The reds and the green

Five Russian environmentalists took in Sacramento’s everyday earth-friendly attitude in a cultural exchange from December 10 through 16 as part of the U.S. Congress’ Open World Program. The delegation dropped in on locations like the California Fuel Cell Partnership, the Cosumnes River Preserve, and the Soil Born Farm, an urban organic farm on Hurley Way, to bounce ideas around with ecologically conscious Californians.

“We know that what Americans think about Russians is that they always play the balalaika and drink vodka and that’s about it. And Russians think about Americans that they’re all millionaires and they want to conquer the world,” said delegate Daniil Abelinskasa through an interpreter. “So I will come home and tell them that these are just regular, normal, nice people.”

Launched by Congress in 1999, Open World brings Russian and Eurasian government, industry and social leaders to see the “real America.”

Sharing struggles and solutions to environmental problems is a good way to counteract worldwide issues like global warming, said Abelinskasa. “In spite of the fact that we are living in different parts of the world, we have only one Earth,” he said. “You can solve those problems only working altogether.”

Abelinskasa said that major issues in Russia include unconcerned entrepreneurs who haven’t modernized their facilities to meet Earth-friendly standards and consumerism.

“We can see that people in Sacramento have environmental knowledge and mentality, and it’s good,” he said.

Sacramento City College hosted the visitors and SN&R caught up with the crew at the Soil Born Farm, where kids at the neighboring Jonas Salk Middle School learn to grow and cook their own food.

“What exactly do the kids do here? And do they ever say that you are exploiting them?” asked one delegate.

Shawn Harrison, executive director of the farm replied, “They help to grow the food, but they’re either taking it home for free or we have a senior center next to us, so they grow the food for free distribution to the seniors. From their perspective, they are doing a service to the community and a service to themselves.”

The delegates, fitted in puffer jackets and pea coats, seemed most engaged with the wildlife at the farm and school including roosters, which they petted and photographed, and a snake, which Abelinskasa called “cool.”