Academic journal article Environmental Values

Delivering Environmental Education in Kazakhstan through Civic Action: Second-Wave Values and Governmental Responses

Academic journal article Environmental Values

Delivering Environmental Education in Kazakhstan through Civic Action: Second-Wave Values and Governmental Responses

Article excerpt


The severity of Kazakhstan's ecological problems impels civic activists and state agencies to build public support for ecological rehabilitation in the country, through a comprehensive national programme of environmental education.

This paper is a qualitative analysis whose main focus is the relations of civic groups and NGOs with the national government, occurring in the delivery of programmes for environmental education during the post-glasnost era.

Provisional successes of civic groups in establishing environmental education programmes, and useful steps by the government to facilitate civic environmental activism, give reasons for optimism for improved environmental governance.


Kazakhstan, environmental education, environmental values, environmental policy, ENGOs, civic society.

At the close of the Soviet era in 1991, Kazakhstan did not have its own Ministry of the Environment and attendant agencies; and environmental awareness lagged, as it had in the USSR overall. Nonetheless, some Kazakhstanis in both society and government had been thinking critically about their ecological legacy, and had begun building the social consensus and initiating the institutional changes that would be needed to grapple with looming ecological problems. With a focus on environmental education (EE), this paper traces the history and evolution of the country's environmental concern, understood as a general desire for improvement of the ecology. The main goal is to illustrate the corresponding relationship between the civic environmental movement, with its attendant values, and the national government through a number of key factors and events. It is hoped that the composite evidence employed in this paper will provide useful contextualisation and contribute to an understanding of environmental activism and politics in a region that is not extensively covered in Western literature.

As noted by Goudie (2009: 16), civic concern and values--which can be deliberately enhanced by EE--subtend environmental movements and help set the political climate for more favourable governmental responses and policies. An approach that starts at the civic level seems appropriate because, as Doyle and McEachern (2001, 53) point out, governments will usually not act to improve the ecology unless pushed by the public to do so. Relatedly, in contrasting the experience of East and West Germany, Dominick (1998) observed that the ecology is better in countries that have vigorous civic societies (see also Pavlinek and Pickles, 2000: 106-114). One might accordingly expect that positive environmental values will contribute to the building of appropriate institutional capacity within civic organisations and subsequently governmental agencies; and that value-motivated activists and nascent institutions together might induce the Kazakhstani government to make substantive changes in environmental policy. This is not to say that the relationship between civic activism and governmental responses is simply linear; though the initial impulse for policy change usually originates in civic society, governments may occasionally co-opt this impulse and pull it forward (Doyle and McEachern, 2001: 118-128) in a dialectical or ratcheting effect.

The dramatic society-pushed events of the glasnost era from the mid-1980s marked the 'first wave' of mass environmentalism ever to occur on Soviet territory, a wave that ended within the Newly Independent States by the early 1990s. Environmentalism on this territory can now be characterised as being in a 'second wave', (or phase) of 'building-blocks' activity. The focus of this paper is the second wave, which is distinguished from the first by its lesser social idealism and greater pragmatism over economic development and need for employment (Peterson, 1993: 220; Van Buren, 1995: 128), and by its mostly younger membership, which often considers voluntary work experience in civic organisations as a career stepping-stone (Lepsibaiev, 2009). …

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