Karabash, in the Chelyabinskaya region of the southern Ural Mountains in Russia, is burdened with the dirty legacy of copper mining, chemical and heavy metal emissions and radiation leaks. The smokestack of the Karabash Copper Smelting Works has been spewing a thick soup of toxic fumes and metal particulates into the air for almost a century. Closed in 1987 when Soviet officials proclaimed it an “environmental disaster zone,” the plant was reopened 11 years later because the region needed jobs.

 

The Yamal Peninsula In the language of the indigenous Nenet, “Yamal” means “world’s end.” This 435-mile long peninsula in northwestern Siberia is home to both 42,000 Nenet and the largest natural gas reserve in the world. For a thousand years, the Nenet have herded their domesticated reindeer to summer pastures above the Arctic Circle.

 

But now, the Nenet’s traditional way of life is threatened by warming temperatures that turn the tundra into a boggy swamp because of the world’s rapacious appetite for natural gas. With the gas wells have come railroad tracks and natural gas pipelines that bisect herding routes and cause reindeers to break legs. Fish, once an abundant dietary staple, also have diminished; the Nenet blame offshore drilling.

 

 

Yuri Kozyrev ‘The Yamal Peninsula’ is part of NOOR’s climate change group project.