The Christian Science Monitor

Russian consumerism may be poisoning this town. But nascent civil society is pushing back.

A bulldozer pushes garbage at the Yadrovo garbage dump in the town of Volokolamsk, Russia. Locals are protesting after being poisoned by fumes from the dump, which has exploded in size behind Russia's booming consumer culture and the rapid expansion of Moscow, 100 miles away. Source: Fred Weir

It is early afternoon on Monday, and a dozen grim-faced locals are waiting outside the city court. Most of them are parents.

Their children go to school within a couple miles of an enormous mountain of garbage that hovers on the town's edge, ever-growing out of refuse created by Russia's young consumer culture and the rapid expansion of Moscow, some 100 miles away. The children have been getting sick. Few in Volokolamsk have any doubt that the two are connected.

To try to remedy the situation, the parents, with their lawyer, are doing something that may be a first in Russia: file a class action suit on environmental grounds, seeking the dump's closure and damages for the harm it has done to locals.

Despite the tragic circumstances, the effort – just part of the community's loud public campaign against the landfill – highlights Russia's growing space for civil society, and the willingness for Russians to demand more of their government.

“People are getting sick, children are poisoned,

Nausea and nosebleedsThe cost of consumer capitalism‘This is civil society in action’

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