Why do we live like this? (2005)

My homeland is Almaty, a city that since childhood I have taken pride in and sincerely believed that nothing on earth was more wonderful than its streets with their luxuriant greenery, and its babbling brooks, rushing headlong through their channels. Nothing was more beautiful than the blue mountains, framing the city in a magic ring and seeming to guard it against all misfortune. It seemed to me that nowhere else could be met such kind and responsive people, eternally in love, like myself, with their city. I remember how we praised our water, the best-tasting drinking water in the world, the gift of the mountain glaciers.

And how many lovely and unique natural sites can be found surrounding Almaty, places admired by Kazakhstanis for generations. The apple orchards, yielding their abundant fruit. The highest skating rink in the world, Medeu, and much else of the best in the world!…

What is happening to us today? Why do we not value these riches? Why have we ceased to care for our native city: we cut down the orchards, dump our garbage right under our windows, litter our own yards and playgrounds, and defile our sacred springs.

Are we no longer thinking about our children’s future, about the health of our loved ones, about those who live next to us? What kind of lesson are we teaching our children? Will they, watching how their parents behave toward their native city and toward nature, become patriots for their country?…

It is possible to discuss the state’s environmental policy, its pluses and minuses, for a long time. But is it really necessary to nod in the direction of the state for the “policy” of cleanliness and care to become the duty and obligation of every civilized and clear-thinking person?

…These snapshots were taken literally in two hours; no lengthy search was needed to find places like these. Only a short distance from the streets of the city center, similar scenes may be seen everywhere.

…To the west of the main market, alongside every house is its own personal garbage dump.

…The path to Cold Spring, a natural spring whose waters contain ions of silver; it is acknowledged as a healing spring and revered by native Almaty residents.

…Two spontaneous garbage dumps along the road to Aksai Gorge, which leads to the dachas of the “Mountain Gardener” vacation settlement.

…View from Teslenko Street in the Ainabulak-3 residential neighborhood. The residents began to bring construction debris in order to dry out a low-lying area flooded by a small stream.

…Now household garbage is added as well.

At the start of the twentieth century, the German poet and dramatist Berthold Brecht wrote the following about cities:

“Beneath them flows uncleanness.
Within them—nothing, and above them billows smoke.
We were within. We were filled with emptiness there.
We swiftly vanished. And the city too vanished, like us…”

We are people of the new millennium, modern people armed with new technologies, great opportunities, enormous knowledge and experience. But we are absolutely indifferent to what is happening. What must occur for us to finally take thought for our own home, for pride toward our homeland to awaken in us, responsibility for our children’s future, for us to begin to protect nature, to treasure its primeval beauty, to love our native land?…

Material prepared by Irina Manuilenko.

Translated by Glenn Kempf.