russian people to have a voice and organize, need our help.  Luckily, they are only asking for us to sign a petition at this point, which seems almost too lame but is the least we could do, so how about a hand by clicking below and sending them some help!

http://www.change.org/petitions/save-khimki-forest-stand-with-russias-human-rights-and-environmental-activists