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Environmental Altruism: A Comparison of Russia and the United States

Cultures of Contamination

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1371-6, eISBN: 978-1-84950-460-7

Publication date: 16 May 2007


The chapter compares the factors involved in environmental altruism, the willingness to involve oneself in working for environmental and ecological goals, in Russia and the United States. The lead authors developed the idea for the research from their participation in the grant from the Trust for Mutual Understanding, examining how Russia and the United States deal with contamination in their communities. We were the only clinical psychologists in the group that toured in Russia, and we both taught young people at universities, sometimes in courses that dealt specifically about the environment, but more usually in courses that helped prepare them for their roles as psychologists. Because of our clinical perspective, we had several discussions about the role of the individual in dealing with the environment. The role of the individual is particularly critical to environmental issues in Russia. Although Russia has even more strict environmental laws than the United States, its level of enforcement has been minimal. At the same time, environmental activism is a relatively new phenomenon there and it faces cultural and social barriers. While activism plays a major role in the United States to keep the system functioning, efforts to deal with contamination in the United States generally occur on a political and legal level in the context of creating and enforcing laws. While the U.S. activists are hardly satisfied with the system's functioning, a greater level of creativity and commitment is needed from Russian environmental activists to help the nation even reach this level of routine enforcement of environmental laws.


Gibbs, M., Andrushchenko, T.J., Makarevich, N. and Binford, R. (2007), "Environmental Altruism: A Comparison of Russia and the United States", Edelstein, M.R., Tysiachniouk, M. and Smirnova, L.V. (Ed.) Cultures of Contamination (Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, Vol. 14), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 447-463.



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