On Friday, September 20, 2019, Climate Fest was held. Millions of people around the world gathered together in support of a cleaner environment. Along with a fellow SRAS student, I attended the event at Bishkek’s Botanical Garden with a group of activists and invitees from the general public. While I personally found out about the event through a local friend who was in charge of helping to organize and run the event, an Instagram account called movegreen.kg published several posts advertising the event in the weeks leading up to it. The event was an ambitious and well-run effort to both educate and excite people about local and global climate change issues. There were many activities, stands, and displays for attendees of all ages.
The day’s events began with a word from several speakers on the main stage, which was equipped with a projector, background posters, and a microphone. Afterwards, attendees had the opportunity to participate in a yoga class. Then, a documentary on climate change was shown, followed by a discussion about the film. An open microphone session was then held in which attendees were able to express their greatest fears related to climate change. Lastly, a climate quiz game, complete with prizes, tested participant’s knowledge about climate change and its effects.
There were also stations set up around the main stage. There was one station with information provided by the U.S. Embassy and UNICEF. Some of the pamphlets and brochures discussed higher level information about climate change overall. There was also a mini children’s book, in both Russian and Kyrgyz, which discussed the importance of recycling At another station, you were able to decorate a reusable tote bag. Another station was an arts and crafts station for children to create artwork showing climate change awareness. There was a free-market full of second-hand clothes. Everyone at the event was allowed to take with them a maximum of two pieces if they wished. Adjacent to that station were handmade tote bags for sale that had been upcycled from old clothing. To support the event, I purchased one for myself.
When walking into the event, there was also an art gallery, lined with locally designed artwork connected to environmental issues. A thermometer displaying how the overall average temperature in Kyrgyzstan has risen steadily, by nearly a degree since 1960, and how it is projected to rise rapidly rise another four degrees within the next century. Many pieces of the art shown showed a human surrounded by a littered environment. Some pieces depicted the harm that air pollution can cause. Both of these are currently pressing problems in Kyrgyzstan.
Some of these issues are difficult to tackle because Kyrgyzstan is a developing country and simply still lacks many of the resources needed to promote a greener environment. The use of plastic bottles in Kyrgyzstan is commonplace, yet there is no means by which to recycle them. Because Bishkek is a growing city located in a valley, air pollution is a concern to many as air inversions can trap a lot of car smog inside the city. At this event, I learned that Kyrgyzstan has one of the worst smog problems in Central Asia, second only to Tajikistan (another particularly mountainous country). Much of the smog comes from personal vehicles, which are becoming much more common place In Kyrgyzstan, and which are often not environmentally-friendly. Further, many private and public vehicles are poorly maintained and emit dark exhaust, posing a worse threat not only to the environment, but to human health as well, creating a greater cause for respiratory problems, cancer and heart disease. Smog face masks were handed out at the event, held at the end of summer, since this issue becomes especially exacerbated during the winter, when air inversions are more common.
The purpose of this event was to encourage people to start considering the environment in their daily choices, where it comes to reducing consumption and, therefore, demand, and reusing existing products when possible. The turnout to this event was noteworthy, attracting locals and foreigners alike, in a similar quest for a healthier world.