The Russian mega-business Gazprom is outside the law. Even without permits, it proceeded last summer with development of its boondoggle gas pipeline right straight through the pristine Ukok Plateau -- a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is sacred to the Altai people.
When our international expedition stayed in a little hotel near the plateau last summer, we shared it with five Gazprom geologists -- nice guys, but clueless. They reveled in their home-made videos of huge earth-moving machines trashing perma-frost tundra (which is what the Ukok Plateau is). Not exactly respectful behavior.
Facing down this "Goliath" mixture of greed and environmental recklessness are the villagers of Kosh Agach, using every possible resource to protect this sacred place. The only reason they are still in the game is because China and Russia can't agree on a price for gas. So, they are still plugging away, hoping that the world will shift to prevent this desecration.
All funds we receive for this project go straight through to the local Altai people working to protect this primeval sanctuary. You donation, whatever size, not only helps defray their costs; it also gives them hope. Thank you!
Thank you for your continuing generosity for sustainability of Altai's culture and environment.
One of our long-term initiatives has been to foster cottage-industry cooperatives in the villages. Last summer, a plum dropped in our laps. Here's the story:
I was trekking back toward the village of Tyungur with three members of our international expedition, to join up with the rest of the group. We were still a full day's trek from Tyungur when we camped for the night.
As I went to sleep, I suddenly had a powerful sense that it was crucially important that I be back in Tyungur early in the morning. The only way that could happen would be for an empty vehicle to come along this dirt track, heading into the village from an entirely unpopulated area. Since this was totally unlikely, I envisioned the optimum -- a flat-bed truck that would also carry everybody's backpacks, so, while I rode, at least they would have an easy walk.
To my amazement, at 7am, just as I climbed out of our tent, exactly such a truck appeared. I ran after it shouting, and the driver agreed to take me and our packs into the village, patiently waiting ten minutes while we sorted out the day's food and clothing, and packed up everything else, including a huge bag of cans and bottles from the campsite.
In answer to my inquiry as to how he happened to show up, he said he owned a small tourist base that we had passed the day before on the trail; he only advertised by word of mouth, because registering a business was beyond his financial means; there are numerous other small tourist bases near Tyungur village, which are also in the same situation. Knowing that most of the tourist money that came into Tyungur immediately went out again in profits to the St. Petersburg owners of the big local tourist base, I volunteered the services of our master universe-mover Svetlana Katynova, to help them organize a cooperative, just like she had done for other groups locally.
The driver took me and the packs past Tyungur, all the way to the children's camp where the group was staying, but he kept the garbage to dispose of it himself.
Svetlana agreed to help with the co-op, but we need $2000 for the legal/registration fees as well as Svetlana's transportation between Tyungur, where the agreements must be made, and Gorno-Altaisk, where the co-op must be registered. In anticipation of receiving the funding, the organizing in Tyungur has begun.
And was I actually urgently needed in Tyungur? When I arrived, people came rushing out to the road to tell me that one of our group had had problems with her border access permit and was stranded at the checkpoint two hours away. They had been sending me telepathic messages since the evening before, which apparently both the truck-driver and I received! So I immediately caught a bus to the checkpoint and rescued her.
Are YOU receiving OUR telepathic message to fund this indigenous-owned cooperative? If so, thank you!!!
A huge thank you for your generosity for this important project!
Our first news is that our initiative to build sustainable house in Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation, South Dakota was selected as a top-ten entry in the GlobalGiving.UK "Celebrate Innovation" contest in May. Our project will therefore be featured on GG.UK's home page.
Our second big news is that project leader Christinia Eala will arrive today in Wounded Knee to supervise the pouring of the foundation for the first Eco-dome home, using all volunteer labor. Volunteers will learn valuable construction skills in the process of building urgently needed healthy homes for their community.
At this point, we have many more volunteers than we have building materials to keep them busy. Please continue to donate generously. This project is paradigm-changing for the Lakota people.