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THE INFLUENCE OF ENVIORONMENTAL INFORMATION ON PEOPLE'S CONSIONCENCE

Author:  Dagbaeva N.
Source:  Water quality and traditions in lake areas (The 6th Living lakes Conference Ulan-Ude, Lake Baikal, Russia July 30th – August 3rd, 2001). – Ulan-Ude, 2001. - P.10-14.

Sustainable development presupposes that satisfaction of an individual's needs does not threaten future generations' welfare and violate their possibility of meeting their needs. This definition has been worked out by the International Environmental Committee and has been recognized by the world community. Therefore the most urgent issue of the concept of sustainable development is considered to be alteration in people's consciousness and their readiness to sacrifice their egotism for prosperous life of new generations.     
This idea is difficult to realize. As a rule, we get anxious about the natural conditions of the place we live in if we are in the position of observing the actual change of the environment. If, for instance the water we use acquires a brownish color, or the air we breathe smells bad. But as soon as these outward characteristics disappear, our concern or feeling of danger also diminishes. Psychologists say that we react to a stimulus if it is obvious.
There is one more reason that discourages people from being environmentally friendly. Environment fails to compete with everyday people's needs and desires. In the first issue of our magazine the results of the survey of the people of Ulan-Ude were given. The residents were asked if they would agree to use bicycles instead of cars, to restrict themselves to lesser energy consumption, and to buy environmentally sound goods. It turns out that money and conveniences are hard to refuse. At the same time people's modest input into environmental protection activities, like collection of paper and bottles will bear fruit only in the far future.
In order to cope with these two problems we must influence public thinking. To make this influence effective it is important to put a special emphasis on environmental issues and to motivate environmentally conscious behaviour.
Thus, it is evident from this that a tendency for informatization and enhanced importance of informational activity contribute to the transition to sustainable development and to the reduction of anthropogenic pollution.
However, the society is not always conscious of the significance of these factors and in the documents detailing Rio-de-Janeiro Summit of year 1992, nothing except for a small part called "The XXI Century Agenda" is devoted to this problem. It is obvious that development of information technologies also requires efforts and money supply. Though it should be mentioned that these expenses are much less than those spent on "material" things: equipment and technologies. But the effect they produce is much more beneficial as information technologies greatly advance alteration in people's consciousness and modes of their behavior.
Since the transition to sustainable development is a manageable process, it should be provided with necessary information. Presently, this process is considered to be an active informational process, which demands greater amount of information. It is clear that information functions, first, as a building material which is used to construct a system of the civilization intellect and, second, as a global objective and priority issue of people's life. Informational integration is vitally important at the level of educational systems, mass media, research, public and environmental activities resulting in creation of common databanks, single legislative base and organizational structures. Informational integration implies working out of a single approach to the transition to sustainable development and defining goals and functions of this transitional process and concept of sustainable development.
Baikal Information Centre (BIC) "Gran"' founded in 1999 as a non-governmental organization is trying to apply this approach. Members of BIC "Gran"' - teachers, journalists, engineers-programmers, economists, united by their anxiety over future of the environment, once cooperated on the TACIS project. They have realized that in times of information supremacy the largest deficiency of the present period is the lack of information.
We know that many people, Russians and foreigners, are concerned about environmental protection issues, natural conditions of Lake Baikal. We know that these people are ready to provide assistance in environmental activity. But because of the lack of information they are ignorant about the ways of putting their ideas into practice.
What is the current situation? Information is gathered and analyzed by various governmental and non-governmental organizations which use it for their own purposes. And what should an ordinary person who is not burdened with these organizations' concerns and duties do?
For two years of work we have collected much useful information about the environment and anthropogenic pollution it undergoes, created a Web-site "Environmental information" and worked on environmental library. Having participated in several grant programs we have managed to set up and conduct training seminars for
school teachers and students. We consider this activity to be vitally i important since school functions as a mass institution, center of public and business structures interaction.
Our activity forms the basis of alteration in people's consciousness and modes of their behavior and assists teachers much in their work. We are well aware that unless business people get interested in environmentally sound production, nothing will change for the better. Our successful presentations of Buryat firms at the International Exhibition "EXPO-2000" at Hanover prove that business people do not ignore environmental activity and are ready to make their own contribution to protection of the environment.
Presently, we have engaged in the issuing of an environmental magazine "Living Baikal". This project has been supported by the "Unilever" Company. The magazine aims to provide teachers, children, environmentalists with informational assistance. All of you have got the second issue of the magazine and we hope that you will enjoy reading it. "Living Baikal" is not analogous with any periodicals published in the Buryat Republic.
Thus, we firmly believe that solution to environmental problems, to the issues of water quality and traditional nature use in particular, depends on interaction of governmental, business, public and educational institutions linked together with the help of information.
The experience of BIC "Gran"' shows that we have chosen the right direction but our enthusiasm is not enough to meet the needs of all environmentally concerned people. To create a network of mass informational use we need both governmental and public support. The organization of Informational Center is not limited to a web-site creation but is considered to be a place for people to meet, communicate and cooperate on environmental projects. We view our center as a technologically equipped room with an environmental library, database, advertising facilities required by tourists, business people, students, visitors.
It is obvious that an Informational Center actually forwards the idea of sustainable development in a particular region. I have not touched upon other aspects of this issue so far since we have planned
panel sessions at the shores of Lake Baikal to discuss the problems raised in this report and share our opinions on them. Thank you all for your attention!

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