Unexpected Allies: Species Playing a Role in Ukraine’s Resistance Against Russia

Species Playing a Role in Ukraine's Resistance Against Russia

Species Playing a Role in Ukraine’s Resistance Against Russia

Ukraine’s fight for environmental justice in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion has brought together lawsuits, art, and the plight of the sandy blind mole-rat. The Kakhovka Hydroelectric reservoir and dam collapse in June 2023, allegedly caused by Russian occupation, resulted in widespread flooding and destruction, marking Ukraine’s most significant environmental catastrophe since the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant explosion in 1986. The water loss for agricultural irrigation impacted global food security, leading to biodiversity loss and displacing landmines.

The sandy blind mole-rat, an endangered species endemic to southern Ukraine, saw its population decline by 50%, becoming a symbolic victim of Russian aggression. The destruction caused by the collapse has heightened calls for environmental justice, positioning it as part of Ukraine’s resistance to Russian aggression. The country, now the largest mined territory globally, has approximately 2,000 environmentally protected areas under Russian occupation, showcasing the extensive environmental damage.

Efforts to catalog and investigate the harm caused by the war are underway, with platforms like Ecodozor mapping the consequences and risks of the conflict. Amidst the grief, there is a growing public awareness of the impacts of environmental destruction, fueled by government initiatives and cultural events. The Chornobyl disaster’s contribution to Ukraine’s independence movements in the past has roots in outrage over environmental damage.

Despite the ongoing war, Ukraine’s environmental awareness has increased. The Kakhovka disaster prompted widespread grief, not just for human lives and homes lost but also for submerged ecosystems. Art exhibitions, such as Ukraine’s pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale and the Kyiv Biennial 2023, have focused on the environmental impact of the war. Fundraising initiatives, like the Ukrainian Nature Conservation Group’s campaign for the Askania-Nova reserve and UAnimals’ online shop Animalism, highlight the efforts to support conservation and rescue animals affected by the conflict.

While the availability of funding remains crucial for sustaining environmental efforts, activists, scholars, and conservationists in Ukraine continue to find innovative ways to organize and raise funds despite the challenging circumstances. The fight for environmental justice intertwines with the broader resistance against Russian aggression, reflecting a shared commitment to preserving Ukraine’s natural heritage amidst the ravages of war.


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